The self portrait, defined: A portrait of oneself done by oneself.
The self portrait, to me: painful, anxiety-inducing, therapeutic.
Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I experience more than the average amount of anxiety. Doctors have diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder, trichotillomania, insomnia and glossophobia; I have suffered countless panic attacks. I have quit jobs because of my anxiety. I have stayed in bed all day because of my anxiety. I have lost hundreds of thousands of hairs and months of sleep to anxiety.
I have tried anti-depressants, I have tried Xanax, I have tried talk therapy, hypnotherapy, and wearing hats. Most things don’t help at all. Some have helped a little. My tried and true opiates are exercise, my camera, new places, writing, and one on one conversations with a friend where we commiserate, using humor to pull ourselves out of the trenches. My less productive and cursed opiate is alcohol.
For all of my struggles, I do just fine. My anxiety, for the most part, doesn’t keep me from being a functional person in the world, and I am grateful that it is not worse. My anxiety is internalized: I have spent a lifetime mastering the act of normalcy. My insides may be on fire, while my outsides appear composed, or at least passably comfortable.
Because of this, I am lonely. I have always had many friends, but few people know me. I often joke that I hate myself, but this is unfortunately not a joke, and something I have tried hard to work on as of late. It’s a habit, something I cultivated very young, and is very hard to break.
When I sat down yesterday to take a picture of my own head, I experienced the gamut of Sasha hate speech. “This is stupid. You’re stupid. Taking your own picture is narcissistic and pointless. What are you doing with your mouth. You look like an asshole.” Etc etc. I was fixated on the first signs of age that have showed up on my face, the zit on my chin, my hair desperately needing a trim. I felt like crying. I laughed instead, alone in my apartment, my two cats watching me. I always said I would become a crazy cat lady. I didn’t know it would happen at 30.
Then slowly, the critical thoughts stopped, and were replaced by quiet focus. The light improved. I liked an image.
I opened the aperture, moved the tripod closer and sat up straight.