photo of a dress in a suitcase with legs sticking out

Depression can make you feel like part of you is missing. That feeling of emptiness is the subject of Janelia Mould’s photo series “A Girl Called Melancholy – A Story Of Depression.”

“I tried to capture the lack of being,” Mould, a self-taught photographer from South Africa, told The Mighty. “I am always looking for topics or themes to express myself through. I try to convey some sort of message through my images and was inspired by my own life-experience for this series. The images are a very subjective to my journey with depression.”

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Each photo in the series is missing its subject’s face, a purposeful exclusion Mould said helps magnify how empty and hopeless depression can make you feel.

“The character in this series has no face and sometimes has missing limbs, firstly, so that anybody that either suffers from depression or has dealt with it in some way, can identify with her.” Mould said describing her series. “Secondly, its keeps the viewers’ attention on the feelings often experienced through depression, like emptiness, vacantness and not recognizing oneself anymore.”

woman without a head laying on a mattress with her feet up in the air.


Mould also includes quotes from famous figures to unknown authors alongside her photos. Her photo “Barren” (shown below), features a quote from an unknown author, which poignantly complements her photo.

Some days, I feel everything at once. Other days, I feel nothing at all. I don’t know what’s worse ― drowning beneath the waves, or dying from the thirst.

Woman without a head standing under an umbrella in the rain.


Mould hopes her photo series will help others understand what it’s like to live with depression. “If you are suffering from depression, you need understanding and patience from others, not a quick fix,” she said.

Woman without a head wearing a dress hanging on a clothes line. Dangling 

Her series currently contains eight photos, but Mould may add more with time. “I have not decided how many more photos I will add or when it will be finished,” she said. “I guess I will take more inspiration from my journey ahead and see where the road leads me.”

You can view the rest of the series below or on Mould’s Facebook page and website

6. forgotton - cheekyingelosi Forgotten

4. uninhabited - cheekyingelosi Uninhabited 

photo of a dress in a suitcase with legs sticking out Withering Away

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It’s Complicated


For me, a combination of anxiety, depression, and physical illness has given me a negative perception of myself as a person and what I deserve in life.

I am a firm believer in karma and sending good energy out into the universe. You get what you give. What goes around comes around. But what happens when you only give negative energy and thoughts to yourself? What are you left with to give out to the world if all you tell yourself is how unworthy you are?

Self-worth, self-love and self-care are all intertwined. We are told, for both mental and physical health, the importance of taking care of ourselves. Our bodies and minds need rest, nutrition, space to breathe.

But when I am dealing with a bad anxiety day or a day full of physical symptoms, instead of acknowledging that I need and deserve a break, I agonize over something I might have missed because I wasn’t feeling up to it. I beat myself up if I think that I made a mistake at work because I wasn’t feeling well.

When I do allow myself the space and time to supposedly relax, I worry I am not being social enough or that there is something else I should be doing. I think I have not “earned” my time to just be. This is not conducive to a mindful lifestyle.

It can become a vicious cycle, one I am still learning how to break. I am trying to have more positive thoughts about myself so when I do need to step back I can allow myself to do so without thinking that I do not deserve it.

Part of this has been saying and thinking positive thoughts about myself and to myself. I have adopted a mantra I learned from one of my yoga classes, and it has gotten me through some tough situations: (Inhale) I am (exhale) OK.

Acknowledging I am OK when I feel anything but OK is important. But now I want to be more than just OK. I want to feel that, despite my challenges (and we all have them, even if it doesn’t seem like it on the outside), I am worthy of truly thriving.

For now, even though I am not 100% comfortable saying these things to myself, I will say them to you:

You are worthy.

You deserve love.

You deserve to be happy.

You are allowed to ask for help.

You are more than you think you are.

You are a fighter.

You are strong.

You are enough.

And I will continue to say these things to myself until their truth sinks in.

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Thinkstock photo by andrej_k

My therapist, Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn, is my hero. She’s the kindest, most thoughtful, loving and genuine person I’ve ever met.

Or she was. Until cancer took her from us.

Let’s back up. My first memory of Dr. Goodwyn was when I was in fourth grade. That year, I punched a bully in the face, in what was, looking back, probably my first panic attack. My school told my parents I could either go to anger management classes or I would be expelled. My parents opted for the first option.

