National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Hyperbole and a Half Draws a Unique Picture of Depression
By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Manager
Hyperbole and a Half
By Allie Brosh
At first glance, Allie Brosh’s drawings look like nothing more than a collection of crudely drawn stick figures. But the true effort she puts forth into each drawing is astounding. For example, in a video from the New York Times, the 28-year-old blogger describes how her artwork comes to life, such as the difference moving the pupils half a millimeter can make. This attention to detail—and her humor—allows Brosh’s collection of drawings and text in her debut novel to become expressive depictions of her life experiences.
Brosh’s new book, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things That Happened, chronicles many of her rocky days as a child, adventures with her dogs and thoughts on her traits and troubles. While the humorous anecdotes are what gave life to her blog, it was her posts on her experience with depression that often resonated most with her readers.
In October 2011, Brosh posted an online comic called “Adventures in Depression,” detailing the sadness, self-loathing and other thoughts that she experienced with the illness. She then went silent on her blog for a year and a half, before making another post this past May that depicted her downward spiral and thoughts of suicide.
“No, see, I don’t necessarily want to KILL myself …” the comic version of Brosh explains to her mother. “I just want to become dead somehow.”
The web post received more than 5,000 comments and more than 1.5 million visits in a single day. The painful honesty with which she describes her thoughts and experiences allows her simple drawings to convey much more than what might be considered possible.
In an interview with Mother Jones, Brosh describes how her isolated childhood helped develop her love for drawing. She had to be more resourceful than others her age because she couldn’t simply visit a friend’s house. As she grew older, her passion for art continued and her blog was born.
For Brosh, the responses she receives from readers, particularly on her posts about depression, encourage her in her work.
“Depression is a really isolating experience and so you don't really think of other people going through that, even though cognitively you know that other people are depressed,” she told Mother Jones. Just seeing how many people identified with the post was actually really helpful for me. The amount of support that I received was pretty shocking.”
Brosh’s use of her drawings and words to chronicle her sometimes-bizarre life is truly enjoyable and enlightening. Her openness about her experience with depression—as well as her humorous tales of stealing cakes, her dogs and other childhood experiences—is something that can be enjoyed by all.