There is no sugarcoating this: 2020 was really shitty and surreal. A year into the pandemic, it feels like we are trying really hard to wake up from a very long hibernation. While some people would like us to “get back to normal” ASAP, the reality is that some of us don’t have that luxury.
Still Couldn’t Afford Therapy, So I Made This, Again
As a Black bi man with multiple mental health issues, cartoonist Lawrence Lindell knows that it is impossible to be normal again after the pandemic. With his brief but poignant sequel to his 2017 comic Couldn’t Afford Therapy So I Made This, Lindell attempts to make sense of how the last year affected him and whether his mental health is worth second-guessing.
First off, I really like the title of the comic. Not only is it straightforward, but it serves as a reminder of how cathartic creative self-expression can be for those with mental health issues. Since I have depression and anxiety, and have sporadic creative moments, I tend to forget that something like a comic can serve as a healthy outlet for the worst mental health moments.
Speaking of the worst mental health moments, a classic one is when somebody asks, “How are you?” and you lie because you’re ashamed or don’t want to inconvenience someone else. Or maybe they just don’t understand mental health issues well enough for you to trust them.
In the very first page of the black and white comic, Lindell’s heavily inked art style illustrates how difficult it is to answer this question. The question is displayed in hand lettered blocky letters and the honest response is shown in small text, while the response most people say is shown in the same blocky letters used earlier. The contrast is a visual representation of mumbling the truth in a small voice and then lying when told to speak up.
In fact, the only thing worse than lying to other people about your mental health is lying to yourself. When the pandemic first started happening and everybody was panic buying things, a lot of people, myself included, asked themselves, “Is this for real?” When the lockdown happened, that’s when things really started to sink in.
Lindell represents the weight of despair of March’s lockdown with a page that has the word “March” in large letters with heavy black ink dripping down onto Lindell with the words, “It’s all cancelled,” in smaller letters. Again, the smaller letters show how small Lindell feels as all his plans are cancelled by the pandemic.
In addition to the art itself, the narrative of Lindell’s mental health under the pandemic is given extra weight as he explains the personal and professional accomplishments made in the years prior to the pandemic, such as finishing grad school and getting married. This is relatable because there are readers who were hoping for a better 2020.
One of the most appropriate images that sums up the pandemic and the mental health of some people before and after is the GIF of someone about to put the last card on top of the house of cards they are building, only to have the cards collapse. When this happened for Lindell, he had to slowly pick up the cards and start building again.
Although Lindell’s comic ends on a hopeful note, it also ends on a serious one as he notes that he isn’t crazy because of how the pandemic affected his mental health. It is okay to feel a little or a lot off, as long as you aren’t being bigoted or an asshole. For those with mental health issues, living life with them is normal and you aren’t unhinged for what you’ve endured this past year.