The Mental Health Awareness Project

People suffering mental health issues often look perfectly happy and healthy, yet this facade can mask a destructive darkness. Jayde Helena invited a group of models from Melbourne work on a project, allowing them to visually interpret their struggles and share their stories of progress. These are their images and their stories interpreting the growth and change in their lives.

Models

Many thanks also to the MUA's on this project Bexsta and Julz.

Bexta

Julz

Jayde - Bipolar

MUA: Julz (the light side) Jayde (the dark side)

MUA: Julz

MUA: Julz

I was diagnosed as bipolar at age 15, after a year of self harm, but the medication made everything worse. The first changes was just how numb I became. You knew within two hours of me being awake if I didn't take my medication. If I did not then I would I laugh, hard, uncontrollably so and I hit lows. Real low ... suicidal thoughts low. If I wasn't numb the meds weren’t working.

I felt like I wasn't allowed to feel anything except a void.

Fast forward 3 months and the weight gain began - right at the start of puberty. My year 10 formal dress was a size 10 but by year 12 I had ballooned out to size 22. I'd been hating life since. I didn't do anything after year 12.

I lost my baby brother and that was it.

By 19 I was done. Suicide attempt number who knows how many by now, and my moods were worse. I didn't leave the house and I slept all day.

My mum never knew which Jayde was coming out in the morning. Angry, sad, numb or just a girl who was getting bigger and sicker. It seemed that the closer I came to people the quicker they left, told me I was crazy, or they died.

When I was five years into my medications I hit 130 kilos. With a liver disease, a temper that made fire seem luke-warm and a mood swing quicker than you can turn your head. I felt insane.

I stopped taking my medication.

My suicidal thoughts, my evil thoughts eased, the weight dropped but the swings in my personality and moods got worse. It was now anger or happy. I lost more people. I let people in. I let them see my crazy and run if they wanted. I accepted it and that made everything easier.

I'm still learning to handle my moods, but it's easier now than ever before, and I feel good. Even on my bad days, bad hour, or just bad minutes. I dress on my mood. Which is confusing because gothic has the misconception of being demonic and depressed. I like when people think I’m weird. I love it when they see me the next day and I look like a Disney princess or an anime character as well. I feel happiest in black, and yes I’m weird. I know.

Kalli - Migraines

HMUA: Bexsta

HMUA: Bexsta

HMUA: Bexsta

I have dealt with the diagnosed medical condition of Chronic Migraine since I was 16, going on 9 years. I have seen countless doctors and specialists, testing almost every part of my body to find a cause. As of today, there has been no discovery on the direct cause of my migraines.

The pain is incomparable to anything I have ever felt in my life. Oftentimes it begins with something called an aura. This is where I have visual or aural disturbances, which can act like a warning to let me know a migraine is coming. Sometimes, I get no warning and it hits like a thunderclap. Once the pain begins, it typically increases in severity, sometimes fast, sometimes gradually. The pain can render me useless in my eyes, in that I can't even stand, let alone be a productive member of society. There are times when I genuinely believed it would be better for me to commit suicide than continue with the pain. It rips through my head, searing and burning. The pain phase can last anywhere from a few hours to weeks on end. It's hard. After this phase comes the postdrome, or migraine hangover. I become lethargic, unable to focus, moody, depressed. And it's easy to see why, having just come down from agonising pain.

This cycle repeats on the regular, as often as everyday for me. It's no surprise that when you are faced with the immense pain that I have, that you want it to stop, and you will do whatever it takes. I have turned to medication. All prescribed, all advised by my doctor. Standard Panadol and ibuprofen does nothing for me anymore, so I turn to codeine, opioids, and marijuana. It gets scary when you realise that you're taking Endone for no real reason other than you want to feel good. "My head doesn't hurt now, but I better take it anyway... just in case." It becomes a slippery slope, and once you are there, it's hard to come back from it. The issue I face is that I truly rely on Endone and Codeine to function as a member of society, considering the fact that Marijuana is still not legal in Australia, even for medical use. I can take as many dangerous drugs as I want, but I cannot take a natural product legally that improves my symptoms dramatically.

It's a fight, and one that is not over yet. But knowing that I am strong enough to get through the pain of a migraine with a support network around me is all that matters. I will push through, I will fight, and I will be happy.

Casey

MUA: Julz

MUA: Julz

MUA: Julz

I've never talked openly about what I am going through and if I am honest, I am still not ready to. So in taking this very first step, here I am, visualised as the girl I think people will see, and the innocent, young woman that I am trying to be.

Esther - Trichotillomania

MUA: Bexsta

MUA: Julz

Trichotillomania is a little known but very much real condition. I remember the exact moment that trich started for me. I was in year 8, sitting in English class in the Indonesian classroom at my old high school with my teacher Mr Thompson. I don’t remember pulling out the hair, all I know was that between my fingers was a long brown hair with a long, intact follicle capping the end of the hair. It was disgusting, yet I found myself fixated on this tube-shaped sheath.

I have spent hours sitting on the couch, or on the heater on the floor in my front room pulling the hairs from my head. The short, coarse, curly, dark hairs that just ‘don’t quite fit in’. And it wasn’t just my head either, anywhere there was hair, there was something to pull at.

In year 9, during drama class, a girl pointed out to me that I had a bald patch right hand side of my head, where my forehead meets the hair line. I was mortified. Finally my sickening illness had reared it’s ugly head, and what could I say to justify it?

Although some of the hair has grown back now, I pulled to the point where the hairs are thin and light. I still feel self conscious about tying my hair back today, about modelling in side profile. I still feel embarrassed telling people about the conditions I have, and watching their face as they try to conceal what their thoughts are, be they disbelief, disgust, curiousity or just the question of ‘why’?

I’ve come a long way in the 5 or so years that I’ve had this condition. Been through CBT and DBT and talk therapy and the benzos and the SSRIs and the NAC. I’m not perfect yet, who is, but every time I raise a hand to my head and resist the urge to pull a hair, that to me is a victory. And for now, that’s enough for me.

Katey - Self Harm

MUA + SFX: Julz

HMUA: Bexsta

HMUA: Bexsta

These are the exact pair I would use to self-harm. In those teenage years I struggled so much that (amongst everything) I also picked up my scissors and if I said it did not help back then, in that instance, I would be lying. The emotional and mental collapse was halted at least for a minute to the physical state and the biggest surrounding mindset of everything was my fault: their happiness or depression was my responsibility from a young age.

Eventually I did stop because I could not fill that hole by causing more harm to myself, in turn to hurting everyone I loved around me. They still live in my room and I’ve never mentioned the journey before but, I now choose to create, to let go and to keep going.

Noëlle - Dysmorphia

HMUA: Julz

HMUA: Julz

“True, nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am, but why will say that I am mad?! The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them.” - Edgar Allan Poe.


Body Dysmorphia is like seeing oneself through a cracked funhouse mirror, with every piece exaggerated and distorted in proportion. You cannot piece together a true vision of yourself, but merely guess at the final form; photographs become trace evidence as you don’t trust what blatantly contradicts your own eyes. Those around you look perfect, wonderful, normal in their beautiful diversity as you feel monstrous, a Quasimodo, half-formed and forever desperate to win a rigged game. I will never stop scrambling to improve parts that are probably just fine - but even if your mirror is cracked, it’s the person in it that you’ve gotta make happy.