Man Captures Stages of His Own Self-Acceptance in Surreal Photo Series

149
149

Since he was a boy, photographer Rob Woodcox lived in a place he called “Cloud State.”

My mind has become pretty great at retreating to this place in what feigns to others as an overwhelming case of constant optimism,” Woodcox wrote on his blog. “Despite troubled times, taunts from others or personal ‘failures’ my brain has protected me by choosing to ‘dissociate’ and separate itself from the impact of such devastations.”

Despite having his head in the clouds, Woodcox wasn’t happy. He had friends, a career and personal fulfillment through his art, but something was missing — he was depressed, retreating from who he really was.

Something on the inside was still screaming at me to wake up, no matter how loud I played the music or ran through the trees,” he wrote.

His photo series (below) is his journey of self-discovery, moving away from a depressed, dissociative state to one of self-acceptance — of his sexual orientation and finding happiness in embracing his identity.

“If anyone out there is feeling burdened by self-denial, expectations of others, depression or just feeling down — know you are not alone,” he told The Mighty. “Know that being surrounded by true love, from yourself and others, is absolutely worth any obstacles you may face to get there.”

Here is his striking photo series:

Semblance
Semblance; The outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different. So often we cloak ourselves and hide our true identities as a protective barrier from the world. We forget to laugh, we forget to dance, and instead we crouch in a corner of our mind that leaves us alone. This past two years I guess you could say I’ve been on a more intensive journey to finding myself.”
The Shock
The Shock: “Two years ago I had this incredibly shocking moment where I realized that so much of my life was being taken for granted.”
Clarity
Clarity: “Like a foggy curtain drifting aside, a clarity began to sink into my troubled veins; the weight of sadness, confusion and longing began to wash away and were replaced with something subtle, but different. Green returned to the grass and water flowed like a sensation down my back from the collective dew dropping from the sky. It was a cold feeling, but a welcome one. I no longer had to be alone.”
Absolution
Absolution: “There is a compelling moment that occurs when you finally accept forgiveness. A sense of acceptance of your existence occurs; you may be alone or you may not but everything negative seems to wash away. All at once the world seems hewn in perfect strokes of color like a masterful painting. It is in that moment when you are truly ready to move forward.”
Cleanse
Cleanse: “When forgiveness is received from ourselves or others and after the weight of the world seems removed from our shoulders, there is still an internal process that is important to face, one that takes time. A lot of time in fact. The poison associated with fear, shame, and judgement can be slow to dissipate. But there is a brighter side, a clean slate. We are creatures of adaption and our trials only make us stronger to face the oncoming waves. We are strong, we are brave, we are capable of things we can’t even dream.”
That Which Lies Ahead
That Which Lies Ahead: “The journey continues on; through dark and light, we must climb one step at a time through safe passage and obstacle alike.”
The Climb
The Climb: “The climb will never stop but the destinations along the way are glorious. We will toil but it will shape us into something beautiful.”
Suspended
Suspended
The Longing
The Longing: “Love is better than the sweetest chocolate, the prettiest flower and the purest gold. At the end of it all, we simply long for love. On a good day, on a bad day, on an average day, its all the same. Our heart will follow its course, and if we stick to it we will find our very own abundance of love.”
Resolve
Resolve: “Like a change in the season we enter different stages of life. Sometimes it comes expectedly yet sometimes its a bit more sudden. There is no formula, no exact date set in a stone, these things just tend to occur, as natural yet unsettling as the first drop of rain from a storm. In and out of love I have fallen, away from homely spaces I have gone, up and over mountains I have traveled- each experience changing me in some steady but intangible way. When I set foot somewhere familiar at last, my shadow seems different, changed. Will I dissipate from the reaction or will I battle on, claiming my identity with pride and resolve?”

To see more from Woodcox, visit his site.

149
149

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

6 Ways Family Can Help Someone With Depression During the Holidays

415
415

“Tis the season to struggle with depression — fa la la la la, la, la, la, la.”

One out of four adults in America live with depression or some kind of mental illness in a given year. There are also those who deal with chronic pain, grief, post-traumatic stress — and too many other things to list — that are often enhanced throughout the holidays.

I have major depressive disorder. Here are some of my specific struggles with depression during the holidays:

Unrealistic self-inflicted pressure I put on myself. I quickly embrace the guilt instead of the victories. My wise husband keeps telling me to do what I can, and for that day, what I can do is enough.

