His Story: Christopher Grant

Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

My name is Christopher Grant and I’m a 22 year old from The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. What I love about the peninsula is that I’m surrounded by so many awe inspiring natural landscapes. There are at at least 30 different beaches and headlands with magical emotive light.

I was born in a little country town called Orbost which has less than 3000 people. I grew up playing sports competitively from the age of 6. I played basketball, Australian Rules Football (AFL), swimming and surfing. I played basketball the most and I wanted to make a career out of it. My time after school was filled with sports every day of the week. I wanted to be the best at everything I did. I felt the need to prove myself all the time.

Surfing was one of the things that took me out of the competitive mode, living close to the ocean made this passion of mine accessible. I’m very into my music, I’ve been playing guitar for 12 years and singing for 6, I make vlogs and music videos on YouTube. Music has always been something I’ve loved and something that makes me feel myself.

IMG_3984.jpeg

Do you have any special talents?

I can ride a unicycle and juggle. I use to do off-road unicycling and do free fall jumps when I was at high school.

What are you passionate about?

I’m very passionate about music, the environment, self love, equality and health.

What is the biggest personal change you have made?

Accepting that I’m no better than anyone, no one is better than me. Accepting that it’s ok to not be well and focus on the here and now. To acknowledge how much things frustrate me and to realise this is based on thinking not on feeling and therefore is irrelevant. We are perfect as we are and not as we β€˜should’ be.

Share your most embarrassing story when you were a kid.

When I was 9 sitting in my classroom, a girl asked me if I was wearing lipstick in front of the whole class. I was so upset when I got home I cried, I just have naturally red lips.

Australia is famous for its beaches and huge swells! Where is your favourite place to surf?

My favourite place to surf at home is a little Island called Phillip Island which is about an hour and half drive from my home. My favourite surf spot on the island is called Woolamai Beach. It has the most pristine white sand and the best quality waves.

Do you surf on a regular basis?

I haven’t been able to surf much at all the last 2 years due to my health.

Have you tried doing surf photography maybe with like a GoPro?

I haven’t really tried this at all due to the fact it’s a lot more physically demanding to get out in the water and swim and take photos. I would love to have a go at this one day when I’m fully recovered and am fit and healthy.

There are many cities in Australia. Where would you recommend first-time travellers to visit and why so?

I would recommend Melbourne, it has a lot of cultural diversity, a lot of beautiful interesting art and it has some of the most amazing food in the world. Melbourne isn’t far from scenic landscapes like the 12 apostles (more like 5 apostles due to corrosion), the great ocean road and the Otways are all 1-2 hours away from the CBD of Melbourne. 

When did you first get into photography?

I was 19 years old and I got my firs DSLR, I’d seen a few photos on the internet and in magazines and just felt like exploring it. I grew up camping outdoors and spent lots of time in nature so it just felt right documenting it wanting to share the places I go.

What is your aim in your photography?

My aim is to enjoy taking photos of things that resonates with me. I love simple colours and simple effective light. Nature is limitless with creativity and I love that I can go anywhere and find places that haven’t been explored.

You mentioned that you love simplistic and emotive photographs. Is there any particular feed that you follow?

My favourite Instagram account is Alex Strohl who is a French photographer who takes breathtaking simplistic landscapes all around the world.

Who inspired you to start photography?

Funnily enough no one one in particular, I just really loved looking at artsy style surf photos shown in paper magazines.

What is your current go-to equipment when you photograph?

At the moment most of my photographs are shot using my Fujifilm X100s that has a fixed 23mm lens attached or my iPhone 6. Sometimes I shoot with my Canon60D with various lenses and sometimes I shoot with my Pentax k1000 film camera with a 50mm prime lens.

Do you mind sharing how you found out about your illness?

I have a condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; I was first diagnosed when I was 16 years old. Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterised by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. It is the end result (the straw that broke the camels back) of a pattern of stress, emotional disconnect and usually happens to extremely sensitive caring people.

How did you feel when you first received the news?

