Gripping Photos Capture What This Woman Feels Like During a Panic Attack
Katie Crawford, 23, is a senior at Louisiana State University. The photography student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has lived with generalized anxiety disorder for 10 years. When the time came for her to choose a topic for her senior thesis, she decided to convey her anxiety through a series of creatively modified self-portraits.
Entitled “My Anxious Heart,” Crawford’s photo series depicts how she experiences anxiety.
“I am visually interpreting my own emotional and physical journey so others may be able to understand this weight that so many bear in our society,” she wrote in her artist statement on her website.
Crawford was inspired to create the photographs when she took a class called “Artist as Researcher.” She was assigned a semester-long investigative project about what motivates her as an artist. Having never taken on such a longterm, open-ended project before, Crawford didn’t know where to begin, and she grew anxious.
“Then it clicked,” she told The Mighty. “I wanted to show everyone this thing that followed me and kept me from being able to do the most basic things.”
When she was about 18, Crawford began writing down sentence fragments and bursts of thought each time she had a panic attack to try to encapsulate the difficult-to-describe feelings. Those fragments and thoughts would eventually become the phrases that caption each photograph.
Once Crawford began recording her feelings, she was able to identify concrete symptoms.
“I was able to think of literal interpretations to depict what I had discovered,” she told The Mighty. “Not feeling able to breathe when you can? That’s like saran wrap over your mouth when your nose is still free. Can’t get out of bed today? Well, there’s something laying next to you saying that’s OK to do because everything else is scary. Someone asked you to make a decision but you can’t even explain why it’s difficult to do, let alone make the decision? I might as well be trying to swim with fabric covering me as I come up for air.”
Her aim for the project was to help others, but Crawford was surprised to find that creating these photographs also helped her work through her own feelings.
“All of it was therapy. Every moment,” Crawford told The Mighty. “Each time I spent more than six hours on a shot that didn’t work and I had to start over or give up? Therapeutic. I had to beat it. I didn’t waste those hours, I had the opportunity to make the photo better. I learned self-discipline that I never had. I learned patience with myself that I never had.”
“I just want these photos to begin a conversation,” Crawford told The Mighty. “After a decade-long struggle, it feels amazing to finally have the disorder depicted and available for others to utilize in any way they can.”
Photos courtesy of Katie Crawford.