Photo by contributor John E. Panic, a man who was born in Houston, Texas, in 1954. John experienced his first psychotic episode on his last day of elementary school. He went undiagnosed until 1973 when recreational drug use as a sophomore in college caused a mental breakdown. His first diagnosis was from a hallucinatory drug flashback. He was misdiagnosed as having hypoglycemia the same year. John had a variety of other diagnoses over the years, but finally received an accurate diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, in the late 1990’s. He was then classified as disabled in 1998. John, and his ex-wife, currently live with John’s 87-year-old parents and help care for them.
About this photo: “During dissociation, my head becomes a huge, dark, cavernous space- much like the garage space in this image. I experience myself as a small procession of thoughts near the cavern bottom. Like the viewer of this picture, sometimes I have four choices. I can retreat in the darkness, explore the shadows, move towards the reality of outdoors or explore the mystery of the lit hallway. This image, therefore, reflects my experience with at least five realities. Unconsciousness, dissociation, the reality I share with the viewer, and two alternate realities available through the lit hallway. One alternate reality features an indescribably beautiful light behind which resides a being of unconditional love, compassionate judgment, and sadness. The being is sad because I have had to suffer and will continue to suffer. The other alternate reality features a terrifying darkness filled with tiny, cold, and sharp pinpricks of light that flicker like stars. A formless, malevolent entity searches for me behind this terrible darkness. It relishes the idea of torturing me. To maintain my mental health, I reject the obvious religious associations. Instead, I believe that I am experiencing infantile experiences of love and anger.”
Find more from John on Flickr