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TFW wedding photography saved my life
With the sad passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week, there have been a lot of posts about depression and suicide. It's hard for people to understand how those who "have it all" could take their own life. But I totally understand how they could. So I want to share.

Lots of posts about "if you're struggling, reach out" and also great posts about "since depression prevents people from reaching out, check in on your friends, cuz you never know what they're going through."

Yes to all of the discussion. Yes to #BellLetsTalk yes to #MeToo and #beenrapedneverreported and all the good discussion over the years on speaking out loud what shames us.

I'm in a fabulous coaching group that consists of 45 women. Within that, I have a small mastermind group of 8 brilliant minds who support and brainstorm and cheerlead one another every single Wednesday at 10am. Recently one of these dear friends told me, "Shame has NOTHING except secrecy. Silence is its ONLY power. When you take away the secrecy and silence, shame has nothing left to hold over you." This is and has always been true for me. Maybe that's why I love all the Brené Brown I can get. Every time, it's impossibly hard to speak up. And in turn, every time I speak up, the shame and fear and resistance and self-abuse disappears like opening a box of smoke and watching it blow away into the wind.

Where am I going with this?

Years ago, I was depressed. Luckily, it wasn't suicidal depression. It was numbing depression. Some people asked me later, "Why – what happened!?" Nothing "happened". Or, I should just say LIFE happened, you know? Depression occurred in my family, I went through it as a teen, and then over a period of more than 10 years, I slid slowly down down down.

Until one summer – the first summer that my wedding photography business really blew up – shooting every week, lots of happy, great, lovely, fabulous clients, I was fucking depressed.

I would go out and shoot, and feel awesome and fine, full of social energy, in the flow of doing what I do best. Then I'd come home, and download all my cards, back them up, go to bed. ...And stay in bed.
All day.
All week.
Until my next shoot. 

I didn't quite realize I was depressed. I felt tired. I felt exhausted actually.
Specifically in the mornings. And I was addicted to my phone (a habit I still struggle with to this day). I would wake up and feel too exhausted to move or get out of bed. I also felt overwhelmed with work. For those of you who don't know... A wedding may take 8 hours to photograph, but for me, it takes about 40 hours to edit. So lying in bed all day, all week, meant jobs were piling up like crazy. I was in a vicious cycle. Being behind on my editing meant working late nights at the computer, and declining social events. Staying up late = sleeping in. Saying no to friends & family turned into being alone all the time, except when I was shooting.

And here is the craziest part: when I was shooting, I was perfectly fine. Better than fine, I was legitimately happy, cheerful, leading the way for my clients to feel comfortable. We laughed and connected and had a genuine time and it was real. And then when I got home... back to bed.

I worked out a lot. Similar to shooting, while pumping my body full of endorphins at Barreworks, I felt FINE. Until the time I got home and locked up my bike, and went straight back to the place I loved to hate and hated myself for loving: bed. 
Under the covers.
Mornings were dreaded.
I'd wake up late and pre-feel shame for what I was about to do: lie in bed for 4-6 hours, numbing out, scrolling social media on my phone, snoozing, looking at emails & feeling overwhelmed, daydreaming, etc., etc., etc.

So what does depression look like? For me, a happy loving successful person who secretly feels totally fucked up, tired, and overwhelmed. For other people – who knows? 
All my life, I've been surrounded by the most loving family and friends. They didn't know. I told them - I'm busy - I have too much work - I can't come, tonight, but have funnn! How would they ever know? Especially if I myself didn't really understand.

That fall, I went to a lovely conference. "Adventure Always" a magical, beautiful, dreamy, luxurious event at the Parker Palm Springs, surrounded by some of the most inspirational, creative entrepreneurs you can imagine.

Hated it. 

Luckily, I was with a good friend who was also my mentor. We shared a room, and spent 4 days together in the desert. I think, spending 4 days and nights in the same room, she could really see that I was suffering. And by that point, even I knew that shit was getting real. I was irritable and anxious, and couldn't see beyond my pain to enjoy the conference. 

She looked at me one day and said, "there's this thing that I think could help." It was an 8-day 'personal development workshop' that I now have learned consisted of somatics, CBT, meditation, and a whole combination of interventions focused mainly on neuroplasticity – basically 2 years of therapy in a week. We didn't talk about it in detail, but I took heed. I trusted her and didn't need much more than her recommendation. That was October. In December I went to the process. It isn't for everyone, but it worked wonders for me. That was the beginning of healing. My journey back to myself. 

Why am I telling you this very personal story of my depression? Because it might interest you to know – it may give you hope to learn – that depression was the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. 

Let me repeat: my experience with depression has been the most valuable experience of my life. I am not exaggerating.

