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mental health mondays :: all the monsters are here

i had meant to post about this project much earlier, since it was done during october, but i still think it's very much worth a look. artist shawn coss drew a "portrait" of a mental disorder for every day of october [mental health month], something that tries to convey what the feeling of having that disease is. his work reminds me a little of ralph steadman's iconic hunter s. thompson covers, and especially gerald scarfe's animations for pink floyd's the wall. his figures are somewhere between spectral humans and insectoid aliens, all ravenous appetite and primal destructiveness.

i chose a few favourites to share, but i highly encourage you, if you like what you see, to pre-order the book he's publishing with all the drawings. [you can also get 11x17 prints of individual images.]

autism spectrum disorder

as coss notes himself, asd is not a disorder, per se, but he included it since it's still listed in the dsm-v. autism does very much affect the mind, and i love the artist's interpretation of its effects. the figure has all the right parts, but they're not arranged properly, and he can't communicate the way that others can.



generalised anxiety disorder

i like that he has this figure posed like an animal being backed into a corner, because that is very much the feeling of generalized anxiety. there are dark, malevolent things coming to get you and all you can do is try to stand against them.




attention deficit disorder

this is a disorder that gets a bad rep because of its application to unruly children. in adults, while a nervous or hyperactive disposition can be part of it, it's more just about being able to prioritize all of the information you're receiving. most of us are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling things all the time. we're orienting ourselves in physical spaces, we're making micro-decisions all the time about what we're going to do, what we need to remember, what direction we're going to look in, what words we're going to type [yes, i am totally cataloguing what i'm doing as i write this post]. we get through our lives because our brains filter that information and arrange it for us. i can smell the hand cream that i just applied. i can hear the fan in the background [yes, in december, it's a whole other thing]. but my brain knows i want to focus on writing a  blog post, so that's what i do. for someone who has add, the brain isn't doing that the way it should. instead, it's like you have hundreds of sources of sensory and abstract input coming at you all the time, and you feel like you have to react to all of it. for most of us, it would be like being forced to live with superfluous heads, constantly sending conflicting signals about what needs our attention.


depersonalisation disorder

this is something i've actually suffered from, on and off, for many years. unsurprisingly, it tends to manifest when i'm very stressed, especially if my sleep patterns have been disturbed. i described it to dom, the only non-doctor with whom i've discussed it in any great detail, as an "out of body experience". the thing about any kind of dissociative disorders is that they're an extremely personal thing, so it can be hard to find even a basic set of terms to fit the experience. but the second i saw this, i felt my heart speed up with excitement. yes. that is exactly it. you're standing somewhere, everything is normal, and then all of a sudden, part of you just isn't there anymore. and the "you" made up by your mind is in both places, wondering what the hell is going on. 


borderline personality disorder

ah, the "crazy ex girlfriend disorder". there are some significant issues about the way in which borderline personality disorder is diagnosed [and likewise, how narcissistic personality disorder has been diagnosed], which serve to compound what is already a very challenging condition. people with bpd are haunted by a sense of emptiness, a fear of abandonment that just devours them when they feel under stress. derided as controlling or manipulative, they are people who need calm and careful effort to make them feel even a little safe, because, when they are threatened, their anxieties will start to see enemies everywhere. 

in this illustration alone, coss has drawn a figure that is beautiful and overtly sexual, because a complex and often damaging relationship with sexuality is a hallmark of the condition. her head is dark, the life and beauty drained out of it by the demons that are circling around her. 


you can see more of shawn coss's art on his website and on his tumblr [including a new series on the seven deadly sins, that will appeal to those who like the inktober series, i'm sure]. 

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