“Every time I come back from a manic episode, it’s like I have to relearn and relive a lot of things and regain confidence. It’s so weird because when you’re going manic, you have all of that. I have that confidence, I have that assurance, I feel so alive and part of the world and connected. And then when I start going down, or at the end of my mania, it turns into something that’s a little bit more empty, and that’s where I really start fighting for those small wins, like to put a smile on someone’s face. For me, in order to regain my strength, I almost need other people to be happy around me. When you’re coming from a really bad depression, you’re coming from such a deep, dark place all of the sudden you kind of just feel this urge to want help people, because you know they go through the same things, maybe not in exactly the same way you do, but they do.”
Sam Pfieffer lives with Type I Bipolar Disorder. After experiencing a manic episode last spring that caused him to lose his job and apartment, crash his car and strain important relationships, he has been spending time trying to rebuild his life. Since he started experiencing mental illness as a teenager, he has recorded and collected his thoughts and feelings into writing. I worked with Sam to examine themes and details in his writing that emphasize how he feels during mania, depression, and everything in between.
This photo essay utilizes diptychs that pair Sam’s writing with a corresponding image.
Maddie Davis is a senior in photojournalism, currently studying abroad in Lyon, France. This photo essay was completed in the fall of 2018 for the JOURN 4980: The Picture Story and Photographic Essay course taught by Associate Professor Jackie Bell.
Updated: July 27, 2019