Behind The Lens: A New Start
Hey everyone, long time no talk! The fact that it's almost been three years since I last made a blogpost is INSANE.. And my oh my how things have changed. For those of you who know me in real life, you know I'm not one to talk about my problems and emotions because I'M A VIRGO AND HATE FEELINGS. But I thought I should really tell people why I've been kind of MIA for so long. So please, bare with me for being open and completely honest. This is something new for me, and I'm trying to make myself comfortable with. And if I put humor after my serious comments, mind ya business - it's how I cope. *DISCLAIMER: There will be colorful adult language because hello, it's me. And if you're triggered by anything having to do with anxiety, depression, self harm and anything else that goes along with mental illnesses - please be cautious!
2017; This was honestly one of the best and worst years of my life. I got to travel so much that year, more than I ever have before. Got to go camping in Georgia for the Fourth of July. Went to Tennessee and see the Solar Eclipse which was such an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. I got to check so many things off my bucket list when we went abroad over to Europe and the UK. So many memories were created on that trip that I'll never forget them. But then my world flipped upside down... I had my first severe panic attack while I was abroad and it scared the absolute shit out of me. I couldn't breathe and I felt numb. I was alone, curled up in the corner of the room with barely any wifi to call my parents, and all I could do was sob uncontrollably. I was scared to death. That's all my brain needed to really KICK START these suppressed mental issues.
About a month later I went downhill fast. Anxiety attacks left and right, my depression was winning on a daily basis, couldn't eat or keep anything down, and lost weight like crazy. The amount of times I would leave my family to go sit in the bathroom and cry, shake and throw up from anxious feelings was ridiculous. But nobody really knew how bad it actually was inside my brain, and the dark, dark places it took me to. I would never wish any of that on my worst enemy. My feelings were considered dramatic to some, because "there's no such thing as mental illness" and so instead of doing something YA KNOW healthy about it, I turned to going out and drinking as a way to numb the pain.
2018; With a new year I thought things would get better. But many drunken nights and a few mistakes later - I kept going out and drinking hoping that it would help me forget and mend what was broken. I really wanted to give up my photography business for good because I felt so uninspired, hated everything I was doing, hell I couldn't even go to a wedding without getting hyper emotional. But ya girl needed to work to make money to go out, so I pushed through with a fake smile and happy demeanor. Super healthy, I know!
Even though 2018 was mostly a shit show, some good things did come out of it. I was turning 25 so I wanted to figure out who "Kiara" was and what she wanted... But first, I spent even MORE time at Disney with my family - but are we really surprised? It's my go to place to forget about real life for awhile. Mended friendships that faded over the years, and grew so much closer to people who were already in my life. A girl friend and I walked into a new bar on Ladies Night and it was completely out of my comfort zone, but it changed my life! My family convinced me to go on a dating app after months of absolutely refusing to do it because I was out of the game for so long and my self confidence was at like ZERO. But I went on a few dates and I met some cool guys.
Having my own photography business was hard, and I finally decided that I needed to find a new job. While searching, I thought about Disney and how I always wanted to be a photographer out there. But they almost never posted anything for it, it was basically an inside transfer job. When I looked and saw they had a seasonal position for Game Day Photos at ESPN Wide World of Sports, I thought why the hell not? It's worth a shot to even get my foot in the door. So I applied and within the hour I was approved for an interview. To say I was over the moon is putting it lightly.. I remember running out into the living room with my laptop and yelling "MOM LOOK I HAVE AN INTERVIEW!".
A few days later I had a phone interview, and then went on to have an in person interview! Once the interview was done, my two leaders looked at my portfolio of News Paper clippings with pictures from various volleyball, lacrosse and soccer games I've shot - they looked at me and said "Why didn't we have you on the team sooner?".. I couldn't believe I got hired on the spot for my dream job, and going back to sports photography - which is the whole reason why I became a photographer in the first place. Then I found out my park on off season would be Magic Kingdom. My safe space, and home away from home. Starting at Disney was INTIMIDATING as hell.. It made my little anxiety butterflies go crazy.. But I didn't want to mess anything up or make a fool of myself. As the days went by at both ESPN and MK I knew this was the place for me. Getting to shoot a soccer tournament on my first day was a dream come true. Creating magic for guests in the park is something I wish everyone could experience! But like real talk - who doesn't wanna say Mickey Mouse is their boss? Day after day I learned more, became a better photographer, made friends with my coworkers, met so many people from around the world, had cute interactions with little nuggets, and little did I know - I met someone who would soon change my life.
2019; Things were going good for the first time in a long time. I had a consistent source of income again doing what I already loved. Absolutely loved going to work everyday, meeting people from around the world and creating magic for all the little kids and kids at heart. Taking photos at the Run Disney races at 4AM and listening to people run by and say "Thank you for being here!".. It didn't feel like a job. This is what I've always dreamed of. Celebrating my One year with the company and getting my one year pin, at 4 in the morning, surrounded by the best coworkers, was so so special.
