Who would ever guess that photography brings healing.
When you have been in pain for so long, you can often begin to feel your pain isolate you. You struggle to believe in healing for you. Maybe for others, but for you? And yet, we are all worthy of healing. Some of you many not know this, but at the heart of all Brian and I do, our mission is three layers; first confidence, second authenticity, and third is healing. The kind of healing that let’s you know you are not alone. The camera is simply the vehicle for us to help this unfold in women’s lives.
I’ve invited Tina to share her story with you. As you read her precious journey, you will see what a big deal this is. Our purpose in her sharing is for you to be encouraged and comforted. If you resonate with Tina’s journey, we hope you feel a little less alone. Photography brings healing to the most unlikely situations. Tina is so lovely and courageous to share. She and I have been working on this post, this goal, for almost six months. Today is a special day. With great honor, I introduce Tina, our Wisconsin and now Cruise Workshop Teacher.
I’m about to open up in a way that I’ve never opened up before, as I share my story of how photography brings healing. But let’s start with some facts to ease into this. My name is Tina Erdman. I live in Wisconsin. I’ve recently launched a dream with Me Ra and Brian’s help, offering the CONFIDENCE Workshop on a 5 day cruise for twenty women. I’m 43 years old. I’ve been married to my supportive husband, Tom, for 12 years and we have two very energetic Boxer dogs named Sathi and Chandler. And before photography, I was a product designer in the engineering field for years. (yes, I LOVE walking people through the step-by-step process–as you may have noticed from my Nielsen posts)
I’m a bookworm. I love to travel to exotic locations where nothing looks, feels, or smells like home. And I have to admit, I love watching a great crime show. Have any of you seen The Following? So creepy!
I started my portrait photography business three years ago after attending Me Ra and Brian’s Chicago CONFIDENCE workshop. That weekend changed my life, which is the main reason I wanted to become a Teacher—to give back what Me Ra and Brian gave to me.
Not only have I received confidence, but they have also brought a group of photography women together in our teaching program that are nurturing and accepting. For the first time in my life I feel like I am completely surrounded by women who will pick me up if I fall. For some of you this may seem like no big deal—this may be your normal. For me, this is a new gift. And because it’s new, it has brought up feelings I’ve never allowed myself to feel. The unearthing of these feelings led to a meltdown.
I woke up one morning at 3:30am crying, and I couldn’t stop. Around this same time, Me Ra had been telling all of us Teachers that if there was anything we needed to talk about that we should call her, whether it was business related or not.
So I took her up on that offer. I told her I felt like a fraud. I asked her if our Teacher program was right for me. Should I be teaching moms how to take better pictures of their kids when I’m not a mom? The pain wrapped around this statement took my breath away. I was not a mom. She listened and then told me that if there was any doubt in her mind that this program wasn’t right for me, she would tell me—and there wasn’t a single doubt in her mind.
And then she told me something I will never forget. She said that I am enough. I am enough. No one, besides my husband has ever told me that before.
Me Ra asked if I’ve ever told the women attending my workshops why I love to take pictures of kids, family, and connection. I told her I couldn’t tell my story yet without crying. She then asked if I’ve ever told my story to anyone. I’ve told bits and pieces of my past to those who have asked, but I’ve never really explained why photography is healing.
Me Ra has a way of asking the right questions and giving the right amount of silence. Room to think. Room to speak. And then my pain was clear. My mom. When you live in dysfunction, it’s part of survival to pretend everything is alright. You become an adult, get a good job, and constantly tell your conflicting feelings that everything is alright. But things had not been alright for a long time.
My parents had me when they were young. They hadn’t yet worked out their own demons. They were broken, and unknowingly, they broke my sister and I.
Times were tough. Money was tight. Stress was high. My dad worked hard to keep a roof over heads and food on the table. We didn’t have much. We had what we needed to get by. My dad worked second shift. So it was just my mom, sister, and I on weekday evenings. The hours from 3:00 – 6:00 were the worst hours of the day. We’d come home from school and disrupt my mom’s day. She’d start yelling and she didn’t stop yelling until dinner was done, the kitchen clean, and we were out of sight tucked away in our bedroom.
My mom would yell to yell.
She’d yell about how we were a burden to her. She’d yell about how she hated to cook for us. She’d yell that she didn’t want us. She’d yell that she couldn’t wait until we were 18 so she didn’t have to take care of us anymore. She’d slam cupboard doors. She’d slam pots and pans on the stove. To this day I gently place the pots and pans on the stove so as to not be reminded of my mom’s daily meltdowns.
Loud noises and negative energy filled our house. My sister and I carried the weight of the world on our shoulders. We were tense. We were stressed. We couldn’t figure it out. What could we do to make things better? My sister and I would cower. We’d try to be invisible. I had hoped that if my mom couldn’t see or hear us, the yelling would stop. It never did. And after the yelling, my mom would tell us she was doing this for our good. She was doing this because she loved us.
As I look back I see that her intentions were good, but her execution of communication, lessons, and discipline were lacking. Through all of the yelling and chaos, she taught us to work hard. She taught us to take care of ourselves. She taught us to be polite to others. She taught us to work through adversity.
And then I picked up the camera, and in some mysterious way healing began to come.
Throughout my adult life I’ve read self help books, gone to counseling, and observed those who I thought were healthy. Little by little, year after year, I could feel myself standing a little taller. But nothing helped as much as following my dream of becoming a photographer. It’s as if that was the missing piece of the puzzle.
