“I struggle to find light,” Tamara says from her blue recliner throne. It’s day two of our self-made creatives’ retreat, and our intimate group of photographers and painters and musicians and writers is sprawled across the great room in various states of dress, one-by-one sharing stories of struggle and success. I memorize the beautiful, open faces around me, the bodies folded around coffee mugs and champagne glasses, fingers twirling pens and massaging keyboards. And I think, “I’m so fucking glad to be alive.”

In the fall after I turned 19, I swallowed 200 anti-depressants, laid down on my bed, and waited to die.

I didn’t want to die. I wanted to stop feeling, and I wanted to stop hurting. I’ve heard people say that suicide is selfish, but it felt explicitly unselfish to remove my broken, miserable self from the world. I was doing everyone a favor.

There are abuses and violations that leave their mark long after science will say you’ve healed. But more painful than the past was the very present certainty that I was all alone. I was unworthy. And I could not – should not – be seen.

Obviously I didn’t die. Visions of my mom’s face and my dad’s laughter lured me, dizzy and hallucinating, out of my bed and into the nearest hospital. (I don’t remember driving there.) Phantoms of my brother and sisters navigated me through the numbness and the allover ache. I would stay alive just one more day. And then one more. And one more after that. It was my cat who got me out of bed those mornings, and cried to sleep with me at night.

I zombie-walked through the next two years, drinking too much, sleeping too late, in and out of destructive relationships, caring little for my own safety or health or comfort.


It was at the ocean in 2002 when, for the first time in too long, I felt the sun come out. It was like a sliver of heaven broke off and pierced my heart. I thought then that maybe I would be okay.

Almost 13 years later, I’m at the ocean again, gathered with this community of women to find inspiration, to find connection, to find light.

For a photographer, the struggle for light is literal and unironic. We are Einstein’s proverbial light monkeys, simultaneously chasing exposure and inspiration – the light that is seen and the light that is unseen, both vital, both consuming.

I wouldn’t describe myself as depressed any longer. But depression still has its roots in my head and in my heart. They’re not as deep as they once were, or as strong. I like to think I’m killing them with endorphins. It seems right that I would shrivel them with love and laughter and sea air and sand in the crevices of my heels. It is fitting that I rip them out, one by one, over and over if need be, with hands made strong from holding a camera, with fingernails stained by ink, with teeth worn sharp from talking, talking, talking – all the talking I never did before, but so desperately needed.

If I have found any comfort, it is that my artist’s soul is equipped to tell my story. It is that, for every one hundred of you who do not understand, there will be one who understands all too well, who has walked this road, who has crumpled beneath the weight of the world’s cruelty and your own weariness of it.

You are not alone. We are not alone. And there is the magic I overlooked those many years ago, in the dark, with my plastic bottle of death and my soul cowering in a corner. I was never alone. And the tools to find my kindreds were at my disposal all along.



So I pick up my camera; this is my story.

I pick up my pen; this is my truth.



Pick up your running shoes, your paint brush, your guitar, your pastry cutter, your knitting needles, your chisel. If we artists are prone to melancholy, we are also prone to miracles. We may sway toward darkness, but on the opposite end of the pendulum’s arc there is light.

The next time I lay down to die, I hope to be an old woman, with deeply-etched laugh lines and gnarled knuckles from gripping my camera too fervently, my pen too fondly.

Because it won’t be tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that.

I still have so much light to find.

Anne Simone

Anne is a lifelong photographer and accidental writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She prefers whiskey over wine, cheese over chocolate, and flat shoes over heels — because you never know when you might need to run for your life.

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  1. Bernard


    Your words get me every time.


    Thank you

    • Anne Almasy

      This piece is incredibly beautiful! I think you might also enjoy this… Goldmund’s “Threnody.” There are a few different upload version on YouTube, but I chose this one because it was posted on my birthday. 🙂

      • Bartek

        That was gorgeous, thank you Anne. This will be perfect for today’s evening.
        Oh, and by the way my birthday is the day after your, two best date in the world 😉

        • Anne Almasy

          Leos unite! ;D

  2. June

    Simply beautiful words. Thank you.

  3. Sami

    haunting. beautiful.

    coincidentally, I stumbled on this video today: Creativity is Madness.

    as the Koreans say: Fighting!

