a blog about mental illness and community


Drawn that way: depression in comics

BuzzFeed, that web-based conglomerate of pop culture awesomeness, has outdone itself by compiling 21 comics that capture the frustrations of depression.

And believe me, every one of the featured cartoonists has nailed it.

Depression is associated with lethargy, low mood, excessive guilt, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once fun.

These symptoms, and many more aspects of depression, are explored in BuzzFeed’s compilation.

There’s a saying: misery loves company.

If that’s true, why do most people suffering from depression feel so utterly alone?

Maybe, secretly, we all feel the same way…

That’s why it’s so important to speak up about mental illness and kick stigma to the curb.

Honesty can’t cure depression or any other psychological ailment (darn!), but it can make the burden easier to bear. The same goes for comics.


The anti-airbrush masseuse

We live in a media-saturated, technologically advanced, hyper-materialistic culture.

Which kind of sucks for you, me and everyone we know.

It strikes me as unhealthy and deeply discomforting that the images we’re exposed to on TV, magazine covers and even catalogues for K-Mart often do not represent reality.

From a mental health perspective, negative body image and low self-worth are associated with the proliferation of digitally-manipulated images.

Bombarded by airbrushed representations of beauty, we internalise and normalise these ideals and (inevitably) compare ourselves unfavourably.

It takes a strong and very switched-on person not to feel a twinge of inferiority in the face of an artfully photoshopped Kate Moss or Brad Pitt.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see someone championing real beauty – bodies in all their diverse, jiggly, ‘imperfect’ glory.

This is an excerpt from massage therapist Dale Favier’s article What People Really Look Like:

“Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody…

Women have cellulite. All of them. It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels…

Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more…

Everyone on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule.”

Way to go, Dale!

If this stance becomes the new normal (fingers crossed!) there’d be a lot less valuation of personal worth based on physical appearance.


Artistic wisdom

Mel Stringer is a Brisbane-based freelance illustrator and visual artist. You might have seen her awesome drawings in Frankie magazine.

Mel’s style is self-deprecating yet empowering. From the quirks and occasional humiliations of life she extracts human warmth and pours it out via pen and paper.

You can check out her blog here.

Down with stigma!

And now for an adorable illustration of society’s double-standards…

mental health v physical illness or injury

Compared to physical injury or illness, mental health struggles often remain on the down-low. For whatever reason, it’s not cool to brag about surviving your latest panic attack or resisting the urge to self-harm.

Why is it that freaky-looking dislocations and projectile vomiting are badges of honour, while the experience of mental illness is awkward or even unspeakable?

This kind of attitude towards mental health needs to change NOW!

So next time you go late night shopping despite being terrified of crowds, or eat chocolate for the first time in five years, please tell someone about it.

In fact, tell anyone who’ll listen.

It’s one way to get the back-slaps you deserve for your stellar efforts, while also combating stigma.


Best eating disorder books


Ever combed the library stacks in search of an informative yet readable tome on eating disorders? The pickings are usually pretty slim (*boom tish*).

I’ve read a fair few books about the mental illness in question – some fantastic and others downright triggering or ill-informed.

Here are my top picks of books related to eating disorders:

– Wasted by Marya Hornbacher (1998): Penned when the author was just 23, this memoir chronicles an epic struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Hospitalised five times before she was 18, Marya was never expected to survive. Beware: no holds barred.

– 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb (2012): The authors outline effective strategies for challenging an eating disorder’s vicious grip, drawing on personal and therapeutic experience. A compelling combo of fact, autobiography and journalling prompts for sufferers and carers alike.

– Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009): Fictional, but incredibly true to fact. This young-adult novel follows Lia’s struggle with anorexia in the aftermath of her best friend’s bulimia-related death. Dark and easily devoured in a single sitting.

– Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo (1993): An awesome collection of essays by a renowned feminist academic. Bordo analyses a range of issues connected to the body in the context of modern culture – from dieting and media images to hunger as ideology.

– Bronte’s Story by Bronte Cullis and Steve Bibb (2004): A Melbourne teenager’s battle with anorexia is laid bare, from tube feeding to a last resort stint at a radical Canadian treatment centre. The combination of diary entries and retrospective reflection is heart-wrenching and immersive.

So head on down to your local library with this list in hand. And if that fails, there’s always the Book Depository.


Skeleton in the Closet portrait project

Skeleton in the Closet is a series of intimate portraits, by artist Fritz Liedtke, of men and women struggling with the secrets of anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder and EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).

Combining photographs and text, it creates a powerful narrative of what it’s like to live with – and leave behind – an eating disorder.

Here’s a little excerpt from Fritz’s introduction to Skeleton in the Closet:

“I’ve seen thinner.” The woman looking at these photographs paused, closed the book.

“It’s true,” I replied. “Some of these men and women are healthy now. Some are very sick, and yet look healthy. Some, even with anorexia and bulimia, can be quite heavy. And some people who look quite normal—people you know, even—have an eating disorder hidden in their history.”

Anje’s story: hope for eating disorder recovery

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