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Image / Editorial

Photographer Captures How Anxiety Feels In Unique Picture Series


by Jennifer McShane
06th Nov 2015

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.

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We’ve reported many a time on anxiety, and the drastic effect this can have on a person’s wellbeing and mental health. Dealing with this emotionally wrought chapter in one’s life can take a heavy toll – it can be a crippling burden to bear and alter even the simplest of daily tasks hugely. If you have not?experienced an onset of this, it can be difficult to comprehend, and to have to explain it to others can be another challenge entirely. However, one female photographer, in a series of striking pictures, has managed to do this quite perfectly.

US-based photographer, Katie Joy Crawford, has suffered from anxiety most of her life.?For her final project at Louisiana State University, the 23-year-old student sought to capture her psychological and physiological experience of this via a set of visually stunning – and often unnerving – self-portraits. ?The result is My Anxious Heart, a portfolio of sparse and moving images that drive home the often isolating and draining impact of anxiety.

Through the series of photographs (some of which you can see below), Crawford accurately depicts how anxiety and depression can feel on the inside – from the agonising inability to fall asleep when panic is looming to the weight even the most mundane tasks can carry. ?She also wrote corresponding captions for the photos in hopes that they will further explain what it feels like to deal with the disorders.

“I want to help end the stigma that ‘it’s not the same as physical illness,'” Crawford told USA Today. “Just like with physical illness, there are days that are lighter. There are days when someone with chronic back pain isn’t wincing with every step, but the days of a flair up are almost paralysing,” she explained.

She added that she wanted others to use her project as a comfort if they needed it. “I want people that suffer from [anxiety] to be able to use these images as a reference if they need it,” she said. “There’s a misconception that anxious people are antisocial, short fused or overdramatic. But they’re most likely processing everything around them so intensely that they can’t handle a lot of questions, people or heavy information all at once. And I think certain images express that. Anxiety is when you feel everything.”

Though each picture is raw and often claustrophobic, the concept and thought-process behind the imagery (and their accompanying captions) will undoubtedly resonate with anyone who has experienced anxiety in any form.

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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
"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."
“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.”
"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."
“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.”

You can view more stills from the project here.

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