    • Anne Almasy

      Well. I almost had a seizure watching that. But also… I loved it. Thank you. 🙂

  4. Ara Roselani

    I have been waiting with longing and impatience to see this piece out in the world. I still hear your voice, reading it to us that Friday night. I still feel the ache of it clawing deep in my chest. And yes, regardless of how wretched or wonderful or confusing the day, I’m so fucking glad to be alive, too–because of light and love and people and connection and art and the ocean and photography and all the wonderful, crazy things that happen. Thank you, as always, for the vocabulary to say it all aloud. xoxo

    • Anne Almasy

      Thank you for being one of my very favorite unicorns. 🙂

  5. jarWoodson

    Oh my Damn…..this is haunting, beautiful, and everything else all at the same time……

    Thank you for this, I needed it.

    Warm regards,


  6. Sara

    Thank you for sharing this. I am a huge fan of your work, and of you. I’m looking forward to following your creative pursuits for many, many years!

  7. Carlos Sandoval

    One from the heart. Cheers!

  8. Iain


    I can only marvel at the strength to re-tell those dark days. You bring me to the verge of admitting my own which, although many years ago, are still too close.


    • Anne Almasy

      They always are, Iain. Message me any time. 🙂

  9. Craig

    Love your story and your truth. Thank you Anne.

  10. ryan

    Me too….

    Thank you for having courage to talk so openly about it. I am coming off of a 5 year run of Dysthymia. I never knew what was wrong until I finally talked to my doctor about it. Once I finally started taking meds for it i finally knew that the pendulumcould swing the other way. I even found the courage to talk about my real feelings with my wife. I still haven’t found the courage to tell my friends and family about it. But it does feel good to talk about it. It does inspire me and makes me feel less isolated when I hear others talking about it.

    Since this is a photography site, I will say that through those 5 years, the only time I ever felt a real connection to my surroundings was when I was looking at them through my lens.

    • Anne Almasy

      Ryan, I hadn’t heard of Dysthymia until you mentioned it. Five years… that sucks. Being betrayed by our bodies is enormously frustrating; but being betrayed specifically by our brains really messes with… well… everything. At least when you have a visible injury or disability people think, “Oh, okay, X is wrong with my friend and I can help in this way.” But when it’s your head? It’s so hard to communicate without seeming, I dunno… crazy? Needy? Whiney? If you can, find a way to talk about it. Find people you can share with. Just knowing someone has your back makes such a huge difference.

  11. Ellen Ingram

    One of the greatest gifts one can give is to open one’s soul so others may know they are truly not alone; so others may know that love accompanies them each moment of their life’s journey and quietly beacons them to accept its safe embrace. You have already found the light as I see it sparkle through your eyes. With deep appreciation.

  12. Tracye P

    I needed this. Thank you for sharing peices of you in ways that help us realize we aren’t alone in things. I’m thankful to call you friend.

  13. David

    I’ve walked that same path, my feet in those same footprints, and yes, many of us do come through it but not unscathed, never quite far enough ahead of the darkness that follows.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it provides a glimpse of that light that we all want to find, a target to move towards.

    • Anne Almasy

      David, I know it’s easy for me to speak from here, from a place of hope and healing. I remember how impossibly and improbable that felt. Even though it’s been over a decade, I can conjure those feelings like it was yesterday. I can’t really say anything except that you’re not alone, and that you matter. I see you.

  14. Joe

    Thank you.

  15. Ian MacIsaac

    I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety. I have heard/read so much about people speaking about how you need to be ‘sick’ to be a great artist. This post directly conflicts with that notion. You were able to accomplish goals in spite of depression, not the other way around. I love your photography and hope to one day, after a ton of hard work, be as good as you’ve become. I love this post. It gives me a ton of hope, thank you.

    • Anne Almasy

      Hey, Ian! Thanks for reading and sharing some of your own story.

      As I’ve gotten older and wiser (ha), I’ve begun thinking of creativity as a tool. It’s something we can incorporate into our daily lives and practice with intent. I will never “win” at creativity. I will never perfect it. The practice will go on and on and on as long as I choose to engage in it.

      I heard a story recently about a woman who convinced her son to try brussels sprouts by telling him a highly imaginative story about where brussels sprouts came from. (It involved magic and dinosaurs and trains and monsters.) And in the midst of this she was bemoaning the loss of her creativity. But there it was – creativity in the midst of this mundane, frustrating, unremarkable experience.

      Depression and anxiety often have the (MF’ing wretched) effect of sucking our desire to create right out of us. But IF you’re still in a place where you can choose to create, DO IT. Because it can save your life.

      A psychologist friend of mine said recently, “Conventional wisdom tells us that the opposite of depression is happiness – but it isn’t. It’s curiosity. The very act of seeking pumps all these great chemicals through our brains and helps to lift our spirits.” This is why all that annoying advice to “try something new” or “volunteer” or “meet new people” or “talk” actually does, in some incremental way, HELP. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s part of the bigger picture of medication and therapy.

