I have not officially been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but I know all too well what is involved with getting stuck in its void. The restless nights thinking about how I screwed things up or will inevitably screw things up. An emptiness or numbness that leaves me wondering how normal people function daily. Cancelling plans and drifting farther away from friends. I could be having the time of my life then, all of a sudden, an existential dread kicks in. It can seem like an endless loop. Conversations about these topics are difficult to have with people. You don’t want to be a burden to anyone, as being yourself is enough of a burden. Just Peachy by Holly Chisholm takes a look at living with depression and anxiety, and overcoming it — mostly by being creative and laughing in its face.
The introduction tells a brief story about the author and how she was diagnosed with depression. What followed was prescription medication with symptoms and side effects that were detrimental rather than helpful. Things got better after she started going back to the gym, quit smoking, and reduced alcohol consumption. There was still a partial emptiness. Her therapist suggested keeping a journal. She decided to draw out her experiences instead. It became easier to work through her problems. Just Peachy started on Instagram, but now has its own website, merchandise, and, of course, this book. There are similar series such as Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, and Sarah Andersen’s Sarah’s Scribbles, both of which I recommend. These authors looked at their own inner demons, then transformed them into something positive. Each contain well-crafted humor that is relatable, even to those who have not been diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
The chapter “Love and Relationships” goes over the ways to maintain healthy relationships with the people in our lives. Love and relationships are important. Who we surround ourselves with can influence us in either direction. Our day-to-day interactions can have a lasting effect. Being kind to someone can make their day. There are many ways to say “I love you”. Text a friend you have not spoken to in a while. Write a letter to someone you appreciate and tell them why. But do not be afraid to cut negative people from your life. They are not worth the time or effort. Be yourself, not who others want you to be. Even when it seems hard, love yourself.
“Growth” is the last chapter and probably my favorite. Without getting too cheesy with its message, this chapter gives a great pep-talk on how to overcome obstacles one might face. It is possible, but it takes a lot of courage and requires stepping out of your comfort zone. A quote that stood out to me was: “I’m scared of routine. I don’t want to be boring. But then I see a sunset, which comes every day but somehow always seems new and full of hope”. Find the things that make you happy and stick with them.
Just Peachy is a quick read, and the comics are beautifully drawn. There is nothing too profound within, but it is a nice shot of hope. Having some of the comic strips nearby can provide a boost when things start to go downhill. Books like Just Peachy make you realize you are not so alone after all. We are all in this together. Although it is a Teen Graphic Novel, the feelings, or lack thereof, expressed within its pages are familiar to adults and teens alike. Anyone can have depression or anxiety. It does not matter your race, age, sex, or social status. At the end of the book, there are resources including the suicide hotline, crisis text line, online therapy/ coaching, and books and podcasts that might lift your spirits. If you need help, reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. There are people who do care.