Interview: Artist with Anxiety Illustrates Mental Health Tips She Learns in Therapy

Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan

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Illustrator Kate Allan was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as an adult. The identification not only validated her experience, but it has given her the opportunity to use her artistic talent to help herself and others in the quest for improved mental health. Allan has taken what she’s learned since entering therapy to create a mental health comic about mindfulness. “Mindfulness,” she says on Twitter, “can be useful for literally everyone, but I found it particularly helpful for anxiety—this exercise got me out of the house and functioning again.”

Through the guidance of a cute bunny, Allan's 10-panel comic introduces mindfulness and how it can help pinpoint emotions. By noticing, acknowledging, and thinking through feelings, the practice emphasizes that emotions are temporary—not part of our identity. You, for example, are not sad, but you are experiencing sadness at this moment. The feeling will pass, just as all others eventually will. Allan treats this serious subject without judgment and through a charming presentation. It's thoughtfully created and, above all, is comforting to those who have anxiety; Allan is reminding us that no one is alone.

The mental health comic went viral after it was shared online. Through Allan's Redbubble shop, you can purchase it as wall art along with her animal affirmations. The illustrator also has a book titled You Can Do All Things: Drawings, Affirmations and Mindfulness to Help With Anxiety and Depression, now available on Amazon.

We were excited to speak to Allan about her comic as well as illustrations that deal with mental health. Scroll down for our exclusive interview.

Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan

You are forthright about your anxiety. How long have you been diagnosed with it?

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was 25, which was badly needed—the validation of a condition I'd struggled with my entire life.

How has making art helped?

Making art is helpful on multiple fronts—writing affirmations helps counter my negativity, drawing colorful animals is therapeutic, and helping others is the most effective way I've found to break out of fogs of hopelessness.

Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan

What inspired you to create this comic?

I know not everyone has the privilege of seeing a good therapist. I also don't like the idea of mental health being behind a paywall. My hope is to make more art and comics detailing exercises that have gotten me through the darkest of times

Mental Health Comic by Kate Allan Mindfulness Comic by Kate Allan

What has been the response online to your comic?

It's been quite positive! I figured it would be something my followers would like—I didn't expect it to take off and be seen by millions of people. I hope it helps.

Mindfulness Comic by Kate Allan Mindfulness Comic by Kate Allan

What do you hope to accomplish with your illustrations?

I've spent a lot of effort and time managing my illnesses, and I want to continue to share what I find works for me. My motto is “the world will never have enough kindness or colorful art.”

This isn't your only work that deals with mental health. When did you start creating illustrations that addressed it?

I started drawing comics to document my depression in 2014. Over time I came to realize that writing affirmations and pairing them with colorful animals helped me to heal.

Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan

Do you come up with the powerful affirmations you pair with your colorful animals?

Yes, I write it all myself. The way I come up with affirmations is through debating my negative mind and journaling. I carry paper with me everywhere just in case an argument stands out. The process is sort of like:

Passing Thought: “You probably look weird right now.”
Me: “It's okay to be weird. No one is paying attention to me anyway.”

I have a big notepad document with hundreds of these small arguments that I then pair with animals I draw.

Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan

How have the words affected you?

Learning to argue my thoughts like this and document subsequent affirmations has been one of the most fundamental parts of my mental health recovery.

Mindfulness Comic by Kate Allan Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan Positive Affirmation Art by Kate Allan

Kate Allan: TumblrInstagram | Facebook | Redbubble | Patreon

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Kate Allan. 

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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