Categories
Personal

OCD or autism?

In Spring of 2017 I decided to switch camera systems from Nikon to Fuji. I had been toying with Fuji for some years and absolutely loved my X100s 35mm fixed lens camera. But I wasn’t 100% sure about switching systems. I had a few lenses and a XT1 and a XPro 1 and they were OK but obviousy no Nikon D800. However, Fuji recently released new lenses and cameras that everyone was raving about. I decided to drop a lot of money on them and really give them a test. I couldn’t rent one for a week. It had to be a proper test over a few months to really get to grips with the system.

2 years on and I sold the Fuji gear moving back to Nikon. The cameras were “fine”. Perfectly “fine”. Not great though. I had a Leica Q that was absolutely fantastic and so the Fuji’s just never lived up to that. I really tried to love them though. It never took.

The 2 years I had the Fujis were agony. Every day I questioned whether they were right. Every. Day. Every few hours I was reading forums and wondering about the cameras. Clients were perfectly happy with my work. Why was I worried? The Leica Q I had kept telling me things could be better. Things can always be better but at some point you have to stop buying cameras. Thankfully the next level up is totally out my price range so I never bother looking at it. But switching back to Nikon or Sony cameras was an option.

It gnawed at me every minute of every day. “Is this right?” “Are they right?” “If I’m not doing this sort of work anymore does it matter?” “What sort of work am I doing?” It was a tiny thought that grew and grew and unravelled everything in my mind. What would start as “Hmm the high ISO performance isn’t mind blowing.” would end with me questioning everything about myself as a photographer. I was driving myself crazy with this thinking. Some days I’d see an article that would give my mind a rest for a while. Some article on how gear doesn’t matter or this photographer is doing great work with such and such gear. I’d read it and be fine for a day. But the thoughts always came back.

I’m at peace now that I’ve switched and sold the gear. For the most part anyway. There are moments when I see someone on Instagram using a certain camera and think “Should I have…?” But its certainly not as bad as it has been over the past 2 years. The average photograph would often wonder if they need a new lens, camera of bit of kit. It’s normal to think you need a new toy to do a job. You probably don’t but the thoughts are normal and to be ignored. You don’t need new shiny. What happened to me wasn’t normal. I’ve been a photographer for 14 years now and I know the differene between gear lust and whatever this was.

I’ve tried to figure out this issue. Is it an autism thing? There’s something to be said of analysis paralysis too. For autistic people decision making can be complicated sometimes. Simply chosing which resturant to eat at can lead to over thinking and stress because people might be waiting on me to make a decision. I eventually make a decision only to find the resturant is out of the only food I can eat. So we go back to the other resturant right? Wrong. We’re here now so I have to way up a whole new set of variables and decide what is “right”. It’s a nightmare. These scenarios are usually caused by stress and pressure. I have to decide quickly and without the resources of the internet to help me make a calm logical decision. The camera issue was a daily inability to make a decision because whereever I looked online there was something to pull me one way or the other. I could validate one idea only to find a counter argument I agreed with. I was stuck. For 2 years.

A few months ago I found an article that might shed some light on the issue. I’m not medically trained so I can’t really give an expert opinion on the matter but it certainly got me thinking. On Huck Magazine there was an article on living with OCD in the digtial age. Now of course its super easy to self diaganose via the internet. However I’m not about to read 1 article on OCD and proclaim I’ve got it. That said, the article got me thinking.

Victoria constantly questions whether she is in the right relationship, and regularly doubts her sexual orientation. She spends hours online looking for information to determine whether she is heterosexual and if she really loves her boyfriend. “Google is the worst enemy for people with OCD,” she says, with exasperation. “It’s the perfect vessel for reassurance-seeking compulsions. Googling allowed me to endlessly feed my obsession without anyone telling me to ‘shut up about it already’.”

That part really got me thinking. I’m constantly questioning my relationship with one camera thinking I should be with another. I spent hours online looking for information to determine whether it really was a good fit for me or not. Whatever question I had I found a “Yes” answer for. I never found clarity but I did find a compulsion to feed.

As I’m relatively new to the world of autism I’m still not sure if this fits in somewhere or not. Could it have been a special interest? Maybe it was simply an inability to see the way out of the forrest. Too much information. No clear logical path. Whatever choice I made could lead me to the same place. It was a complex issue to resolve.

So how did I resolve it? I got lucky. Nikon launched a new camera that was only a bit more expensive than the Fuji ones I used but resolved every issue I had with them without creating new ones. I waited for a great deal and switched. I’ve been completely happy with them. I’m not sure I really mentally found a way out. Its more like I got lucky and found a transporter pad that beamed me out of there. This could easily happen again over anything. “The problem is choice.” To quote Neo from Matrix: Reloaded. I try and have a default choice for many occasions to remove the need for thought. Same meals every day. Same food in resturants. Same biscuits. It really helps me. As I’ve got older though I’ve introduced a bit more diversity into my life and as such complexity. Knowing now that I’m autistic I have to be wary of these issues.

By Pete

Photographer and part time Spider-man.