Dark Self Portraits Show Us What Anxiety And Depression Would Look Like If We Could See It

So powerful.

Photographer Katie Joy Crawford creates surreal self portraits that depict something much more than just beautiful compositions. They show her ongoing battle with anxiety and depression.

Her photo series entitled "My Anxious Heart" is meant to make Crawford's interior experience of these disorders exterior, helping an audience understand just how these feelings can manifest. "Since it is within my own mind where anxiety is born, I have decided to interpret my roles as both instigator and victim through self portraiture," Crawford writes in her artist statement. 

Her mission to "visually interpret her emotional and physical journey" is an important one, given that "anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older," according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

Crawford hopes "My Anxious Heart" will raise awareness about these disorders, and how debilitating they can be. And hopefully her work will help erase some of the mental health stigma that stops people from seeking treatment. 

Here are some excerpts from her artist statement further explaining the work: 

Anxiety bars the sufferer from the risk of discovery, the desire to explore new ideas, and the possibility of exiting a comfort zone. It makes sure that it will never be alone. It finds you when you're in the midst of joy, or alone in your own mind. It is quiet and steady, reminding you of your past failures, and fabricating your future outcomes. 

Using my own stories and experiences, I am capturing the raw essence of anxiety. Through this personal journey, I have grown and found that depicting my fears has become therapeutic, as well as a gateway for others to express their oppression and begin their own healing process.

Below are photos from "My Anxious Heart" accompanied by captions written by the artist. 

"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." 

"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." 

"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."

"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."

"I'm afraid to live and i'm afraid to die. What a way to exist."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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?"

"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."

"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."

ADAA offers resources and community support for those who have been touched by anxiety and/or depression. To find out more, go here. 

To see more of Crawford's work visit her blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  

Like this story? Click the button below to share!