A lot of people suffer from anxiety, it is no surprise that people deal with it in different ways. For these artists, they use cool illustrations to deal with their anxiety and help others feel they are not alone going through this mental health problem.
Although significant progress has been reached over the years, modern society still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding mental illnesses. The stigma associated with mental disorders remains widely present, discouraging sufferers from seeking help and getting the right treatment. Among the several types of mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are considered one of the most prevalent.
According to a study done by Jordi Alonso for World Mental Health, it is estimated that anxiety disorders affect 10 percent of the global population, cementing its status as an urgent public health problem.
Anxiety disorders could manifest itself into various forms: phobic, social, obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorders. The symptoms for every type are unique. However, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases lists the frequent symptoms below:
(a) apprehension (worries about future misfortunes, feeling “on edge”, difficulty in concentrating, etc.);
(b) motor tension (restless fidgeting, tension headaches, trembling, inability to relax);
(c) autonomic over-activity (light-headedness, sweating, tachycardia or tachypnoea, epigastric discomfort, dizziness, dry mouth, etc.).
Aside from getting medical treatment, people with mental illnesses often find other ways of dealing with their condition. Some turn to music, sports, dancing, entertainment, or developing new hobbies. Battling against this ordeal every single day is both physically and emotionally taxing, which is why anything that promotes calmness of the mind can serve as a huge help to sufferers. Art, for one, has served as the perfect outlet and refuge for several people when their anxiety hits them hard.
Sow Ay is an illustrator and graphic designer from France who sketches brutally honest cartoons about his constant struggle with mental illness. He was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and depression “after a burnout” in 2016, but he has been dealing with anxiety for as long as he can remember.
Drawing has been an outlet for him since he was a child, but back then, he only creates his cool illustrations to make his friends laugh.
“I’ve always been sharing my work online. To make people laugh, or to share my story. But it all became way more dark last year,” he says.
Initially, he was nervous about sharing his most personal work online, especially since he avoids talking about how he feels in real life. He was afraid about how people would react when they discover that he could no longer work because of his situation. At the same time, however, he realized that his art could be a great way to show how powerful mental illnesses can be.
“I was really scared to draw such personal things. I was scared to see people laughing at me, scared to see them telling me everything is just in my head. I was scared they were right. I think I needed to feel less alone.”, he shares.
At first, he published his cartoons online in English so his family couldn’t understand the text. He was also hesitant to share it with his friends, but he eventually gathered enough courage to talk about it with them.
In the end, his friends turned out to be incredibly supportive and understanding of his situation, which makes him feel extremely lucky.
Here is how the artist understands mental illness: “Mental illness cannot always leave by simple strong will. The real strength is to ask for help and talk about it.”
The next featured artist is Clare Kayden Hines, a 32-year-old artist from Berkeley, California. She uses Instagram as her platform for sharing cool illustrations that capture her daily struggles and frustrations as a person with a mental health disorder. Hines lived with untreated anxiety for years until she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. She says that creating humorous art based on her experiences helps her manage her anxiety.
“My anxiety makes me feel like I’m never doing enough, accomplishing enough, and that I’m constantly falling behind or disappointing someone,” she says to HuffPost.
Channeling her frustrations into cool illustrations has elicited reactions from other people who are also suffering from it, quenching her fears that she must be crazy for feeling the way that she does. Hines says that it helps a lot, knowing that she is not alone in her battle against this illness.
Hines’ illustrations help her work through her own anxiety, but that is not the only reason why she creates them. She hopes that by publicizing her art, she will inspire other people to share their own experiences and embrace their mental health.
“My goal, beyond my art and my account being a creative outlet for me, is to make people feel less ‘alone’ by seeing themselves in my posts. The more we talk about the things we feel ashamed of, or think are abnormal, the more we’ll realize we’re not alone,” she said.
Like these two artists, it is unfortunately common for people suffering from mental illnesses to hide in the dark instead of crying out for help. For them, the fear of being judged and ridiculed is greater than the fear of facing another day tormented by their inner demons.
But today, we see that more and more people are opening up about their own mental health struggles in various platforms. Hopefully, this phenomenon influences our society to become more understanding of these seemingly invisible, but nevertheless, real and life-altering illnesses.
Remember, a person may appear perfectly fine on the outside, but we never really know what they are going through. So let us be kind, always.