This might be too personal

[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.)

i-am-broken

broken-2

…phew.

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.

35 thoughts on “This might be too personal

  1. This is an amazing post. You are a huge inspiration. Thank you for hitting the “publish” button despite everything.

  2. Well done post. I found this really interesting because I experienced anxiety first (onset by the time I was in kindergarten) and depression didn’t show up until I was about 14. They play so well off each other that it can be hard to even tell what feeling is coming from where and why. I remember seeing the depression as the logical conclusion of the anxiety: if I’m that bad, then of course I should feel this way! It took a long time to understand that both of them were wrong, even if they agreed with each other.

  3. My wife shared this and I found it to not only mirror my struggles with depression/anxiety, but in my experience beating cancer. The funny thing is people don’t stigmatize you for having cancer. You don’t (often) get people saying if you just tried to snap out of it, took deep breaths, or just got over it, that you’d be fine.

    That’s not to say there’s no lack of bs advice and armchair quarterbacking. The strongest parallel is hearing about how brave surviving makes you. I second the motion for “stubborn”. I wasn’t brave, I was scared. I also was firmly convinced above and beyond all else, that what I was going through was bull**it, and I refused to let it take me. The lines blur here – because I could say the same thing about my experiences with depression*.

    So, hopefully without excessive brightsiding or any other form of empty consolation, I am so happy you posted this because you helped us over here. I hope you helped yourself, and that you are well. Thank you so much.

    * as you cogently note, anxiety is a different animal as far as coping strategies.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this, in such a well written way as well. I share my life with a person struggling with both anxiety and depression and it is posts like these that let me see parts of her inner struggle. As you say it’s most definitely no easy thing to tell your close ones how they can help and what you are experiencing, but in your comic there are things that I, as a partner, recognise as well.
      Thank you for sharing, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that you are safe and well.

    • “I wasn’t brave, I was scared.”

      I can’t find the exact quote (there seems to be a dozen variants), but I’ll paraphrase one of the best bits of wisdom I’ve encountered: bravery isn’t acting in the absence of fear, it’s continuing to press forward *in spite of* fear. (After all, it’s not “brave” to run into the dragon’s lair yelling battle cries — it’s foolish!)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am really glad you hit “publish.” This echoes much of my experience, as well, though mine was in the reverse order – anxiety since I was first able to interact with the world (bad enough to be selective mutism for years), and then the depression really latched on in high school. I allowed them to sneak up on me and pull me back down into a hole again recently, and I’ve been trying to find my way out. You have no idea how much it helped me to read your post, here. Thank you. Thank you. I hope today is going well for you.🙂

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! Crying my eyes out because I can relate so much to this! Gonna share this to a dear friend whom I’ve been trying to explain how I’m feeling to. Because all of the things you say in this post pretty much sums it up!
    Depression is like an old friend of mine but the anxiety and doubt… it’s really hard to explain!

    You’re amazing!❤

  6. It’s great you’re sharing this. You’re articulating exactly how these things feel. I experience depression on a regular basis, and I (white cismale here, couldn’t be more priviledged) am not even subject to the kind of abuse you’ve been facing in the past years, so I couldn’t start imagining what you’re going through. I also agree with your reluctance to be called brave when you’re just being you. So kudos for simply being, and being you. Keep at it!

    P.S. Someone very close to me who’s having similar issues tells me to add “thank you”.🙂

    • Hi Matthias, My lovely white anglo hubby says being a privileged white man can mean a lot of identity struggles because you’re not ‘the black guy’ or ‘the Italian woman’ so you end up trying harder to distinguish yourself from others. (Interestingly two of my kids have trouble telling white men apart lol.) Of course these struggles don’t outwardly compare to the horrors some people experience during life, either briefly or lifelong, but to you they are real and important and don’t dismiss that❤

      • Thank you for your nice response. Don’t worry, I do not personnally dismiss my own experiences, good or bad, and although I am male and white, my identity and my background are complex enough in their own right.😉 Despite the self-esteems issues I have a deep sense of who I am (not the same as saying I am self-satisfied). It’s just that here, on Wundergeek’s own blog, I wanted to say how much I empathize with her, while trying to not sound like my response is all about me me me…🙂

