Be Happy Or Else | Illustrations by Kay Slater

Be Happy or Else…

Discussions and drawings about mental health.

Digital Illustrations
June 1, 2015
Get Your Game Face | Illustrations by Kay Slater
Get Your Game Face On | Illustrations by Kay Slater

When drawing on the subject of mental health, I find myself drawn to the imagery of “masks” and the importance of appearance. This drive to hide away our pain and struggle behind closed doors or the discomfort we are unwilling to wade through so that we do not impose on others, it leads to greater problems.

In Get Your Game Face On, I wanted to show how those who suffer may be simultaneously the ones who ask for the mask, unwilling or unable to face a world that values photoshopped perfection and stock photography. And those who hand us the mask, they are also guilty of both handing it over with a relieved sigh, unwilling to put in the hard time to be compassionate and to build understanding, and perpetuating the belief that feeling and personal struggles are something to be handled in private behind closed doors.

Be Happy... | Illustrations by Kay Slater
Be Happy… | Illustrations by Kay Slater

I used to think that taking medicine for depression was akin to being held hostage. That if I took pills to be “happy” that I was admitting defeat.

There is a place for medication. I ultimately took antidepressants for 2 years while I worked hard at CBT to regain balance in my life. I am so lucky that I had access to a medical professional who listened and believed my struggles, and that I was able to afford the medicine that was ultimately prescribed to me. But I fought. I fought for a lot longer than I probably should have because I had come to associate drugs with weakness. The negative thoughts that swirled in my brain told me that I was too smart, too successful, too…healthy to be depressed and that I didn’t deserve medicine. I would make up excuses that there were “sicker” people than me and therefore, medicine was not a solution for “someone like me”. Trapped in my brain, I thought that medicine was admitting defeat. I had become so arrogant and sick that to admit that I was sick became my ultimate enemy.

But admitting that depression was BEATING me was exactly what I needed to admit. Medicine wasn’t a cross to bear but rather a pair of water wings to stay afloat; a shovel to fill in the hole in which we were previously stuck; a mobility device to remain standing; a hearing aid to amplify reasonable words; a key to unlock shackles – simply a tool to level the playing field.  Medicine doesn’t hold us hostage, we hold ourselves hostage.

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