Dr. Goodwyn was a family friend. She was the same age as my dad and they had known each other for quite a while. So I started seeing her every week. Fast forward a few months and I had learned how to control my emotions better. It was good enough for the school. No more punching bullies, got it.

Over the next few years, I would run into Dr. Goodwyn a few times a year. Most of the time, I would either see her at the bank or at an art show. She was a huge fan of the arts, namely pottery and abstract paintings. When we saw each other, she would always ask me how I had been. Not the kind of in passing “How are you?,” but a genuine question. We would talk briefly and she would remind me it was OK to need to see a therapist, if I needed to.

My freshman year of high school was the first time I admitted to needing help. The depression had finally set in after years of bullying. I was self-harming and experiencing suicidal thoughts and actions. I needed help. So who did we turn to? Dr. Goodwyn.

I started seeing her twice a week, for six months. It was a trying time for my family. We all had sessions with her. My parents were learning how to love me despite my mental illness. It’s not always easy to love someone who has depression — though they do a great job and always have. Dr. Goodwyn fixed our home life. She saved my life. I wouldn’t be here typing this out if it weren’t for her hard work, love, kindness, thoughtfulness and servitude.

A year later or so I went through another episode and started seeing her again. After about three months, I was well into my recovery and was doing better. Life was going well.

The last time I saw Dr. Goodwyn was on Christmas Eve. My family and I went by her house to visit her after an evening church service. This was the night I found out the truth about her. She had a brain tumor and she’d had it for a while. She, in the months leading up to this encounter, had not only gotten worse, but had stopped going to chemotherapy. Our encounter that night was brief. Her brother was there with her, taking care of her. She was feeling very sick that night, but she fought through it to see us. One last time.

About a two and a half weeks later, she passed away. There was a celebration of life service. My parents went, but I was too distraught. They said it was beautiful and it showed how many lives she touched.

It’s taken me five years to really process what her life meant to me. Mary Ann was a truly incredible person. She was kind, thoughtful, brilliant, loving and cared for not only her patients, but for our community. She touched more lives than I think she even knew. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about her and her work. Her work is summarized well in an article in a psych journal, but let me tell you how she has impacted my life.

She fought for my life while actually fighting a losing battle for her own. She did everything she could to keep me afloat while she was in extreme pain. She showed me how important it is to reach out for help. She taught me the value of genuinely caring for others and especially for a community. She showed me what it meant to be kind, how to be thoughtful in words and actions and how to touch lives. She taught me what it means to work in the mental health realm.

I wish I didn’t have a mental illness. But I’m forever thankful for Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn. Be like Mary Ann. Strive for kindness, love, thoughtfulness and to reach your community. That’s what I strive for.

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Photo via Louisiana Psychology Times. 

I am depressed. The realization comes barrelling down on me like a truck with no brakes, slamming headlong as splinters and shards slice open my reality. But the doctor isn’t in the office today. And it’s the weekend. And the counselor has no available openings for months. And I realize that I am standing at the curb with my suitcase properly packed and a sign around my neck, but nobody is coming to get me. Nobody.

Logically, I can read the medical studies and understand that a recent neck injury, compounded by a head cold and deadline stress, has created chronic inflammation which produces cytokines which degrade serotonin and tryptophan which results in me sitting on the couch, wrapped in blankets, sobbing for days with no discernible reason. Logically, I understand this is not me, nor is it permanent. Logically, I know the laws of science and medicine have overtaken me.

But logic doesn’t much look after my heart these days.

In the summer I sail a Minifish (a small, one person boat). I am a novice and overly-conservative sailor, hesitant to take on fierce gusts and when I start to pick up too much speed for my comfort, I haul the sheet tight and turn the boat a little out of the wind. Slowing myself down while my heart races ahead, I hold those sails as tight as I can. That’s how I am in this depression–sails hauled, boat steady, terrified of tipping. Slowing down as though there is no wind. Looking around for help and realizing I’m on a one-person boat. Nobody can help me. Nobody.

I scroll past copy paste Facebook statuses about reaching out to those who have depression, because I know people don’t actually do it. Not because of their intentions, but because they don’t even see it. And they don’t actually mean it if you are somebody they expect something of. I have to hide it from as many as possible so I can be a functioning human being who walks and talks, while others are unaware of the immensity of this kind of isolation. The thing about depression is, it is lonely as hell. I am lost, with a flat tire, in the desert. The road is straight and if somebody saw me, I know they would help, but there is nobody there to see it. Nobody.

