A Bipolar Mother And Her Change In 7 Years Photographed!

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“I hope that I show an honest record of my personal situation with a mentally ill, substance-abusing parent.”

When Melissa Spitz was 6-years-old, her mother Deborah was institutionalized by the state of Washington as a result of her bipolar disorder. In 2009, Spitz ― then an art student at the University of Missouri in Columbia ― began taking photographs of her mother in her home.

You have nothing to worry about mom: A bipolar mother.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/meli...

Here is Spitz and his mother Deborah's struggle

“Her life continued on a downward spiral after that,” Spitz wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “A hysterectomy, followed by a cancer diagnosis, a full round of chemotherapy and radiation, on top of her pre-existing mental health issues.”

Throughout the treatment, Deborah drank and abused prescription pills heavily. “This eventually led to my parent's divorce,” Spitz recalled.

You Have Nothing To Worry About

Such a traumatic home life might, you could imagine, lead a child to distance herself from all the anguish, or at least look away. Spitz, however, decided to look closer ― with the help of her camera. 

Seven years later, these photographs make up the ongoing series “You Have Nothing To Worry About,” which Spitz uploads constantly to Instagram.

She started as homework.

Originally, the series was part of an open-ended photography assignment inviting students to document an element of their private lives. Spitz knew she wanted to go home for the project.

“Mom’s New Make-Up”

In one photograph, titled “Mom’s New Make-Up,” Deborah stares straight at the camera, her face painted up in brash colors and uneven shapes, like a little girl who just raided her mother’s makeup drawer.

''I am what I am''

In another, called “I am what I am,” Deborah sits on the floor, her hands covering her face, surrounded by neon post-its with scribbled notes both painful and uplifting. “I worry about everything,” one says. “I want to die,” reads another. “I love myself I hate myself.” “I want to live.”

''She is taking advantage of her moms situation''

Spitz described her photographic process as casual ― time spent working is time spent hanging out with mom. Toward the beginning of the series, Deborah was inebriated much of the time, leading her daughter to worry about whether or not her project veered into the realm of exploitation. Strangers often write to Spitz voicing similar complaints. Deborah has since, however, quit drinking, and in fact, claims it was seeing herself in Spitz’s photographs that pushed her to change.

Spitz has received her fair share of criticism and praise.

Still, Spitz realizes the importance of endowing her mother with this power, of using her camera to make her feel like a valued human being and even a star. When Deborah is pictured with bruises and scrapes, gazing adrift into the distance, it’s easy to imagine that Spitz herself is just as wounded, just as lost. 

Since beginning the series, Spitz has received her fair share of criticism and praise. But it’s those who reach out sharing similar experiences that really leave their mark.

Painful memories have taken over Spitz's memory.

In an interview with Broadly, Spitz expanded upon the ways her mother has, at times, steered the direction of the series. “Sometimes I feel like the work gets very sugarcoated because she is not a victim,” Spitz said. “She likes to be photographed and she likes to do these woe-is-me things and I think that’s why she loves doing the project because she gets to be at this stage. There is so much power in that.”

Although for the most part Spitz herself remains behind the camera, the connection between her and her mother is tangible.

Spitz hopes to continue her series for as long as she and her mother are both able, hopefully culminating with an exhibition spanning a decade of work. In the meantime, Spitz hopes her photos speak sharply and precisely, without condemning her mother or sugarcoating the details. “I hope that I show an honest record of my personal situation with a mentally ill, substance-abusing parent,” she said.

Family portrait might become an exhibition.

Spitz hopes to continue her series for as long as she and her mother are both able, hopefully culminating with an exhibition spanning a decade of work.

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