I’ve been on the move, traveling, following an ache to peek behind walls. To climb mountains and see all that I can see. To search.
I’ve always been fascinated by the things we carry in our hearts, and how holding that weight manifests in the physical. So, for a long time, I’ve been photographing people’s hands and asking them to simply, “Tell me a secret.”
No names, no faces.
Just a place for people to speak their fears, guilt, and desires without judgment.
What I have received is far more than I could have ever anticipated. I fell in love with the stories. I fell in love with the rawness, with the connection, and with the authenticity people were willing to share. I decided to create The Faceless Project to share these stories (with permission) to anybody who wants to listen. I found that I could see a tiny piece of myself in every secret that I heard. And I think others will see themselves, too.
This is us – in our most naked, truest form. We are story-tellers at heart and pure human at our core.
(Names and places mentioned in the stories have been changed for confidentiality.)
“In 2012, I had been dating my now-ex for about ten years. His father had died suddenly in March of pancreatic cancer and my ex started abusing his dad’s pain-killers. His dad had been prescribed anything and everything. I mean, you name it. Oxycodone and Percocet and morphine…
I think that Josh, my ex, and I were done at that point, and we were together just because it was comfortable. Ten years in, it’s easier to just stay together.
We started drifting apart. He was messing around with his dad’s pain-killers, and I was drinking really heavily and playing with benzos. So, in August of 2012, Josh and I had a conversation about really working on our relationship and trying to change things.
But later that week, he was sitting at the computer and he left his phone next to me. And you know how when you get a text, it flashes across the lock screen? A picture of my best friend’s boobs came up. This wasn’t the first time Josh had cheated.
But I waited about a week before confronting him about it. We had just had that conversation about bettering our relationship, so I was really trying to give him the benefit of the doubt – to let him come to me and tell me what’s going on. And I really hate to say it, but I probably would have stayed with him if he had come to me. But he didn’t.
This is where the sickness comes in.
On a Friday night, we went out. I chose not to drink too much because I was going to ask him about his cheating and I wanted to have a clear head. I planned it strategically. We went back to my house. He was really drunk, and I gave him a benzo as a sort of “truth serum.” I knew he would take anything at that point; he didn’t care. I confronted him. I told him that I had seen the pictures and that I knew everything. So, he finally admitted to it. I kicked him out of my house.
I had to go crawling back to my parents at that point. And my parents also have their own addictions. So, being in such a negative headspace and then coming into that environment was a bad combination. I just started partying all the time. Partying became what my life revolved around. I had also just gotten laid-off. So, now, not only was I drinking and abusing pills, but I was sitting at home with myself all the time. I started hanging out with these two people who were also unemployed, and before I knew it, I was going out basically every night, experimenting with molly and ecstasy.
And that went on for eight or nine months. I was out all night, so disoriented, just so out-of-hand. One time, I was driving drunk, and I actually wrapped my car around a tree.
But throughout the whole thing, my parents never understood the gravity of what was going on. I think they were subconsciously turning a blind eye. If my parents acknowledged how bad my substance abuse was, they would have to face their own addiction, and I think that was really scary to them.
I think the turning point for me was when I got an internship at an out-patient clinic for mental health therapy. That internship gave me a sense of purpose. People there valued me.
So, I started working with a therapist and cutting back on my use. And the biggest thing that saved my life was exercise and yoga. I started going to the gym every single day – that became my self-care. It made me feel centered, clear-headed, and it helped me ease my anxiety. My addiction was all about avoidance and escape. Exercise taught me how to sit with myself and be okay with all the emotions without turning to substances.”
“I won the lottery, and nobody except my brother knows about it.
Earlier this year, I was a Mega Millions winner. I remember being completely dumb-struck – just in total disbelief. I was thinking to myself, ‘Holy, shit. You’re a multi-millionaire. Is this real?’
But very quickly, I realized that I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want my friends to start treating me differently, using me, avoiding me, or whatever else. And I’m a single woman, so if I started seeing someone, how would I know if they genuinely liked me, or if they’re just interested in the money?
The only person I’ve told, to this day, is my older brother. I guess eventually I’ll have to tell people, but I’m worried about it. But it’s tough because I really do feel like I’m walking around with a huge weight on my shoulders.”
“A few years ago, I was in a really bad car accident. I had gone to visit my friend in Philadelphia for the weekend to go to a concert. I was on the way home from the concert – it was in the morning, around 11 am. I was driving up 95 to Connecticut, and a big 18-wheeler truck merged into my lane. It hit me.
I was spinning across the highway. I was in a very little car; it was completely destroyed. I was really scared. It was out of control, the airbags went off. I really could have died. I’m not sure how everything happened. It all happened so fast.
