Surreal Photos Show a Side of Depression We Don’t Often Get to See

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We know depression is often depicted with shades of gray and cloudy skies, but what does it look like during recovery?

To answer this question, HeadsUpGuys, a website and men’s mental health awareness project, teamed up with professional photographers to put an image and a face to depression recovery. They also encouraged others to take their own recovery photos using the hashtag #BetterStartsHere.

“You see images associated with depression and other mental health issues that are focused on what depression is, all the negative aspects,” Joshua Beharry, project coordinator for HeadUpGuys, told The Mighty. “We wanted to try to visualize the postive aspects of recovery and overcoming depression.”

They did, and the results are beautiful.

The surreal images below show a side of the depression journey we’d like to see more of — one that inspires hope and proves that recovery is possible.

Here are the images from their campaign: 

From Joel Robison, a conceptual photographer based out of British Columbia, Canada.

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source: HeadsUpGuys

“This is the first image in a series centred around times and places that we start to feel better. This is that first step out the door, into the world again.” – Joel Robison

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source: HeadsUpGuys

“This second #BetterStartsHere image was to show how one of the ways I know I’m feeling better is when I want to get out and run. Running is my ultimate therapy, it helps me meditate and burn off all the excess energy my brain holds when I’m not feeling 100 percent.” – Joel Robison

joel-robison-better3-headsupguys-web
source: HeadsUpGuys

“Feeling depressed or anxious always drains my creativity, the colors just seem dull, but when I’m better everything seems to come back to vibrant colors again.” – Joel Robison

Joel-Robison-HeadsUpGuy-BetterStartsHere4-web
source: HeadsUpGuys

“This image shows that when we start to feel better we want to celebrate it, and we should. Each time we can stand up and say we’ve made it, is worth celebrating.” – Joel Robison

From Nathan Milner, fine art portrait photographer based out of Melbourne, Australia.

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source: HeadsUpGuys

“This image was created to visualize the sense of drowning and helplessness that guys with depression and anxiety experience. Yet, no matter how dark and overwhelming it can seem, we only need to reach out and help will find us. Together we can break the stigma surrounding depression in men, and show them that they’re not alone.” – Nathan Milner

nathan-miller-2-headsupguys-1140px
source: HeadsUpGuys

“I’ve always found the hardest person to ask for help is yourself. I created this image to show that once I learnt how to accept myself and enjoy my own company, I found I was able to be more self-aware and in a better state of mind.” – Nathan Milner

From William Patino, a professional landscape and travel photographer based out of Wollongong, Australia.

william-patino-headsupguys
source: HeadsUpGuys

“When it came to this project I really couldn’t ignore this photo. This one is a special image to me as it represents my journey with depression. Struggling with mental illness, I remember feeling so helpless, as if my world was surrounded by darkness. It was a heavy burden to carry, to wake up and feel on your shoulders everyday. Despite this there was a small fragment of hope that was just able to keep me going, no matter how much I wanted to give up I knew deep down there was a way out. This photo represents stepping out of darkness and in to new life, not giving up and knowing there is still hope.” – William Patino

From Adam Hague, a conceptual self portrait artist and photographer based out of Brunei and the United Kingdom.

Adam-Hague-HeadsUpGuys-To-Love-Your-Soul-BetterStartsHere
source: HeadsUpGuys

“This photo is about coming through the other side of depression, discovering love that your mind, body and soul deserves.” – Adam Hague

Adam-Hague-HeadsUpGuys-BetterStartsHere2
source: HeadsUpGuys

“Dedicated to my support system, my family, my loved ones, my friends. I often find peace and positivity as soon as I take the first step of allowing myself to be happy. And realising the presence of people who have always been my rock during my storm.” – Adam Hague

From Robby Cavanaugh, a fine art photographer based out of Portland, Oregon.

windup-larger
source: HeadsUpGuys

“The image is to show others what the daily struggle of depression feels like; a constant wind up to get through the day. Yet for me, being able to create is closure to that anxiety. Self expression is a great way to channel your negativities into a better life for yourself.” – Robby Cavanaugh

From Rob Woodcox, a surreal portrait and fine art photographer based out of Portland, Oregon.

rob-woodcox-headsupguys
source: HeadsUpGuys

“I shot this during torrential rain in a cable car in Vietnam as part of the #BetterStartsHere campaign for HeadsUpGuys, to bring more awareness to depression. In a society dominated by self-reliance and independence, it can be hard to admit that sometimes we experience inner hurt. And so the voyage of self discovery continues, we must give ourselves space to do so! I have found that taking time to invest in myself through retreats to nature is one of the best cures for inner hurt.” – Rob Woodcox

From Seanen Middleton, a fine art and portrait photographer based out of Lake District, England.

seanen-middleton-headsupguys-betterstartshere-web
source: HeadsUpGuys

“On the rainy days, when everything is dark but you don’t mind because you love the way the rain sounds as it hits your window and the intricate patterns the droplets make as they travel down the glass. In the way the bitter autumn air bites your skin and makes you feel alive.” – Seanen Middleton

If you want to submit your own depression recovery photo, use the hashtag #BetterStartsHere.

