Artist Beth Evans' Comics Perfectly Describe Anxiety And Self-Doubt — And Make It All Slightly Easier To Deal With In The Process
Sleeping is almost always a struggle for me, but when my sleeplessness is at its worst, it's usually anxiety that's causing it. I don't know what to say to people who tell me, “Well, just stop thinking about it,” because it's never that easy — but from here on out, I might just whip out one of artist Beth Evans' comics about anxiety instead of trying and failing to describe the problem with words. Evans' comics perfectly illustrate what it's like to feel anxiety or self-doubt weighing constantly down on you, and far more accurately than any words I might put to the problem could. And in the process, they also make the issues slightly easier to deal with — both because they show those of us grappling with them that we're not alone, and because they help put everything in perspective.
24-year-old Evans is The Daily Dot's Artist in Residence this week, writing and drawing a new illustration every day in the site's Comics section. She's been posting her work on Tumblr for many years, though; you might recall her Breaking Bad Valentines, which went viral during the winter of 2012. She's also been known to whip out a hilarious visual pun on occasion, which speaks deeply to my terrible-joke-loving soul.
However, it's the comics and illustrations about anxiety and other mental health issues that makes her work so important. As Evans described it to The Daily Dot, “[Anxiety is] a bit of a chameleon. Sometimes it's huge and overbearing, and sometimes it's this annoying little creature that follows me around”; accordingly, her comics frequently feature either big picture representations of it or small, goblin-like creatures wreaking havoc in seemingly small yet difficult-to-cope-with ways. Back in 2013, she also spoke with Neatorama about anxiety in general, social anxiety in particular, and mental illness. For Evans, creating comics and other artwork about these issues can help her work through them: “I'm bad at verbalizing stuff, but it seems to come out a bit better with pen on paper,” she said. “I guess putting it on paper makes it seem a bit more real, rather than something exclusively in my head. It's like, 'okay, it's on paper, it exists, it's there, let's move on.”
Evans is also bipolar, and, as she describes it, “one of those people who tries not to let on just how hard it is.” Speaking to Neatorama, she commented, “I don't want to let being bipolar rule my life, but the truth is, it is a big part of my life. So I'm still working to find the balance between everything.” She continued, “I think drawing cartoons about it helps me open up about everything. I'm terrible with talking about stuff, so sometimes, even if I never show my comics to anyone, and my words are just between me and the paper, it's a step forward to me.”
In viewing Evans' work, I'm reminded of Project 1 in 4, which, although begun long after Evans first started posting her work online, shares a similar sensibility. For those who suffer from mental illness, it's often difficult to articulate exactly what it feels like — both to other people and even to ourselves — but a picture really can be worth a thousand words. And even if you're not a skilled artist, someone else's art can often be exactly what you need: Not only does it resonate with you, but you can also show it to someone else and say, “Look — this is what it feels like.” It creates a community of understanding out of both the knowlege that you're not alone, and the fact that you can finally show others what you mean when words might have otherwise failed.
My favorite comics — the ones that ring truest for me on a personal level — are the ones of the “annoying little creature that follows me around” variety. This is frequently how I feel when anxiety hits — that, no matter what I tell myself or how I intellectualize what's going on, there's this obnoxious jerk latched onto me:
Or punching my confidence in the face:
And sometimes, he's so persistent that it seems like he's the only “buddy” you've got left (and I put “buddy” in quotation marks, because he's definitely a toxic friend):
True, comics won't solve all our problems — but they can make them just a little easier to deal with, both for their creators and for their readers. And that? Is infinitely valuable.
See more of Evans' work at butthorn.tumblr.com.
Images: Courtesy Beth Evans