my anxious heart

Spring of 2015 has been busy, trying, amazing and life changing. I have been through so many emotional peaks and valleys and finalizing my senior year has been such a cathartic experience. My Anxious Heart is nothing short of my child. I have battled anxiety for a decade, and I finally have been able to capture it and expose it in the light. I want to thank every single person who has been a part of this journey. 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. Thank you for coming to view it and please let me know if you have any feedback! I’d love to hear from you.


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.

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.
My interpretation of these symptoms through my images aids in the explanation of how true anxiety has the capability to drain every last drop of aspiration. This representation is achieved in the photograph with the use of black objects and materials that subtly interact within the frame. Manipulating the images in this way evokes a sense of overprotection and lingering presence. By providing these surreal images as expressions of anxiety within a realistic portrait, the viewer is guided through the internal and external struggle of a person living with this disorder. Using my own stories and experiences, I am capturing the raw essence of anxiety. 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.


http://www.katiejoycrawford.com

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207 thoughts on “my anxious heart

  1. Just amazing. Currently struggling with this, fighting through the feelings of being trapped, hounded, and stuck in my own head with Truth. Thank you for sharing your struggle. Praying for your continued healing. (Check out Psalm 40 sometime. It’s what I’m clinging to as I fight.)

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  2. You’ve managed to put into words and images what so many of us know, and feel and live yet struggle to comprehend or find the words to explain to others and ourselves. I cannot applaud you enough for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are simply amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life and it has been a huge motivator for me to enter the social work field as well and I’ve worried that my own challenges will hinder my success, however, the more people I encounter in the field, the more I realize it’s people that have experienced pain and struggle that often have the most positive impact. Don’t give up on your goals, just put them on hold as you better yourself for your future clients. People with depression and anxiety often won’t be motivated by just helping themselves so I hope that if you see it as a way to be a better counsellor, it will keep you striving for happiness. You can do it!

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  3. Yes, to all of it. I’m working on my masters in mental health counseling and yet I can’t heal myself enough to finish. I live in terror that I will lose my job and my house because I’m paralyzed with anxiety and depression, even on the meds. Even my brain deserts me. I’m crying as I read this.

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  4. Absolutamente verdadeiro…obrigada por partilhar com o mundo seus sentimentos, foi a primeira pessoa que conseguiu interpretar algo tão REAL e pavoroso de sentir.

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  5. I been taking Prozac to.treat my anxiety for 3 months now …..it was very hard to explain to my husband how I feel in my head until today when I showed him the pictures it was very clear to him .thank u so much.!!!!

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  6. As a therapist who works with mood disorders I want to say thank you! This project really puts a picture in the mind of the feelings you experience. I am sharing on my therapist page and with clients. Such a true demonstration of your courage.

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  7. These photos truly do a great job capturing the agony of anxiety and depression. It’s an awful experience that never seems will end. I suffered severely for 4 years, but by the grace and mercy of God I’ve been healed of this. I’m writing this to thank you for shedding light to the straight up physical and mental pain people endure dealing with anxiety, but I’m also writing to encourage those who still suffer to have hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. I thought this was something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. I’m not promising God will heal you if you trust in Him, He knows what’s best for you, not me. And we’re not allowed to be angry with what He chooses for us. Trust me, I know it’s so hard not to question and be bitter. But God is God and we are not. We either trust Him or we don’t. He is the only thing that I clung to, that gave me hope during that dark- dark time. And though at the time I thought He decided to give me this challenge forever, I knew in heaven it would be gone. Thankfully He had other plans. He is hope, He is our healer. God bless.

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  8. Nobody understands unless they fight the same fight. Everyday is a struggle.
    You did an amazing job trying to explain it to people who don’t understand

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  9. Truly spectacular. I have suffered with generalized anxiety disorder my entire life. I didn’t know what I experienced wasn’t normal until high school/college. This project gives so many sufferers a visual voice and as a fellow creative, I can’t thank you enough.

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  10. There are never any words powerful enough to explain this disease. I can never find anything to tell people how it feels. I feel like what I say means nothing because they’ve already been said before. Perhaps it wasn’t the complicated words, in fact it was the easiest ones to say… the ones you’ve told in your experience. The pictures give life to a very real illness that others tend to quickly resolve as another drama queen. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t have been trapped here for 30 years. Thank you for being strong enough to show the world that this is as real as skin and it comes with all its debilitating senses.

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  11. Brave. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Thank you for using your talents to be a voice for so many who feel isolated and unable to describe the depth of their battle. This is amazing!

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  12. Wow, I am 41 years old, a wife, a mother, a nurse……alot of things but never able to adequately express what this feels like. Looking at your project touched me. Each one I looked at and I was like, ” yes, that’s it!”. Job well done, thank you

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  13. These are amazing photos. They are very relatable and I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up at them. Its an amazing relief to know that you’re not the only one feeling this way. That maybe if you show the people that you care about these photos and comments, maybe then they will understand how you truly feel and maybe then they will be able to help you and give you the love and support you need when you feel so alone and confused in life.

