Katie Joy Crawford has struggled with depression and anxiety for over a decade. A talented lifestyle photographer by profession, Ms. Crawford has showcased her struggle with mental illnesses in a series of photographs as part of her senior thesis exhibition at the Louisiana State University (LSU). The project named, ‘My Anxious Heart’ portrays how emotionally and physically traumatizing it is to live with a mental illness.
The twelve photos, each accompanied by a caption shows how constant a mental disorder can be in the life of a mentally ill person. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Crawford said that, “It’s not always terrifying, it’s not always strong and it’s not always intense, but it’s always close by.”
A glass of water isn’t heavy. It’s almost mindless when you have to pick one up. But what if you couldn’t empty it or set it down? What if you had to support its weight for days … months … years? The weight doesn’t change, but the burden does. At a certain point, you can’t remember how light it used to seem. Sometimes it takes everything in you to pretend it isn’t there. And sometimes, you just have to let it fall.
I was scared of sleeping. I felt the most raw panic in complete darkness. Actually, complete darkness wasn’t scary. It was that little bit of light that would cast a shadow — a terrifying shadow.
My head is filling with helium. Focus is fading. Such a small decision to make. Such an easy question to answer. My mind isn’t letting me. It’s like a thousand circuits are all crossing at once.
They keep telling me to breathe. I can feel my chest moving up and down. Up and down. Up and down. But why does it feel like I’m suffocating? I hold my hand under my nose, making sure there is air. I still can’t breathe.
Numb feeling. How oxymoronic. How fitting. Can you actually feel numb? Or is it the inability to feel? Am i so used to being numb that I’ve equated it to an actual feeling?
A captive of 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. Just breathe. Drift. It’ll ease soon.
It’s strange — in the pit of your stomach. It’s like when you’re swimming and you want to put your feet down but the water is deeper than you thought. You can’t touch the bottom and your heart skips a beat.
Cuts so deep it’s like they’re never going to heal. Pain so real, it’s almost unbearable. I’ve become this … this cut, this wound. All i know is this same pain; sharp breath, empty eyes, shaky hands. If it’s so painful, why let it continue? Unless … maybe it’s all that you know.
I’m afraid to live and I’m afraid to die. What a way to exist.
No matter how much i resist, it’ll always be right here desperate to hold me, cover me, break down with me. Each day i fight it, “you’re not good for me and you never will be”. But there it is waiting for me when I wake up and eager to hold me as i sleep. It takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless.
You were created for me and by me. You were created for my seclusion. You were created by venomous defense. You are made of fear and lies. Fear of unrequited promises and losing trust so seldom given. You’ve been forming my entire life. Stronger and stronger.
Depression is when you can’t feel at all. Anxiety is when you feel too much. Having both is a constant war within your own mind. Having both means never winning.
Katie Crawford’s photographs are a subjective guide for those who are not aware of the struggles faced by an individual suffering from a major mental illness. It is an arena for those suffering from the same or similar illnesses to connect and express their personal struggle and begin their own tedious process of healing. Katie Crawford said, ‘Trying to explain a mental illness to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to explain color to a blind person’
One objective Katie wanted to achieve through her project was to reach the masses; she wanted to give a voice and a hand to hold to all the people out there who suffer from a mental illness. Mental illnesses can be isolating on their own, people don’t have to feel like they are alone just because they have a mental illness.