I felt a void that needed to be filled. I felt a pull from within. So I went out and bought my first DSLR at 36 years old. I took it out of the box, looked at it, snapped a few photos and put it down. I questioned whether or not I deserved to own a camera like that. I finally told myself that I bought it, so I better appreciate it and learn to use it.
I put it on manual and learned everything I could about how to use the settings—in the privacy of my own home. I was too shy to take it out in public. And if I did have it out, I would stay on the outskirts of the room and shoot from a distance. I didn’t feel worthy. I didn’t feel like I was worth owning a camera like that.
Again, I’m amazed at how photography brings healing in the most unexpected ways.
When I have my camera in my hand, it’s quiet. I feel at peace. Photography has helped me see the light. Photography has helped me see that the shadows accentuate the beautiful light. I see things differently. I look at things differently. Photography allows me to slow down.
Taking photos of kids and families has been the biggest healing exercise in my life. And I owe it all to my sister-in-law for allowing me to practice portraiture on my nieces, and to Me Ra for being so transparent in telling her own story and giving me hope.
Capturing families has shown me that there is true love in the world. Unconditional love. I always leave a shoot with a smile on my face. Sometimes with tears mixed in. Tears of joy. Tears of peace.
I’m finally doing what I love. I finally feel like I can just be me. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I have a safe home environment. I have a safe circle of friends, and I can understand that my mom was only doing what she knew based on her own experiences. That haunting feeling of being a fraud…I realized it was coming from me hiding my story.
How can I be authentically me, if I’m still hiding my story from others?
A while back I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability. She talks about how finding the way to authenticity starts by being vulnerable. I’m not being vulnerable if I don’t tell my story. It is a terrifying thought when it first knocks on your heart’s door. Yet, without opening the door, healing can’t come in.
I don’t feel broken anymore. I have a visual in my mind of a broken vase that’s been glued back together—that’s me. There are nicks and cracks. There might be some little pieces missing, but I’m put back together. I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the answers. I still have some work to do. But I feel so lucky to be surrounded by thoughtful, caring, people who want to see others succeed. I finally feel a sense of peace that I’ve never felt before.
Healing is a never ending journey. For those of you out there that are also on this journey, know that you are not alone. There is someone. Somewhere. Who has gone through a similar situation and is feeling similar feelings. Keep working at finding peace. It’s worth the fight. It’s worth the struggle. It’s worth the tears. To get to that place of peace. And when you find that peace, accept it, embrace it, don’t ever let it go. That’s the break through. That is something you can build hope on.
If my story has resonated with you or someone you know, please share in the comments below. No pressure. But thank you for listening today, for joining me on my path. I feel a huge exhale leave my spirit as I let my story live in the light more and more. No more shame. No more hiding. No more feeling like a fraud.
Next week I’ll talk more in depth about my healing process by sharing some of the books I read, and exercises I did (and do), to keep moving myself forward in finding peace.
Tina, I love you.
This made me tear up! Thank you for being vulnerable and honest Tina with this blog post. I’m sure this was not easy to put together and put out there. I wanted to make sure you knew that you struck a chord in me with this post. I too have found photography healing. Sometimes it’s easier for me to capture how I feel in pictures vs. writing or talking. And there is something rewarding to look back to see what you can accomplish that way. I got the shivers when I read Me Ra told you that you were “enough.” Gosh, I love that woman! Yes, you are enough and wishing you heard that more often than you have. I”m excited to read about your journey and excited to follow your photography. Thank you for being so real. You are remarkable!!!
Wow Tina ! thank you for sharing this story with us ! xo It reminds me my childhood with my father …
Instead of you hiding behind a mask like most people do, you chose to be authentic , tank you so much !
Tina, you have such a beautiful heart. Your story is so incredible and I am so fiercely proud to stand next to you in this sisterhood of teachers.
Tina, you are so brave to share your story. There is something amazing that happens in those workshops with MeRa & Brian. I will never forget mine…I walked in not sure what to expect & realized I hadn’t let myself be vulnerable in quite some time & unexpectedly spent a lot of time crying. I was so out of my comfort zone in this that I couldn’t even look at the photos I took after the first day. It was humbling but so much amazing growth came to me from that experience & that weekend & I still call upon what I learned about myself that weekend often. My photography journey has been slower than I expected but it is mine & the joy that come from getting better & learning more about myself is immeasurable. I will forever be grateful to MeRa & Brian for the things I learned about myself that weekend. You are enough…we are all enough 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. I currently have a photography business and have felt for quite a while that I am not doing what I am meant to be doing. It sounds odd, but I’m trying to find my purpose. I look forward to hearing your recommended books. MeRa was an incredible inspiration when I listened to her speak in Las Vegas several years ago and would love to see her again.
You should be so proud of yourself.
Your bravery in sharing your story is beautiful. Thank you.
Tina, I am so thankful that you are finding peace at such a young age. I had a hellacious childhood . . and all the physical stuff goes with it. Other than never looking people in the eye, I didn’t realize I had serious problems until I about a year ago at age 63. Ironically, I didn’t realize I had the problems until I had started with photography. It has, indeed, been a healing mechinism. I also have a serious physical illness with a 50 to 60 percent chance of survival. I started out with eighteen months of chemo. I’m now down to eleven months to go. After starting with photography, I started venturing outside and into nature. It has changed my perspective of a dark life to a life of light. It is an emotional healing, and, I think in my situation, more importantly it is getting me out of the house, blowing out the candles on my pitty party, and giving me much-needed exercise to help fight the battles. I am happy for the first time in 63 years. I owe it all to photography. Take care of yourself and hold your head high. Remember that God don’t make no junk!! I look forward to seeing you on the cruise. Both you and Me Ra are an inspiration.