In the under fifty pages that make up the graphic novel Constantly, the author (who goes by the pseudonym gg) creates a loop all too familiar for those who experience depression. gg’s construction of this loop is impressive when considering the simplicity of this short yet impactful comic. She uses no dialogue and small amounts of text. Muted pinks and blues make up the majority of the frames.
With minimal text and color, gg translates the thoughts and feelings playing on repeat for many living with depression. Due to the deeply personal nature of her previous work, it is safe to assume the author is drawing from personal experience. For example, in her graphic novel, I’m Not Here, gg draws from her experiences as a second-generation immigrant. And on her Patreon page, gg posts daily diary comics that often focus on her emotions and inner thoughts. Constantly follows a woman (arguably a figure of gg herself) as she wakes up and prepares for her day. By centering her own experience with depression, gg creates a testimonial about the difficulty of self-care in the midst of mental illness.
Color is perhaps the most impactful way Constantly retains its simplicity while also creating nuanced symbolism about depression. Take the first few pages as an example; they contain a high contrast between the deep blue background and the soft pink and bright white of the woman’s body. The blue surrounds the sleeping woman as phantom hands reach out to touch her. Here, the blue serves as a symbol of depression, which gg carries through to the end of the book. Even on pages where pink makes up the majority of the frame, small amounts of blue lurk in the background. And at the turn of a page, the blue is once again all-consuming—a resonant metaphor for this all-consuming mental illness. Using the high contrast of the dark blue and light pink, gg is able to demonstrate depression’s ability to suddenly, and without warning, drag the woman into the dark: the darkness of her thoughts, the feeling of isolation, and the constant pull of sleep.
gg also creates simplicity through the lack of text, heightening the impact of the few words she does include. Words only appear within frames (you’ll find no captions whatsoever), and they appear handwritten on a piece of notebook paper. They are the only insights into the woman’s inner thoughts, and they frequently contradict one another. For example, one notebook page reads, “I don’t want to live. I don’t want to die.” Another one reads, “I don’t want to leave a trace. I don’t want to be forgotten.” Each contradiction provides a window into the woman’s inner battles. Similar to the use of color, the choice to include minimal text allows gg to better convey feelings of isolation and loneliness.
By excluding captions or speech bubbles, Constantly speaks to the way depression makes people isolate themselves from the outside world, family, and friends. The woman is alone. She does not speak or exchange remarks with another person. She does not leave her apartment. In the end, her emotional reality is conveyed through two colors and a small number of words, demonstrating the thoughtfulness that went into the book’s craftsmanship. gg created a moving story that deeply resonates with those who experience depression, and its success lies in its simplicity.