The marvellous writer of the book I illustrated, Morris the Mankiest Monster, Giles Andreae, has lots of other tricks up his sleeve, including the famous Purple Ronnie series he originated, and his more recent line of stuff, Edward Monkton. Last week the Times ran a huge three-page section on his thoughts behind his new animation, The Pig of Happiness. While I could relate more to the Pig of Comfort this morning than the Pig of Happiness, I was hugely intrigued by his description of his breakdown into clinical depression. His stark, insightful description of it reminded me of the huge gulf between being depressed and suffering depression; people who have never suffered depression can't even start to appreciate the total wiping out of personality and horror that come with it. More than a call be 'be happy', I found it a call to be gentle and patient with people who are depressed, something I could use reminding about when I'm tempted to wish they'd 'snap out of it' or something equally callous. (Giles related that to someone telling a person with a broken neck to get a grip.)
You can read the whole article at Times Online here.
It also makes me think about how much creative people who have suffered serious mental health issues have to offer the rest of us in giving us a window into this whole world. Their contributions are so HUGELY valuable; it's not enough just to write something worthy, that will only get a small audience. These guys know how to make the subject genuinely interesting, and what can be more interesting than the dark and strange places the mind can go. So few people are able really to communicate what breakdown and chronic suffering is like, or make us see things differently, want be more understanding and contemplate the fragile thread that keeps us all from falling into the same pit.
A lot of people in the comics community have come to value Leeds-based writer and artist Darryl Cunningham for having this very gift. He's someone who has struggled hugely with depression, but has retained a sensitivity to what others are going through and lets us see what really happens. Keep an eye out for his upcoming book, Psychiatric Tales, coming out with Blank Slate in February. You can see extracts from his book on Live Journal (he's tallguywrites), or to go straight to the autobiographical chapter, click on the image:
Thanks, Giles and Darryl! We all really need to hear this stuff, and you guys make us look forward to reading about it.