With depression, I have no words and the ones that do occasionally bubble up are so replete with self-loathing and disgust, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to be near me. I don’t want to be near me anymore, so I withdraw and people start leaving me alone because it appears solitude is my wishful solution.

The quiet feels like the first ice on the winter lake — glassy, serene, fragile. In the sudden moments when I reach out and a friend doesn’t immediately respond or has to get up and go about life, I feel betrayed. I knew I was alone all along and somehow they tricked me into thinking somebody was there. In a sudden realization, I feel inconsequential. I crack, shattered glass spilling onto a plush carpet to be painfully discovered later on my lacerated hands and knees, picking it up alone. Because nobody is there. Nobody.

In times of adversity, I have always been able to close my eyes and find the pulse that pulls me up out of dark waters. I have been able to square my shoulders and march into battle. I have been able to breathe in the fortitude that blows from brutal north winds. I am strong and resolute, running miles to find my stride, to build my tenacity. But not today. Today I am afraid to run. Lest I split open and all of my insides, all of my pain, fall out of my fragile shell, spilling through my fingers. Like catching water. No, I will not run today. I will not thumb rides. I will not rock my boat. I will not search for broken pieces.

Because today, there is no me to be found. When I most need myself, even I am not there.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via contributor.

Ask me how I am.

Ask me in a way that genuinely makes me feel like you want me to answer truthfully. I know you probably won’t. I know  it’s not because you don’t care about me. It isn’t because you don’t worry about me sometimes. But if you’re honest with yourself, it’s because you probably don’t really want to deal with it.

If you do ask me how I am, you may be hopeful you’ll receive the, “I’m fine, how are you?” standard stiff-upper-lip response because you don’t want to know that this morning, I sobbed in my car on the way to work. You don’t want to know I’m angry because of the experiences I have had in the last few months in an abusive relationship that I’m struggling to process. You don’t want to know I’m also ashamed of what happened to me. You don’t want to know I still feel suicidal sometimes. You don’t want to know I had an anxiety attack at work the other day and had to run upstairs to an empty office so I could stifle my sobs, and it took 20 minutes to pull myself together.

I get it, OK? I know it’s really difficult to speak to someone in pain. You have your own stuff going on. You’ve got a million and one things to remember. You’re dealing with your own crap. And I don’t want to add to that, I truly don’t. I understand that sometimes all you can do is deal with your own life. You get blinkered.

But… dealing with depression, anxiety, etc., — that’s hard too. And while I don’t want to burden you, sometimes I do really need to talk. I don’t like reaching out. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I really don’t want to take up your time with my troubles. But, once in a while, if you can, please ask me how I am. Ask me if I’m coping. Please make me feel as though you genuinely want me to talk to you. And please be prepared for the response not to be “I’m fine.” Because sometimes, I’m not.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

As an English major, I take pride in having an active imagination, and for the most part use it to my advantage. This can be proven by the fact that I wrote a rather cringeworthy novel at the tender age of 12 that boasts 375 pages of preteen fuelled regret. Rereading the novel I wrote almost seven years ago makes me laugh out of pure embarrassment as I reread what I was so proud of at the time, solidifying the fact that you’re always going to know more in the future than you know now; which is something I learned very recently and am coming to gracefully accept. Now that I am older, I tend to write about how I feel looking back on hard times in my life. The only problem with that is, I’ve always been too ashamed to share these stories for whatever reason. It was only until I moved out, and discovered who I wanted to be, and stopped relying on the validation of others that I came to the conclusion that I needed to be heard.

There were days as a child where I would fake sick because I was too sad to get out of bed. I would shut myself off from people and long for the comforts of my covers because society was too draining for me to handle. I think this is why I only had a small group of friends growing up. No one wanted to be friends with the small, dorky, shy girl. Granted, I wouldn’t open up to anyone long enough to gain a friendship, but I never got help for it. I think people just assumed because I was an only child that I simply lacked social skills, and maybe that was part of the problem. But the thick of it was, I was engulfed in sadness from a young age and no one ever asked me if I needed help. So I grew up thinking it was a normal feeling. Or even worse that I didn’t have a problem at all. As I grew older, this feeling didn’t shy away, and during my high school years I did what I did best and tried to escape my pain by covering up for it. I never once self-medicated with alcohol or drugs, but instead covered it up with non-material things such as religion, friends, and work or school, hoping someday if I worked hard enough I could move out and start over. It wasn’t until my first semester of university that this ideology proved to be a step in the wrong direction.

