The illustrations that show what life is like with anxiety

Researchers at the Mental Health Foundation found that there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK in 2013, and women in England are nearly twice as likely to suffer from anxiety disorders in comparison to men.

In fact, one in six people in the UK are affected with symptoms of anxiety, which can range from dizziness and breathing difficulties to tension headaches and severe psychological symptoms related to self-worth and fear.

This is 43-year-old Catherine Lepage:

The Montreal- based artist recently published a book of charming illustrations called Thin Slices of Anxiety to document not only her day-to-day experiences with the disorder, but ways the symptoms can be alleviated.

indy100 caught up with Lepage to find out a bit more about her illustrations, and personal struggles with anxiety.

What prompted you to make these illustrations?

About 10 years ago, I shared my experience with depression as an illustrated book. I needed to make something positive out of a negative experience. I was surprised to see that many people could relate to my story.

After that, I continued to make illustrations about depression and anxiety, just for fun. And I came up with the idea of making another book about anxiety.

I started analysing the origins of my anxiety, how I can see it coming, how it comes and goes. What makes it worst, how I can try to manage it. I had to dig deep into my guts, and to explore my darker side. I also felt I had to be honest, and somehow I knew that my personal struggle had something universal. Anxiety is a rich subject and I feel it hasn’t been explored much by illustrators.

What kind of reception have your illustrations had?

The reception is great.

I received many emails and the main comment is that people recognise themselves in my story, and feel less alone. Somehow for many people it’s a relief to see they are not alone.

I’ve had messages from the Netherlands, UK, USA, Australia, India… I think it’s fascinating to see the essence of anxiety is the same all over the world, from children to seniors.

I also received messages from grandmas, teenagers, adults… A father told me he bought the book for is 9 year-old-son diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. The boy reacted: 'This is awesome, Dad! I'm going to read this every time I start to feel anxious.'

Do you have any strategies you use to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety?

I try to accept it, not fight it.

It’s something that comes and goes, so I focus on that. Eventually, it will go away.

Anxiety is a sign that I push my limits too hard. So I focus on a good health routine (sleep, exercise, good food.) Also, I have a very simple trick, when I’m stressed : I smile. I realised when I’m stressed my face is contracted. You need to relax to be able to smile.

You are not alone. Talk about it, look for help.

All images courtesy of Catherine Lepage.

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