In June this year, I'll celebrate 10 years in business as a photographer, a decade of self-employment and running a successful business. A business I set up not to make a profit but just to prove that I wasn't a write-off.
You see, I have bipolar and I'd been told by "caring" individuals that I should face facts, that I would always be mental and living on disability living allowance. I'm grateful that I had those years where I could claim DLA, I was agoraphobic and wouldn't go past my own back gate on my own but I knew that the benefits system was ultimately there to help in a time of need and that I wasn't someone who would take advantage of that.
Whilst I'd been agoraphobic I'd also taken the time to teach myself photography as well as starting a blog where I wrote about my daily life in the hopes that one day it would help other people.
Mandy Charlton Photography was set up on the 22nd June 2007 and soon after work started to land in my inbox, my first wedding came just a few weeks later, an arranged Sikh wedding, I wasn't told it was an arranged marriage and I certainly wasn't ready for the fact that the bride cried for the whole of the first day! At the reception of 750 lovely Asians and me, I stood against a wall in a moment of panic, it was the hottest day of the year in a cramped space and I could feel myself not being able to breathe properly, just for a few seconds it crossed my mind that I should get out now, go home and never come out of the house again and then something happened. Call it implosion flooding therapy if you want, suddenly I was calm and I knew that whatever challenges I faced I could do this, I could get through anything because I was stronger than anyone had given me credit for.
At the end of the first year, I made the smallest profit but it didn't matter because I knew that for every day I was in business I was proving the world wrong, I was proving that you can do anything as long as you do it on your own terms.
I'm an active advocate now for people living with complex mental health issues, I talk to many people who are stuck in the same position I found myself in and I tell them they can be anything they want to be as long as they too, do it on their own terms.
Ten years in and life and work still throws up many challenges - single parenting, running a business, it's all a perpetual juggling act and I'm adult enough to admit that sometimes I drop the ball. But mostly I have a life I love now, I get the freedom I need to manage my mental health condition and I take less medication than ever before. In business I am a success, well I am to me and to my children and really they're all that matters.
So the next time someone tells you that you can't do something, prove them wrong because you can do anything!
You can read more of Mandy's daily tales from life, love and everything else at Mandy's blog.