For my final project, I decided to explore the experience of living with depression and anorexia. Both conditions are extremely common in our generation’s society and I’ve watched people that are close to me struggle with each diagnosis. For my research, I searched for information on what kinds of treatment or medication there is, the different symptoms, multiple different personal accounts and recovery stories, and lots of situational descriptions so I could gain a better understanding of what it felt like to have depression or anorexia. Out of all the images I shot, I chose the ones that would be harder to understand if you’ve never experienced living with the specific condition.
What interested me the most about my research was that the most common thing people would use to describe how they felt was ‘you couldn’t possible know what it’s like’. This is what really inspired how I chose to shoot and which images made the final cut because I really wanted to depict that sense of each being an isolated experience that not everyone can relate to. For the most part, I found it was easier for people to describe what dealing with anorexia was like and I found a more universal response. For depression, I found a lot of descriptions containing symbolism and similes and it seemed harder for people to find the right words or situation. I transferred this over to my work by making the images depicting anorexia more blunt than the ones describing depression.
Each diptych has it’s own concept, comparing the two conditions. In the first two images, I wanted to focus on what people depend on to feel better about their condition. With depression, medication is the most common form of treatment and with anorexia, water is a heavily depended upon to make someone feel full enough to a point where they don’t need to eat. In the second diptych, I wanted to depict the evils; depression being nightmares and the fear of sleeping/waking up and anorexia being food. For the third diptych, I chose to focus on how people cope with each condition. Self harm is an extremely common coping mechanism for those dealing with depression and a lot of counselors suggest keeping positive journal entries to their clients with an eating disorder. In the fourth diptych, the images show the different forms of self medication that people depend on to feel better about their condition. For depression, it’s common for people to turn to smoking and drinking because it helps quiet their thoughts and dull their emotions. People dealing with anorexia find a certain sense of control or comfort through the process of starvation and visible results. In my fifth and last diptych, I chose to relate it back to the first. Depression and anorexia are two very different situations but in the end, both have the same overarching struggle; getting out. I wanted to show the repetitiveness and frustration of going through the motions day by day, only to have to start back at the beginning. A lot of my research surrounded the idea that these people are trapped and that no matter what they do to try and get better, it feels like nothing can save them. I chose the eleventh image to stand by itself because I feel like it shows both conditions.
My main goal with this piece of work is to make people feel uncomfortable and uncertain when they look at it. Depression, eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD, etc. are things that most people are aware of but they can’t fully understand or relate to. Depression isn’t just being sad; it’s a constant feeling of endless weight, emptiness, and desperation. Anorexia isn’t just eating less every now and then to look good; it’s the need to push yourself to the point of destruction because you find control in a number on a scale. There is so much more to these conditions than people are truly aware of and to those dealing with them, it’s incredibly frustrating that some people can’t comprehend that.