The Hidden & Visible Worlds of People Living With Mental Illness

Liz Obert: Dualities looks at the hidden and visible worlds of people living with mental illness

The Secret Dual Lives of People Living With Mental Illness

For many years, Liz Obert woke up, got dressed, went to work, and acted as if everything was fine. Once she returned home, however, she found herself lying around depressed, feeling hopeless and full of dread. Diagnosed in her early 20s with depression, Obert said she tried therapy and medication, but nothing seemed to work until around five years ago when a psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar II disorder and put her on mood stabilizers. Although she’s had a few medication tweaks since then—“that’s kind of the life of someone who has bipolar”—Obert said she has for the most part been in a good place. Obert feels the dual life she led for so long isn’t unique for people who suffer from mental illnesses and who “must mask their symptoms in order to function in the outside world.” In 2013, she decided to begin a series that dealt with the realities of what it means to put on a brave face while simultaneously coping with forms of depression. Starting with herself, Obert took two photos: one that showed the person she chooses to present to the world, and a second portrait that presented an image of how she existed behind closed doors when feeling depressed. “I hope to give a glimpse to the viewer about the internal lives of people who struggle with disorders that are often misunderstood,” she wrote in an artist statement about the series “Dualities.”

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