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Despite awareness months and ad campaigns to destigmatize it, many find mental health care to be a source of shame. Chicago-based artist and photographer Biance M.S. Alebiosu is trying to change that with “Chrysalis,” an original photo series about how people take care of their minds. Through photos and interviews with local Black artists, the queer, Nigerian-American student at Chicago State University invites viewers into a process she says is “inherently about vulnerability.” 

In high school, Alebiosu was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Photography became a means of escape, helping her to cope with overstimulation. Well-meaning people would give her tips on mindfulness, guided meditation and yoga, but those practices just didn’t work for her. Instead, she was plagued by questions like, “Why can’t I function like so-and-so? How can they hold onto to their joy for so long? Why can’t I be normal for once?” 

Due to the nature of her healing process, or as a consequence of it, Alebiosu’s photography is “purely biographical,” facing in others what she has explored internally. The project’s title is drawn from one definition of the word chrysalis: “a preparatory or transitional state.” 

“In practicing self-care, there’s continuous growth within yourself and in how you empathize with people around you,” says Alebiosu. “There isn’t a final stage, per se, to me and I feel like the title is very fitting. It’s the check-ins with yourself, it’s knowing when you should seek professional medical assistance and understanding your mind, body and spirit connection.”

Martín Xavi Macías is a journalist and digital media educator with a background in urban planning and social justice. You can follow him on Twitter @mxm_chi.

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    “Self care is a very tactile experience for me,” says Sadiqua Iman, a performing artist, holistic health practitioner and artistic director of Earth Pearl Collective. “Feeling the warmth in my hands brings me back to life, so to speak.” Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    Sidiqua Iman, who sometimes performs in drag as Namii the Femme-Daddy-Fancy Boi, recently moved from Chicago to Seattle. Follow them on Twitter at @SadiquaIman and learn more on sadiquaiman.com. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “I define self care as the action of being attentive to ones mind, body and spirit with the goal of refreshing, replenishing or healing,” says Chicago engineer and MC Jordan “DXTR” Holmes. ”I definitely don’t lend as much energy into things that I do not feel are fruitful. I limit social media inputs, personalities and general conversations that are toxin-filled.” Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    Mentored by Nikki Giovanni, Jordan “DXTR” Holmes organizes accountability and empowerment sessions with men in Chicago and hosts local open mics. The chess player’s debut album, “Mad Science: Music for the Trap Nerdz,” is available on SoundCloud. Follow him on Twitter at @DXTR_Spits. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “Be unapologetic in choosing you,” says Chicago recording artist Jade Ivy, who goes by JadeTheIvy. “Seek your balance.” Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    Jade Ivy, who goes by JadeTheIvy, posts mantras and sticky notes around her home as a self-care practice. She also keeps adorable portraits on display. Her latest project, “Eurphoric Wasteland,” was released in March and is available on Apple, Spotify and jadetheivy.com. Follow her on Instagram at @jadetheivy. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “Being a Black woman, even when you know better, you tend to put yourself last because you prioritize other people, projects or some other external metric,” says Felicia Holman, a Chicago artist and co-founder of Art Leaders of Color Network and Honey Pot Performance. “Self-care is really checking in and making sure you are preserved.” Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “If I am in a space or place where I know I’m not taking care of myself, I ask, ‘Why don’t you feel you deserve to take care of yourself? You know you can’t serve from an empty vessel,’” says Felicia Holman, a fan of the late artist Prince. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “You can scare away your happiness with so many things,” says Chicago musician and artist D’angelo “Ace da Vinci” LaGrone, founder of SmartMouf Entertainment. “You can’t heal if you don’t know yourself. Self-care starts with what you know is going to work for you because [another] person ain’t gotta live your life. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu

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    “The better I take care of myself then the better I can deal with other people, because I know hurt people hurt people,” says D’Angelo “Ace da Vinci” LaGrone.  It’s very easy to fall into those same lines of pettiness or distaste or anger that other people are in if you don’t have anything going for you.” Find his music on Band Camp and SoundCloud and follow him on Instagram at @sevendayhigh. Photo: Biance M.S. Alebiosu