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Photographer’s Stark Portrayal of Her Anxiety Disorder In Self-Portrait Series

By Hanssie on May 28th 2015

"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."

“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.”

For people who suffer from anxiety disorders, the symptoms can manifest in different ways. For some people, anxiety can make you feel dizzy or nauseated, for others it could mean insomnia or heart palpitations. Each person can carry anxiety differently, physically and emotionally. A panic attack can show up as an upset stomach, dizziness, tingling of fingers or toes or insomnia. Emotionally, the symptoms are more difficult to pinpoint and describe.

Katie Crawford, a recent graduate from LSU, decided to use photography to show her struggle with anxiety. Katie has struggled with general anxiety disorder for the last ten years and for her senior exhibition thesis, she captured what anxiety feels like through a series of self-portraits.

I decided to explore what I was feeling and these intense emotions, and the symptoms that are both physical and mental of dealing with anxiety.

Katie-crawford-2

"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."

“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.”

Her semester-long project, which she titled, “My Anxious Heart,” ironically aggravated her feelings of anxiousness. Finding ways to express the physical and emotional symptoms of her anxiety, she turned to the journal she had kept for the last 5 years, which helped her design the photos in the series. In this project, Katie hopes to not only depict the weight she bears with anxiety but to help people understand the “internal and external struggles of someone living with this disorder.”

Katie says in her post that the project has been therapeutic and has helped her learn about herself and the disorder. “It helped me cope more than I thought it would,” she says. “It was like I was gaining control of my life by identifying what induced panic in my life.

[REWIND: LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER CREDITS PHOTOGRAPHY TO HELP HIM BEAT DEPRESSION]

Katie-Crawford-4 Katie-Crawford-5

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.

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.

katie-crawford-7 katie-crawford-8

Katie hopes to continue to explore her anxiety through her photography. To see more from Katie’s project and follow her work:

CREDITS: Photographs by Katie Crawford are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

[Via USA Today]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
Hanssie@slrlounge.com

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephen Glass

    Lovely work!

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  2. Tom Blair

    Like it

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  3. Austin Swenson

    I do like how these photos speak to what it’s like to have anxiety, but I do think that it might be a little harder if they hadn’t described what is going on in the photo…

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      I’ll be honest, I don’t feel any relation with these photos as per my anxiety, but the thing about Anxiety Disorder is that not everyone feels the same things.

      A project like this wouldn’t help me because I need to get outside of my head, she seems to be retreating into her head. Whatever works, I say go with it….

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  4. J. Dennis Thomas

    I suffer from Anxiety Disorder as well. I use street photography to help me deal with it. It seems counterintuitive, but it forces me to get out and try to take control of the grip anxiety can have over my life. The exercise of walking is calming and by looking to outside stimuli that will make a good photograph helps to stop the cycle of anxious thoughts that often manifest in the heads of people with the disorder.

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  5. Michael Old

    I applaud Katie for having the courage to bring attention to this.
    Having these issues brought out in to the light and having open dialog and destigmatising this is helpful and allows others to come forward and get help.
    I wish all the best for Katie in the future

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