Finding time to work my own photography business between my Disney schedule was SO hard. I took things when I could, which dwindled down month after month. Past clients went elsewhere, which hurt like hell to see, but what can you do? Honestly after taking thousands upon thousands of pictures all week, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a camera and edit photos for hours on end. The love and creativity I once had for my own business was fading. Which is the sad reality of getting burnt out. And every creative who works for themselves, knows exactly what I'm talking about.
I quit going downtown (cause honey she's expensive) and started going to Cowboys more. Becoming friends with the regulars, started learning more line dances every week, learned how to two step with a guy friend, and it made me realize how much I truly missed dancing. The inner 10 year dancer in me was so happy to do something I love again. It's something I began to look forward to every week as like my own form of therapy. Then I realized I wasn't using alcohol to cope anymore. To which my liver and I say, hell yeah! Dancing would make any kind of mood, feelings or hurt I felt just disappear. And can we talk about what a killer full body workout dancing is? Because HOLY CRAP!
Once I laid off the whole dating thing and I figured if something was gonna happen, it would come naturally when I least expected it, or at least that's what Mom kept telling me.. And that's exactly what happened. Someone who I looked at one day and thought "DAMN he's cute", but I didn't think anything would happen. After months of seeing each other at work and talking about everything from Disney and photography to our mental issues, and making sure I knew this was something I wanted - we finally went on a date. He's a goof and a pain in the ass, but he has also talked me out of countless dark thoughts, and has truly comforted me and made sure I knew I was better than what my brain was telling me.
2020; This year started and it just felt different. Even though I was happier than I've been in a long time, and things were finally going well... I'm still human and my anxiety and depression can't just disappear. I was starting to feel more anxious than usual, which then made me dread going to work. Wasn't sleeping very much. Barely eating. More irritable than ever. I kept burying it hoping it would just go away on its own. But little did everyone know - I almost lost my dream job because of this illness. Nobody knew the severity of what I was battling on a daily basis because I was to scared to speak up. My leader ended up texting me and said "Are you doing okay? How can I help?" and that's all I needed to hear to get my ass in gear and finally get the help I desperately needed.
January 23rd - I finally went to the doctors. A new doctor at that, just to add more stress fuel to the fire. My mom came in with me because I wanted her to hear what I was going through, and understand why I was acting like this. As soon as I filled out all the anxiety, depression and self harm paperwork, I lost it. I could barely talk to the doctor, and it broke my heart to see my mom find out that I had suicidal thoughts. But this was the real life shit that needed to be discussed. When the doctors said "I usually like to get to know patients more before saying this, but just from looking at your paperwork, hearing what you have to say, and seeing how you are sitting in front of me.. I can tell you that you are severely anxious and depressed, and it's time to do something about it". Everything that was going wrong inside my head, all the huge life changes, daily panic and anxiety attacks, the self harm I was thinking about.. I felt all the weight being lifted. I finally felt free. The next day I started Anti Depressants and haven't looked back. After all of that went down I began loving going to work again, creating magical memories for guests, seeing my friends again, and coming home happy. I felt like myself again. My bond with my leader is stronger than ever and she constantly checks up on me, which I am so grateful for, because what other leader cares about their cast that much? My family and friends have been my rock through it all, and God bless them.. Because it was a rough ride. I'm so glad to have such an amazing support system to back me up. Do I still have bad days? Of course. I'm human. But things have calmed down immensely. My next step is therapy, but I've got to work up the courage to do that. I've never been comfortable with talking about my feelings, because it makes me super anxious. But one step at a time, we'll get there. Looking back through the years, I knew I needed help but I hid it because I didn't want to hear that something was wrong with me, and didn't want to feel judged. Battling inner demons on your own is no joke. Never be afraid to talk to someone if you need help, someone is always going to be there to help you. All of the struggles I've dealt with was the push I needed to get my life together. BUT... A little virus had to come ruin all of our fun. And it sucks, but what can you do during a Global Pandemic? Sadly that also came with a furlough from my job, but it's also given me time to reflect on where I want my life to go after this is all said and done. October 4th - The day my heart shattered. If you know anything about the 28,000+ layoffs that Disney ended up doing, you'll know how much it hurt all of the Cast Members affected. We were walking around Disney Springs when I got my call and I immediately burst into tears talking to the lady who gave me the layoff notice. She told me that after December 5th I would no longer be a cast member, but to look out for a call back in the future. So, from October to December I took advantage of everything Disney had to offer while I was still able to, and we had fun doing it! So if you've made it to the end of this blog, bless your heart. I will continue to update the blog with older sessions and weddings because better late than never right? And maybe some more personal stuff, because it felt damn good to speak some of my truth into the world. But for now, stay safe everyone! XO, Kiara