We often take our minds and bodies for granted. Right until they stop working properly. When they do, everything is harder- our relationships, our jobs, just lying in bed can be hard when you are sick or struggling with issues related to mental health. For those with issues that are more impactful than getting this year's flu, the experience of being unwell is both familiar and complex.
Take a moment to step into someone else's shoes with these powerful memoirs written in graphic novel format by people experiencing serious health issues.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me by Ellen Forney
This brave graphic memoir is the story of being diagnosed and dealing with manic depression. Forney is a Seattle native and a Comic Book artist by trade. The high quality of the techniques used in her book is impressive and her art style is cartoony but detailed with nice thick clean lines and good lettering. She tackles subjects like how hard it is to find a set of medicine to stay stable without horrendous side effects, how challenging it can be to 'come out' with a mental illness and her fears about how everything would effect her creative work.
Stitches by David Small
Stitches takes on both mental and physical well-being in this memoir of a traumatic childhood. Raised by a doctor who x-rayed him without shielding and a mother who herself reeled and lashed out at their child from her own early trauma, this is a heartbreaking story of the birth of an artist from a dark, scary, painful place.
Sick by Ken Dahl
Sick is not a comic for the faint of heart, and to say that Ken Dahl has a glass half empty outlook on life is perhaps an understatement. Schulz dives in to the darkest part of sickness, the loneliness and despair that comes to those without the resources or support structure to care for them while they are ill. Those emotions come through in long lines, muted colors and a haunted art style that would be as at home illustrating Faust as they are this modern memoir about sickness.
Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini
Paul Dini was a writer on the TV show Batman: The Animated series and this graphic novel is his story of the aftermath of one fateful night when he was attacked by robbers and violently beaten. His hurt was both physical and psychological, starting him on a long, tormented road to recovery. Dini invites us into his head were readers will recognize his doubts and fears which are given the faces of characters he wrote for, from The Joker, to Poison Ivy to Batman himself. Fair warning: Dini is a bit unlikable in parts of the book, and way some of the women are drawn is problematic for me. But the story of recovery in this graphic novel is rich. The subject matter is deeply personal, showing us the strength of an author inviting us in and letting us see the darkest, unlikable and vulnerable moments of his journey back to health. Something that is both incredibly brave and compelling to read.
For more graphic novels that tell personal stories of mental and physical illness, check out this list: Graphic Novels: What is it like to be sick?