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  14. A flash of brilliance – w/ your art depicting the struggle. Well done. The struggle is real and you’ve displayed it with utter truth.

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  15. Tears flow as I read your very well written descriptions of these amazing photos that truly show what a person with anxiety and depression battles. Thank you for being so open with your battles. I have been battling both anxiety and depression for 15+ years. I am just now beginning to be open with myself and with others on my true day-to-day struggles. The struggle is real, not just words, and now photos to better explain the illness that so many individuals fight on a daily basis. Again, thank you for sharing.

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  16. Beautiful photographs of self expression and the suffering many people experience daily. I have suffer from depression and anxiety/panic attacks for 19 years. The last 2 years have been the worse. I attempt auicide about a year ago. I will ever forgive myself as my daughter found me. I don’t remember much from that evening but there is one moment I will never forget nor forgive myself for…. The sobbing of my Daughter laying next to me. I hear it in my head daily. The last year has been pure hell. I fight depression and anxiety daily. I have withdrawn myself socially. I am able to work and attend college but other than that and seeing my children, I do
    nothing. I’ve tried to talk to my family about it but they tell me my life could be worse. What could be worse than feeling alone, worthless, never able to escape my own mind and feeling like I can’t even live in my own skin. I have no hope for the future. I have trust issues and feel like I will always be alone. I feel as I’ve done nothing but hurt people I love. I don’t find joy in the things I use to love, photography being the largest thing I use to have so much passion for. I feel lost, alone and broken. I’ve mastered the art of a fake smile and a happy life but at night I fall apart. I read a quote once that described what I’ve been feeling, “I live in a body that wants to survive but with a mind that wants to die”. No one seems to understand. Your photographs have shown me I am not alone. Thank you for that gift.

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  17. I needed to see this tonight!!! Thank you!

    I randomly stumbled upon your blog and WOW. These are my demons I work so hard to avoid or hide from everyone around me. Constantly. Every second. It’s exhausting.

    I had a horrible episode this week and made myself see my ADD psychiatrist ASAP. I forced myself to be brutally honest with him after years of giving the “fake” perception that I’m just fine!

    We are in the process of finding a therapist and just started medicine (lexapro) yesterday.

    Anxiety and depression are the most awful, debilitating, suffocating, fear driven emotions you just can’t shake on your own.

    I’m ready to live without this crippling , emotionally detrimental, cloud that has controled my every thought since at least early elementary school.

    Thank you for putting these emotions out so clearly and hopefully this will reach the right person to make the next best decision for themselves. I take it day by day.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I suffered from major depression three times in my life and was hospitalized the last time. It took over 3 years to finally come off the drugs that didn’t solve the problems and finally be free of all the confusion, heaviness and over thinking. I realized it is a spiritual problem that becomes a physical problem. I was buried alive with my thoughts going in circles. I had to distance myself emotionally from the person who was creating this insecurity inside me and find my center. Psycho babble doesn’t work. Truth, reality, hope, and compassion, does. I started loving myself and found that my hope is in a God who loves me and is always rooting for me. I found my comfort in His peace. There is a part of you that you cannot give away to anyone but God. It is reserved for Him alone. Reclaim that spot. Take it back from the devil, who is the author of confusion. Resist his lies. Feed on the truth. Do what you know to do. Focus on improving your physical health, and dance in the sun. Praise God for His compassion to love you through it. You are not alone. The lies create the feelings of hopelessness. Focus on the Truth. You can escape this. I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Best description I have heard. Depression and anxiety….. It’s driving me insane… Further and further from the lite at the end of the tunnel. Thank you. So hard to explain to people close to me…..

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you so much for this amazing article along with the beautiful photos. Having suffered with anxiety and depression for years, I’ve never actually been able to explain how it feels in a sense that my loved ones will understand, until now. Reading this I was able to connect so well to each and every description you attached to each image.
    Thank you so much for expressing such a personal side of your life to everyone. I feel a sense of relief knowing I am not alone in this battle.

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  21. Thank from the bottom of my heart! Sharing your feelings with us, make my heart feel warm. After all, I’m not alone! We know the deepest pain, despair and sometimes we do not want to exist. Then, we need a break and a deep breath to support our own emotions. We’ll get through this!

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  22. Thank you for so beautifully capturing these horrible feelings so many of us struggle with on a daily basis. I am so impressed at not just your openness about this struggle but your age as well. I personally have been dealing with these issues since I was eleven! I am now 35 and still struggle even though I have been seeing doctors and taking may medications. The saying, “if I knew then what I know now” could truly be a healing for the next generation, thank you for speaking out for all of us! We as a human race are slowly learning how to truly help each other with our differences.