I struggle with large groups of people for an extended amount of time — even with people I love and who love me.

I also struggle with one-on-one conversation. Double whammy! My kids sometimes play “name the end of the sentence mom is trying to get out.” Ha!

My anxiety is enhanced from the stress of caring for our two daughters with special needs — and during the holidays, this means in other people’s homes.

I sweat during conversations. Sometimes cry. Sometimes laugh uncontrollably.

I worry about what others (specifically, my family) think — even though I know they love me unconditionally.

Last Christmas we stayed with my sister Amy and her family in Michigan. She and the rest of our family made several accommodations that really helped make the holiday less stressful. So, friends and family who love people who live with mental illness, here are some things my family does to help me during the holidays:

1. They gave space.

I disappear from time to time for an hour or two to retreat to my room during a full day of family. They are fine with it and even pitch in with the girls during my absence. If my husband is busy or just needs a break, all I have to do is say the word and my niece steps in and takes over the care for one of our girls.

2. They’re growing in their discernment.

One time (not at Christmas) we visited my parents and right away my mom could tell I was in a depressive episode. She put me to bed for a rest and helped with the kids.

3. They include me in activities.

Even if I start to laugh and cry uncontrollably, or grow sullen and disengaged within one simple conversation, they still try to include me. They also understand if my husband and I aren’t up for an activity because it will be too taxing on our family.

4. My struggle with depression is no longer an elephant in the room.

My family understands this is an illness. My dad and brother often check in with me to see how I am doing. My sister sees me wilting and steps in and helps where I should be helping. My mom hugs me and offers 100 percent understanding without judgement. Heck, one time my two adult nephews Ben and Will actually came into my room while I wasn’t doing well. I was embarrassed, but they didn’t care. One joked with me until I laughed and the other actually climbed over the bed to give me a hug and told me he loved me.

5. They care for all of our family.

My niece Karli and my brother and his family make sure our older children without special needs have fun by paying loads of attention to them, asking them for sleep overs, going to the movies and, in one of my daughter’s case, taking approximately 100 selfies a visit.

6. They are growing in knowledge, acceptance and love.

Like every family on the planet, mine has all the intricacies of a loving, happy, but messy family. I think we’d all prefer not to deal with my mental illness. At times, they (and husband and I, for that matter) don’t know how to deal with it or how to support us. I know they’d prefer (as would I) the goofy person I can be. But regardless, we all continue to love.

So, we’re going to visit our family for Christmas. As I read through this list, I see growth for all of us. and (dare I say it?) I’m exciting to go.

Writer’s note: I know some people are without family or community. I hope this doesn’t hurt you. You are not alone. Those of us who struggle with depression are here. We can be your community.

I also know there are some families and communities who still don’t understand. They don’t see your illness as an illness. I’m sorry. I can imagine that is very painful. My heart is with you.

Follow this journey on Gillian’s website and pre-order her latest book “Still Life: A Memoir of Living Fully With Depression.”

415
415
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

27 Things People Living With Depression Want Their Friends to Know

11k
11k

 

True friends should be able to talk to each other about anything — dark secrets, embarrassing moments and confessions too personal to post on social media.

Still, even for the closest of friends, it can be hard to talk about depression. The isolation, the fog and the utter internal nature of depression makes it hard to open up, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

We asked our Mighty community what they wish their friends understood about living with depression.

If you know someone with depression, this might help you understand:

1. “I don’t have the energy it takes to be a terrific friend sometimes. When my depression is active, even putting on socks takes a lot of effort. Please be patient with me — I’m exhausted.” — Christine L Hauck

DEPRESS1 copy

2. “Even though it seems like I have every reason in the world to be happy, I may still be enveloped in the dark cloud of depression.” — Jamie Spore

3. “Saying ‘I’m a little depressed today’ is hurtful to me. I don’t get ‘a little depressed’ — it’s all encompassing, a black hole.” — Tia Borkowski

4. “I wish they’d understand when you push me away because I don’t talk as much, I really need you to be pulling me closer.” — Ember Ravestar

5. “I’m not down all the time — there are times when I’m positive. Embrace and celebrate these times rather than focusing on my negativity when I’m at my lowest.” — Lexie Nooyen

6. “Don’t take my actions personally. Putting on a strong front and putting all my energy into making it through my day takes a lot out of me. When I cancel plans or say I just can’t today, it’s not because I don’t love you or want you in my life. I’m just exhausted.” — Tammie Nutt

