For 21-year-old photographer Edward Honaker, experiencing depression and anxiety felt like being at war with his brain.
"All I knew is that I became bad at the things I used to be good at, and I didn't know why," he told The Huffington Post. "Your mind is who you are, and when it doesn't work properly, it's scary."
It was only after his diagnosis two years ago that Honaker began to understand what was going on in his mind. That's when he reached for his camera to turn his emotions into something tangible. The result is a series of self-portraits that capture his personal experience with depression.
"It's kind of hard to feel any kind of emotion when you're depressed, and I think good art can definitely move people," he said.
Honaker hopes his project will inspire others to not only have a conversation about mental illness, but push them to be more accepting of those who struggle with it.
"When I was making the portfolio, I asked myself if I was the kind of person whom others would feel comfortable coming to if they were going through a difficult time and needed someone to talk to," he explained. "Truthfully, at the time, I don't think I was. I've still got quite a ways to go, but the whole experience made me a lot more patient and empathetic towards others."
The artist's openness is particularly important when it comes to mental health stigma and men, given that men are more likely not to speak up if they're having thoughts of suicide.
Approximately 6 million American men experience depression each year.
"I think a really helpful way to end the stigma surrounding mental illness is to be there for others who might be suffering," he stressed. "You never really know what others may be going through so all you can really do is be kind and nonjudgemental."
Take a look at Honaker's series of mental illness portraits below. They're a powerful reminder that while each individual's experience with depression is personal, the feelings can be universal.
This post is part of ShameOver: It's Time To Talk About Men's Mental Health, a HuffPost Healthy Living editorial initiative that aims reclaim what it means to "be strong" by addressing the stigma men face in disclosing and seeking support for mental health issues. Each week we'll share features and personal stories about men and their caregivers as it relates to suicide, mental illness and emotional well-being. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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