      While depression breeds anxiety breeds depression breeds more anxiety… Creativity breeds happiness breeds creativity breeds more happiness. (Or, because “happiness” is such a la-dee-da word, I prefer “fulfillment.”)

      It’s the first step toward the doing and the making and the seeking and the creating. That first step is hard. But if you can find the right support, the right drugs, the right community… I think it’s possible.

      And then: it gets better.

  16. Stan

    Really beautiful words. Thank you.

  17. Vince

    Thank you for sharing. This is a very powerful and moving story that should inspire those who are in need right now. Bravo!

  18. Carrie

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  19. Robin M.

    I read this while sitting at work and had to hold back tears. Thank you for sharing your story.

  20. Rob

    You are not alone. We are not alone.

  21. Matthias

    Beautiful text.

    “The next time I lay down to die, I hope to be an old woman, with deeply-etched laugh lines and gnarled knuckles from gripping my camera too fervently, my pen too fondly.”

    Thanks for sharing and spreading this message of hope 🙂

  22. Suebob

    “If we artists are prone to melancholy, we are also prone to miracles.” This post is so beautiful.

  23. Richard Wintle

    “It is fitting that I rip them out, one by one, over and over if need be, with hands made strong from holding a camera, with fingernails stained by ink, with teeth worn sharp from talking, talking, talking – all the talking I never did before, but so desperately needed.”

    Wow. You’ve told us a very powerful story, but couched it in the language of poetry. Bravo.

  24. Woody

    oh, this hurt to read, it’s so beautiful. Having struggled with depression for several years and relied so heavily on photography/music/the love of my family and friends, I identified with so much of this.

    It’s the last thing we feel like doing – but creating and sharing when the black dog turns up is one of the most medicinal things many of us can ever do.

    • Anne Almasy

      Yes. Exactly. Everything you said. <3

  25. Jim Robertson

    I understand.

    Thank you.

  26. Michael Rentz

    In the movie “Joe Versus The Volcano,” Tom Hanks is trying to convince Meg Ryan that she shouldn’t kill herself.
    “Why not?” she asks.
    “Because some things take care of themselves!” (truth)
    I might never have gotten to see a freelensing portrait if you hadn’t lived to share your art. I’m mighty grateful.

    • Anne Almasy

      This made me smile. 🙂 I like to think of the very tangible ways in which I’ve contributed to the world since NOT dying. Thank you for noticing. 🙂

  27. Susie

    Openness is such a good thing, and thank you for sharing that, makes others not feel alone. Artists, we can be moody but that is the gift where magic comes from. Being able to portray the darkness as well as the light…to make (well I hope to) others feel something from our photos is unreal. if it happens and when it happens it’s like two souls combine for just a moment…ok I’m being a sap now but hopefully you get my drift <3

  28. B

    Beautiful and inspiring. I think many creatives are drawn to their artistry by a soul’s need that they hardly comprehend or understand, and only later realize what a profound impact it’s had on them. For me, photography forces me to be consciously connected to the moment in front of me, that I am a part of, and see it for its beauty in the time that it presented itself. In the fractions of seconds when I’m composing and watching for the shot, the future and the past are both irrelevant, and unable to cloud my thinking. Watching the world from behind a lens, looking for its intricacies, has paid dividends by teaching me to slow down, take the time to look, and enjoy the present solely for what it is. It took me years to realize that photography was having that effect on me, and I’m so thankful for it.

    • Anne Almasy

      I like this idea of photography as an all-encompassing, fixed experience. Thank you for that perspective!

  29. Adhi

    This is haunting and beautiful.
    I’m going through a divorce and I can exactly relate to words and pain. Yet I can barely manage to muster the courage to pick up the camera. Did it take you a long time to back to it. (Off all the places in the world, I never thought I’d be asking for self help advice at Zack website, sorry Zack)

    • Anne Almasy

      I’m sorry I’m just seeing your comment, Adhi. I’m sorry for your pain. And… yes. But no. I’ve found that sometimes I just have to push myself over the speed bump and force creativity on myself. When I do, it is healing. I know some of us hit walls where that isn’t possible. If you’re in that place for a long stretch of time, where you can’t even force yourself to MAKE, then I’d suggest talking to your physician. But if you have it in you to push through, do that. I’ve never regretted a single day of creating. XO

  30. Johann Hepner

    Simply great! I practice psychiatry and I practice photography. In my office I have seagulls flying and it’s amazing how that spurs a conversation with my clients.
    I’d like to post this blog under one of the photos, I hope it will bring inspiration to them.