For my first post on Ace of None, I decided to be completely candid about a huge part of my life: mental illness. I will include this topic in many posts to come, but wanted to start by sharing how it feels to live with mental illnesses through images and short captions giving some context. I created this project in 2016, at a camp for photography. I spent my full three weeks there thinking up concepts, carrying them out through trial and error, and finalizing them. I put my heart and soul into this project, and I really hope that comes through.
During the thick of my struggles, as a freshman in high school, there would be night where I would be dreading school so much, that i just wanted to claw my eyes out. School gave me such intense anxiety, that any thought of the work or the people would send me into a panic attack. I felt like I was melting into a puddle of goo.
I am very sensitive to sensory stimulation, especially sound. I am prone to sensory overload, and when it hits me, it feels like the room is spinning and closing in around me, while everyone else just passes me by and continues on with their days.
I had, and still have, two sides of me: “depression me” and “hanging in there” me. Depression me is pouting all the time, snippy, and just, well, depressed. That version is very outwardly uncomfortable and unhappy. Hanging in there me, is doing alright, putting on a happy face for everyone’s benefit. On a rare occasion, I am actually happy, but this version is a facade.
Being clinically depressed literally feels like there is a storm cloud hanging over your head at all times. It’s always looming, threatening to pour rain, and sometimes it does, but sometimes the threat is worse. In addition, people avoid you like they avoid the rain, making everything worse.
Being diagnosed with a mental illness at a young age, and growing up with it, can make you feel crazy. Whether it’s something you get labeled as from yourself or from others, you feel like an outsider. At some point you just get fed up with the subtext of being crazy even though you are just wired differently.
When I was suicidal, I didn’t want to ask for help. I was ashamed and embarrassed and couldn’t even fathom how to say “Hey I want to die for real”. I was screaming into the void aka the internet, where I couldn’t get real help. I tried and tried to get help but it is so incredibly hard.
The shadowy figure in this image represents “bad things”. I have OCD, which is way different than most people think, but that’s a whole other story. However, I am constantly threatened by “something bad” happening if I don’t complete a compulsion. The event(s) are always near and scaring the living shit out of me. It controls my life to an extreme extent.
My personal physical manifestation of stress, anxiety, and depression feels like a heavy, black light in my chest. It completely takes over my being and stops me from doing anything of worth.
Sometimes I feel like my mental illnesses are like conjoined siblings. The are literally part of me, but not the whole of who I am. They are different sides of me that like to make themselves known, without my control.
I either have too many thoughts, or none at all. When it’s too many, it can seem like the buzzing of static in my head. When there are none, I am vacant like a channel that won’t connect.
As a young teenager, I struggled with anorexia. I controlled my eating strictly and exercised excessively. Even weighing 80lbs at my lowest, I still felt fat. I would grab at “fat” which was just loose skin from extreme weight loss. I still struggle with body image, so this image is still impacts me.
As someone who suffers from depression and has been for about 6 years now, I can tell you that all you ever want to do is sleep, or at least be in bed. All I wanted to do all day at school was disconnect from life and just sleep. I did my homework at school, came home, napped until dinner, and then went back to sleep. On the flip side of that, sometimes depression and anxiety makes me unable to fall or stay asleep, so I just lie in bed, staring at the wall, thinking away.
Panic attacks can strike at any time, at any place. I usually try to find a private place, or a place rarely frequented (bathrooms, stairwells, you name it). I sit there and try to calm down to no avail. Eventually, it passes, and I have to continue my day like nothing has happened.