DEPRESS2 copy

7. “If one more person says, ‘I get sad sometimes, too’ or ‘Other people have it way worse,’ I’m going to scream. I can’t help this constant feeling of dread and despair. I’m not having a pity party or a momentary lapse. This is my default state.” — Kai Cahill 

8. “Relationships are so hard now. My heart still yearns for them, but my head and body can’t deal with it.” — Victoria Sinclair

9. “I try to hide my depression so others aren’t uncomfortable.” — Carol Schaffarzick Wilson

10. “Just because I said ‘no’ to an invitation (or two or three) doesn’t mean I want you to stop inviting me. Just because I look OK doesn’t mean I don’t need your help.” — Amy S Paegel

DEPRESS3 copy

11. “I won’t reach out when I’m struggling because I don’t want to upset you or be a burden. I don’t like people worrying about me, even if they should be.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober 

12. “Living with depression comes with an amount of isolation that many can’t grasp. We are not intentional on hurting our friends; we really do love you as a friend, but sometimes we just can’t.” — Cassie Buelow

13. “Depression physically and emotionally hurts. Sometimes we just need someone to simply be with us. Not to talk or fix it, but just to be with us… in the moment, no matter how painful it is.” — Lori Reynolds

14. “I don’t need to be fixed. I just need them to be there, love me and be on my side.” — Anna Camp

15. “I do love you, more than I could ever express. I want to (or at least I want to want to) interact with you so our relationship can grow. But depression is like a chain keeping me from reaching out.” — Jordan Sims

DEPRESS4 copy

16. “I’m so grateful you stuck with me, through good days and bad. I love my friends and family to the end of the world, and I wish more than anything they understood just how thankful I am to have them in my life.” — Brittany Berlin 

17. “Even though I’m sad, grumpy, angry and distant, I really, really need them. I need to be invited to dinner, even if I can’t promise I’ll be good company.” — Kylie Rixon

18. “I really do want to get better. It’s a war — a painful, exhausting, consuming war, and I’m trying to win.” — Lindsey Hemphill 

19. “It’s not that I’m unhappy with you — I’m unhappy with everything. But it’ll pass, so hold on.” — Punki Munro

DEPRESS5 copy

20. “Sometimes having conversations, in real life or online, is exhausting. Being around people is exhausting. So when I pull away, I’m just trying to regroup because my already messed up brain is super fried and needs a break.” — Caroline Skrtel

21. “When I cancel plans last minute or don’t contact you, it doesn’t mean I’m mad. It’s taking everything I’ve got just to function.” — Natalie Fossum

22. “Depression isn’t contagious.” — Lexie Sittsamer

23. “Smiles don’t always mean everything is OK.” — Melody Nance

24. “Avoiding talking about my depression doesn’t make it go away — it actually makes it a little worse because I feel less connected. I don’t want to talk about depression all the time, but if I feel like I can’t talk about (because people change the subject quickly or refuse to talk about it at all) I lose a member of my support system.” — Marlena Davis

DEPRESS6 copy

25. “I miss them.” — Carol Zimmerman

26. “When the anxiety and depression are battling each other I have a war zone in my head. Concentrating on anything to get through the day is sometimes the hardest thing I do… Being mad and making me feel guilty does not make anything better.” — Nycole Shea Dillon-barber

27.Depression is a disease of isolation. When I’m retreating is precisely when I need you most.” — Shawn Henfling

DEPRESS7 copy

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity.

 27 Things People Living With Depression Want Their Friends to Know

11k
11k
TOPICS
, Listicle
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

It’s December and I Still Have Depression

434
434

It’s Christmas time again, and I still have depression.

Every year a big part of me dreads the holidays. Not because I don’t want to celebrate. Not because I don’t like giving gifts. And not because I’m down on the magic of the season. Does having a mental illness mean I’m like the Grinch who stole Christmas? Not necessarily.

I’m beginning to realize it’s hard to have depression and meet the many expectations that arrive with the holiday season. Take a look at this:

holidaysdepression

It strikes me the most common symptoms of depression – feelings of sadness, fatigue, loss of pleasure – aren’t exactly conducive to celebrating the season. For those of us with a mental illness, the expectations to experience prolonged feelings of joy, go to party after party, decorate our homes and shop for gifts can be unrealistic. Being with (or without) family and friends can trigger a sense of hopelessness.

