Though it’s not always easy to tell just by looking at or talking to someone that they are suffering from anxiety, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in America. While they affect 40 million adults age 18 and older, only about one-third of those suffering actually seek some kind of treatment.
Many people who have anxiety aren’t outspoken about how they’re feeling, and instead try to hide their symptoms, not only to suppress them in the hopes they’ll go away, but out of fear that others will judge them. But anxiety can be an utterly debilitating mental illness that makes everyday life a struggle, if not impossible, to deal with.
Katie Joy Crawford, a photography student with general anxiety disorder, knows that anxiety can be hard to explain, and often makes the sufferer feel very alone. This is why she created a photo series called “My Anxious Heart.“
Through this body of work, I am visually interpreting my own emotional and physical journey so that others may be able to understand this weight that so many bear in our society. The physical ramifications of the disorder, such as a racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, frequently go unnoticed or are misinterpreted by those who have never suffered from anxiety. Although the physical symptoms make up a great deal of the disorder, the emotional outcome is exceedingly difficult to encapsulate as well. 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.
The series consists of 12 photos, each of which took approximately three hours to complete. Here is a glimpse of her work. Can you relate to any of these photos?
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
How Can I Deal With My Anxiety?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting approximately 40 million Americans over the age of 18.
Whether being triggered by something specific such as travel, school, work, or by a particular time of day, such as first thing in the morning or late at night, anxiety seems to have cemented itself into our modern world.
As an occasional anxiety, Mark Denicola (below) from Collective Evolution has read his fair share of material relating to the subject. The most common tool recommended is meditation, something that he is personally a huge fan of, but not when it comes to conquering panic and/or anxiety.
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