Barbara Doux

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Location: france
Nationality: french
Biography:   Barbara is a French documentary photographer and art director based in London. Her most recent photojournalist project under the title of "Desiree's Miracle after a life of infertility" has received the "Howard Chapnick" award from the Missouri... read on
Public Story
Mai's Mental Illness

Mai’s life on the borderline.

It is on the street that I met Mai in 2010. We were both coming out of an opening of a photo exhibition in East London. Realising that we were French we exchanged a few words. In less than a minute Mai asked me “Do you want to be my friend?” Seduced by her honesty and the childlike purity of her question, I said "yes". The ground for a story began.

Mai, 46, lives with her son aged 19, and close to her daughter a mother herself. Mai had always experienced a sense of duality in all aspects of her life. Brought up in a Franco-Vietnamese family, Mai spent her adult life between France and England. For the last 25 years, she has divided herself between her career as a teacher and as a dancer, between her family duties and her struggle to find emotional stability.

In 2007 following the loss of her parents who she cared for in their long-term illnesses, Mai suddenly lost the ability to sustain this double life. She became ill and spent several years in out of psychiatric hospitals where she was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), characterised by “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity.”

One out of 4 people in the general population suffers with a mental illness at some point in their life. Society nowadays accepts and understands illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder. In contrast, BPD sufferers often feel isolated, or even stigmatised both by the public and by professionals as little attention, awareness or funding have in the past been given to the condition. This documentary is an attempt to raise awareness of BPD symptoms and show how Mai could cope and progress thanks to her fortunate therapy treatment and her determination to reconnect and recover.

My deepest wish is to continue documenting her story and to expand my study of Mai's progression toward mental balance. I plan to develop this project into multimedia, recording audio and interviews to bring a deeper meaning to her very human and intimate thoughts, hoping that her story will help to encourage communication and tolerance of our differences.