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 that they believed the mental illness was triggered 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: “Fighting for Sanity – Self Portrait. Mental illness is not who I am. It’s a sickness that cloaks my vibrant being in darkness; like being dropped in mid-air onto a bleak landscape engulfed by the suffocating atmosphere of desperation and despair—eliciting a kind of pain that is beyond words. There is no rhyme or reason to it, no making sense of the distorted universe it forces me to face, each and every day. So I put on my war paint and I fight. I fight for my dreams. I fight for my life. I fight for everybody out there silently facing the same demons and courageously boxing the same shadows. And that makes me more than my illness and the stigma attached to it. It makes me more than the labels society slaps across my face. It makes me brave.”