National Geographic Photographer Encourages Others To ‘Have Faith’ 13 Years After His Suicide Attempt
Last month, an award-winning photographer shared a message of hope that resonated with people from all walks of life, encouraging those who might be struggling to ‘have faith’.
Taking to Twitter, Matt Doogue – who has worked with the likes of National Geographic, Canon and BBC Earth – gave a brief yet powerful outline of his journey so far, a journey that has seen him move forward and thrive after attempting suicide.
Following his suicide attempt 13 years ago, Doogue encountered various further difficulties – including getting fired from his job and being declared bankrupt – but now finds himself in a far more positive place.
In a tweet which has since been shared many thousands of times, Doogue wrote:
13 years ago I tried to kill myself
12 years ago I was fired from my job
11 years ago I was declared bankrupt
10 years ago I picked up a camera
7 years ago I was published with National Geographic
6 years ago I’d won countless awards
4 years ago I got a mortgage
A quick glance through the responses to Doogue’s tweet make it clear that his words have profoundly resonated with people, with many relating all too well to the sensation of being unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Last time Doogue counted, he’d received around three-and-a-half thousand messages in response to the tweet, written from ‘every corner of the world’.
‘People saying “you’ve literally saved my life”‘, literally inboxing me that. […]”‘, Doogue told UNILAD, ‘And people saying, “you’ve helped me understand why my partner took their life, you’ve helped me understand my own problems”‘.
Others who made contact revealed Doogue’s words had been inspired them to pick up a camera after many years, seeking out a creative outlet in the midst of personal difficulties.
Doogue feels that this sort of creative pursuit is ‘especially important’ for those dealing with mental health problems, with many sufferers struggling to express their emotions in a conventional sense.
He himself first took up photography in his early twenties as a means of coping with ‘a huge breakdown’. Having struggled with the pressures of trying to fit in with his peer group, finally he had found something that made complete sense, an outlet for his true self.
Doogue told UNILAD how he had been greatly interested in nature and biology as a kid, but was well aware such pursuits wouldn’t be considered cool as a ‘teenager growing up in Salford’:
I always felt like it wasn’t my life and I was a spectator in my own life, if that makes sense. I was wearing this mask, this fake mask, and that mask began to crack.
And when it began to crack, with depression and stress and anxiety and acute paranoia, I had a huge mental breakdown which ultimately led me to try and take my own life.
When addressing his depression, Doogue consulted with doctors, spoke with psychiatrists, and went on a course of antidepressants. However, he still felt as though there was ‘something missing’, and decided to figure out exactly what is was that made him happy in life.
Doogue told UNILAD:
I was doing a lot of walking and hiking at the time because I thought to myself, where were the most happiest in my life? And I think we’re all the most happy when we’re kids, because we have no expectations from society or our peer groups.
[…] So I tried to tap back into that loving bond with nature and the natural world.
It was at this point that Doogue’s uncle sold him an old camera, a purchase which proved to perfectly complement his renewed connection with the natural world.
Delving into the world of photography, Doogue found that he ‘absolutely disconnected from the pressures of everything’, and discovered that he was particularly gripped by macro photography.
Now, for non-technical types like myself who can barely take a decent selfie, macro photography involves taking photos of small subjects – such as plants, snowflakes or insects – in a way that enlarges them, revealing details you wouldn’t otherwise see.
It’s a fascinating form of photography, exposing the striking beauty of a lizard’s eye or of pollen dotting the fur on a bee’s back. The results can sometimes feel like looking at life on an alien planet.
This sort of unusual perspective suits Doogue’s curious nature, and has also been a way for him to practice mindfulness:
I kept coming back to macro photography. It allowed me to be part of a different world, the small world, the insect world. And I would just completely disconnect from my stresses and depression and worries about life.
Every time I looked through the lens, I was transported into their world and none of that existed there. And it all just stems from there. I found that, the more that I did it, the more I would relax. You learn mindfulness because you just think about what’s in front of you.
Most recently, Doogue has taken high resolution pictures of soap bubbles, exploring the ‘beautiful colours and patterns’ this everyday phenomena creates, while praying mantises and spiders remain his favourite subjects to photograph.
Doogue told UNILAD:
I love praying mantises full stop. They absolutely blow my mind. And spiders I love, because spiders got a hard press. You know, I can sort of relate to spiders quite a lot. They’re completely harmless, but they get a hard press.
But I love all sorts of insects. I’ve photographed other things, you know, anything small that I can make large and show people the hidden beauty to it, then I’ll photograph it.
Now 36, Doogue has enjoyed phenomenal success. Being published in National Geographic proved to be a ‘huge, momentous moment’ for him, opening up windows of opportunity that his younger self wouldn’t have imagined possible.
Shortly afterwards, Doogue was invited onto BBC Springwatch to discuss a photography project, and has since been featured in a number of magazines. He also uses his experiences with depression to give back in a meaningful way, going into schools to teach kids about mental health and nature.
Considering what he would say to his younger self, who would have ‘mocked’ his current self due to having such an angry outlook on the world, Doogue said:
I would say it’s going to be OK. You need to speak to somebody. You need to accept that not everyone’s going to like you and you don’t have to fit in with everyone. And it’s OK to be you, and it’s okay to talk.
Doogue’s story perfectly shows how finding personal ways to be mindful and creative can help those dealing with mental health issues to find and shape their own path in life.
Not all of us can become award-winning photographers, but we can pick up a camera – or a pen or paintbrush – and find new ways to look at the world around us.
You can find out more about Matt Doogue and his stunning photography work here
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123
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