Perceptions Project / by Ailsa Fineron

This is the briefer blog post on my new project on mental illness and perceptions and as such gets to the point much quicker -but obviously in a far less rich way- than this one. But it does still contain stuff about depression which could be very triggering. Look after yourself. 

Mental health is always something I’ve planned to talk about through photography, and I’m sure this won’t be the only project I do on the subject, so if you have any suggestions please fire them at me! It’s a huge topic, so for now I’m going to focus on perceptions.

One of the things that scares me most about my mood swings -whether the ups or downs last for hours or weeks or months- is how abrupt and all consuming they are. I can go from what I call my ‘stable’ state -thinking I’m a good person, fun to be around, smart, doing well, loved and so on- to crashing into ‘low’ -I’m a shitty person, achieving next to nothing, of course people don’t like me- and all in less than an hour. It’s terrifying. 

It’s terrifying to have your reasons for living, your motivation, your self-esteem, your connection with loved ones, all vanish for what seems like no reason. It’s not that I all of a sudden can’t remember any of my achievements or reasons for living, but rather that I can’t believe or feel them like I usually do. And when you don’t believe in those things, and can’t feel any kind of connection or warmth with your friends, partner or family, then it becomes incredibly difficult to fight the voice(s) of depression. 

Imagine your day to day life, as it is now, and then, all of a sudden, everything is in black and white. You don’t know why. You don’t know how to change it back. But you do know that everything used to be in colour. You can recall colours but you can’t see them anymore which makes it difficult, and then impossible to recall them after a while. You’re scared you’ll never see colour again. Everyone else is acting as though the world is still full of colour but you can’t see it. Time passes until you don’t believe colour exists anymore. At least not for you. And then, one day, the colour comes back. Sometimes it comes back all at once so you’re overwhelmed. Other times it gradually seeps in, taunting you. 

That’s a rather blunt analogy I’m afraid. What I’m trying to get across is the feeling of your whole perspective on the world suddenly changing. Now think of that quote, ‘your perception is your reality’, only your control over your perception feels non-existent. 

Of course, I’m well aware that I am just one person with a mood disorder, and that, though there are many similarities between people with the same illness, there are also big differences. So I’ve created a survey for people to fill out -anonymously if they wish- if they would like to contribute their experiences to the project. 

What I am aiming to do with this project is to try and portray -even if it’s just a little- what it’s like to experience these complete changes in perception. To try and show how it affects how you see yourself, other people and the world around you. How it changes your actions. How it changes you. 

I’m aware that this is a huge challenge but I am going to give it my best attempt and then keep trying! My hopes are that this project will help those who interact with people who suffer from mental illness (i.e. everyone) understand a little more. I’m hoping to encourage a bit more empathy for those people who can’t get out of bed -or haven’t showered in a week, or who keep cancelling those social events- due to mental illness. I’m hoping that this increase in empathy will come from loved ones, co-workers and the sufferers themselves, and will be based on more of an understanding of how debilitating mental illness can be. It may well evolve into something else, which I am all for. For just now though, if you would like to be involved, or have any questions or suggestions (both very welcome) please either e-mail me (ailsafineronphotography@gmail.com) or fill out this survey

Thank you very much for reading this. I hope you have a lovely day.