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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.