In that moment, when the truck was swerving into my lane… I don’t know if I was doing something wrong, or like… Everyone kept asking me, ‘Oh, did you beep your horn so he’d know that he was gonna hit you?’ And I told everyone I did. But I know that I didn’t. I was paralyzed with fear.
This truck was gonna hit me, and I did nothing. I told my parents that I beeped the horn. I told the insurance people on the phone that I beeped the horn. I was telling people like, “Yeah, I did everything I could so that I wouldn’t get hit.’
But I know that I did nothing. I just let that 18-wheeler smash into me and crash into my car and spin me out of control. I lied.”
“I’m a professor, and I had a relationship with one of my students.
I’ve always been a keep-to-myself kind of guy. My whole life. I’d never really felt much of romantic connection to anyone before. I don’t know – love, and being in love, seemed like a foreign concept to me. It was funny because people sing about it all the time in songs, and basically every movie is about love, but I just never got it. So, by the time I was in my late thirties, I was kind of entrenched in this idea that I would never find someone I cared about.
But this girl changed my life.
It wasn’t love at first sight, by any means. It was a slow progression – it wasn’t even until halfway through the semester that we had our first real conversation.
I think it was her writing that first made me notice her. She was so eloquent, wise beyond her years. She had confidence, voice, and these terrific, avant-garde ideas. She was a true original.
I really hate to call what we had an ‘affair.’ I get how cliché the whole teacher-student-clandestine-relationship trope is, but it wasn’t really like that. Or, I guess it was on the surface, but it didn’t feel like it to us. I truly loved her – I still do actually – and she loved me. It was just pure misfortune that she had to come into my life when and how she did.
We were together for about a year before we decided to end things. It was for the best, for obvious reasons. But the period that we were together was the happiest time of my life. She made me feel kind of invincible, you know?
This was over three years ago, and she’s graduated now. We’re friends on Facebook, and I still have her number saved in my phone, but we don’t talk anymore. Sometimes, I’m tempted to call her and reconnect. Just ask how she’s doing. I have to stop myself. I don’t know – it just doesn’t feel right. We had something really great, and now it’s over, and my brain tells me I should just leave it at that. Even though I still care for her immensely, the best thing I can do is just silently root her on as a former mentor. She has so much ambition and such great things in her future.”
“I’m afraid of being alone.”
“Where do you think that fear might come from?”
“From being alone.”
“I’m responsible for the death of my high school boyfriend.
This was almost 7 years ago now; I was a senior in high school. I lived in northern California. I had been dating this boy, Ray, for a little over two years. I was so, so happy with him. He was so kind and gifted and funny. He had this sense of humor that could light up a room. He was the most popular guy in school. Everybody loved him.
During this time, I had a lot of really difficult things happening at home. My parents were getting divorced, my grandfather had just died, and my older brother had just moved back in with us. So, it was just a lot. My parents were dealing with all of this, and I felt really forgotten about sometimes. So, this made me really latch onto Ray. Like, we were inseparable. We did everything together. I guess I just grew really dependent on him.
So, when he told me he wanted to go all the way across the country to go to college in New York, I was devastated. We had always planned on going to school together, close to home. And now, he wanted to break up and move 3,000 miles away. I was heart-broken. Looking back, he was so mature for choosing his education over a high school romance. But at the time, I couldn’t see that.
I was desperate. And I will never be able to make up for what I did. I made a fake positive pregnancy test. I told him he had to stay with me because I couldn’t raise the baby on my own and didn’t want to have an abortion. I’ve never believed in abortion, so that part wasn’t a lie. I pleaded. I begged.
I had a whole plan. I would get him to commit to school in California, and then in a month or so, I would fake a miscarriage. It was so, so terrible.
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he did agree to stay with me. I didn’t care that I was lying to him, or that I was deceiving him into giving up whatever great things were in store for him in New York. I just cared that I wasn’t going to be abandoned.
I didn’t talk to him at all for the rest of the day. He had basketball practice that evening, so I didn’t think anything of it. But then, when I didn’t hear from him the next morning – it was Sunday – I started to feel like something was wrong. I remember being in church that morning, and I couldn’t sit still because I just felt so unsettled. I believe God was telling me that he knew what I did.
Later that day, I found out that Ray had killed himself. He had taken pretty much every pill in his family’s medicine cabinet. He committed suicide, and it was because of me. He didn’t leave a note or anything like that, but I just know it was my fault.
I think about him all the time. I regret what I did every single day.
I’m going to hell. I know I’m going to hell.”
“I have had feelings for one of my best friends since I was ten years old.
And I will probably never, ever tell him because, now, he’s getting married to someone else.”