Comics/Graphic Novels

I’m Doing Mostly OK: Graphic Nonfiction About Anxiety

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Rachel Rosenberg

Senior Contributor

Rachel Rosenberg has been writing since she was a child—at 13, she was published alongside celebs and fellow teens in Chicken Soup For the Teenage Soul 2. Rachel has a degree in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University; she’s been published in a few different anthologies and publications, including Best Lesbian Love Stories 2008, Little Fiction, Big Truth’s Re/Coded anthology and Broken Pencil magazine. She also appeared on the Montreal episode of the Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids podcast. Her day job is as a Children’s Librarian, where she digs singing and dancing with small humans.

Sometimes, existing in the world can feel like you are standing around watching a dumpster that has been lit on fire. It’s hot and uncomfortable, probably smells terrible, but you can’t seem to walk away from the chaos. There are a lot of stressors out there, and news now comes to us constantly, beamed into our phones, laptops, and TVs. It can be so constant and so negative that it can easily overwhelm us. How do you push through when when you are already an anxious person, someone who focuses on the negative even in the best of times?

When you struggle with anxiety, it can be easily to practice avoidance. I have never read up on anxiety for fear of stressing myself out worse, and I therefore exist in a state of semi-blissful* ignorance (*debatable). I’ve  recently discovered that graphic nonfiction can be a powerful aid in coping with mental disorders.

We’ve touched on this about depression before, but I wanted to highlight graphic nonfiction about anxiety. While depression and anxiety can affect the same person, they don’t always. You can read a bit more about the difference on the website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. I wouldn’t consider myself a depressive person, yet my worries live at a permanent 93.9 at the top of the scale. Much like depression, though, anxiety is hard to explain to people who don’t struggle with it themselves. It’s also a subject that I’m surprised doesn’t have more coverage in this format, and would be beneficial to hear from a variety of perspectives. Specifically, on Book Riot, we do our best to actively promote diversity in books and publishing, but for this topic there was little written by authors and illustrators of colour.

When Anxiety AttacksWhen Anxiety Attacks by Terian Koscik

The cover of this one really speaks to my soul. “When was the last time you called your grandmother?” a robot intones, speaking to a very terrified young woman. GUILT. That is a big trigger, the constant throb of do better. This focuses on Koscik and her therapist as she realizes that anxiety is a valid struggle deserving of help. I’m a big fan of therapy, and am perpetually surprised how many anxious people don’t see someone. If you know someone holding out on speaking to a therapist, maybe gift them this book?

Anxiety is StrangeAnxiety is Really Strange by Steve Haines and Sophie Standing

This graphic nonfiction about anxiety provides infographics about how stress affects the human body. The short breakdowns of info are much less overwhelming to digest, making it engaging and easy to learn from.

Just PeachyJust Peachy: Comics About Depression, Anxiety, Love, and Finding the Humor in Being Sad by Holly Chrisolm

Another autobiographical example of a person coping with anxiety, softened slightly by the adorable cartoons. Though charming, it can often be very serious in how it portrays the life of someone struggling. I especially appreciated the end pages full of suggested books, podcasts, and resources.

Kind of CopingKind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life with Anxiety by Maureen Marzi Wilson

Wilson is a popular Instagram cartoonist, and her strips tackle moments that will be familiar to anxious people. The vignettes also come with thoughtful tips to support and help anxious people.

ThinSlicesofAnxietyThin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease A Worried Mind by Catherine Lepage

Lepage’s book has gorgeously illustrated images, cleverly showcasing the ways that her agitation manifests. Her art is a reminder that we can use our feelings to create great things. This is more of a visual art book than a comic, but it offers a lot of insightful visuals.

I want more graphic nonfiction about anxiety, Book Industry! I would love to see an increase in graphic nonfiction about anxiety, because everyone’s struggle with it is different. Not just our triggers, but our coping mechanisms. We need a wider range of voices on the subject, letting others know that we are around and doing mostly okay.