© Matthieu Zellweger /
Invisible Handicap – Bipolar Disorder
Then the doctor said it, after all these years of suffering, and I knew he was right when he said it and I was finally hoping to be treated properly, I had understood long ago that something was not quite right with me without knowing what or why except perhaps for those symbols that pursued me uninvited and the messages crowding my world not too sure where they were from really, but many told me so, and told me again that something perhaps wasn’t quite right with me, not that it really worried me but still, I was a bit desperate to be treated and to move on and live and I woke up in strange places at times, hearing millions of voices in my head, finding my disease to be almost beautiful in the dawn, dawn so early with ideas overflowing overwhelming waterfalling, but exhausting and frankly, the high periods and the sleepless nights in the whirlwind were so exhilarating that the cure would be a regret if it worked and downright scary if it left me stuck in the high, but after each high I paid so dearly because I wasted so much time in the tunnel oh so low, at the end of the day I did not choose to be this way believe it or not, it is only my inner wiring, what is wrong with me or is it really wrong who would decide anyway, what can I do about it except accepting the positives and the price to pay, the weirdness the happy moments the lift the creativity the sixth sense the fast brain faster faster still then the stillness so still so low the drag the drab so grey and void and the tablets daily tablets weekly monthly many more and many tablets more for the rest of my life:
“You have bipolar disorder”.
Bipolar disorder takes a heavy toll on the patients and their relatives. Many features associated with the disease (substance issues, mood swings) are not only stigmatizing, but also conducive to severe solitude. This project is about the disease, typical situations encountered by patients who oscillate between heavily medicalized reality, stability and moments of lost control.
During the course of this project, I shot in many different situations. It was important to me to show that the disease can lead to much suffering, delicate situations and general behavior, which society might find difficult to accept. I did however want to also stress that the disease can in some cases be stabilized so that patients can lead a fulfilling life, and dispel some misconceptions about bipolar disorder patients and show them in their daily reality, as could be anyone’s next door neighbor.
Apart from the “journalistic” part of the project, I also asked patients if they would agree to describe their manic phases in great detail to me, and to make a sort of a "portrait" of their inner mental space during those moments. In fact, several patients described to me how manic phases can also be enjoyable, while they last, with a stiff price to pay afterwards (depression).
This project mixes purely “journalistic” images and “portraits” of the inner mental space of the patients, based on the descriptions given by patients about their own visions during manic phases. The latter are based on a collaborative effort with the patients, long interviews, and careful selection of the elements, all deeply personal, entering into the images.
The oscillations between these images mirror the real-life mood oscillations undergone by patients and take the viewer on a roller-coaster journey through a roller-coaster disease.