Painting My Mask

By September 10, 2019Depression, Photography

Three years ago, my journey with depression began. I lost my job, my dream, the revolution, and hope. I saw my friends die while others were arrested. We followed them between police stations, and some were imprisoned for years. I met many people who hurt me and consumed me endlessly. I was an animal rescuer, I tried to save as many animals as I could, but many died in my arms while I sat helplessly; it was a lot of pressure and stress to deal with, but still, I got up and continued everything.” the show must go on. they keep telling us, right?

I was helpless as I felt and saw all of this happen to me but didn’t know what to do — added to that my best friend Marwa died. I watched her wither away; it was a terrible feeling to be helpless, unable to help the ones I love and care about. It was like my back was broken. Marwa’s death tore me because she was my support, the one who took care of me and contained me. She was the one who encouraged me to seek treatment. Marwa’s death took away my hope, and I didn’t want to continue, I wanted everything to stop, and I wanted my mind and my heart to stop. I felt like my heart couldn’t take more years of trying and losing.
After Marwa’s death, I started treatment and my journey of recovery from anxiety, deep depression, and PTSD.
I am grateful to God and the people whom I have met and those who have supported me. Sadly, depression is a chronic disease that lies hidden and appears when we aren’t paying attention. I believe in the power and importance of storytelling for myself and those who will read my words. My story might encourage someone to ask for help or help someone feel that they are not alone, and then they can decide to tell their story. I am telling my story because the illness has never been shame or something that we should hide. To recover from depression, you need all the support, sympathy, and help from your surroundings. I only started feeling better after I started telling my story. As part of my recovery journey, I decided to express myself through pictures. Every picture symbolizes my journey with the disease and recovery. Photography helped me to tell my story without speaking because words have been and still heavy for me like a weight dragging me down. Today, I will start with a very emotional story for me.

1. The Mask

Every day, I tried to paint a mask, every minute, every second, to hide my feelings. I didn’t want people to notice then ask how I was because my heart and tongue were heavy. I was afraid to talk, fearful that no one would understand me or that they would start comparing our problems. I was trying to fool myself, make myself feel better, and pretend everything is fine. It will pass. I kept telling myself. Everything will be fine. I didn’t know how or when that would happen. I just hoped that something would happen.

— Habiba Abdelaal


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The One Project is a community of passionate creatives, advocates and caring friends or family members working to support each other and change the conversation around mental health issues like depression, anxiety and more with therapeutic photography.

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