Verbalizing what it feels like to experience a mental illness can be difficult, so photographer Katie Crawford decided to show it to people, instead of saying it. In a series of stunning portraits entitled My Anxious Heart (My anxious heart) Crawford captures how it feels to suffer an anxiety disorder and a depression two conditions that she has had to fight personally since she was a child.
I have created the project as a way in which I can express what it feels like, according to my own experience, Katie says. I know that it may not be specific for each person, but I hope that it can create the opportunity for an open dialogue between those who suffer from any of these diseases and those who have never understood them. I want the photographs and texts that accompany them to begin to express the constant and overwhelming presence of anxiety. It is not always so terrible, it is not always so strong or intense, but it is always close.
Captivate my own mind. The instigator of my own thoughts. The more I think, the worse it gets. The less I think, the worse it gets. Breathe. Only breath. Let go. This will diminish soon.
Crawford aptly describes how anxiety and depression are experienced inside: from feeling that you are wrapped in anguish and can not breathe, to the inability to sleep when panic arises.
She wrote the certificates that accompany the photographs with the hope that they explain, complementing the image, what it feels like to fight against these disorders: I would like people suffering from anxiety to be able to use these images as a reference, if they need it. There is a misconception that anxious people are antisocial, with little connection to others and too dramatic. But it is more accurate to say that they are processing everything that surrounds them so intensely that they can not handle many questions, many people or excessive information, all at once. I think some images express this.
My head is full of helium. I lose my center. A decision so small. A question so easy to answer. My mind leaves me. It is as if thousands of circuits were crossing at the same time.
Crawford would like others to understand that although anxiety is a disease, it is a disease that can be managed. I want people to understand that fears are built on lies that we believe in. So we must understand what is causing them to be able to learn to diminish them. Fear can not control your life.
A glass of water does not weigh. Practically it does not matter to lift it. But what would happen if you can not empty it or put it back? What if you had to put up with your weight for days, months, years? The weight does not change, but the load does. At a given moment, you can not remember how light it used to be. Sometimes, it requires everything in you to pretend that it is not there. And sometimes, you have to drop it.
The portraits of the artist are a timely explanation in a world where mental illness is so often misunderstood. Only 25 percent of people who suffer from mental problems feel that others can be compassionate about their condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
It cuts so deep that it seems it will never heal. The pain is so real, it is almost impossible to bear. I have become this in this cut, this wound. All I know is this pain; the breath cut, the eyes empty, the hands trembling. If it's so painful, why let it continue? Unless it is all that one knows.
I want to help end the stigma that these kinds of diseases are not the same as physical illnesses. Because just like with these, there are days that are better. There are days when someone with chronic back pain can stop snaking with every step they take, even when the days of walking easily are almost non-existent, explains the artist.
It's strange, in the pit of your stomach you feel like when you're swimming and you want to stand up but the water is deeper than you thought. You can not touch the bottom, and your heart stops beating for a moment.
No matter how hard he resists, he will always be there, desperate to catch me, cover me, break up with me. Every day I fight with her: You are not good for me and you never will be, but there she is, waiting for me when I wake up and even stronger while I sleep. Take my breath. It leaves me speechless.
They keep telling me to breathe. I can not feel my chest rising and falling. Up and down. Up and down. Why do I feel like I'm suffocating? I hold my hand under my nose to check there is air. I still can not breathe.
Depression is present when you can not feel anything. Anxiety, when you feel too much.Having both is like keeping a constant struggle within your own mind. To suffer them means never to be victorious.
Crawford hopes that the images will bring to light what she and many others have to deal with on a daily basis. There are so many people who suffer from these diseases that I would like to show them as they are. I would like them to feel that they are not alone, and that others are aware that in both cases it is a hard and real disorder.
You can learn more about Katie Crawford's work on her page.