[Note: I am the literal worst at titles. After staring at the title box for half an hour, I finally gave up and typed the first thing that came to me. I’m aware that it’s an awful title, but I give up.]
This post is actually one of the “big things” I’ve had in the works for a few weeks now; although it’s more “big” in the amount of work that went into it than in the “super-exciting” kind of way.
…I’m not really sure how else to introduce it, so I’ll just say that it’s a pretty personal comic and save additional commentary for the end of the post. The images are large and weirdly shaped, so I’m placing the rest of the post under a jump so that it doesn’t screw up formatting for people reading on mobile. (The resizing might make the text a bit hard to read, so you can click on the image for a larger, clearer view.)
This is definitely the largest comic I’ve ever done. I made a lot of mistakes, and it didn’t turn out quite how I’d planned it, but I’m firm believer in “perfect is the enemy of good enough”. There are things that I do very much like about this, and I feel like it’s a pretty creditable effort from someone who’s never really done comics or comic art.
As for why I did this? I made this comic for a few different reasons. It originally started as an attempt to articulate (or rather, illustrate?) the difference between depression and anxiety – which is something I have struggled to do so far. The parameters of my depression are a known and familiar thing, but anxiety not so much, and it’s hard to have a conversation with the people closest to you about how they can help when you’re not even sure what it is you’re dealing with.
However, I decided to turn it into a comic/blog post because when I hear personal accounts from women like Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu describing their reactions to the abuse levied at them post-GamerGate, the things that they say sound familiar to me in terms of my own experience with online abuse and mental illness.
Also, I guess this is sort of a reaction against being called “brave”, which is a term that I really hate – because I don’t feel brave. I’ve never felt brave. Too stubborn for my own good? Sure. Bullheaded? Yup. But brave? Simply existing and having opinions doesn’t feel brave, and it feels wrong to be labelled as brave for the mere act of existence. No one ever tells men they’re “brave” to post combatively-worded opinions online, so why should I merit the designation?
“Brave” also has a way of making me feel alienated from friends and allies, who apologize to me for not being “brave”, because being “brave” is a good way to also get crazy. (Or in my case, crazier.) There’s a difference between being complicit and being realistic about knowing your limits!
That said, I’ll acknowledge that being public about my mental illness in this way is hard and scary and definitely a risk. It’s something that can be used to attack me, but worse – every time I speak out it feels like playing chicken with my relationships. It feels like saying “Do you still love me now? How about now? Am I too broken for you yet?” to everyone I care about, as if my life is somehow something that is subject to probation and periodic review for appropriate expressions of emotion. Because that’s where all of this has left me. A place where I don’t even feel I have permission to actually have feelings about stuff. At all.
Which is ultimately the biggest reason for why I made this, and why I’m hitting “publish” even though I desperately want to shove this away somewhere and forget it exists. Because we talk about “trolling” and “Gators” and “asshats”, but what the language fails to capture is that what’s at stake are actual fucking human beings.