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.