Beginning summer of 2014, shortly before my final exam to become a graphic designer, days seemed to become longer and harder to manage for me. The thought of not being enough, of being unable to manage life and even pass my final exam to become a graphic designer manifested in my head. I reached a point where I was unable to get up in the mornings.

I could barely eat and cried a lot. Daily things such as going to work, walking my dog, running errands, yes, even combing my hair became an insuperable mountain.

It was obvious: Something was definitely not right with me. I couldn’t go on like that, trying to survive day by day. I had to try to escape, get to the surface of this dark downward spiral that was pulling me deeper and deeper. It was this very subtle, very silent voice somewhere in the back of my head – against the rest of my poor mental and physical condition.

Eventually, I went to see a doctor; the shocking diagnosis: Burnout with severe depression.

I was exhausted and lacking energy. Yet, I was restless at night and could not sleep. It felt as if the life had been sucked out of my body and mind. Medication and therapy did not seem to help.

Since I have always been a person who defined herself through her work and productivity, not being able to pursue my job because of my poor condition was daunting. And so I found myself in a vicious circle.

At the end of 2014, I somehow began working again – only to see the bad impact this had on my health and wellbeing. I was devastated and was so desperately looking for a silver lining. My world was dark and meaningless and so I reached a point where I just did not want to be anymore. I hit rock bottom. Everything was cold and dark around me. I felt as if I was suffocating.

I cannot recall how exactly it happened, but I remember that I dragged myself out to take my dog for a walk; shortly before, I stumbled upon my digital single-lens camera hidden in my closet and took it with me.

All of a sudden, I found myself in a moment during which all negativity was gone. I felt a rush of warmth, a flash of color as I was trying to find the right settings for my camera.

This spurred my ambition and so, very slowly, I began to dive deeper into photography, go out more and take my camera for a spin.

I began photographing my dog and look at photos of other dogs and horses in front of stunning sceneries. The color of life came back, stayed longer, became more present. I realized that I paid more attention to places outdoors that, before my illness, remained unnoticed by me. I experienced them as more beautiful. Here, I wanted to photograph horses and dogs myself.

My life had purpose again. It should be dog and horse photography that brought the colors of life and my excitement to be and create back. I felt the warmth again.

I focused on my work to tell photographic stories. My energy was centered around meeting new people and their loyal companions, travel, and be outdoors. This healed me. Pet photography literally changed my life and brought back the light – it saved me.

More info: hafnerphotography.ch