In my healing, I became the most resilient, strong, loving, genuinely compassionate version of myself.
I got to know who I really am. 
I began my spiritual practice. 
I forgave my old hurts and moved on.
I became stable and grounded. And in grounding I was able to grow.

Not everyone has to go through this shit to grow and "get there". Sometimes I look at folks who seem happy and uncomplicated, and think, "I have no idea how it is for them. But even if they're truly happy and uncomplicated, that is their path, with its own gifts."

My path has given me the greatest gifts of my life – all the qualities and skills and super powers that bring me success in my business and relationships. I don't know who I'd be had I any other path. Over the years since then, I have gained the tools, skills, and understanding needed to believe in myself and make things happen. I live with intention. I cry tears of joy. My relationships are deeply intimate and safe. I feel genuine love for my clients. I marvel at the beauty of nature and the city and humans and coffee and music. I feel alive. It took years of work. And it was worth every minute.

I am grateful for every single crack and scar on my sensitive, loving heart. 

The tagline for my business is "mindful authentic photography".  And this story is why.  While I was depressed, the circumstances of my job allowed me be in a flow of happy energy several times per week (weddings & engagement shoots). I have no idea what life would look like, if I didn't have those breaks in the dense, grey cloud of depression. When I began my healing, I meditated every single day, and wrote a list of 10 gratitudes every single night, for more than a year. I learned to be honest with myself about my "negative" emotions. Honesty and compassion allows you to let go. The need for honesty and compassion is so so important, that I have literally made it my business tagline, but I want it to be our LIFE tagline.

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I'm still human. I still have hard days of course, and normal horrible PMS, like everyone else. But I'm well, is the difference. I work at my wellness just like getting groceries and going to the gym. 

I want us to develop a culture of emotional health.

Imagine if checking in and understanding feelings were as important and normal as brushing your teeth twice a day, eating healthy, or looking fit. Imagine the compassion, open-mindedness, and mental space we would have, in our work, family, politics, and our hearts. I do think it's possible.

This letter is my public vow to work towards this culture. If you have thoughts, comments, questions, or experiences you'd like to share, please do: email me, or reach out on social media. I am here, another human, just like you.

With love, 
Kate

Gratitude. An excerpt from The Empire Citizen
  • I am so grateful to live in the same city as my family.
  • I am grateful that, even though my parents are divorced, we all still get together on holidays.
  • I am grateful for our universal appreciation of dorky puns.
  • I am grateful for my niece’s big, round eyes when I try to surprise her with silly questions, before she realizes I'm joking and starts to giggle.
  • I’m so grateful she loves holding hands for no reason.
  • I am grateful that (when you’re four years old) one of the most exciting things in life, is simply to run as fast as you can.
  • I am grateful to share these moments with my sister. We exchange a look and know we’re both smiling about the same observation.
  • I am grateful to see my parents being nana & papa – to see how much joy that brings them.

Take 20 Seconds & Try This Out:

  • Take a deep, loud breath, like a big sigh
  • Finish this sentence: “I am grateful for…"
  • Close your eyes & picture what you’re grateful for
  • FEEL the gratitude in your body – breathe deeply into that feeling
  • Now open your eyes.

Go ahead.  How was that?  Were you able to think of something? 

Was it coffee? Your comfy bed? Your parents’ health? The sound of your kids laughing? Pizza? Your good taste and sense of humour?  As you prepare for the rest of your day, take these 20 seconds for yourself.

If you're feeling grateful for this oasis in your day, sign-up for my newsletter! You'll receive my take on mindfulness for moms (and dads), self-care for brides (and grooms), and happy, healthy lifestyle tips for starseeds, lovers, seekers, and kitchen-dance-party aficionados alike. Plus, you'll receive first-dibs on popular photo dates, holiday promos, and anything else I can think of to serve you joy. Sign Up Here!

Check out more on gratitude lists in this post, where I reflect on not getting killed on my trip to Kenya. 

Learn more about what's included in my exciting and awesome newsletter right here!

Gratitude Lists: I am grateful for not getting eaten by a Lion.
 

In 2009 I lived on a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. For three months, I slept alone in a safari tent and every night a pride of lions gathered outside my tent and roared. I was lonely and scared. I made sure not to drink any fluids with dinner, so I wouldn’t have to walk to the bathroom hut after dark.

Last week I published my first official newsletter, and the topic was Gratitude. It’s Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d take the chance to expand on that a bit.

But first...

 
 A pride of lions at sunset, waiting to see what mom brings home for dinner... I hope it's not me!

A pride of lions at sunset, waiting to see what mom brings home for dinner... I hope it's not me!

