I am extremely lucky to rarely have panic attacks anymore, but last night hit me with the nastiest reminder that my anxiety is very much still a big part of my life. At around 3 in the morning I woke up feeling extremely sick and having emetophobia, you can imagine how this spiralled out of control. My attacks almost comes in waves, when I finally feel like I’ve got over the worst and start to settle, it starts up again and quite frankly leaves me in a state. This went on for 2 and a half hours, getting myself so wound up that I even nearly made myself sick. But I wasn’t, and eventually I was okay. I was very lucky to have my boyfriend by my side throughout it all and it makes me wonder how I ever coped with these attacks on my own. It’s experiences like these which make me so saddened when some people dismiss how severe anxiety can be, if only they knew what we go through.
On a brighter note, on Friday evening it was my final degree show exhibition opening night, the big crescendo after 3 years at university. As I previously spoke about in my last blog post, I used my battle with anxiety as the basis for my final major project and I wanted to share it with you.
My Anxiety, My Struggle, My Control.
“Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the UK and elsewhere, yet it is still under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated.” (Mentalhealth.org.uk, 2015).
I have used my photographic practice in order to share my story of a personal battle with an anxiety disorder. I have created an insight into a world engulfed by anxiety, with feelings of fear, mistrust and unease around every corner. This is displayed through the medium of self-portraiture, where the mask symbolises how anxiety can take away your identity, combined with representation of emotion through still life and landscape photography, a coping mechanism developed to handle my disorder. In a world full of hidden battles, I hope sharing my journey will help raise awareness about the illness and encourage others to tell their stories.
I have to be honest, I was unbelievably apprehensive about showing my work, not only because the work of my peers was absolutely stunning and I haven’t always felt I’m not on the same level, but because it was about my anxiety. I didn’t know how my images would be interpreted or whether people would understand the message I wanted to share. After doing a fair amount of research into the social perspective and stigma surrounding mental health, the main purpose of my project was to encourage and help other’s tell their stories. After my work was finally put up and seen by some of my class mates, I had 2 people come up to me and share that they too suffer with anxiety. One asked me about the picture of my nail digging into my skin, and as I explained it was something I do to help take my mind off my anxiety, they told me how relieved they were that they ‘weren’t the only one who does this’. Having not only one, but two people feel like they could confide in me about suffering with anxiety, was one of the best best things that has come out of all the stress, nightmare and tears to put together my final project. Even if nothing else comes of my project, I am so so happy to feel I have in some way reached out to these 2 people and proved how the more of us tell our stories, the more we can encourage others to speak out and finally smash this stigma surrounding mental health!
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on my work.