My primary emotion was frustration, sadness and hurt.

What is the worst thing about this illness?

There is no one particular thing but many things that make this condition very difficult. I feel like I’m missing out on doing the things that I would love to do in life. It’s hard having to explain your health when most people don’t understand what CFS is. Whenever people ask what I’ve been up to it’s incredibly hard to say how little I can do. It feels depressing to explain how much of my day is lying around and doing very little just to survive another day. Sometimes it makes me feel less worthless because I feel like people don’t value people with disabilities as much.

The endless nights of getting 1-4 hours sleep, the never ending chronic pain in my body, the forever ongoing headaches, trauma, brain fog, sensitivities, isolation and lack of social interaction.

There is no clarity or prognoses for CFS, the only option you have is to rule out numerous amounts of other conditions. I’ve had to do years of research with my family to get the help I needed.

How did your family and friends support you as you fight this illness?

My full time stay at home mum is looking after me and my older sister who is 25 and also has CFS. My dad works full time to support the whole family. My family does whatever they can for me and I appreciate them a lot. It has been very tough having to live with my family all day at home but we are all are doing our best.

What medications, treatments, or alternative therapies have helped you the most?

In my opinion medicine isn’t a treatment for CFS as it’s only temporary relief, the real fix is to get to the core of why we got in the first place and work from there. I’m currently on no medication for CFS.

I’m doing a therapy called β€˜Mickel Therapy’ and this particular therapy has been the only therapy that has helped me understands why I got CFS in the first place. All the other things I’ve tried have only looked at treating the symptoms with medicine or physical activity.

Mickel Therapy is all about working with someone to go back to before you were diagnosed with CFS because there were patterns in my life that drove me to getting incredible ill. One of the main things that led to me becoming incredibly ill was that I was bullied a lot in high school and I never felt like I could just be my self. I had to put on a face that everything was ok every day and it took its toll over the years. When I was getting worse in my health people just thought I was lazy and didn’t have enough motivation which was an incredibly disheartening experience to go through. I was an incredibly fit and healthy person before CFS so when I was getting worse and putting on weight people just made fun of me. I’m a very sensitive person and I didn't know how to handle it all so I just bottled it all up.

How did photography help you in your recovery? Do you think photography has a healing quality?

Photography was great because it gave me an outlet to express my creativity and do something less about being ultra-competitive and more about how I can challenge myself creatively. I love sharing my environment with people and go over locations. One of the challenges of photography is to keep the focus on just enjoying it and not taking it too seriously, which I’m continuing to improve at.

I feel like it depends on how you are doing it. If it is just purely based on your own enjoyment and not for anyone else, that to me is the most important part of photography. It needs to be authentic and not feel like it’s forced.

What life advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with your illness?

It’s different for everyone but I feel like the things that have helped me the most have been having the ability to express myself, the ability to tell set boundaries with people and having a real understanding of what the negative pattern was that led me to getting sick. I feel like Mickel Therapy has been the most important thing I’ve done so far in my recovery and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone going through any serious chronic condition such as CFS.

Part of recovering from chronic illness is accepting that you are perfect as you are and there is no need to get better. Your body wants acceptance not pressure and certainly not expectation. I can understand how rationally speaking that doesn't make sense but CFS is not a rational condition and therefore requires an emotional approach.

IMG_3079.jpeg

Lastly, what are your plans for the future?

I’m very optimistic about my future and the great thing about going through tough times in life is that you’re able to handle things a lot easier than most. CFS is not a permanent condition so I feel confident that I’m on the path to recovery sooner rather than later.

I hope to be enjoying life in whatever capacity as long as I feel content in myself. I want to travel around the world and broaden my mind, but if I never get better I will find a way to accept it. Lack of acceptance is one of the things that really put us into overdrive mode.

Surfing has always be something I have enjoyed immensely and would love to get back into that. One of my dreams is to release a music album about all of my wisdom and experiences in my life and to be able to play to people live and hopefully inspire them. I really want to give something back to people and be a part of something greater.