I was diagnosed with Autism, Asperger’s at the age of 44 but it wasn’t a surprise just a relief.
What led to my diagnoses though was a lifetime of anxiety, a real feeling I did “not fit in” and I suffered from episodes of depression as a result.
I was unable to do anything and just simply enjoy it, instead everything I started to do become an obsession.
I once did a parachute jump but afterwards I became so fascinated with planes i learnt to fly.
I never understood why I took everything to the extreme and then burnt out.
And why did I hate any social event and prefer my own company? And although these feelings drove me to hide away it gave me the time alone to work on certain skills, one being photography!
Let me explain more.
In my 30s/early 40s before i was diagnosed i really struggled to understand how i felt. I was scared of social events and was becoming more withdrawn. My day job was public facing, but I had done it so many years I could keep my routine but as soon as I came home I wanted to hide away. I run ( a lot!) and competitively and this helped me cope but when i got injured one day I was forced to take a break from running and my anxiety became worse – I knew I needed something to distract me quick!
My dad is a landscape photographer so I grew up around cameras and understood how they worked. I always had a dog as a best friend and presently have 3 dog best friends, so I’m always surrounded by the love of animals…so it seemed obvious, I should photograph animals!
As soon as I picked up a camera again I had the amazing challenge ahead of me learning again how to photograph and it consumed all my thoughts.
At last I had found something to relax my mind which hiding behind a camera gave me.
As I concentrated on the right camera settings, hiding from the wildlife and trying to keep warm (the majority of my photography is taken in Scotland) I found any anxiety, stresses and worries disappeared – instead I could wait for the perfect moment to photograph and hours would pass as if seconds.
I find so much joy in watching a mountain hare play in the snow or a fox cub jumping around. The simplicity of their lives and the beauty of their habitat sooths my soul. It doesn’t matter if I make a mistake, the mountain hare doesn’t care!
I don’t need to talk or dress in a certain away. I am totally free and truly myself sat on the Scottish hills hiding in a bush, covered in mud, smudges of chocolate on my face and my Nikon camera in my hand, in fact as I type this i have this desperate urge to stop and rush out now to photograph.
I bought myself “adventure” trousers as my other half calls then which have thousands of pockets for camera lens covers, little note books and biscuits! I really was in my element.
I then decided to learn about Astro photography and became slightly obsessed with long exposure photography and the night sky – some of my most fun times have been sleeping in my van with my other half and 3 dogs waiting for a 2am alarm call to photograph the Milky Way.
I won a local photography competition recently and the confidence it gave me was amazing. People bought some of my photos and I sold through 2 batches of my 2021 calendars I
had made up of my photos.
I still work full time. I still run but my favourite thing apart from my dogs and family, oh and chocolate! is photography. So many plans for next year including adventures abroad to photograph wildlife (I have a fascination with wolves) and I thank photography for giving me so much joy and my autism for giving me amazing focus and drive to allow me to grow in my chosen art.
Mandy Williams is 45 years old and was diagnosed with autism at age 44 and start of lockdown in Scotland.
“The relief my diagnoses brought me is life changing and led me to throw myself more than ever into one of my big passions – wildlife photography. I live in Stirling, Scotland with my patient other half, 2 kids and my 3 dog best friends!
I work as a manager in a running shop by day (I am also a competing masters runner both on the road and mountains) and to relax I take photographs!
I’ve also flown planes, parachute jumped and have a economics degree/ post grad in sports psychology.”