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Anxiety is a wild ride. There’s a slew of complex emotions and experiences that accompany mental illness; nerves, fear, tentative happiness, the never-ending quest to convince yourself that you deserve to be content, the arduousness of forming human connections, and so on. In ‘Bird Brain’, I’ve illustrated comics showing what it’s like living with the unfaltering rollercoaster that is mental illness...using pigeons. In particular, anxiety is explored through three themes - negativity, relationships, and positivity.
There seems to be a general assumption in society that anxiety and depression just involve sitting in bed crying. There is an element of truth to that, of course, but it’s much more nuanced. Sometimes, I’m walking around and crying! In the six or seven years since my anxiety started manifesting, I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences. Panic attacks in supermarkets, debilitating existential dread, constant scrutiny of every word that leaves my mouth, you name it. The first section of Bird Brain showcases all the forms that self-hatred can display itself in, and hopefully drive home that what may seem minuscule to most can have catastrophic implications for someone with anxiety.
As you might guess, the above aspects of mental illness make it exceedingly difficult to establish meaningful and strong relationships with others, both romantic and platonic. The second section, ‘Relationships’, is composed of comics inspired by real conversations and anecdotes in my attempts to explain mental illness to those around me, and how anxiety has affected the connections I share with those I love.
Although I feel that my mental health has improved drastically over the years (partly due to medication, a subject that is broached in several comics) there’s still a long way to go. However, I believe that anxiety doesn’t have to doom you to misery for the rest of your existence - there are infinitely more good times than bad, no matter how far-off the former may seem sometimes. The final section, ‘Positivity’, concludes the book with comics that look on the bright side, expressing my core belief that life is still worth living despite what you may go through.
Overall, in Bird Brain I’ve attempted to display the complexities of living with anxiety, in ways that hopefully make you think about the intricacies of mental illness whilst also having a bit of a laugh. If it also helps you have a bit more sympathy and love for pigeons, as well, then my life’s work is complete.
Chuck is a 23 year old English Literature graduate living and working in London. She is slightly embarrassed about writing in the third person.
When she was around 17 years old, she began experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s taken a few years of self-reflection and a hefty amount of self-loathing, but she’s finally at a point where she’s comfortable talking about it openly. This has manifested in her creating comics depicting her life living with mental illness…using pigeons.
She has what some may call an excessive adoration for pigeons, and feels that their quirkiness and their receipt of contempt from the general public makes them a perfect emblem to project her experiences with mental health onto. She also likes drawing them with one eyeball floating off their head because she thinks it’s funny. Don’t worry about it.
Chuck was named a Digital Champion Award at the Mind Media Awards 2018.
When she’s not drawing about / thinking about / feeding pigeons, Chuck likes reading and playing video games.
These last two comics were based off the same awkward party experience and made within 12 hours of each other; the former, shortly upon returning home in a drunken stupor with the flippancy that only vodka can bring, and the latter the morning after, once shame and the hangover had kicked in.
I’m at a point now where I can deal with parties without wanting to disappear into a crack in the wall and become part of the insulation, but at my worst, large social gatherings just made me feel the emotional equivalent of being set on fire. It’s either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid that I kept going to them. An average schedule of my party-going experience:
9:00 PM: Arrive.
9:15 PM: Complete greeting and catching up with the handful of people you know.
9:17 PM: Stand gawkily clutching a cup of fruity alcohol, staring at it like it’s the most interesting thing in the world.
9:18 PM: Resolve to discover a conversation you can easily enter.
9:20 PM: Down your cup and refill.
9:23 PM: Introduce yourself to someone.
9:24 PM: Quickly realise you have no idea how to participate in a conversation. You moron. What did you expect? That you’d just be able to act like a ‘normal person’? Who the hell are you kidding?
9:25 PM: Flush with shame as the other person breaks from your awkward eye contact and moves onto better prospects.
9:26 PM: Sear their look of disgust into your brain forever.
9:27 PM: Feel as if everyone’s eyes are stabbing into you as punishment for this murder of an interaction.
9:28 PM: Everyone is talking to somebody else, and is having much more fun than they ever would with you, which they are screaming at you through osmosis.
9:29 PM: Realise that there are a lot of people here, and they are all without fail doing this.
9:30 PM: Feel sweaty and short of breath.
9:31 PM: Convince yourself that locking yourself in the bathroom and crying for a few minutes will expel all this negativity from you and leave you pristine. You are a dirty sponge that just needs to be wrung out.
9:32 PM: Queue for the bathroom.
9:40 PM: The queue for the bathroom has not shortened because the people in there are snorting coke off of the sink. You’ve never done coke. Does coke calm you down? Is becoming a coke addict a viable form of self-care? No, you idiot. Run back to the kitchen for any booze you can find.
9:41 PM: Concoct a cocktail that is 90% alcohol and 10% mixer. Immediately chug.
9:42 PM: Despair when this weirdly makes you feel worse instead of miraculously fixing all of your problems.
9:45 PM: Put your coat on and leave, silently heaving from crying so hard the entire way home. Nobody notices or cares.
If I’m feeling particularly efficient, these events can be condensed into thirty minutes! Plus, now I’ve just saved £80 on not going out! Who says being mentally ill makes you useless?
- 31st October 2019 IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOOOOWN & American release!!
Sorry it's been a bit radio silent on my end - the past few months or so have just been focused on production aka actually printing the book/producing physical rewards. I'm very excited to announce that this is all pretty much done now, and I will be signing all the hard copies next Thursday 7th November! RIP in advance to my hand.
After that, then things will start being sent out and…10th June 2019 Going to press & rewards!
Hope you're all having a splendid Monday. You should've received an email stating that Bird Brain has now gone to press, hooray!!! It's so exciting to think that it'll be a Real Tangible Thing you can hold with your hands soon!
Thank you to everyone who has responded to my emails asking for details regarding bespoke prizes; I haven't managed to respond to all of them, but it's much appreciated…8th May 2019 General Release Date & Conventions
First off, I apologise for being so terrible at providing updates...I would say I do it to create a sense of ~*mystery*~ but honestly, I'm just forgetful and get caught up in juggling art things and my Real Life ''''Proper''' Job, so I'm very sorry for being a flake. That said, there's a lot to update you on!
In January, I mentioned that I'd been sent the loose pages to give my final…28th January 2019 Happy coo year!
Happy (belated) new year, friends! I hope your January has been a great start to the year. I thought it was about time I gave an update on the book!
Since my last update (way back in September…I’m sorry!) things have been very logistics focused, with lots and lots of editing and discussions on the presentation of the book, etc. Around two weeks ago, I got sent the loose pages to give my final edits…5th September 2018 THANK COO!!! ❤❤❤
So I'm a bit late with this announcement, but I've had a super intense week getting the book finalised because WE HIT 100% FUNDING!!! I'm still in total shock over it. Even as the percentage crept through the high 90s, there was a part of me that was still being negative and was convincing me that it'd never get funded. Almost like I have a mental illness or something, how weird.…28th June 2018 Excerpt
There’s an excerpt posted under the eponymous tab of the page - it’s all about what it’s like going to a party when you’re a nervous anxious wreck! Enjoy x
These people are helping to fund Bird Brain.
El 'Leesh' Trevan