9 photos that document 7 years of mental illness in a really powerful way.

Melissa Spitz's mother was institutionalized for the first time when Melissa was 6 years old.

Back then, Mrs. Spitz had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and as the years went by, her mental health continued to decline. She worked her way through a hysterectomy and cancer treatment, which led to alcohol abuse, a prescription pill problem, and, eventually, a divorce from Spitz's father.

"I was actually extremely fortunate and started seeing a therapist when I was 13. It was initially to deal with my mother’s recent cancer diagnosis, but naturally a lot came up," Spitz said. "As a kid it was chaos and nothing made sense. I empathize with her a lot more, but I really feel as if I am still putting all the pieces back together."


"The last time Dad remembers Mom being 'Normal,' Bumbershoot, Seattle, 1994." All photos by Melissa Spitz/You Have Nothing to Worry About, used with permission.

After her parents' divorce, Spitz turned to photography as a coping mechanism. But it wasn't until she got to art school that she turned the lens on her own mother.

One of Spitz's undergraduate photography projects at the University of Missouri involved documenting an element of her private life for class. There was no question that she'd be heading home to immortalize her mother's fragile state.

"By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response," she explained in her artist statement. "The images function like an ongoing conversation."

True to her mother's bipolar diagnosis, the resulting photo series, "You Have Nothing to Worry About," depicts a life of stark binary contrasts.

Spitz shoots candids as well as posed photos. Some images upset; others encourage. Some show the good parts of her relationship with her mother, and some show the bad.

Spitz passed the class, of course. But seven years later, she still hasn't finished the project. In fact, she plans to keep documenting her mother's struggle with mental illness as long as she's alive — for her mother's sake and for her own.

"Picture at home, 2015."

"It can be exhausting, but it is extremely cathartic," Spitz said.  "I really believe every image is just as much an image of me as it is of her."

"How can it not be?"

"We are both willing participants and both share the highs and lows of our relationship," she added.

"Mom doing her make-up, 2016."

Spitz eventually uploaded her photos to Instagram and found that the framed and fractured feel of the feed actually enhanced the experience of viewing the photos.

"I decided to try something new and started slicing my images and building these grids. It felt like the perfect opportunity to think about a social media platform in a different way," she explained.

The scattered chronology, varying photo sizes, and fragmented images that resulted made the photo series even more reflective of her mother's condition and their relationship.

A screengrab of Spitz's Instagram feed, showing a collage of the first portrait she took in 2009 (below) and shots from an exhibition where she displayed her photo "Quiet Please, 2016" in a similar fashion.

Instagram has also helped her vivid images to reach a wider audience — many of whom deal with similar problems.

Spitz's photographs don't just put the spotlight on her mother. They've also contributed to the larger conversation about mental health and helped to encourage people to share their own stories, often in the comments of her Instagram page.

"I have always wanted mental health to be treated the same way as physical ailments and that support for family members would be more readily available," Spitz said. "I hope my body of work and Instagram can be a small champion of this support system."

"Note from Adam to Mom, 2012," which inspired the name of the photo series.

Spitz has captured countless moments of bleak, honest beauty on camera. But she's seen her share of frights as well.

There are photos in the series of her mother's continued panic attacks, for example. Other photos show the huge regime of pills her mother relies on for stability and a B.B. gun, which her mother keeps "for protection."

"My brother and I have come to terms with the harsh reality that one day we will most likely be survivors of a suicide. It is our biggest fear," Spitz wrote in one particularly harrowing post, accompanying an image of her mother sprawled out on the carpet. She explained:

"When I used to live at home I hated unlocking the door, I constantly imagined her dead. As a kid I found my Mom laying on the kitchen floor, or bathroom floor multiple times. I remember her looking at me once and asking, 'Where’s Melissa?' She was so out if she couldn’t even recognize my face… I was 16."

Photography makes it easier for Spitz to cope and understand her mother. But it can't cure her mother's illness.

For all her struggles, her mother is moved by the power of her daughter's work — and she hopes that it can help other people, too.

"If I can help one person not feel alone, I am glad I’ve shared my story," her mother said.

When Spitz first embarked on her photographic journey, her mother was still living in the house that she had owned with her ex-husband and was still drinking heavily. But she was given a new voice just from seeing herself through her daughter's eyes. That empowerment helped lead her to quit drinking and to move into a new apartment.

Spitz's relationship with her mother is just one story of life with mental illness. But her willingness to share that hard story with the world is really important.

Not every case of bipolar disorder — or of difficult-but-loving mother-daughter relationships — looks the same. Even Spitz herself is careful to point out that her work is not intended as a blanket statement on mental health overall.

But at a time when mental illness is still constantly stigmatized, stories like these can open people's eyes and remind us that every family has their struggles and that everyone deserves compassion and support.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Terence Power / TikTok

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It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

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