  7. I’m at the tail end of a long battle with anxiety that resulted in panic disorder. You’re spot on with that. Hyperanalyszing, being on constant alert (How do i shut off this fricken adrenalin!??), feeling like your presence is a burden, and my favourite, being pretty convinced that you can’t breathe. I ended in ER twice with that one, and the second time my heart monitor convinced head of cardiology I was actually having a heart attack. ANyway, It is tough and you will get through it and I’m sorry you’re experiencing it as it truly can feel like death over and over every day but hang in there.❤ It does get better,❤ One doctor told me the pressure on your body is like being an elite athlete in training for the olympics so don't worry about your body, it will survive.❤ And avoid all health websites!!! lol

    • Tough.😦 The worst I ever got because of stress was having gallstones once, and already that was horribly painful. Hang in there!🙂

  8. Best depiction of depression and anxiety ever! Thank you. The online community is both wonderful and insane. I fear the day it will turn on me (not “if,” but “when”).
    This was a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it with the world (which took courage, by any other name, because it is such a risk).
    You have found your voice, and you are loved, and you are an inspiration.
    Thank you for the gift of your time reading my silly words🙂
    HUGS

  9. You mentioned that personal strategies for dealing with depression are different than the strategies needed for anxiety. Are there differences in ways to help someone with depression versus anxiety or both?
    Also, you already mentioned that you don’t like being called brave. Are there any other common misconceptions people have who think they are trying to help but actually make things worse?

    One last thing: I don’t think bullheaded, at least the dictionary definition sense, is a great description for you. Bullheaded seems to mean someone who absolutely refuses to think about changing their opinion on anything. When you’ve made mistakes, you’ve owned up to them, apologized, and learned from them. (Not that you need me telling you this: you already have a blog post about how to apologize well) I want to say that displays the virtue of humility, but that specific word is loaded with a bunch of negative connotations like submissiveness or meekness, which doesn’t really described the strength that action takes.

    And even if it feels you are just shooting out your opinions, don’t forget that the important observations, occasional humor, and most important honesty in those opinions have a positive impact on people. And its a nice positivity where there’s no harm in you not posting (so you don’t have to feel bad if you ever decide to go on hiatus or if you decide that you want to stop blogging) but there’s almost always some good impact you have on someone’s day when you do.

    Even if it is scary to open up like this, thank you for doing so.

    • Nick: In response to your first question: to be honest, I really don’t know? And that’s a big part of the problem. Some of the things that used to help either don’t work anymore, or actively make things worse. And I haven’t figured out what things DO help. It’s tough!

      As for things other than brave, actually what’s even worse than that is when someone tells you about mental illness – don’t excuse or deny that it exists. Because that is really fucking hard to deal with, when you try to open up to someone close to you about the thing you’re grappling with, and they tell you “oh I’m sure you’re fine”. Ugh.

  10. Hey, Wundergeek.
    Just here to let you know that I love you (in the way it’s appropriate to love bloggers you don’t actually know), and I’m really glad you’re still hitting that ‘Publish’ button.
    If you ever need someone to talk to, feel free to fire me a message.
    Lots of love.

  11. Luckily you are missing the worst one of the self destruction triangle: Addiction! Put that on top of the other two and it is amazing people can ever recover

  12. Just wanted to pop in and say thank you for the support folks. I don’t feel like I have a lot to add other than that, and I should, but it’s what I got right now. So thanks.

  13. “If I can’t live with me, how can anyone else?” You are the first person to take those words right out of my head. Thank you. I still don’t understand why so many aspects of anxiety and depression are similar and seen so often together, and yet they are so difficult to overcome. Then, I remember every single person is unique and doesn’t react to situations the same way, and every mind is wired differently even if they experience the same symptoms. Anyway, more power to you for sharing.

  14. Perhaps “male allies” woudln’t turn on you if you didn’t call them male allies. Full inclusivity or full exclusivity! Halfmembership only breeds resentment.

