Photo taken by contributor Jaeda DeWalt, a conceptual self-portrait artist in her forties from Seattle, Washington. Her battles with mental illness hearken back to her earliest memories, at age 4, when she became obsessed with the number four and performed exhaustive rituals in patterns of four. During her teen years, she began noticing extreme mood swings, manic one moment and depressed the next, and in her late 20′s she finally sought treatment and was diagnosed with Bipolar, OCD, PTSD, Anxiety, and ADHD. Her doctors told her they believed the mental illness was brought on by a severe concussion she sustained at age two, along with the trauma of being sexually abused as a child into her young adult years. Her life was filled with self-destructive coping methods until she went full force into creating, in her mid-twenties. The process of creating and putting herself in front of the camera felt cathartic, liberating and healing. The photographic medium opened up a new world to her and ignited a kind of passion within that she didn’t even know she was capable of experiencing. She has been on an ever-evolving, healing journey, ever since.
About this photo: “Mental illness requires so much strength of spirit. I never know when another intense period of struggle will engulf me. Somehow, I always manage to find my way through, but even so – I’ve had some close calls. It’s during these dark episodes that I find out just what I’m made of and often times, I become stronger than I ever knew I could be. Which is why I titled this self-portrait, Finding My Light in the Darkness. This goes out to all my brother and sisters out there, struggling with mental illness and those that love them. You are not alone.”