Books

Powerful yet witty illustrations reveal the inner workings of an anxious mind

Posted by
Harriet Hall
Published

Within the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increasing acceptance and understanding surrounding mental health issues.

Where, previously, people kept these feelings under wraps, as they were considered taboo, today, we see people opening up about their experiences more and more, particularly amongst A-listers, including Cara Delevingne, Rita Ora, Wentworth Miller and Laura Mvula just recently.  

With this rise in mental health awareness, (and an apparent rise in the number of sufferers) the understanding that people’s experiences are all varying and different within each bracket term - anxiety, depression, OCD – has also arisen. One way in which people have been expressing the way these conditions affect them is through art.

From everyday stress to depression and anxiety, several illustrators have visually represented the inner workings of their minds – and highlighted what many others are also feeling.

In the latest of these, Montreal-based illustrator Cathering Lepage, has drawn her own experience of anxiety in an honest and often funny series which has been published in a book, Thin Slices of Anxiety, this year.

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The 43-year-old told Stylist that when she suffered from depression in the past, she found drawing her experiences provided something positive in a negative experience. Years later, she decided to do the same with anxiety.

“I’m an anxious person,” she says. “It’s part of my anxiety.

“I’m a sensitive person and it’s also what makes me creative. I love to draw about anxiety, emotions, feelings. Sometimes it’s easier for me to describe how I feel with images, rather than words.”

But while Lepage didn’t start the project as therapy, it did end up that way:

“I didn’t have the purpose to use art as therapy, but it ended up helping me a lot to learn more about myself, about how I react to events in my everyday life,” she says.

Additionally, the artist has had many responses from people, who found it incredible that she was able to depict their exact emotions:

“Many people have written to me. Some of them wonder how I was able to explain exactly what they live, what’s in their head. The more common comment I get is that people feel less alone. And many of them will use the book to show their relatives and friends what they go through.”

Leparge's illustrations expose the multi-faceted elements of suffering from anxiety, including:

The difficulty of looking forwards, not back:

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Trying to conceal your real feelings so that everything appears A O.K. on the surface:

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The spiral of catastrophic thinking:

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The resultant irritability and anger:

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The fear that others are always judging you:

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The all-consuming overwhelm of anxiety:

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The exhaustion of trying to hold it all together:

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Catherine Leparge's book, Thin Slices of Anxiety is available to buy here.

Read: How to support a friend with an anxiety disorder