Katie Crawford is a photographer in the Baton Rouge area. After battling anxiety for over a decade, the 23-year-old decided to create a photo series called My Anxious Heart, which aims to visually capture her experiences with anxiety and depression.
“My Anxious Heart explores and identifies how emotionally and physically depleting general anxiety disorder can be from a personal perspective. As I have carried anxiety for the majority of my life, I’ve chosen to photographically depict this battle and its constant presence. 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.”
Katie’s goal for the project was to visually interpret the crippling affects of mental illness, in a way that would allow others to understand the weight that so many people in our society have to bear.
Here are just a few of the beautiful journey-telling photos from Katie’s remarkable exhibition.
Being stuck in your own head:
“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.”
Feeling stuck in your own life:
“I’m afraid to live and I’m afraid to die. What a way to exist.”
Feeling like you’re suffocating:
“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.”
“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.”
Constant Pain—Emotionally & Physically:
“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.”
Feeling paralyzed to keep going:
“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.”
The draining oscillation between anxiety and depression—the war:
“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.”
Feeling unable to sleep:
“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.”
Feeling like your brain is weighing you down:
“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.”
The project was first presented in May of 2015, when Katie revealed it as her senior thesis. In April of 2016, it was published and released in print. Now those who suffer from mental illness have an outlet in the form of Katie’s book to explain themselves and relate while giving others the opportunity to understand.
“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. From the first, small idea to the final exhibition, this project has taught me, challenged me and changed me. I hope it can be a source of healing for others as it has been for me.”