According to William J. Doan’s visual narrative “Dear Family and Friends,” in Issue 27 of Cleaver Magazine, “17 million adults had a major depressive episode last year.” Despite affecting so many people, it can be hard to articulate the experience, and even harder for the people around them to understand, especially when the sufferer is wearing a mask of “normality,” a mask of laughter and smiles. As Doan says, “Sharing what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression is a lot like undressing in front of strangers. It’s AWKWARD.” But after a while, masking began to feel like lying to Doan, and “Dear Family and Friends” is an attempt at breaking that silence and “coming out” to those around him.
By using visual means of communication, Doan offers a more concrete way of explaining and understanding the feelings of depression and anxiety. His images are grayscale, with smudges of cool colors creeping into some panels. Scribbles and dots of ink show how it feels to be filled with anxiety, to have your brain feel weighed down and blotted with dark ink.
“I’ve barely reached the heart of the matter in this brief letter,” he says of his eighteen panels, “But it’s a start.” Not only is this piece a start for Doan, but it’s a good way to start difficult conversations with our own friends and family as we remove our masks.
Review by Katy Haas