REVIEW: Anxiety Is Really Strange

Anxiety Is Really Strange is a graphic novella by Steve Haines & Sophie Standing. We tasked our Participation Group volunteer Rachael with taking a look at the book and giving us her thoughts.

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Anxiety Is Really Strange” – isn’t it just! As strange as it might be, it’s also incredibly common with approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. I’m guessing you are one of those people or you are trying to understand it better in regards to a loved one. Either way, lets delve into this graphic novel together and see what we can unfold within these artistic colourful pages.

I personally love written information that accompanies artsy illustrations, and if that’s something you also enjoy then you are off to a winner from the word go with Anxiety Is Really Strange. Every page is written in a comic book strip style, which makes it very simple to read and comprehend. This graphic novel looks at what anxiety is, some of the arguments behind why it occurs and some tips on dealing with the condition. As someone with anxiety myself, I was interested in seeing what the perspective would be and if I learn something new, I also wanted to see if it represented how I thought anxiety should be presented to people who want to learn more.

If you are someone who hasn’t read too much on anxiety before and want some easy reading information, this is the book for you. Some of the things you will learn include: the difference between fear and excitement and how to tell them apart, how the mind and body make emotions and even how can anxiety be good. I know what you’re thinking, there are no good components to the “Big A” but surprisingly you will learn that there can be. You also don’t want to miss the part where the writer makes a reference regarding mouse poo and anxiety, very interesting!

Anxiety Is Really Strange is presented in a very well rounded way with simple, short references to scientific research but, it may not be enough for someone who is looking for more in-depth knowledge. I’ve read a lot of books in my time on anxiety so, to be honest, I didn’t think I would learn anything new here but, I was embarrassingly wrong. I also learned some beautiful quotes, like these:

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou

“Just because you feel it doesn’t make it real. Feelings aren’t a satellite dish receiving signals of eternal truth. Change the story and your feelings change” – Eric Barker

My favourite part has to be (I did mention mouse poo didn’t I?) a beautiful page on “What is emotion”. This section goes back to Victorian times and how emotion was perceived back then, and how we describe certain emotions with the word “feeling”. To quote; “In ordinary language there is frequently no difference between an emotion and a feeling”.

The only downfall to Anxiety Is Really Strange is the lack of a deeper understanding, where at times it would discuss a certain topic but then end quite abruptly. This is probably due to the author wanting to keep it simple and in quick-fire statements.

As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel; going to the kitchen table where it sat to remind myself of certain helpful hints that were discussed, and showing sections to my friends whilst exclaiming “Well did you know that, hmm?”. I’d highly recommended Anxiety Is Really Strange for its practicality, simplicity and usefulness.

 

Rachael is a video games and mental health journalist. She lives in Northern Ireland with her cat.