I often feel like I’m starting a grueling marathon when December rolls around — I feel the need to meet these expectations not just for a day or two, but for an entire month. I want to enjoy the holidays, but I also want to take care of myself. The reality is I have depression whether it’s Christmas Eve or the Fourth of July. Depression doesn’t vanish during the month of December.

So this year, I’m trying to celebrate the holidays in ways that are still authentic to who I am, which includes having major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:

1. I’m giving myself permission to feel sad.

It’s not realistic for me to feel jolly, merry or bright from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Because I’ve suffered some traumatic losses, the holidays bring back memories of loved ones who are no longer here. Seeing Christmas trees and hearing beautiful carols make me think of my dad and of how magical everything seemed when I was a child. In the past I’ve tried to push away feelings of sadness, but this year I’m allowing myself to feel them. Because it’s OK to feel sad on Christmas. It’s OK to cry. In fact, acknowledging our true feelings can help us create new and more authentic ways of celebrating the season.

2. I’m limiting my holiday schedule.

I have a tendency to push myself and say yes to every invitation. Not this year. I know how important it is for me to have alone time to rest and recharge. Before accepting automatically, I’m thinking carefully about my time. I’m choosing to say no if I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. While this isn’t easy and may mean letting someone else down, I know how important it is to take care of myself first.

3. I’m giving experiences instead of traditional presents.

I’ve had it with fighting my way through crowds at the mall. Hunting for gifts triggers my anxiety and I can get obsessively focused on finding the “perfect gift” (which doesn’t exist). I’ve spent hours (probably days) on the quest to find incredible gifts for everyone I know. So this year, I’m shifting my focus and giving experiences to the people I love, rather than a million more things they don’t actually need. Homemade gift certificates for day trips, tickets to museums, excursions or concerts will allow me to spend time with my family and friends. This will help us create positive memories together. It also gives me something to look forward to after the holidays are over.

4. I’m finding new Christmas music.

For a long time, I would listen to the same several Christmas albums I heard as a child. While those songs are still special to me, they can bring on additional feelings of sadness and loss. I’m using stations like Pandora to find new music that lifts my spirits. For example, I love Irish and Scottish music, so I’m discovering some fun Celtic Christmas albums. I’m also giving myself breaks from listening to Christmas music – while it’s unavoidable in stores, I can choose to switch the channel in my car if I feel I’m getting triggered.

5. I’m doing things to help other people.

To me, the meaning of Christmas is about connecting with people we care about. It’s about the possibility of hope in the darkest of winters. One way to honor the spirit of the holidays is to give something back to people who are suffering. I lead a peer-to-peer support group for adults with mental illness, and it runs right through the holiday season. This is a meaningful way to support others who share my own struggle, especially at this time of year. I also donate money (as I’m able) and clothing items to local shelters to assist people who are homeless. My mom has always told me one way to help yourself when you feel down is to do something nice for someone else, and I think she’s right on.

My wish for this holiday season is to be more authentic in the ways I celebrate with my family and friends. I need to practice self-care, especially when the stress picks up. For Christmas, I’m giving myself the gift of self-compassion and the permission to be myself, even if that means feeling sad. While it may not be the most wonderful time of the year, it doesn’t have to be the most miserable either. I’m working on finding that middle ground between sadness and hope. Between light and dark.

On my holiday cards this year, I wanted to share something that resonated with my journey to find a more authentic Christmas. This is what I found:

“May you be blessed with the spirit of the season, which is peace; the gladness of the season, which is hope; and the heart of the season, which is love.”

Follow this journey on Blue Light Blue.

The Mighty is asking the following: As someone who lives with — or has a loved one with — a mental illness, what’s one thing that’s particularly challenging around the holidays? Why? What advice would give someone going through similar challenges? 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

434
434
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Show This Video to Anyone Who Doesn’t Believe Depression Is a Medical Condition

15k
15k

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 350 million people of all ages from all over the globe live with depression.

Yet, it’s still a highly misunderstood condition.

A particularly harmful misconception about clinical depression is that it’s the same as feeling a bit down.

Clinical depression is different,” says the narrator in the animated video below. “It’s a medical disorder and it won’t go away just because you want it to.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.41.55 AM
Ted Ed/Helen M. Farrell

Like a broken arm, depression is not something a person can just snap out of or brush off. The animated video below, by Helen M. Farrell and Ted Ed, attempts to clear up some of the misconceptions and spread awareness about causes and treatment options for depression. It also gives tips on what people can do to support loved ones who live with this mental health condition.