I moved away for university and was pretty excited about the prospect of starting new. In fact, I came to college high on what I would like to call“pseudo happiness,” or simply put “false happiness.” At the time, I was so used to covering up the fact that I had mental health issues I became oblivious to the fact that they were even there. I convinced myself that moving and started new was the only option I had and that everything would simply fall into place. But as you can guess, this did not happen.

For the first month, everything seemed fine. It was only until the pressure got too much that I allowed myself to come undone. But as things seem to do for me, one issue became another and they all fell like dominos until I simply cracked. Instead of seeking the treatment I needed straight away, I tried to do what I did best: escape. I planned on moving home because I was “unhappy” staying at the university. I was so all over the place that if you asked me now what my plan was, I couldn’t even tell you. I just wanted to get out of the hard place I was in. Little did I realize I needed to eliminate the main causes, as well as come clean to myself that I had a problem that needed to be fixed.

This all clicked for me a few short weeks before I was set to move back home for Christmas break. These moments proved to be pivotal when I realized that an entire semester had gone by and I had nothing to show for it. I spent most of my days in my single dorm room as I felt like I was “too far gone” to make friends — so I didn’t try. I missed a total of 15-20 classes because I couldn’t get out of bed to make it on time, whether they be set at 8 a.m. or 3 in the afternoon. I’d be lucky if I ate more than once a day, most of the time the meal being pizza or garlic fingers that I would order to my room so I would be able to avoid questioning from my peers.

Everyone around me had all these wonderful college stories to tell. They were all growing up and blossoming before my very eyes. I so desperately wanted that, but I felt so alone. I was scared to admit to myself and others that I was struggling and had been for as long as I could remember. But at the same time, I was sick and tired for feeling so emotionally detached.

Instead of dropping out like I had planned during my depressive state, I decided to book an appointment with the campus psychotherapist. This in and of itself was terrifying to me. It made me feel as if I had become defeated by my demons. That I was “crazy” (as if there truly is such a thing) or unloveable. I thought those who I chose to open up to wouldn’t accept me or would find me overwhelming to be around. It wasn’t until I began taking control of my life that I discovered it’s for the best. Yeah, when I came back from the first round of therapy, I did cry a little. Because it was real. The proof was in the pudding, so to speak, but it was the best decision I had ever made and the first major decision I made for myself that was a healthy one.

It’s been roughly about two months now, but I am happy to say I feel better than I ever have. My quality of life has improved so much, I can’t even put it into words. I’ve made new friends in university. I don’t feel lonely. They’re friends whom I can talk to about my issues, who don’t make me feel like a parasite for having depression, as most of them do as well. I’ve started planning my next summer trip, writing my next novel (which is arguably better than the first). I’ve festered a newfound confidence in myself I never knew I had. I know every day isn’t perfect, and during the past two months not every day has been sunshine and rainbows; but now I have the means to know how to deal with my depression, instead of letting it define me and everything I do.

I know for a fact that during the darkest days of depression it’s hard to find a silver lining. Hell, I’ve lived through it. But as a writer, if I didn’t struggle I wouldn’t have anything to write about. And if I didn’t have anything to write about, I wouldn’t have anyone to share it with.

One thing I’ve learned, if anything, is that everybody has a story that’ll break your heart. It is only until you decided to share that story that you will be able to deal with it properly. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than silence when you’re struggling, and I wholeheartedly believe if mental illness was something more widely discussed, I would have gotten help much sooner.

So, with that, say what you have to say. To whomever you want. If you’re happy, shout it to the void. If you’re depressed, cry out for help to whomever you’re most comfortable with. All I wish for in life is unlimited happiness, and for me that will come when people try to understand and accept each other for who they are and not who they claim to be.

Although not all I’ve encountered have the ability to understand, I can try and understand myself better instead of forcing that upon others who clearly lack compassion. This hurts — depression has a way of making it feel like it drives people away, but I can take it in stride and can say that given the proper dose of medication and therapy I don’t have to feel the way I did for almost 19 years, for 19 more. This isn’t the end of my story. It’s just a new chapter, or even better, a whole new novel.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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