    • I happily accept the title of Male Ally. I’ve never felt that it excludes me from anything, rather the opposite in fact: it makes me feel very welcome.

    • Many of my male friends DO identify as feminists, and I respect that identification when it is expressed to me. However, I ALSO have male friends who prefer to be called allies, as they feel that is a more appropriate term. I don’t think either is incorrect. I chose to use “male allies” in the comic because was a hell of a lot shorter than “male friends who identify as feminists”.

      Also, you get how gross and victim-blamey this comment is, right? Like, “oh well NO WONDER people who you thought had your back betrayed your trust. You didn’t use the right words to talk about them!” Seriously??? We’re talking about the difference between two terms that have widespread usage within feminist activism, that are both seen as valid, and you want to tell me that it’s totally okay for someone I trust to betray that trust because I used common feminist terminology. What the actual fuck.

      • [Mod voice: This is my space, and I do not suffer derailers or victim-blamers here. Followup comments that meet either criteria will be trashed.]

    • I read a nice post about allies using the term “profeminist” instead of “feminist” in certain circumstances. It makes sense. As an ally, I WILL make more mistakes and my viewpoint WILL be clouded by privilege. In an explicitly feminist context, I feel more comfortable calling myself “profeminist” because it better represents the fact that I’m trying to help, despite most of my background & upbringing trying to make me a douchebag. It also makes it clear that I’m not trying to own feminism and take a leadership position, because that’s not my place.

      Outside of an explicitly feminist context, I call myself a “feminist” because normies don’t respond that well to nuance, so displaying a diverse and unified view of feminism is helpful there.

      Megatroll if you ever start feeling resentful of an oppressed group establishing a lexicon, or self-organizing, or god-forbid actually improving their situation, then you need to look deep inside yourself to see where that resentment is coming from. It’s not from the oppressed group, it’s from yourself, your background, your social training, and it’s toxic. Talk it out among other allies, but don’t let it foment into a reactionary standpoint.

  15. I think the comic turned out wonderfully expressive. Quite good at conveying both depression and anxiety (not easy things to do with such amorphous feelings).

    You’re a fine artist and a welcome voice on the internet. Please keep up the good work!

  16. Thank you for publishing this.
    Anxiety and depression are very difficult to explain (especially how they interact together), but you’ve done a great job with this comic.

    I do hope things will keep to improve and get better and better for you: you deserve it!🙂

  17. Hi!

    “No one ever tells men they’re “brave” to post combatively-worded opinions online, so why should I merit the designation?”

    Because they don’t have to be brave to speak. Men are already empowered, as they have for most of human history (if not all). They don’t have to fight to make their voices heard, but the rest of non-cis-male mortals do have to.

    Is it unfair? Absolutely. But, on the bright side, we’re working on changing things. You, just by speaking your mind, are already making a change.

    I had some doubts like yours when I wrote a review of the latest Life Is Strange episode. I couldn’t help to speak of me and my own experience with the issues in it. I was also terribly afraid to publish it… should I? Shouldn’t I? This could be used against me sooner or later…

    But then, I said, why not? I mean, I deserve a voice. And so do you. What we don’t deserve is people manipulating us (including mental illnesses or whatever we speak about our lives) against ourselves.

    Ironically enough, those manipulators are not “brave” for doing what they do, and they don’t have to. They feel entitled. They’re already empowered.

    Like I said, we’re working on it.

    Still, fear and doubts aside, it feels good to put it out there, doesn’t it? Whether it be in art, words, or just anything at all. Sometimes we feel like we’re the only ones or that noone else in the world feels these things.

    Fortunately, we live in a historic moment that gives us the possibility of knowing we were very wrong about that.

  18. WOW, Profound. I know what your going through. I am there myself. I am fortunate to have a small group of people that are there for me. I honestly wish they were more forceful with there concern for me at times, so I didn’t internalize things so much but I also don’t want them sucked up exclusively in the mess that is my head.

    Thank you. I know it doesn’t say much but you make a difference.

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