So next time someone tries to say depression isn’t a medical condition, just go ahead and send this video their way.

Watch the video below: 

h/t Metro 

15k
15k
TOPICS
Video,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When Taking Care of Yourself Isn't Enough to Stop Depression

8k
8k

I found myself in my doctor’s office not too long ago.

It took everything I had to make that phone call and book an appointment. It took even more to go in and tell him what’s been going on.

“I’m not OK,” I said quietly when he came into the room and shut the door.

“How so?” he asked.

“First, I want you to know I’ve been taking good care of myself. So much care of myself. I’m eating well — OK, I still love chocolate in a bad way and that will never change — but I’m also trying to get enough sleep. I’m running, circuit training and doing yoga. I have biceps to die for. Asking you to touch them would probably be inappropriate, wouldn’t it? But you can see them from here, I’m sure. Epic buffness! And I have a therapist, I do meditation and I have a great circle of friends. I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds this year, which has been no small feat, I’ll have you know. Because did I mention I love chocolate?”

I’m all about the jokes until I’m not. I took a breath to try and hold the tears at bay. It didn’t work. They started to run hot down my face.

“But I’m struggling,” I said. “And I hate that I’m struggling despite all the hard work I’m doing to keep myself afloat. It’s maddening. I’m not down all the time. There are things I’m still passionate about, like my advocacy work. That’s the stuff that keeps me going. But so many things in my life are just…grey. They’re all grey.” I sighed. “I miss color.”

They have been. Grey, I mean. There’s a blanket of fog over my life, and it’s been getting heavier. It’s a million little things weighing me down and it’s also none of them.

It’s the overwhelmingness of my life, and it’s not that at all.

Depression slowly wraps its tendrils around everything, squeezing the joy out, suffocating the light, until you don’t remember what it used to be like before. You think it’s always been this way, even when it hasn’t.

Little things become big things, big things become too big to even look at or deal with. You avoid stuff. You become scattered and forgetful. Everything gets harder. Relationships suffer. But when it’s this slow and insidious, it’s so hard to notice until those tendrils are wrapped around you so tightly you can hardly breathe.

“I need your help,” I said, taking my glasses off and wiping my eyes. I should not have worn mascara to this appointment. “And I hate that I need your help right now. I hate that I can’t be stronger and manage this on my own. I’m really angry with myself.”

“Amanda,” he replied gently, “This isn’t a question of being strong or not. You’re plenty strong. Look, I have a checklist on my screen in front of me of all the things I should recommend my patients do when dealing with depression. You are doing everything on this list. Your brain just needs a boost right now to get you over a hump. Let’s give it some help so you can feel better.”

So for the first time since I had postpartum depression 18 years ago, I was given a prescription for an antidepressant.

I walked out of that office feeling a sense of defeat. But I filled the prescription and have been taking my meds every day.

I contemplated not saying anything publicly. I know I don’t have to. It’s really not anyone else’s business. And that little toxic voice screams at me not to share. It says that as an advocate, I need to be strong, and you won’t think I’m strong after reading this.

But here’s the thing, little voice: I am strong. I’m strong enough to take good care of myself despite having a whole lot going on in my life.

I’m strong enough to know when all of that is not enough.

And I’m strong enough to ask for help rather than continue suffering.

I’m not going to be ashamed of having an illness, recognizing it and treating it. 

I am what strong looks like.

I’m sharing this here because there is still a stigma wrapped around mental illness, and that’s total balls. People still speak about it in hushed tones when we shouldn’t. We hide it from each other and pretend everything’s OK. Nothing to see here but my smile, everybody, move on.

But we’re human and we have brain chemistry and we have lives and seasons and traumas that can affect us. It’s natural when things aren’t OK all the time. That’s called living. We should ask for help when we need it, and we should see this as an act of courage, not weakness.

The drugs I was so hesitant to ask for are working. It’s early yet, but there’s a noticeable difference. Depression’s tendrils are retreating. The fog is lifting, and life is becoming more manageable again. I’m laughing more awesome laughs. I’m enjoying going out more and seeing people. I’m remembering what balance feels like. Even chocolate tastes better, although the jury’s still out on whether or not that’s a good thing.

Depression sucks, you guys. It’s the hair on life’s sac. But it can get better, and don’t you forget it. Fight your way out of that darkness, OK?

There’s chocolate out here in the light, and it’s f*cking delicious.

Follow this journey on The Maven of Mayhem.

8k
8k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.