ENDING THE STIGMA: AMBER'S STORY
A Wife and Mother Living with Bipolar I Disorder
This is Amber. This is how I will always remember her. I met Amber so long ago, that I've forgotten that we weren't always friends growing up. We connected immediately and for a good portion of our lives, did so much together that some people thought we were sisters. I've seen her through the birth of a child, getting married (I was the witness at the small courthouse ceremony to her first husband who would later prove to be not what he said he was), and the crushing defeat of divorce. I knew her inside and out.
Except, I didn't. I had no idea until many years later that Amber was carrying around a secret that she couldn't tell anyone. Behind closed doors she was in her own private hell. That hell had been going on every since she was a pre-teen.
When Amber found out about my project, she reached out to me to tell me she wanted to be a part of it. We conversed over text, phone, and messenger collaborating over and over on how we would tell this story. We talked about how this was to be a healing moment for her. She needed to get this out there. She was ready to face all of it head on and let the chips fall where they may.
Before I flew to Nebraska, I asked her to sit down and do two things for me. The first thing I asked her to do was draw what she thought the inside of her brain looked like. This is what she drew.
We talked about how much anger and hate was inside of her brain. It was the first time she had ever drawn something like this and could visualize what was going on inside of her head.
The second thing I had her do was describe places that were good for her, that made her happy and places that were not so happy and even triggers for her. This is what she wrote:
I traveled to see Amber in November of 2015. I asked her to meet with me in my hotel room. With a single lamp and just my camera rolling we discussed everything that had happened in the last couple years when her disorder was at its worst. After filming for a while, we went to her old neighborhood, to Lasting Hope where she sought treatment, and to visit with her family.
ABOUT HER KIDS
ABOUT HER HUSBAND
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW
At some point in this project, Amber and I both wanted to make it longer, make it better. Then we both realized it couldn't get any better, that this was as open as she could get. Amber has a sincere desire to be honest each day, to be a source of comfort and strength to others just like her. I think she has achieved that.
One thing we all must keep in mind is that this story, Amber's story, much like the other stories of millions of people living with mental health disorders, is not over. It is never over. Their lives will always be in a constant state of limbo. Just like Amber, it is a matter of taking it all minute by minute.
EMOTIONALLY HONEST STORYTELLING
Photography, Mixed-Media, and Poetry
© TRACY BARBOUR 2018
NYC & BEYOND