Content warning: Depression, anxiety, sexual assault
When brainstorming for this project, I knew I wanted to create compositions depicting my experience navigating mental health battles in an attempt to help normalize all its aspects. As you read along, I urge you to consider the importance of de-stigmatizing mental health, and the impact negative stereotypes can have on one’s recovery.
For me, depression and anxiety go hand in hand. I’ve found that my anxiety is far beyond feeling jittery and nervous — rather, it’s a neverending internal battle where I’m constantly reminding myself that my negative thoughts aren’t what’s happening in reality.
My first signs of depression started when I was 16, shortly after I had experienced a sexual assault — I felt isolated and helpless. My second year at Michigan, I had my first major depressive episode, and soon after, I decided to withdraw from the semester — a decision which turned out to be the start of my healing journey.
In my second composition, I wanted to depict what it feels like to have ADHD in addition to depression and anxiety. Before I was diagnosed, I felt that I just had poor time management skills, trouble focusing, and acted animatedly towards others — which I now know was untreated ADHD. Opting to use a brighter color palette in order to symbolize the hyperactivity associated with ADHD, this second composition emphasizes the chaos of my untreated symptoms.
In my third collage, I’ve finally found balance, peace. What started as one semester off soon became two years. The pandemic, though initially bleak, helped me to foster a healthier mindset. I’ve luckily been able to return back to school, and while I no longer will be graduating with the cohort of students I entered the university with, I’ve made numerous friends with amazing communities, and finally feel a sense of belonging.
I’m proud of where I am now, and I would never change my experience for anything. I’ve learned so much about who I am as a person, and how to love myself more and more each day. I’ve crafted my photography practice to help realize this, challenging my ideas to become iterative and sure. When I first left Michigan, I felt that everyone was secretly judging my decision, which left me feeling unsure. But through my journey with mental health, I’ve learned the importance of listening to myself and finding a strong support network. I sought professional help, and started taking the medication needed. Each day I’m given so many amazing opportunities to grow — I would never be the person I am today without having gone on this journey