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The Scarier Side of Invisible Illness

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Earlier this year, my friend Leah and I had a late-night conversation about the realities of being young and living with chronic illness. That turned into a free-verse poem we wrote together, which then turned into the idea for this video.

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Keeping things light, finding the positive and focusing on gratitude? That’s still real, too. It’s not all one or the other, and part of how we cope with our chronic conditions is acknowledging both sides. Since we can’t expect anyone else to understand that scarier side unless we talk about it, that’s what we decided to do. We decided to share the faces and voices behind our words. And we decided to invite some of our friends and/or favorite chronic illness bloggers to help us.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped us out with this project! We know it was out of a lot of your comfort zones (it was out of our comfort zones, too!) so we so appreciate you taking the risk anyway.

And a huge thank you to all of you who took a few minutes to watch this video. You’re giving us a voice, and that is one of the most meaningful things you can do. That’s one of the most important ways you can help us. We didn’t create this video for pity; we simply just want to be heard. So thank you for listening.

Read the free-verse poem on Spoon Shares. Follow Catherine’s journey on Finding My Miracle.

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How I Find Little Blessings in My Mental Illnesses

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All my life I knew I was wired a little differently then most, but there were times I thought maybe I was just self-involved. I’ve heard many times, “It’s always about Joy.” What was wrong with me? Was I really that selfish?

I never knew I had a boatload of neurons firing off in the wrong direction.

At 15 years old, I started seeing my guidance counselor at school twice a week. Then, at 16, I started seeing a therapist whenever I could find a ride. It was there where I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, mild depression and a sensory processing disorder. Those sessions were my “awakening,” if you will — they made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. They made me believe having a heightened emotional barometer was really a blessing in disguise, and that being in your own head had its advantages.

Growing up, I secretly thought I had some level of ESP. I could sense what people were thinking, or guess how they’d react to certain situations. As a child, this concept was frightening. As an adult, however, I use my heightened sense of awareness to my advantage. I know within minutes of meeting someone if I can trust them. When I was leading a team of employees at my previous job, I was able to sense my coworkers’ emotions and help diffuse situations before they arose. While I have a hard time expressing my emotions, I hit the nail on the head with others.

As a creative person, I swear having anxiety is my best catalyst for creating great art. As a writer, I always second-guess myself. Will they like what I have to say? Will they disagree? Through my own self-loathing, I tend to turn to research and rewrites, which eventually yield some of my best work. My mind allows me to go to a place where I can be my own best and worst critic at the same time.

Because my anxiety means I’m constantly bracing myself for the worst-case scenario, I’ve become the best planner. It’s no wonder I went into event planning as a profession. If plans fall through, I’m there with a plan B and even a plan C.

Then, when my son Landon was born in 2007, little did I know we would have more than a typical mother-son bond. Shortly after his third birthday, he was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and sensory processing disorder. Because of my own challenges, I recognized early he was having difficulties in everyday situations. Although my husband is an amazing father, he has a hard time sensing the difference between Landon’s age-typical outburst and a minor anxiety attack.

My own mental health illness has been a blessing to my job as a mother, one I hold with the highest regard.

I understand how hard it can be for him to express himself. Finding the words and putting them together is not always as easy as it seems. While others have little to no patience, I do. I can walk into a room and know within a moment’s notice if it’s safe for Landon. Is it too crowded, too loud or too bright?

On the bad days I surely want to damn my anxiety away, but if I didn’t have those days I wouldn’t appreciate the blessings. The fear of intimacy, the challenge of articulating my feelings and even the staggering fear of mundane errands sometimes make me angry and frustrated. When the anger and frustration subsides, and it does, I’m proud my anxiety has made stronger and shaped me into who I am. My anxiety may challenge me, but not a day that goes by that I don’t challenge my anxiety.

Follow this journey on My Sensational Kid

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To the Woman Who Gave My Baby With a Colostomy Bag ‘That Look’

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We were at a dentist office because my husband was undergoing teeth extraction, so my daughter and I sat in the waiting room for a while. My daughter was in a onesie, so her colostomy bag was visible. When you came into the waiting room, she was in my lap, being entertained by a sweet woman and her husband. This woman, also a mother, kept on making silly faces and sounds to get my baby to giggle. She asked about her condition and said she would pray for her.

You had a disgusted look on your face, then you looked away before playing on your phone. Ten minutes later, you moved to another seat on the opposite side of the room.

That look. It was a look of disdain, judgment, disgust and abhorrence. It’s a look that makes you feel like you’re a terrible parent. It makes you feel even a little embarrassed of your child. It’s a look that brings out the mama or papa bear inside you. You, that person across the room — you’re not my child’s doctor or therapist, and you’re most certainly no a friend of mine. I feel sorry for you, actually. You judge others on their outward appearance rather than their virtue.

