“You fucking resplendent flower!”- Chuck draws anxiety and depression, but mostly Pigeons

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What’s the first thing to pop into your mind if I were to mention pigeons? The noble racing bird? Hmm, maybe. Dirty diseased rats with wings? Most likely. A way to embody, personify and express mental illness? Probably not, maybe the last one was a little too specific to Chuck Mullins who uses the unjustly maligned bird to process and explore her own experiences of dealing with long term depression. For anyone who follows her twitter or tumblr feeds however, I’d wager good money it’s the first thing they think off now whenever they spot one of our fearless feathered friend’s pecking at bread crumbs or chips on the street. A regular dose of cathartic pigeon positivity, a wing on their shoulder and a comforting coo in their ear to keep on keeping on.

“I feel a pigeon makes a very good ‘underdog’ figure that’s good for projecting a lot of my feelings onto!” Chuck has said on her website when asked why she chose them to document and work through her own anxiety and depression, which she has stated started back in her teens. Her delightfully plump pigeons show the up and downs in the often exhausting battle (even once being shown like this, pigeon tap tapping forward in medieval armour) with depression along with the extra societal pressures to add on top such as the worry of how people perceive mental health, the still ever present stigma of medication, how those meds often help but are not an instant fix or indeed, a constant one. Depression itself often just showing up full blown deeply negative and self destructive, depicted as a dark, avian presence looming over her protagonist pigeon. While she has stressed and even made fun of not being able to make each and every strip outright funny ,Chucks comics are frequently both hilarious, deeply touching and motivational. Although sometimes, like depression itself, some strips just…are, and that’s okay too.

 

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As weird as it might sound, although I love the strips that make me laugh out loud (often in the worst places!) some of my real favourites of her strips are these “just are” ones. The one’s that show not the dramatic highs or heart wrenching lows but the strips which try to communicate the middling joyless grey that comes with dealing with depression on a daily basis. It’s an important point to communicate, as with “Sometimes I’m a Possum” which I wrote about recently, Chuck has addressed how it can become self defeating when trying to be funny with every strip or converting difficult experiences down to be consumed by an audience. Yet, Chuck’s strips have found an audience, and one that has been more than eager to tell the artist how much her work has resonated with them and  helped them with their own mental health. Chuck is currently collecting them together alongside new material such as her writings on mental health into a crowd funded book. The appropriately titled “Bird Brain” it’s already 70% funded with a physical copy of the book costing a backer about £15 or an ebook version for £10.

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As someone a year into getting on top of things mentally I love this new crop of comics and creators willing to put themselves out there and openly discuss mental health issues. It’s often difficult to get help and it’s wonderful to have reminders like Chuck’s pigeons that we are doing our best and to look after ourselves, that life is still worth the effort through the grey “meh” times. Maybe even to laugh at ourselves once in a while. Her strips are honest, heartwarming and most importantly while helping herself can help us all to loudly and honestly stare that red eyed looming presence on our shoulders and yell “I’m getting better bitch!”

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Chucks strips can be found over at chuckdrawsthings.tumblr.com or you can contribute to the “Bird Brain” kickstarter efforts at unbound.com.

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