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Daughter Documents Bipolar Disorder in Photos for 7 Years

MELISSA SPITZ “Mom’s New Make-Up,” 2014

“Mom’s New Make-Up,” 2014

People do incredible things in the world. Who would imagine anyone would document bipolar disorder in photos for seven years? Well, that is exactly what Melissa Spitz did.

Her mother Deborah was placed under surveillance for bipolar disorder when she was just six. Today a renowned photographer, Spitz recounted to the Huffington Post how her mother seriously abused prescription medications.

She explained that instead of drifting away from the distress she would likely have received from her mother, she decided to go closer to her, with the help of her camera.

It all started like an assignment

An art student of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Melissa Spitz started taking snapshots of her mother in her home. That was in 2009. Initially, these photographs were part of an open-ended assignment where students were asked to tell a story on one aspect of their private life. The best aspect she could think of was her mother’s bipolar disorder. According to Spitz, “the camera became a way to expose while simultaneously hiding.” It exposed her mother’s situation, but she hid her face with the camera instead of watching directly what was happening before her.

Spitz continued taking the photos. Seven years later, her photographs make up a series known as “You Have Nothing To Worry About.” She uploads these photos regularly on Instagram and it has become something enjoyed by many. The series actually tells the story of Debora’s patchy relationship with her daughter. She did not only suffer from bipolar disorder, she was also diagnosed with cancer and was a drug addict.

The photography series actually speaks of the difficult situation Spitz, but especially her mother, must have gone through. From photos showing her face painted in brash colors to her sitting on the floor, hands covering her face and surrounded by painful notes scribbled out, the series depicts the true picture of a person suffering from bipolar disorder. Some of these notes include “I worry about everything,” “I want to die,” “I love myself I hate myself,” “I want to live.” These go a long way to show just how gruesome the condition must have been.

The process led to a positive change

Spitz’s mother recovered from her condition. She quit drinking and said seeing herself in her daughter’s photographs motivated her to do so. Spitz herself noted that her greatest challenge was her mother’s passion for the project. Deborah continuously demanded that the very painful moments be documented. Today, they are engraved in Spitz’s memory. The project led to a positive change.


Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

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  • Chad Barker

    Beautiful work, Melissa Spitz. As someone with Bipolar Disorder, I appreciate you and your mother sharing. Thank you.