A Self Portrait Series
Last year I created a small series of images that illustrated my experience with depression and anxiety. It resonated with quite a few people, so I felt that it was something I should continue to build upon. I worked on it all semester as part of a portfolio class, and while it was a ton of work, I’m glad I was able to do it. You can see the rest of the images at www.edwardhonaker.com 16x20” prints on 20x24” mats
Mental health disorders are such a taboo topic. If you ever bring it up in conversation, people awkwardly get silent, or try to tell you why it’s not a real problem. When I was in the worst parts of depression, the most helpful thing anyone could have done was to just listen to me - not judging, not trying to find a solution, just listen. I’m hoping that these images will help open up conversation about mental health issues. Everyone is or will be affected by them one way or another, and ignoring them doesn’t make things better.
I created these images a way to express how I felt during the worst parts of my depression. The pictures portray many of the problems that surfaced during this time, like the identity crisis of medicated vs. unmedicated self, others who attribute shortcomings to moral failings, rather than to a neurological condition, the fact that these are problems that I will have the rest of my life, and the regret I feel when I look back at my mistakes, missed opportunities, and ruined friendships.
To a certain extent, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety all my life, but it was only last year that it exploded into a serious problem. It starts slowly. Gradually I began to have less energy, and everything seemed to become a bit more difficult. I lost interest in all the things that I used to be passionate about. I became irritable, so I isolated myself from my friends in fear I would snap at them. I was just unable to “connect” with anyone else. I didn’t feel any emotions. Getting out of bed became too difficult, so I wouldn’t leave my room for days at a time. While driving, I would earnestly hope that I’d get into a fatal car accident. Over the course of a few months, the suicidal thoughts got more and more serious. It felt as if I were falling into a bottomless pit, and could only watch myself sink deeper and deeper.
At the time, no one was using the term “depression.” All I knew is that I became bad at the things I used to be good at, and I didn’t know why. I was disappointing everyone around me, especially myself. Getting help was terrifying. Because I’ve had these problems my whole life, I would always try to rationalize or ignore them, but to seek treatment meant admitting that these problems were real. It’s not like getting treated for poor eyesight or the flu. Your mind is who you are, and when it doesn’t work properly, it’s scary.
I did end up seeing a doctor, in fear that if things continued I wouldn’t be around much longer. Getting the diagnosis was a mixed bag. It was so relieving to have an explanation for so much of my past irrational behavior, but at the same time, I suddenly had to face all kinds of new problems, while still dealing with all the old ones. It was very difficult trying to articulate the difficulties of these disorders to my family and friends. I was told that I was “just being dramatic,” “just need to try harder,” and “ungrateful because other people have it worse.” It was so frustrating to not have my problems taken seriously - problems that made me want to take my own life. Since I couldn’t explain it with words, I started making photos that illustrate how these disorders have affected me.
The act of making these images has been therapeutic, and painful at times, and they serve as a reminder of how I never want to slip into that state of deep depression again. I feel quite a bit better now, but I don’t think that these disorders are something that can be cured; it’s just something that you have to deal with day by day. There are still days when I feel terrible, but I decided that suicide just isn’t an option; I’ll be sticking around one way or another.