A little bit more background...
I decided I should tell more about what the book is about. Or what I think it is about. Here's a more personal note on that.
In the fall of 2013 I suddenly panicked. Without even knowing what about. I was simply very, very afraid, ridiculously emotional and confused, for about three days in a row. Then it stopped. I thought. But it didn’t. It kept coming back. And I couldn’t stop it. It would hit me whenever it felt like hitting me. And it multiplied. Into thousands of fears, thousands of horrible things that could happen. And a lot of those scenarios involved Lora, my then 4 year old daughter. I, or more specifically: my brain, would vividly project detailed shorter or longer horror movies of things that could happen to her. From traffic accidents to random terrorism to her simply falling fatally on her head at the school playground.
Now I knew this was something most parents have. I knew that it comes with loving someone. With caring. But not like this. Not all day long, and with such vivid imagery and the emotions that come with that. I felt like I was living those horrors without them ever happening. As if the amount of anxiety managing and warning chemicals in my brain were not calibrated correctly, and every time someone said “boo!” I would get the full we-are-all-going-to-die amount of fear in my body and brain. Not without being able to tell yourself: hang on, relax, that won’t happen, you’re overreacting. That simply didn’t work. Logic had no effect.
So I became that father who kept calling “Be careful!” after his daughter with every thing she was doing. Which I understood was ridiculous. Even more so because Lora was, and is, a cautious and mindful child by nature – also, she’s strong, smart and not clumsy or careless at all. She’s never fallen out of trees although she climbed many. She’s never fallen of her bike, ran foolishly into traffic or drank cleaning liquids. Conclusion: I had no reasons to worry and fear that much. Is was me, not her. And that I needed help. So I did get help.
Meanwhile, I was working, or trying to, as a photographer and a freelance visual designer. But since my wife Natalia, Lora’s mom, was working more than I was, I was with Lora a lot of the time. Which to me was exhausting. Not only mentally, being ready for impact all of the time, and being embarrassed of being so afraid and confused, but also physically. The stress and anxiety started taking a toll on my body as well. I had immense headaches. Periodes of severe dizziness. Tiredness. The sensation that all sounds, of people talking, in bars and restaurants, of kids in playgrounds, of friends and family that were visiting, were hitting me on the head like a hammer. I froze. And moved as little as possible. Avoided people and crowds while at the same time felt isolated and lonely. I felt depressed, lost. Which led to me feeling incapable of being the fun and friendly and active dad I wanted to be. Which made me feel frustrated and insecure, a bad father. I felt sorry for Lora, for my wife, for my family, for my friends who I didn’t call anymore.
At the same time, I spent a lot of time with my wonderful, happy, funny, smart and lovely daughter. We did go places. We had fun. We went on holidays. We played. While at the same I felt horrible and not even half the person I was. But, still being a photographer, I brought my camera with me most of the time. And I photographed Lora. In a way that wasn’t about her. It was, of course, about me. About what I imagined being her could be like. About how I was afraid she would remember her childhood. About how lonely and dystopian being her would feel. About how she would feel without me. Because she would be without me, someday. Exactly that - naturally she would be without me someday. But now that thought, that common and logical fact of my daughter someday leaving the house, would keep me awake at night and drive me to tears.
So I think photographing her was therapeutic. Necessary. And beautiful too. Slowly, and not without setbacks, I got better. I learned, an obvious lesson, as are most life lessons, that you become what you repeat. That being afraid for me had become second nature. And that confronting those fears, and repeatedly experiencing that they didn’t come true, helped. So in a way I was, perhaps, confronting my fears by photographing Lora. By photographing her into my fears. At the same time by simply spending time with her. Having fun, or at least trying to have fun. And sometimes pretending to have fun. It helped. I actually started believing the numerous people who told me, again and again, who had always told me, that I was doing fine. That Lora was doing fine. And always was.