PTSD in Pictures

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"What really helped me is passion, passion in something."

Read more about this story:
Coping with the Aftermath of Trauma

PTSD Childhood Anxiety Photography

Story Transcript

My name is Larry Hirshowitz. I'm from South Africa. I grew up in South Africa under apartheid, and when I was six years old at this school that I was going to, I was in grade one, which is probably first grade here, I was six years old, actually, wasn't even six years, I was five about to turn six. The teacher was shouting at us, she was really angry with us. I couldn't really understand why, I suppose, and what happened was I turned to a student sitting next to me, and I'm not gonna mention his name, even though I remember it. And I said to him, Ah, the teacher, she's such a bitch. And I remember saying, bitch, because I think I must have heard somebody in my household just say it, I must have heard my older sister say it or something in the house. And this guy next to me, I thought was, you know, kind of a friend, he went and told her, and everything is so clear. I mean, it's so interesting because I can see everything at the age of 55 years. I can see it, it's all imprinted on my brain. He went and told her, and she, in shock, she kicked me out and said go to the headmaster! Of course, I didn't go to the headmaster. I was completely freaked out. I went home.

I didn't tell anybody, didn't tell my mother, You know, the young five year old and I went home... And the very next day, I still hadn't told anyone, I went to school and in the assembly ...I don't know if it's the same as in America. Everybody gathers in a big hall, and I think we said the national anthem, you sing the national anthem and other stuff goes on. And then over the intercom, I heard somebody say, Larry Hirshowitz, go to the headmaster. And that's when I knew that it hadn't ended. I went to the headmaster and he was….. I can't exactly remember what actually happened. But he told me, he told me what I'd done wrong, and he told me to pull down my pants and he pulled out a thin whip, like a stick whip and he slashed me twice on my bare bottom. And he told me to go back to the class and I was completely freaked out. My mother… I was completely devastated. My mom was really upset. She went and complained that I'll take my kid out of school and then the headmaster called me back in to apologize, but the damage was already done. Because of that, when I would ask for something, and it's affected me throughout my life. If I would ask for something, I would always think that the worst will happen. It would then just consume me and anxiety would come in and I would be completely consumed as to what would happen if I do something. For instance, I work with a lady photographer for many years, and I was always nervous to ask if I could borrow one of her cameras, thinking that she's gonna shout at me and fire me and kick me out the room, but she always said yes. And, you know, it's only in my head, because of that one incident.

And because of that incident, it's brought in a lot of anxiety and depression, what really helped me is passion, passion in something, I think everybody should have a passion. My passion is photography. I am a photographer. When I'm feeling depressed or anxiety, I take my camera and get on a bicycle or drive somewhere and take pictures. I go and take street photography, textures, whatever it is, that is my therapy. That is what calms me down and also, I still go through the same angst when I ask for something, I always expect the worst, but I am working on that, and things seem to be getting better. And every day, is a new day, but my photography and the passion that I have for it is my therapy, and that is what helped me calm down, helped me with my anxiety and helped me with my depression, if I need to, you know, when I do get it. I know that breathing helps and deep breaths, but I definitely don't do that enough, but I know it does help. So when I do, do that, but mostly, if I get my mind, it's basically about taking my head out of whatever situation it is and taking my camera and getting out and photography, that's what helps me. And that's it.