So I gave you a look back. I smiled. I laughed. I covered my child with kisses and hugs. I made sure she didn’t see your face. I want my child to know only love and happiness for as long as possible.

So here’s my advice to you. Before you give me that look, before you start judging, why not ask a question and learn about my daughter’s condition and her special needs? She has a rare condition, a random assortment of genetic defects that no amount of screening would’ve caught. If you had asked, I would’ve talked about her being two months early and, by what I believe is the grace of God, breathing on her own. I would tell you about her 49-day NICU stay. I would explain that she’s close to her goal weight for surgery and how her physical therapist is excited about her progressing. You’re not going to catch her condition; it’s not contagious. The colostomy bag will be gone soon.

It’s the differences in this world that make it beautiful. I pray you’ll be able to learn that one day.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When Parenting a Medically Complex Child Affects Your Own Health

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I saw a new doctor today — not for my medically complex 6-year old, but for me. I’ve been having some unexplainable symptoms (rashes, fatigue and headache) that I’m not so sure are physical in nature. What I mean by this is that I’ve been living in a variable “fight mode” for the past six years now. At least that’s what my doctor just told me.

Let me give you a little background. Six years ago I gave birth to my miracle child — my daughter, Olivia — and have since been through experiences chock-full of worry, devastation, grief… and also experiences full of immeasurable relief and joy. More specifically, I’ve been through three open-heart surgeries, countless cardiac catheterizations, procedures, diagnoses, specialists, therapies, medications and miracles galore. I can’t recall the amount of times my husband and I have sat in agonizing silence waiting for a procedure or surgery to end, the amount of times we’ve walked our daughter to the dreaded “red line” or the amount of times we’ve co-existed in a hospital. The latter alone is enough to cause PTSD for one’s entire life. Through all of this, I’ve evolved into the strong, in-control, I-can-handle-it-all-because-I-have-to mom, and let me tell you, it’s exhausting.

I, too, suffer from the dissolution of friendships (and relationships in general) because I have trouble living in that world. A world full of seemingly happy experiences that don’t involve catastrophic events, the ones that bring your world crashing down in a matter of seconds. Of course I don’t blame others for what has happened to me. But as many of us mothers of medically complex children know, the difficulty is there. I have trouble relating to others as I did before, plain and simple. I long to talk about “normal” things, and I try to. But I’m not sure I’m doing it the right way. I’m virtually faking the person I want to be, because I know people would have a hard time staying friends with the person my life has made me. 

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I think my physical symptoms really began during a period of a couple months when life finally settled down, and we were able to enjoy the everyday things. I like this place. Now that we’re heading back into cold and flu season, I know what can happen and how quickly my world can change. But I’m also learning what can’t happen: I can’t live in this fight mode any longer. It’s draining me, the person I am, my ability to relate to others and most importantly, my ability to care for my daughter, my family and myself.

I don’t know exactly how to get out of this, but I suppose it’s time to put the “fight” behind me, and welcome the joy that occasionally seeps in. It’s time.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Halloween Is Hard for My Son With Autism, but We Still Celebrate It

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Our son loves the idea of Halloween. He loves the decorations and all the gross Halloween bugs on the store shelves. He likes the idea of trick-or-treating and the idea of dressing up.

But it’s hard for him. Due to his autism and sensory issues, we realized early on that costumes made him unhappy and uncomfortable. From a lion to the Hulk, nothing ever seemed to work for him. I started choosing costumes that only needed a hat and lightweight outfits that felt just like clothes. And overall, that has gone well. Except now he wants to choose his costumes, and crocodiles and dinosaurs are usually fuzzy, heavy and have cumbersome headpieces. So we try to make adjustments (like cutting off the chin straps and the feet). But I’m still not quite sure how it’s going to go this year.

I’m assuming trick-or-treating will appear less than successful, too. In the past, he’s made it to one or two houses and then gets upset that we’re not going into the houses. It doesn’t make sense to him that we would walk up to a house and then walk away without going in. This year, we’re prepping with social stories and practice runs and hoping for the best.

I know some will say, “Why do you celebrate Halloween at all if it’s too much for him?” And I get it. It may appear as though we’re trying to force a societal norm and we should just accept that Halloween will always be different for him.

But he still wants to join in on the celebration. He still wants to wear a costume. He still wants to trick-or-treat with his siblings. Just because something is challenging for someone with autism doesn’t mean they don’t want to participate. It may just take a little more planning and consideration to make it happen. So we accept his boundaries and try our best to accommodate.

And until he no longer wants to try these things, we’ll keep doing them even if it looks like a complete fail to everyone else. Maybe this year he’ll walk up to three or four houses before he starts getting upset and needs to go home. That’s one more house than last year, and we’ll be proud that he gave it another try.

We’ve learned to be grateful for the small steps forward because we know those small steps take colossal effort.

Follow this journey on From the Bowels of Motherhood and on Facebook.

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