Family

What does anxiety feel like? These 12 haunting photos sum it up.

Showing what our feelings look like is no small task. This photographer got it right.

What does anxiety feel like? These 12 haunting photos sum it up.

Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.


It was Crawford's senior year in college. She decided to make herself the central subject of her thesis. She became determined to realistically capture the crippling effects of her anxiety with her "My Anxious Heart" photo series.

"I just firmly believe that the stigma with mental illness needs to be eliminated," Crawford says.

She hopes the series will help others who may be struggling with anxiety. She wants people to know they're not alone.

These haunting photos are also meant to encourage those suffering with anxiety to reach out to others who perhaps don't understand what anxiety feels like. The more we can understand each other, the more we can help each other out.

Here again are Crawford's 12  poignant self-portraits and captions that show what anxiety feels like for her:

1. "They keep telling me to breathe. I can feel my chest moving up and down. Up and down. Up and down. But why does it feel like I’m suffocating? I hold my hand under my nose, making sure there is air. I still can’t breathe."

All images by Katie Joy Crawford, featured with permission.

2. "My head is filling with helium. Focus is fading. Such a small decision to make. Such an easy question to answer. My mind isn’t letting me. It’s like a thousand circuits are all crossing at once."

3. "It’s strange — in the pit of your stomach. It’s like when you’re swimming and you want to put your feet down but the water is deeper than you thought. You can’t touch the bottom and your heart skips a beat."

4. "You were created for me and by me. You were created for my seclusion. You were created by venomous defense. You are made of fear and lies. Fear of unrequited promises and losing trust so seldom given. You’ve been forming my entire life. Stronger and stronger."

5. "A glass of water isn’t heavy. It’s almost mindless when you have to pick one up. But what if you couldn’t empty it or set it down? What if you had to support its weight for days … months … years? The weight doesn’t change, but the burden does. At a certain point, you can’t remember how light it used to seem. Sometimes it takes everything in you to pretend it isn’t there. And sometimes, you just have to let it fall."

6. "A captive of my own mind. The instigator of my own thoughts. The more I think, the worse it gets. The less I think, the worse it gets. Breathe. Just breathe. Drift. It’ll ease soon."

7. "I’m afraid to live and i’m afraid to die. What a way to exist."

8. "I was scared of sleeping. I felt the most raw panic in complete darkness. Actually, complete darkness wasn’t scary. It was that little bit of light that would cast a shadow — a terrifying shadow."

9. "No matter how much I resist, it’ll always be right here desperate to hold me, cover me, break down with me. Each day I fight it, “You’re not good for me and you never will be." But there it is waiting for me when I wake up and eager to hold me as I sleep. It takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless."

10. "Depression is when you can’t feel at all. Anxiety is when you feel too much. Having both is a constant war within your own mind. Having both means never winning."

11. "Cuts so deep it’s like they’re never going to heal. Pain so real, it’s almost unbearable. I’ve become this … this cut, this wound. All I know is this same pain; sharp breath, empty eyes, shaky hands. If it’s so painful, why let it continue? Unless … maybe it’s all that you know."

12. "Numb feeling. How oxymoronic. How fitting. Can you actually feel numb? Or is it the inability to feel? Am I so used to being numb that i’ve equated it to an actual feeling?"

"I've had a lot of people say that my photographs are too beautiful for what anxiety actually is. That's OK to feel that way, I think they are too! I didn't set out to make it look like the monster I felt," Crawford says. "I wanted clean and simple explanations. I wanted them to almost look numbing, because that's where I was."

Crawford goes to therapy once a week. And she's not ashamed of that. She's also not ashamed to admit that she sits in her car each time, deciding whether she'll attend her appointment or not.

She ultimately does go in and feels better every time. "It's like this thing you've been battling alone is finally being defeated in some way," Crawford says.

The process of creating these deeply literal photographs helped Crawford identify her fear and figure out what led to her anxiety attacks. Although she didn't realize it at the time, she was developing new coping skills even while shooting these self-portraits.

It's important to understand that everyone is struggling with something. We're never alone, no matter how lonely we feel.

"Get help. Always get help," Crawford says. "There are so many resources out there. There is no reason to be ashamed that you need help. If mental illness was treated like physical illness, there would be no more stigma."

By putting her struggles with anxiety out there for the world to see, Crawford is able to help others. She says that feeling alone has changed the way she lives her life.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
True

It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

"Toy Story 2" got deleted and backups weren't working. Whoops.

A newborn baby saving an entire animated film production from unprecedented disaster? Sounds a bit like the plot of a Pixar short, doesn't it?

Something (sort of) like that actually did happen during the making of "Toy Story 2." (There are a several retellings of the story out there, from an in-depth interview on The Next Web to the simplified, animated version in the "Toy Story 2" extras shown below.)

Here's a basic rundown of what happened:

The film was well underway when an unnamed Pixar employee who was trying to delete unneeded files accidentally applied the "remove" command to the root files of the film. Suddenly, things started disappearing. Woody's hat. Then his boots. Then Woody himself.

Pixar folks watched characters and sequences disappear in front of their eyes. Obviously, this was … not good.

Oren Jacob, the associate technical director of the film, got on the horn to the systems crew with a panicked "Pull the plug!" They did. Were they able to stop the bleed? Nope, 90% of the movie was gone. Surely there was a backup system, though, right?

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!