All in my head: comics against depression

After seeing friends and family suffer with depression, the one things that I have learned is that nothing is textbook, and it can manifest into something from a horror story and take the form of your worst fears, or manipulate your best traits.

Recently I’ve been diagnosed with depression. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a teenager but recently depression has manifested in the two worst forms that they could. The first is through something I’ve always experienced, which is weight issues induced my comfort-eating and over-eating in general. It also causes me to lose motivation for exercise despite the fact that, the bigger I get, the more I eat and less I move. 

The second form is the one that scares me the most. After coming out as bisexual at the age of 14 (I now commonly refer to myself as queer/bi/pans) my sexuality has always been essentially the cornerstone to my beliefs, relationships and in a sense, my personality; it’s one of the parts of myself that I could truly say I totally and utterly loved and was grateful for it. My current partner is male and he is the epitome of everything I look for in a person. He respects me more than anyone has, makes me feel heard, looks after me when I’m low and celebrates my highs. Yet sometimes when I post pictures of us or walk near a queer space with him, I get this gut-wrenching fear. Depression has somehow managed to figure out how to turn my sexuality against me, and in my lowest moments, I genuinely begin to think that because I am with a cis-man, that I am not living my truth as a queer woman, something that I have never even considered in the entire 10 years of me being out and proud.

I try to counteract this by creating queer art, mainly comics. Before my partner, I had never been interested in comics nor the creation of them. I was more into writing poetry and contributing to my horror anthology to keep myself distracted. But after discovering Our Super Adventure by Sarah Graley together and pretty much screaming “IT’S US” at every page, I realised comics didn’t have to be incredibly detailed with alternative universes, intricately planned and designed on to paper. They could be a fun doodle of people farting in a church and I would still enjoy them, and probably relate a lot more than to some ethereal elven queen so well drawn you can see every wisp of hair.

To most people, drawing can be therapeutic, but to me it’s a combination of several healing factors:
1) My partner is also an artist, and drawing together in comfortable quiet is really calming for me, especially after a long day.
2) I receive regular affirmations from my partner, who appreciates everything I create and sings my praises even when I’m too frustrated to finish something.
3) I have tried many outlets over the year, from embroidery to cringe music videos, but with my partner’s help I finally feel like I’ve found something that’s mine. While it is rewarding for me to create and unload my feelings, I also like to use my time to draw things for my friends or for causes that are important to me. I have also created the artwork for an art collaboration group that focuses on mental health called the It’ll Be Reyt Club, something that I was extremely proud to be asked to do for a club I respect, and the creator who I respect even more.
4) Comics allow me to be brutally honest, depicting versions of myself that I would never allow people to see in real life. To revel in the ordinary aspects of life for the sole purpose of someone else reading that and messaging me to say, “Shit, I do that too! I feel that way too!”

My partner is central to my coping mechanisms, healthy behaviours and therapeutic hobbies. However, I am very social and like time alone with my friends. I have friends all across the LGBTQIA spectrum, but particularly when I am with my girl-friends and their female partners (two of which are married to each other) I will feel this horrendous ache, this gaping hole of loss that disappears the second I am reunited with my partner. I simply look at his face, and it’s like I never felt the void, which turns into a shudder that I quickly shake off.

Depression is making me internalise the biphobia that I have experienced and feared from others for years and I am determined to not let it ruin the best thing that has happened to me for years.

Luckily, he totally understands, has suffered with his own mental health in the past, and understands how I might feel. Most importantly, he understands that I am proud of him, proud to be his partner and no matter what my brain makes me think, I will never hide him or be ashamed of him. I just need to learn to not feel so ashamed of myself. I endeavour to ignore the notion in my brain that I’m acting like I’ve “picked a side,” the same notion that tells me to act impulsively and message beautiful women I know with “innocent” compliments for female attention.

I understand that the reason I feel “lesser” is not my partner, certainly isn’t my sexuality, and most of all isn’t me. It is my brain trying to tell me that it is poorly and that I have ignored it for some time, and attacking the one thing I pride the most dearly is the only way I would listen to it’s cry for help.

Words and art by Kitty Calderbank

Find Kitty’s work on Instagram @kittycalders

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