Please welcome first-time contributor Emma, a 43-year-old woman struggling with severe depression, an anxiety disorder, and borderline symptoms. As a teenager she had an eating disorder, and in her thirties she was hospitalized several times for suicidal feelings. Emma will soon complete a very painfully-won doctorate, but despite this achievement she still struggles daily to believe that she can have a fulfilling life. She wonders whether she’ll ever have a career and a loving relationship since extreme anxiety and emotional pain make day-to-day interactions excruciating. Emma has been in therapy for decades, but has yet to hit on a the right treatment that works for her. She is waiting and hoping for a little relief, and meanwhile getting by with terrible awkwardness. Mostly, she just tries hard to quietly evade the edge of darkness, and so spare her family and friends the loss of a loved one.
About this photo: “This photograph is called ‘Outsider’. It’s a tropical fish at a library in Virginia. I’ve spent a lot of time in libraries over the years, perhaps as a refuge, but maybe more as a lonely hideout. This fish drew my attention because it’s so silently expressive. Those of us who endure mental illnesses are a lot like this creature. Striking, expressive, bold exterior: but does anyone understand what we endure or experience internally, year after year? Mental illness may seem mysterious and even freakish to onlookers. Our suffering and quiet endurance evades language. And yet, outsiders sometimes show a scared curiosity and even awe at our weird, destructive impulses. I guess all this to say that this fish reminds me of bold and explosive emotions quietly restrained for the benefit of outsiders. It’s lonely and rough a lot of the time. When no one is looking, I let myself cry in bathroom stalls and on walks in secluded forests. I’m so thankful for these little moments of safe isolation.”