Here is another installment of ‘The Warrior Project’, a series of portraits of women and children who suffer from mental or physical illness or disability. And oh man, this little man doesn’t let his disabilities stop him at all, what an amazing dude AJ is! I absolutely loved spending time with him and his (quite frankly stunning) Mum Emmy and Step-Dad Marcus. Hes a smiley, happy little soul who brightened up my dreary day immensely, and hes even more special because of the things he overcomes every single day. Here is more about darling AJ in his Mums words.Read More
Heres the 4th installment of ‘The Warrior Project’, a series of portraits from women and girls who suffer from mental or physical illness or disability. This is Martina. I’ve known Martina since she was 13 years old and have travelled with her and her family throughout her journey to a diagnosis and management of Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder. She is, without a doubt, one of the most loving, thoughtful and beautiful souls I have ever met and, although its been a long and desperately hard journey, I am so incredibly proud of the woman she has become.
But here is Martinas story, in her own words:
“Hi, my name is Martina Jane Moore. I am 26 years old & born in Burnley. I live with my dogs, Earl Grey and Myrtle Moore. My hobbies are - Bingo, car booting, playing Minecraft & walking Earl & Myrtle.
My journey began shortly before my 21st Birthday when I was living with my Grandma. I unfortunately damaged my back which led me to require crutches & wheelchair use for several months- which obviously meant my usual lifestyle, i.e. working & socialising, changed drastically. I began hiding medications as I could not come to terms with the change & everything became just too much, which eventually led to my very first overdose which, thankfully and against the odds, I survived.
A few days from overcoming my first overdose, I attempted again to commit suicide- this time around, I ended up in ICU due to the potion of medication I had in taken. This caused uncontrollable fitting. Once I was “medically fit” the mental health team came to talk to me about a place in a mental health ward, in Burnley.
I accepted and spent 8 days in here which resulted in celebrating my 21st Birthday in here.. they say you’ll never forget your 21st & they weren’t kidding!
Shortly after, I was discharged. When staff sent me home confused & upset at the fact I wasn’t sure how to deal or understand what was wrong with me, they insisted I handed over any excess medication before leaving. Of course, when I returned I asked them to wait down stairs whilst I retrieved the medication. I never got to hand it over as I decided to use it to, yet again, overdose whilst they waited downstairs.
The third overdose landed me a 6 week stretch on Burnley’s mental health ward. From this 6 weeks I were given my mental health care co-ordinator. After 6 weeks in here, I was discharged, homeless and sent to the local hostel until appropriate accommodation was found for me. 10 days here were enough for me before I took another overdose where my care staff found me on the floor & again, I was admitted - this time to the Blackburn unit for roughly 6 months due to my mental health deteriorating rapidly along with my health.
During this entire time, I had limited memory but can remember Donna along with my mum coming to keep me company on many occasions. During the end of my time at Blackburn, they decided they were unable to keep me safe which resulted in me being transferred to Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit numerous times, both in Chorley & Burnley.
I was eventually diagnosed with Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) or EUPD/BPD, which is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by unstable relationships with other people, unstable sense of self, and unstable emotions. It is a serious mental illness. It can not only cause a great deal of suffering, but it also carries a high risk of suicide. Anyone diagnosed with BPD needs specifically targeted treatment, I manage it with a combination of medication and therapy.
My mental health illness is an ongoing battle that I am challenging daily.
On a day to day basis I am battling demons which affect my moods, simples task & socialising.
On a good day I am the old bubbly, Martina, Who loves to be with friends & my sister, Brooklyn. I can complete tasks around the house & take care of my hygiene. Walking to Tescos is a breeze. On a bad day, I am VERY short tempered. My moods fluctuate within minutes where they can drop so low, I don’t want to be here anymore then in a split second, I am overly happy again. I know- super confusing.
My biggest struggle daily is merely getting out of bed. Getting up & showering is a toughie too. I feel physically and mentally tired all the time- this is both on a good day & a bad day.
When it comes “simple tasks” my anxiety rockets. Walking around Tescos, easy right? I think not. The sound of busy bodies, chattering & background noise can become over bearing and honestly, I wish I could just curl up on the spot & hide.
