Creating while female & mentally ill: the difficult intersection of bias and disability

I’ve been pretty quiet the last few weeks. Partly that’s because I’ve been dealing with the end of my school term (final exams were last week).  However, it’s partly because I was dealing with some pretty frightening mental health issues, and between the two it took a while before I had energy to deal with normal “adulting” things, let alone having energy to do creative things.

My most recent experience has gotten me reflecting on the difficulties of trying to function as a creative person while also dealing with the lived realities of being a woman and someone with mental illness. A lot of the time, difficulties that arise from one of these factors spill over and aggravate the other. And sometimes it’s easy enough to pick apart all the inputs and discern what’s going on and what the underlying causes are when things get tough. But sometimes when things are bad, everything is a jumbled up mess and it’s too difficult to tell if it’s just my mental illness, or if there are other factors at work.

[Note: You’ll probably need to click through for some of the text to be readable]

comic part 1 comic part 2 comic part 3

Drawing this comic was an interesting exercise. The last comic I did about mental health, I started with a script that was meticulously written out, where the precise wording was very important. This time, however, I had a general outline of what I wanted to cover, but for the most part the ideas that I had were more about the pictures than the words.

Of course, the thing that BOTH comics have in common is the fact that this time, as with last time, I can’t really shake the idea that posting this can only be a bad idea. That someone I respect will lose respect for me for being honest about my mental illness. That talking about my difficulties will only further establish me as a “toxic” “negative” person that people need to stay away from in order to be happy. Or that I’ll be giving ammunition to anyone who wants to discredit me in the future, because after all, why should anyone listen to someone who admits to being crazy? I’m lucky to have a lot of support, both here and other places, but I’d be lying if I said that being honest about my difficulties with mental illness didn’t sometimes come with painful consequences.

It’s a question that I’m not likely to find conclusive answers to anytime soon.

13 thoughts on “Creating while female & mentally ill: the difficult intersection of bias and disability

  1. Hmm…well, I don’t think your comic post was “a bad idea;” sometimes that picture-says-a-thousand-words-thang is pretty right on, and you sharing can help others (who have similar issues, and feel similar anxieties) see that they’re not alone out there. Your images are very powerful, and I’m sure I’m not the only person that identifies (at least in part) with your illustrations.

    I’m not sure there’s anything toxic about being honest. I suppose it could be used as “ammunition to discredit you,” though no more so than taking text out of context or…well, anything else about you (you’re a working mother, you’re a hippy artist, you’re an internet activist, you’re a geeky gamer, blah-blah-blah). What you’re doing here is owning who you are; in a way stating an accepting who you are…not trying to hide or skirt or shy away from or make excuses for. That’s usually a good thing. At least it gives you on a solid foundation on which to stand.

    No one out there is Mr. or Ms. Perfect.

  2. This is so rad! Thanks for sharing, I am a PhD student who also does community work in games and tries to have a creative life at the same time. This hit me right in the feels. I’m heading into finals with my mental health roiling from general exhaustion and burnout and really appreciate seeing a representation of the experience of being successful but struggling with depression/anxiety. People often tell me that my work is important to them and I wish I could take it to heart more! So in turn, just wanna say how much this comic means to me!

  3. I can offer a small bit of insight from my own irregular and cyclic states of mental health; the worst things are temporary. It does get better, and sure, sometimes it gets worse too, but any time you catch yourself using negative superlatives, it is the disease and not your higher self talking.

  4. Great stuff. It’s really fucking important that people talk about this stuff. Glad you’re willing to ignore that idea, that says you shouldn’t post this.

  5. I guess I’m finally posting. As someone who discovered your page (was there another one?) in late 2014 during a rather inflametory time, while attempting to educate myself, I have highly enjoyed it. I haven’t agreed t every point you have made, but have found them enlightening, enjoyable and educational. Helping me to understand some of the experiences I will never have to face. I feel I found you at just the right tmie, when it could have gone a different way.

    I visit off and on, and have not posted before. I will prob not post again. I appreciate your work and enjoy it as well. Keep it up.

    All the best.

  6. Someone will lose respect for you for sharing something about yourself? Nah – if that’s all it took they didn’t respect you in the first place.

    Sharing something about yourself is toxic or negative? Actually it’s human! 🙂 Not to mention self-reflection is healthy and positive.

    Ammunition for internet fuckwads? Their guns were already overloaded when a strong woman dared to voice her opinion. I don’t see how additional reality really makes much difference to them (but I don’t know what all you’ve gone through so maybe I’m just being naive).

    For what it’s worth I love your comics! I like your drawing style and I think constructive self-reflection is a great thing, and it’s even better when put into a much more digestible form – like art!

    • I appreciate that you are making this comment with the intent of being supportive, but the problem is that these are all things that have actually happened to me, and will probably happen again.

      I have had people decide that they couldn’t handle being friends with me after I was candid about my mental illness, most often because of my perceived “negativity”. And I really have had people try to use my mental illness to invalidate my credentials. The dude who harassed me for three years used to do shit like say that I should be involuntarily committed for my own good in response to things that I’ve written.

      So, you know, these aren’t fears that are based entirely in anxiety.

      • No, I never thought they were. But I do believe if someone left you over saying something like this, they weren’t really your friend in the first place. (Ironically and fortunately, their leaving your life removed toxicity from -you-.) And using your mental illness to invalidate your credentials is just gaslighting. It doesn’t, and they can’t make it true. (They can sure harass the shit out of you about it, and try to control the perceptions of others about it, but they can’t make it true.) Sorry this wasn’t as supportive as I’d hoped! If it’s ok I’ll keep trying. 🙂 If not, that’s cool too – I understand and I’m not offended!

  7. I have spent 2 days looking for a voice in the gaming community that I feels representative of me as a female MTG player. Thank goodness, I finally stumbled on your blog. Your art about the art has been an awakening for me…I play primarily in various LGS’s, so i guess the overt sexualization of female characters has seemed pretty innocuous compared to the other gender issues I encounter (thank you for introducing me to the term stereotype threat, btw). Honestly, I never even noticed the no pants thing until The SOI midnight prerelease I attended was a cosplay party and my daughter wanted me to be Avacyn. I thought it might be an angel thing, but your research/attention-to-detail clearly indicates otherwise.

    Interestingly, I seem to notice the art where the females are not sexualized more frequently than the fantasy images. Perhaps this is why “War-Name Aspirant” (KTK) caught my eye, and then I identified with the flavor of the card as a female combat veteran. I keep a foil copy of the card in a hard case in the spot on my dashboard where my boyfriend’s picture ought to be, that’s how much I love this card. In FRF we learn that that Alesha is a transwoman, so I would be interested in hearing your opinion on how the disparities between her costuming and ciswomen in the game.

    BTW, this comic about struggling with mental illness and the title of your blog might just make you the coolest person on the Internet.

    • She’s done at least one other anxiety comic, and they’re my favourite things that she posts >_>; It’s so validating being reminded that the struggle is real

    • BTW, as a trans woman I am very familiar with things like, dressing to hide physical features that I feel inadequate about or think are “too masculine;” I’m just glad I don’t live in the MtGverse, I’m not sure their societies have any feminine clothes I could wear that would let me do that >_>;

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