The woman finding solace in photographing nature after PTSD diagnosis
Video report by ITV Wales journalist Issa Farfour
A woman living with post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident says she has found comfort in photographing Welsh wildlife, with her images now featured in a new book.
Ceri Leigh has been in therapy for the past ten years after the accident left her unable to walk for 18 months and resulted in paralysing seizures, severe flashbacks and insomnia. She is unable to leave the house unaccompanied, drive a car, or cook.
But the 57-year-old, who now lives in the Usk Valley, has found photographing the beautiful floodplains of the Brecon Beacons the best medicine for calming her anxious brain.
"I find watching natural history really calming," she said.
"Because I get so anxious, I've found that if I was photographing it helps manage that anxiety."
Ceri describes her condition as a "never-ending battle", adding: “With PTSD, nothing makes sense. Piecing your mind back together takes baby steps, over and over, every day."
Her seizures mean she frequently falls, which is taking its toll on her body.
Ceri added: "Thankfully, the seizures have decreased from several times per day, to several times per week, and after more than a decade, I’m in a better place.
"But the struggle and fallout has been acute – it’s a shock to the system when your life falls apart in an instant."
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world in 2020, Ceri took pictures of the wildlife she watched from her window every day during lockdown.
Although the world temporarily stood still, nature carried on, with Ceri snapping pictures of Canada geese, woodpeckers and nuthatches, to name a few.
She recorded hundreds of different landscapes, plants and animals, and is now sharing them in a book called ‘Life on the Floodplain.’
"I've always been interested in wildlife and I wanted to write, but it's very difficult for me to concentrate because of the hyper-vigilance and the anxiety that I have," Ceri said.
"But I found that when I started journalling every day and just wrote for ten minutes, by the end of the year I had a book."
Ceri previously worked as an exhibitions manager at the Natural History Museum in London.
She says writing the book was a step towards her old life and the job that she loved, adding: "I hope it might help somebody else as well."
Madison Bowden-Parry, who works for nature organisation The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said natural spaces had provided solace for many people during lockdown.
"Last year it was so tough for so many of us - it was such an unprecedented time," she said.
"But a lot of us were seeking solace in our local wild spaces, and were looking for that reconnection with the natural world that we all so missed.
"For us, when we launched our live webcams on Skomer Island in 2020, in just two months we had a quarter of a million views on these webcams, which showed to us just how important it is to have this connection with the natural world."