The proliferation of mental illness stories in today’s market is vast and saturated. However, recovery narratives all end with just that: recovery. The trauma of a period of insanity upon a person’s life is very rarely addressed. With a series of ten large-scale comic book pages paired with abstract drawings, Novice captures the post-mental illness narrative. Drawing from my own experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I dissect my own recovery in the form of six stories, each with one or two pages. Pervasive throughout the work are themes of isolation and the malleable nature of time. Anxiety twists the hours on the clock, stretching and compressing in a sadistic nature. Comics are a natural way to depict my reflections for they have the ability to control the reader’s timeline. They also have the power to define an environment which I used to mirror the lonely surreal landscape which I lived in post-insanity.
Landscape is a theme throughout the work. Growing up and recovering in the diverse biomes in New Mexico inspired the environments. They also informed how I approached the abstract elements surrounding the figurative comics. I draw a parallel between the physical landscape and the metaphorical topography of the brain. Inspired by my reading of The Genius Within: Discovery the Intelligence of Every Living Thing by Dr. Frank T. Vertosick Jr., I depict the mental network of a brain as a shifting terrain. As healing progresses, the network erodes and rises with new neural connections and pathways. The abstract mirrored this fluidity and became representative of the chapters in my recovery narrative.
Together, the narrative comics and abstract mark inform a dual understanding of the same concept. In the recorded conversation between an astrophysicist and a Buddhist monk The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to
the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet the intricacies of the universe are discussed. Though the theories of existence are informed by very different mindsets, the intersections lead to a greater understanding than either theory by itself could provide. I drew upon this idea of intersecting perceptions to describe mental-illness trauma. The complexity of the brain is only beginning to be understood by modern psychology and the structure and processing capacities of a “normal” versus a mentally-ill brain are a nebulous concept. Neither the story-driven or the abstract representations of recovery alone can capture the fluidity. Together as equal theories they come closer.
The text of the comics served as a verbal depiction in a third perception. Structured between script and punk-song, the ten poems that accompany each drawing distill my reflections on each stage in my recovery. My experience in music and soundscape editing informed the structure of each poem as well as how I approached the writing. Compiled together in a 41-page artbook, the drawings and poems provide an intimate and personal experience. The large scale of the book provided visual impact similar to the effect each reflection had upon my life. The format encourages processing time not provided by the drawings alone. This project demands to be sat with and reread. The complex- ity of the subject matter and visuals is raw and unapologetic. It is my story in the multi-faceted way I understand it.