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  23. Oh my God you’r so amazing and wonderfull. U know how it feels like and how to show this to the world, it’s like u know me inside.

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  24. I can totally relate to each and everyone of these pictures. You’ve captured the essence of the mental and physical pain that we feel. Bravo on a job well done!!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. These are amazing and so accurate! You have such a wonderful talent. I, too, have anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed many, many years ago. But I don’t “suffer” from them as I was properly diagnosed all those years ago and have taken anti anxiety/depression pills ever since. Sure, I’ve had to change the pill or dosage over the years but if I hadn’t been diagnosed and hadn’t been put on medication, I’d be dead by now. I hope you are getting help.

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  26. You seem to have captured the feeling very well. I use the darkness to describe depression, like being thrown into a deep hole with no ending and now way out. Anxiety, I can’t even begin to describe but your picture of the saran wrap and trying to breathe is perfect. You did such a great job. Keep this up. Good work.

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  27. Dear Katie
    You are amazing. Good work.
    I do feel like the way you picture anxiety and depression. I just feel a lot of pain. Depression aches. Could you show it?

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  28. Not only does the photography do an incredible job, the writing accompanies it perfectly. The lightheadedness and dizziness are so real. And they sound harmless but they’re debilitating. Thank you so much for this.

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  29. Thank you so much. To see another view on this disease is so reassuring. It is not easy to go through this, and words of hope like this, is the best medicine.

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  30. I had been suffering with this my whole life-the photo of the hour glass and clock was the constant feeling I had before I was properly diagnosed and medicated appropriately where I have been for over a decade. It’s so hard to explain to people. I understand every photo except the sleep one thankfully but feel like I am validated in my disease by your perfect images of what it really feels like. People who suffer please go to a physicist that knows how to find the right cocktail for you. I am a testament to the hope that you can be cured. Sending prayers and loving arms to those suffering like I was.

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  31. Primeiramente quero te dizer: “muito obrigada”. Você é incrível. Me senti verdadeiramente representada e compreendida por alguém pela primeira vez.
    Sua arte é plena! Parabéns.
    E estou feliz com seu novo caminho agora “redescoberto e liberto”.
    Seja muito feliz. Saudações aqui do Brasil.

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  32. This is truly an amazing series. As a photographer, I appreciate the photographs and the artistic way they were taken. As a photographer with severe anxiety, I am beyond moved by the photos. You have captured so much emotion and raw, real feelings in these photos. It takes a true talent and a true understanding of anxiety to be able to produce this kind of work. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  33. Im crying writing this. Just knowing someone else out there can relate and so beautifully describe the mental prison is breath taking. Thank you. I needed this today

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  34. You have such a creative mind to explain this in photographs. It is hard to explain to my family what I feel and why I can/can’t do things. You simply understand it or you don’t. Thank you for making this. I will certainly show this to my family when I run out of analogies to explain what exactly anxiety feels like.

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  35. I always rolled my eyes when someone would say they had anxiety…until it happened to me.

    After the birth of my daughter- a time when I should’ve been my happiest- I had crippling anxiety. I couldn’t even leave my house.

    People don’t always understand that the pain from anxiety is as real as the pain from a broken bone. Sometimes worse.

    I love your photos!

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  36. This is amazing. I am in middle school and I suffer from anxiety. My parents don’t get it, and often get frustrated trying to understand. I feel like it is always a constant battle between me and my mind. I still haven’t found a way to relieve this awful cloud of anxiety that trails behind me. These pictures will help my parents understand how I feel, and hopefully help them help me.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Well done!! Thank you, for making me understand that I’m not alone even though I am alone with the people within my life. Everyone of those pictures and descriptions fit perfectly in what I’m living, except for the darkeness and the sleep as that is when I get relief. My questions: does that mean it will get worst? Ok great, I’m not alone what next? I don’t want to take medication and phychology takes so long. How do you slow the world down, so you you can get a grip?

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  38. Hello Katie!

    This is a request to use one of your photos (very intense and beautiful by the way)
    in my graduation thesis who will be about young girls/womens mental illness.
    I will off course refer to your blogg. I hope this is ok with you, if not please contact me.

    Thank you!
    /Nora

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  39. I have struggled with anxiety my whole life…I kept it to myself for the longest time until the panic attacks were taking over my entire life. It’s so hard to try to explain what I am feeling to others. It has recently cost me my job and I fear I won’t be able to control my anxiety to get a new job. Sometimes my husband thinks I’m crazy, he gets really frustrated because he does not understand. I am hoping maybe showing his these photos could help him see what I am going through. Thank you for your bravery in this project.

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  40. Thank you for depicting the struggle of anxiety and depression. I have suffered from it for most of my life and trying to explain what you feel is so difficult . You did a beautiful job! Keep up the important work you do

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  41. This is amazing, something that I would never want anyone to go threw, but comforting at the same time knowing I’m not alone. These images and descriptions explain it better then I even could. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this!

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