For those who do not live with a mental illness, it can be hard to understand exactly what it feels like. Katie Crawford, a 23-year-old student and photographer from Louisiana, created a photo series that demonstrates what it is like for her to live with anxiety.
Her photos, titled "My Anxious Heart" show all the aspects of anxiety and how it affects her life.
"Anxiety and depression are so very difficult to put into words," said Crawford. "A lot of people don't understand how debilitating it can be to suffer from mental illness. I hope that my photos can be a visual representation where words have fallen short for those trying to explain it to others."
Crawford's photo series took her a total of five months to complete, and she created them for her college thesis project. She said that she wanted to use the opportunity to remove some of the stigmas about mental illnesses.
"Some people think anxiety and depression are "privileged illnesses". Meaning, you have nothing horrible in your life so you have all of this time to overthink and make problems for yourself. Some people think it's a way to get out of doing things. Some people think it's something weak people use to stay weak," said Crawford.
"We need to raise awareness and erase the stigma because not only is it an illness that can't be seen, it's also one that is hard to get help for. When you feel like everything is an obstacle and that you're burdening others, it's hard to let someone in and get help. This leads to self-harm, isolation and even suicide. There are worse things that stem from anxiety and depression than people realize. No one wants to feel this way. Why would we make it up?"
Check out Crawford's photo series below, along with the descriptions she wrote for each photo on her website.
"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 thousands 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."
Edited by Jody Smith
Interview with Katie Crawford
My Anxious Heart. katiejoycrawford.wordpress.com. March 25, 2016. https://katiejoycrawford.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/my-anxious-heart