Student Voices: Finding Beauty in Pain

By Isabelle, University of Connecticut Student

There is a “behind closed doors” aspect to everyone’s life. A lot of the time, that part of people’s life revolves around their internal relationship with mental health. Anxiety and depression in particular are prominent in today’s society and while we’re making progress, we’re still not talking about these experiences enough. I can speak from personal experience that there is shame that comes with feelings of anxiety and depression when there shouldn’t be.

That is why I created my body of work “Self.” The idea behind this collection of photographs is to shed light on the emotions of someone living with anxiety and depression. While there is so much pain, there is also immense beauty in that struggle because we are able to grow from those experiences and learn what it is to be human and vulnerable. Through my photo series, I wanted to capture the feelings of anxiety, panic, vulnerability and isolation so often felt.

In these photographs, the cloth is representing that cloud of misery, seemingly impossible to escape, and that horrible feeling of suffocating during a panic attack.

Taking these photographs was an emotional journey. Not only the act of taking the photos and channeling the emotions that I so often try to hide, but to look at them after and feel all of those things come rushing to the surface. I realized after taking the photos that it was healing in a way because I was able to confront those pains and feelings and see them in a new, beautiful light. Exhibiting them to other people was difficult as I was worried there would be judgement and perhaps a lack of understanding in an artistic sense. However, after showing them to a few people I realized how amazing it felt to have my story heard and to relate to others. I remember a moment in which I showed these photos to a classmate and she thanked me. She thanked me for sharing the struggle so often hidden from the world and for letting her feel less alone. This is exactly why I feel so strongly about continuing this project and continuing to advocate for this topic.

I am currently working on another artistic project that embodies living with anxiety and depression. I am interviewing people – primarily college students – to learn about their internal hardships and how it affects their lives. I am using chosen quotes from their interviews to fuel a collection of paintings. For this project, as well as my project “Self,” I wanted to capture the beauty that lies in the struggles of these individuals and show others that it is okay to feel lost, overwhelmed and so many other things.

The topic of mental health is one that I am extremely passionate about, especially because I can relate to it. Creating a body of work that combines my own struggles with those of so many others is a concept I am very excited about and I can only hope that my work emulates my message.

You can check out my website at or follow me on instagram at @ic_artandphoto. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at [email protected]!

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