If you know someone who suffers from anxiety but are yourself calm and collected, imagining his inner life poses a particular challenge. You may know about his side effects -- that he has trouble sleeping, say -- but can you place yourself in his twisted-up sheets and imagine what’s going on inside his head?
To help others empathize with incessant worry and panic, illustrator Catherine Lepage sketched a series of wry, illuminating artworks meant to show the singular troubles of anxiety. In one, a man stands inside the top tier of a house of cards, labeled “confidence.” “I live through other people’s eyes,” the image is captioned. “I have a fear of judgement.”
It’s an evocative image, one that immediately puts experiences in perspective. In another, a pseudo-medical textbook illustration, a man’s line of sight is projected outward, captioned “field of vision for a normal person.” An identical man next to him has a field of vision only projected inward, captioned, “field of vision for an anxious person.”
Art, it would seem, is an antidote for Lepage, who named the book of these illustrations after a mantra contained within it: “thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.” The caption is accompanied by a funny image of a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks.
Indeed, creating art has been found to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, which is great news for the book’s creator. As for readers -- they may benefit from Lepage’s humor, which is embedded subtly throughout the otherwise earnest book. Laughter is proven to reduce tension, and, coupled with a little art therapy, could alleviate heavy mental loads.
Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind by Catherine Lepage, published by Chronicle Books 2016.