Photo taken by contributor Jaeda DeWalt, a conceptual self-portrait artist in her forties from Seattle, Washington. Jaeda’s 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. She struggled with her mental health throughout her childhood and teen years until her late twenties when 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: “Initially, depression is a welcome relief, from the lack of sleep mania brings… sleep comes, so softly at first, then my need for it becomes insatiable. I am too tired to care about anything, which is a welcome change until the hopelessness sets in, feelings of self-loathing and being overwhelmed by everything and everyone. That feeling I will never accomplish anything, never make the most of what I am meant to be, in this lifetime. I slowly start to fold in on myself… I feel heavy… getting through my day feels like trying to run in molasses.
But I can deal with all of the above… what tries my sanity is the next stage, I call it the black angst… it’s the darkest feeling that borders on the suicidal. Imagine the pain of losing a loved one, or the angst of a romantic relationship ending… it’s like that, minus any reason or rationale. I never know how long I will be in this emotionally excruciating state. My depressive cycles don’t always get to this level, thankfully, but when they do… I have to take things minute, by, minute. In this state, I feel I can not tolerate the pain and it is not that I want to end my life, I just want the intolerable pain to cease.
I take natural medicine, now, it takes the edge off of the highs and lows, coupled with exercise and a healthy diet. And I have wonderful friends that know how to handle my mood-swings and love me, no matter what. I am very blessed in this way. I accept my highs and lows as part of being an intuitive and creative being. I don’t see them as good or bad, but rather, what I must go through to experience life in the rich way that I do.”