Holly Hindle, the creative mind behind the comic The Bear Minimum, illustrates her anxiety and depression — literally. Through her comic Hindle, 27, chronicles her struggles with generalized anxiety disorder, dermatillomania, and depression through the comic, which she posts regularly on Tumblr. One way she deals? The name of the comic itself should give you a hint: She depicts herself as a bear. A really cute, cartoon bear.
"Seeing my emotions on an animal makes it easier for me to treat myself with kindness," Hindle tells Bustle in an email. "Drawing them played out as a bear allows me to process the feelings and let them go, without feeling bad for having them in the first place."
Though Hindle has been an Ontario-based freelance digital illustrator since 2001, she only began seriously making comics about a year ago as a way to carve out time for personal expression. What began as a comic-a-day challenge for the month of January quickly grew into a cathartic outlet, addressing everything from holidays-induced depression to community problems within fandoms. "The comic became a great way to express issues and joys as well as connect with people like myself," she said in an interview with The Mighty.
Drawing inspiration from people like Allie Brosh of Hyperbole & A Half, who tackled topics around mental health and adulthood struggles with irreverence and humor, Hindle has since created a web persona that shines in its relatability. They speak for themselves, clearly and simply and compassionately:
"I don't have much sympathy when I look into my own eyes over the sink, and that is something to be worked on," she says. Haven't we all had moments like that?
What Hindle's work perhaps illustrates best is the necessity for increased, positive media representation of mental illness. Work that normalizes it, that eases the stigma, that creates a dialogue. Work that embodies the balance of pain and joy we all experience, regardless of our internal wiring.
It doesn't hurt that her bear-drawing skills are really top-notch, too.
"I think ... we are starting to see an improvement [in] how people deal with mental illness," says Hindle. "There is still a whole lot of old school, 'toughen up and deal with it' talk going around, but I think the tide is turning."
Eventually, Hindle hopes to create enough comic strips to fill a book, but in the interim, her goal is simple: Just keep drawing.
As Hindle puts it, "I am a part of the movement of sharing: Expressing my struggles so that others know they are not alone."
See more of The Bear Minimum at Holly Hindle's website.