 

After a month of sleepless nights, the lions moved on and my terror subsided... Until one day I had to take a trip to Nairobi, by myself, on public transit. For non-getting-eaten-by-lion reasons, people traveling between cities didn’t move around after dark: car-jacking at gunpoint. An actual, for-real threat. Crazy, right? Again, I was scared. I left in the early morning; took my trip and was greeted at my destination by a friendly face. All went well, and at the end of my third month, I came home to Toronto. 

What does this have to do with Gratitude? 

Sometimes, when my mind is racing with the to-do list, current events, irritations, or worries about the future, I get out my journal and do a simple activity: I write five things I’m grateful for, and five things I appreciate about myself. 

Ten things is a lot, and sometimes I run out of ideas. And it’s in that moment, I find myself writing, “I am grateful for living in a safe city where I can move around freely, without threat.” Even though it’s something I hardly ever think about, when it comes up on my list, the feeling in my heart is an overwhelming WOW. I am so lucky. 

So what does gratitude have to do with weddings & family photography? 

Getting there! You see, it has to do with life. In my attempt to be proactive about emotional health, I got into this little gratitude ritual and discovered that it actually works! It’s great for any time… But if nothing else, times of stress are when it’s most helpful. And let’s be real: holidays, family time, and big life changes and events (i.e. weddings) are both WONDERFUL and STRESSFUL.

Try This Out: 

  • Grab a piece of paper and write 1-10 things you’re grateful for

  • If you can think of 1, 3, 5 or 15, that’s okay

  • Try this at night right before you sleep.

 
 Looking across the savannah, at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. One of the most challenging and transformative three months of my life. 

Looking across the savannah, at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. One of the most challenging and transformative three months of my life. 

 

I am forever grateful for the opportunity to go to Kenya. Despite the fear and loneliness, I learned what I was made of that summer. My eyes were opened to issues ranging from global poverty, cutting edge environmental and community development projects, to what it means to have white privilege. At the same time, I made interesting friends and had indescribable adventures exploring the savannah.

 

Click Connect below to let me know what you think and read a description of my newsletter offerings right here. 

Sign up for the Sweetheart Empire Newsletter - the Empire Citizen!
Sweetheart Empire Newsletter.jpg
 

Hello friends,

I wanted to give you a heads up that I've started a newsletter! Yes, indeed, I have lots to say. :) If you're curious about the content, here's a link to past issues, here's a link to subscribe, and below are my reasons for this endeavour: 

There are two phrases I constantly hear in my work:

“The whole wedding day went by in a flash – I can’t even remember it!”

“Kids grow up so fast – I can’t believe they started school this year!”

Both of these express the same concern: being present and experiencing life as it’s happening.

I created the newsletter with tips to help you Be in the moment during life's big (and small) moments, and not miss out.

Whether you’re worried about being too stressed to enjoy your wedding, or shocked that your child isn’t a baby anymore, I got you. Using simple techniques of reflection, gratitude, breathing, and photography, you can be there to appreciate all the stages of life. 

Subscribers to the newsletter also get exclusive access to printed gifts and promotions, as well as first rights to popular session dates throughout the year. Pretty awesome, right? If you're thinking, "Yes – I'm into this!" then here's what to expect...

Two short letters per month with:

  • Right of first refusal to popular weekend sessions
  • Concise tips on mindfulness & emotional presence
  • Exclusive package offerings, printed gifts & promotions
  • A link to new work or a few photos to brighten your day...

The laws of the land: 

  • Only 2 emails each month
  • I will never share your contact info
  • Opt-out any time by clicking unsubscribe

Judgment-Free Territory

If you no longer want to be a "citizen" of Sweetheart Empire, just unsubscribe. I'll still think of you as a citizen of though, because that's just how I roll. Also, I don't judge because inboxes are cray-cray so only say yes to what brings you Joy (at least for newsletters).

 
Mel & Roy's Luma Wedding Photography Review

Mel & Roy got married at St. Paul's Cathedral, and chartered their own streetcar to cross Toronto with their best friends. The stopped in at SPiN to play some ping pong, and then finished off with a gorgeous reception at Luma. Here are their words on the wedding day:

"When we first met Kate we told her, “we want our photos to feel like ‘us’”. Kate took that impossibly vague request and surpassed our wildest expectations. She took the time to get to know us, listen to our concerns, and help us feel calm and confident. Her attention to detail and friendly nature made our sessions a breeze. Our engagement and wedding photos were exactly what we hoped for: authentic – joyful – and filled with love."

– Mel & Roy

 Rings are on... almost married...
 Newlyweds jumping for joy!

Click here to read more reviews!