I keep my self going by taking it day by day as things can get overwhelming if I plan too much. I look after my two dogs Myrtle and Earl. I feed them, walk them and play with them. I also I play on my Xbox on Minecraft-that’s the thing I like to do the most. It keeps me occupied when I am struggling with thoughts of self-harm or just having a shitty day. The people I have met online are ace people from all around the world, it’s amazing learning and finding out about everybody. When playing Minecraft I can forget about the struggles I face for a little bit and be someone with a little more confidence. Sometimes I read and watch YouTube too. But when things get bad, I use the tools that have been given to me like calling my family & friends, or using my care cordinator if I need to talk about what I am feeling. At the beginning I thought everyone was against me and I pushed loads of people away because I thought they did not understand, but I have to let people in to help myself or I am not going to feel better.
If you are facing a diagnosis of EUPD/BPD, try not to worry. Having EUPD dose not define who you are as a person . All the intense emotions that you feel day to day will pass no matter how bad you feel . There can be a lot of stigma around the diagnosis that people will tell you that we are attention-seeking, manipulative, It’s not a proper mental health problem, You don’t need help, etc etc. You know what we don’t attention-seek, the emotions are so strong and hard for us to deal with we do impuslsive things to try and help with them. Don’t be afraid ask for help, regardless of what you might think other people might say. I will tell you we are strong people-stronger than most, even when we feel weak! There will be bad days but they will eventually be more good-treasure those good days. On the bad days ask for help! Don’t be afraid! Yes said "ask for help" a lot in here but remember; you can never ask too much.
The photoshoot with Donna made me feel happy-from that day on I felt like I could do anything. I love my portraits it’s given me loads of confidence. I did not think I look good or beautiful because of my size being a bigger lady. But these pics say different- I am a big, beautiful, confident strong person. Thats what I see in the pictures. I just love seeing Donna she makes me feel at home, she gave me confidence in myself during the shoot even when giving me instructions. I love how she works, she make you feel right as ease. I love Donna with all my heart thank you for letting me be a part of something special.
I would like to say thank you to all my friends and family for helping me through the tough times, whether you are here or the other side of the world I know you will all keep on helping me, thank you.
Thank you so much Martina for sharing your story <3
The 3rd in my series, 'The Warrior Project', this time we meet the gorgeous Poppy, 13 years old with a recent diagnosis of Autism, Poppy wanted to share her story with the world in the hopes it would help and inspire other young teens faced with a similar diagnosis. We did two sets, one beautiful set of studio portraits and one with an Anime twist as she is a huge fan! Shes an amazing young lady and I am so honoured and humbled to play a part, however small, in her story. Shes also one of my favourite humans too <3
In her own words, Poppy's story:
"My name is Poppy. I am 13 years old and I am Autistic. I live in Colne, Lancashire with my Mum, Dad, big brother Joe, Nana, my dog Alfie and my cats Margaret and Friday. I am also very close to my Grandma and Grandad. I love to draw and have done since being really young.
I have always felt a little different from other children and when I was at primary school it started to make me feel confused, sad and worried as I did not understand why I did not fit in. I talked to my mum about it and we both decided to try and find some answers to my questions. After a while my mum said that she thought that I might be autistic. We decided to go to see the doctor to see if she could help. We asked to see a specialist doctor that knew all about autism but my appointment to see her was not for another year and a half. During that time things became more and more confusing and I had no idea why I was finding things like friendships and social situations really difficult and why being around people caused me to feel so uncomfortable. I really tried to be as ’normal” as I could around people, especially at school but this just made me very tired and worried. When I came home I was able to just be “Poppy” which felt a lot more relaxing and I didn’t feel as worried when I was alone or just with my family. When it was time to see the specialist doctor I was feeling very nervous as I did not know what was going to happen. I had to go through a lot of tests and see all different kinds of people. It was about another 6 months before we finally got an appointment to find out what all these things meant. When the doctor told me that I was Autistic I felt like a lot of things made sense now. It gave me an explanation of why life felt so confusing and scary.
Friendships are extremely difficult for me. I find it hard to make a deep conection with anyone as I’m constantly worrying that I’ll say the wrong thing or they will do or say something that I don’t understand so they will think bad of me. The only social situation that I feel comfortable at is a youth club that is especially for young people on the spectrum and I call it Awkward Club. All of us there are socially very awkward and this makes me relax as I know they won’t expect anything from me. I can just be me.
Autistics do something called masking. It’s different for everyone but my way of masking is to play different characters in my head. This gives me confidence to go into school, go to the theatre, go swimming and meet other people. In my mind it kind of puts a cloak over Poppy which protects me.
