We live in a time where there is simply too much to pay attention to. Our nervous systems are overloaded leading many people to disconnect and now we’re seeing rising levels of anxiety and depression. In fact, there isn’t a single person I know who hasn’t experienced these in one form or another. But when you try to convey what anxiety depression really feel like, words never really do it justice.
Katie Joy Crawford is a photographer who through her own experience has created 12 stunning photos she calls, “My Anxious Heart” depicting how anxiety and depression feel.
Allow this to be a mindfulness practice, take a breath and look at each picture, notice what kinds of thoughts, emotions and sensations arise. Does the picture resonate with you in some way or at some point in your life?
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“i’m afraid to live and i’m afraid to die. what a way to exist.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Note: All pictures and captions are from Katie Joy Crawford.
The main mindfulness-based program that works with supporting people who have experienced depression and anxiety is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which has shown to cut relapse by over 50% and to be as impactful as anti-depressants.
Up until now MBCT has only been offered is specific locations making it difficult for many people to access it. But now MBCT is being offered by The Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles as a live online course starting September 27th, 2015 (space is limited to 15 people) so no matter where you live you can benefit from it.
Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD