Hyperbole and a Half's Wrenching, True 'Adventures in Depression'
Allie Brosh left the internet for a year and a half. She dropped back in today with the most harrowing, yet also funny, relatable, and true description of what happens in a depressed brain that I've ever read or seen.
Have you read it yet? It's called Depression, Part Two.
Do you want to grasp as best as you can what it's like to experience depression? What it's like on both sides when someone who's depressed tries to reach out, and people want desperately to help but have no idea how? Do you want to understand that when and if depression turns around, it happens in the most ridiculous and seemingly random of ways? From the moment her toys stopped making sense to when a piece of shriveled corn turned her around the corner back to good, it's all here in Allie's post.
She explains in words and pictures why emotional struggle is physically exhausting.
She clarifies why it's on the person living through it to make her depression palatable for others -- when she is least likely to be capable of doing so:
And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something -- it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.
It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.
For me, this was an essential, but not-at-all-easy read. It undid something in me that was apparently tightly coiled and waiting for it to trigger some tears that were locked up for just such an occasion.
All illustrations depicted in this post are created by and courtesy of Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half.
I hope Allie's happy that she was a useful trigger.
Brosh's last blog post before her post yesterday announcing that there would be a post today (this makes total sense, I promise) ran on October 27, 2011. It is called Adventures in Depression. As I'm writing this, it has 4,264 comments. She posted it, and then she didn't post anything else until, like I said, yesterday.
Allie's last words in the 2011 post were:
And that's how my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton.
And that was all.
Well, there was a Reddit update from her about a year ago:
Hey everybody... this is Allie.
Before I get into what's been going on, I wanted to let you know that I truly appreciate the amount of kindness in your comments. It's wonderful and strange and humbling to know that so many people on the internet care about me (I am also relieved that my lack of updates hasn't caused most of you to hate me yet).
The last few months (and I suppose also the few months before those few months) have been very difficult for me. As you know, I've been struggling with depression. I made a small breakthrough at the time of my last post, but even though I was feeling a bit better, I was still depressed and I knew I probably wasn't out of the woods yet.
As many of you have guessed, the woods turned out to be much deeper than I had anticipated. And they are full of things that make me cry on the floor for no good reason. However, during a recent bout of floor-crying, I noticed that I was failing horribly at fixing myself and that I should probably seek the help of someone who knew what the fuck they were doing.
And then last month, there was news of an October book release that met with much celebration in my corner of the internet. She was still out there, and that was good. From Media Bistro:
Artist and author Allie Brosh will publish Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened this fall, bringing her much-loved website to bookstores.
Thanks to preorders by fans, the book is currently ranked No. 243 out of all books on Amazon. The book will come out October 29, 2013, two years after Brosh (pictured, via) last posted on Hyperbole and a Half.
A photograph of the manuscript has already earned 177,000 views from Reddit users who love her work.
And now she is back, with a lengthy, image-rich description of her path back from the depths. As of this writing, this post has 3,949 comments, well on pace to break the previous post's record, and a testament to the effect her treatment of this frighteningly common, very difficult, condition has on so many, many people, as well as to her ability to discuss it in a relatable, honest way.
One need not be a depression survivor, or a person who loves one of us, to relate to or enjoy Allie's work. She's also adept at illuminating entirely reasonable (if rageful) reactions to everyday irritants, as in the genius treatment of what may be a universal experience in Sneaky Hate Spiral. And if you've ever read "CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!" on the internet and had no idea who the originator was? Allie, in "Why I'll Never Be An Adult."
Her plain-spoken words in today's post talked to me of crawling through an emotional haze -- one I'm not sure anyone who hasn't been through can understand, and one that seems an awful lot like mine. When I read them, I both lose my breath and feel like maybe I can find it again. And her drawings of imperfect not-really-people-looking people, who look like no one I've ever seen, but seem to look more and more like my understanding of me as I scroll down the page -- they make me grateful, too, for the internet and for the writers and artists, like Allie Brosh, who use it to share their work.
Because even an idealist-turned-inside-out like me can admit that if she came back, again? So can you. So can I.
And people might still care, and read your stuff, and maybe if you write about what you went through, it can help people who really need it. And I don't really know of a better use of the medium than that.
I hope that people understand how much that means to some of us, and what I'm quite certain it means to her.