Me and my mum have a theory called ‘my spoons’ if I’m feeling really good and full of energy and I feel I can go out of the house and do stuff then I tell her I’ve got 10 spoons. But there are times, a lot of times, when the amount of spoons I have are around 3 or sometimes none. A day can begin with 10 but by the end of the day, usually when school is over my spoons have decreased dramatically and I can hardly function or talk to anyone. I just want to be in my own space and maybe draw or listen to music. This helps me to recharge my energy and hopefully I can then begin to interact with people again.
In my future I want to gain more confidence so I can do more things. I really want to go to college and university to study art but at the moment this makes me scared. I hope that as I grow up I get to develop coping mechanisms to help me make sense of life and the world a little better. At the moment I am not attending school as it’s just too much for me to cope with emotionally. At the moment my mental health is very poor. I have developed some coping strategies that are not good for me so my parents decided to take me out of school altogether. There is no school in our area that caters for a High Functioning Autistic girl like me. This makes me feel sad and vulnerable. There is no where that I seem to fit and it just makes me feel even more weird and once again confirms that I’m an outcast.
To other Autistic girls in my situation or who are going through being diagnosed, I want to say that it’s ok to be you. Us weirdos have to stick together. I know that I will find my tribe who will love me for who I am and not expect anything from me that I cannot give them. I cannot wait for that day. Maybe we will be destined to be in each other’s tribe. If you can, keep talking to your Mum and Dad or someone that you think gets you.
It was really difficult for me to let anyone take photos of me as i really find being in the spot light uncomfortable. Donna is one of my favourite humans though and she makes me feel ok to be me. She made me feel comfortable and accepted which is something I don’t feel very often.
I can't express enough how happy Poppy enjoyed her experience with me at my studio, and to know I am one of this amazing young lady's favourite humans brought a lump to my throat. Thank you so much Poppy for trusting me enough to take your photographs, I hope to capture you again and again in the future, you are beautiful, brave and inspiring. Thank you.
Here it is, the first in my photographic series, 'Extraordinary People', and what a wonderful person I have to go first! Meet Paul, regular chap by day, Disney Princess by night (or weekend!)
Here's a bit more about Paul in his own words.
" I've always considered myself very ordinary. I don't believe any one person is more extraordinary than anybody else. We all have different skills and things we like to enjoy and that's what makes us human.
I enjoy cosplay because its's an escape. It's a chance to have and forget about real life for a few hours. It's a chance to meet my friends and other like minded people who are into similar subjects. Its a chance to learn new skills and improve my confidence also."
One of the most interesting individuals I have photographed in some time, Paul works with trains in his day job and does Disney Princess cosplay as a hobby. It takes a hell of a lot of bravery to dress up as a traditionally female character, especially as a straight man, but Paul does it with gusto and charm, I very much enjoyed photographing him!
"Having a shoot like this was an amazing experience and I felt privileged to be doing it. Its a super experience being able to have photos in a place that isn't a convention hall and being able to experiment a little more.
My images make me feel really proud of myself. Admittedly much is down to the super talented MUA (the fantastic Rhianna Lydia Makeup) and photographer but it does make you feel good. There was a time I was scared to get out the car in cosplay but it shows how much confidence you can gain when you see yourself.
If you are considering a portrait shoot with Donna, I say Go for it! You'll not regret it!
Thank you so much Donna. You were super and I love you! :)"
Awwwwww how lovely is that? Thank you so much Paul for trusting me to capture your Disney self, it was a real honour!
I'm Hazel. I am a mother of two beautiful boys, and I’m a portrait and wedding photographer too. I also have Type 1 diabetes.Read More
Erin was 39 weeks when she came to the studio, just about ready to pop! I WAS supposed to be photographing her little mans arrival into the world but even at the speed of light I wouldn't have got there in time-he was out within 30 minutes of labour starting. It was actually rather convenient because they were home by Monday afternoon, with the UK's worst snowy weather in many years descending on us Monday night/Tuesday morning. Good timing little man!
Lee is clearly absolutely smitten with Erin. He said of this portrait, "I cannot put into words how much I love my beautiful Erin, but the amazing Donna Craddock captured it in one picture" How lovely is that!
Bonus shot of Lee helping Erin get her shoes off as she couldn't reach haha!
I cannot WAIT to meet their little dude, I've been snowed in for 3 days so haven't been able to do much and meeting him is on the top of my to-do list. I love shooting Maternity portraits, theres a regal, proud nature to them that I love and it always brings back memories of when I was pregnant with my two now huge babies <3