My name is Abigail Hills and I am an illustration major at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I was in a car accident, a few years ago, and suffered a hit to the head. Since then I have been dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and depression. At first I didn’t understand what was going on. All I knew was that I was constantly worrying about things that had never bothered me before, and sometimes I did not want to be around people, or do anything. I experienced ups and downs - sometimes depression would grab a hold of me, other times I was simply anxious about anything and everything. It wasn’t until later, after I saw a neurologist and therapist, that I understood what was happening.
In class this year we were asked to create a design to spread awareness for a “cause,” and I knew exactly what issues I wanted to focus on. Anxiety and depression affect millions of people, each case individual and specific to the person it impacts. As an artist, character design is one of my favorite forms of illustration. It’s this form that I chose to work. To be clear, I am not trying to demean these disorders by utilizing characters, I am, instead, trying to give a face/image to the severe emotions these disorders evoke. I hope that art can be a tool to spread awareness and understanding of two significant illnesses that are often overlooked or seen as “not real,” and/or “made up.”
My artwork has three characters. The human figure in the middle shows that these diseases affect our root function with no regard for gender, wealth, race or religion. The other two characters represent the disorders, but their position and posture also represent part of the cure, and my needs when I am suffering with them. The smaller more organic, softer character represents depression. This figure is rounded and dark in color to represent the feelings of loneliness and detachment I experience when I am depressed. It sits on the human’s shoulder placing a hand on the cheek offering comfort and support which is something I need when dealing with my depression. The anxiety character is sharper and brighter, representing the racing thoughts and erratic emotions I experience when anxious. This character is tucked on the shoulder looking up at the human, the position and gaze meant to display encouragement, again something I need when working through my anxiety. The background helps to further illustrates the feelings I equate with each disorder.
I sent my work and story to ADAA because it is an organization that provides comfort and guidance to people seeking help. ADAA is an educational tool for people like myself, who are suffering with anxiety and depression and may not know where to go or what to do. This organization reminds me of an African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” So why wouldn’t it take a village to cope with an illness? ADAA has created that village by providing a central location for people who are suffering, or love someone who is suffering, to find information and a path to healing. I hope my story and/or artwork inspires someone to get help or reach out to someone in need of it, or maybe even encourage others to use art as a tool for therapeutic expression. Art doesn’t have to be on the cover of a magazine to be valuable if the process of creating it, or sharing it, makes someone feel better.