In recent years, we have been witnessing an undeniable shift in how we look at and talk about mental health in our culture. Yet, the stigma lingers as we fear that opening up will mean losing something–be it our image, respect, job opportunities, and so on. After all, opening that door means letting people in on your most intimate feelings and thoughts, some of which might be hard to admit even to ourselves.
I have known Juan Flores since college–we went to design school together. He studied design yet had a passion for photography, and I had the incredible pleasure of witnessing him find his voice in his medium and become a living confirmation that you can indeed make your dreams come true through passion and hard work. Today, Juan is an Alpha Imaging Collective member for Sony. He faces numerous challenges with mental health and is very open about it on his primary platform,–Instagram–where he has over 40k followers. I asked Juan to share how the decision to speak out on such a public platform came about and what this experience has taught him…
JF: “When the severe depression hit me this past winter, the challenge on how to manage my life became quite difficult. I wanted to share this personal aspect of my life because if someone else were in a similar situation to me, I would hope this could help them. In the same breath, the updates on social are when I feel comfortable with the topic at hand. To this day, discussions about mental health can be exhausting due to the energy to speak about the matter and to respond to people.
Before going public on this topic, I searched for a therapist. Certain warning signs started to become stronger and I knew I needed help or I was heading down the same path as I did over ten years ago when I attempted suicide. When navigating the path to a therapist, I chose the online format because I did not have the energy to get up and see a therapist. With many options out there, I was able to have therapy come to me.
One of the main criteria I had for a therapist was a focus on art therapy. The severe depression dealt a massive blow to my joy of photography and other creative endeavors; I wanted someone who would guide me to find it again. Photography has taught me so much over the short time we have had together that I did not want to lose it entirely. Therapy has done wonders for me in realizing oncoming triggers, overcoming the mental challenges, and managing my life better with depression and anxiety.
Upon sharing my visual journey on Instagram, I made an effort to pair the photo with the topic. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. I understand and I am grateful for the experience,–at least what my mind will allow some days,–such a support system; others may not have that kind of positive reinforcement. I hope that someone in a similar situation may see all the captions and the comments and hopefully know that people care about them.
One thing that surprised me throughout this journey is that the interaction with people has immensely helped me. I have had private conversations with multiple people in different stages of their lives, and we discuss things as far as energy levels, thoughts, feelings, healing methods, etc. that one may experience with depression and anxiety. There is a level of comfort from those vulnerable discussions that allow me to feel that I am not alone.”
Interviewed by Ana Zukova, Content Director for AIGA Los Angeles.