Cut & Paste is a column highlighting zines and small press publications.
I came to the world of zines looking for resources on self-care after having a mini-breakdown a few years ago. While I’d already been in therapy for two years and was doing a lot of good work on my struggles with depression and anxiety, I hadn’t yet started to embrace self-love, and still needed to learn how to take gentle care of myself. A friend of mine directed me to zines that she thought would help and I was hooked. I discovered that there is a wealth of thoughtful, creative, and genuine work out there for those of us looking for some non-traditional resources for coping with mental health issues.
As a feminist, it’s important to me that any approach to self-care and mental health is framed in a way that acknowledges intersectional issues—that speaks to the fact that queer women, women of color, transwomen, and folks who are differently abled deal with additional institutional forms of oppression, and thus stress.
There are plenty of excellent zines that discuss specific mental health issues with frank conversations about coping. For anyone who wants to explore mental health, learn how to manage struggles with your mental well-being, or find resources that honor your feminist ideals, I hope these five zines will speak to you as much as they have to me.
The Pressure To Be Happy
Jessica L., who edits Static Zine in Toronto, Canada takes us deep into her personal thoughts, which are so relatable that my response to reading her work becomes very visceral. She reveals many of the same sentiments that run through many of our minds on a daily basis. By putting them on paper, Jessica gently asks us to confront our mind’s chatter in a more thoughtful way.
Jessica walks us through feeling simultaneous pleasure and guilt when we treat ourselves and practice self-care or just enjoy the little things that bring happiness. I also relate to her thoughts on self-awareness. She writes, “I know what’s good for me—I’m not oblivious—but I’m just not listening. Once, I thought maybe if I created an imaginary character, like a stern older woman telling me ‘NO’ at all the right times, I would listen.”
Jessica’s reflections on pain related to failed relationships, questions about medication, and struggling to find a therapist who works are common themes for those who deal with mental health problems like depression. She reminds us that we are not alone. The title alone speaks to the burden of expectations to be okay even when we don’t feel it.
The Pressure To Be Happy #2 is 46 pages long and is available at StaticCloud for $2.34 USD.
Having struggled with anxiety for many years, I am so touched by Stacey Bru’s Anxiety Comics zine because she depicts anxiety in a relatable way: as a tiny ghost-like entity that follows her around and makes her doubt. The simple black line drawings show real comic cred, and in a strange way, the images of the anxiety and depression characters are actually really cute. I like this artistic element because it shows the layers of the complicated relationship anxiety sufferers have with their anxiety. In a weird way, there’s a comfort in obsessive disastrous thinking—it’s familiar and doesn’t always feel like a real problem.
The comic is short, but contains nuance that illustrates what it is like to struggle with general anxiety disorder. Stacey’s anxiety makes her doubt her art and her skills, and when she decides she’s done and wants to give up, her anxiety jabs at her for being a quitter. Anxiety also pesters Stacey when she’s trying to enjoy simple pleasures (like fantasy novels!), and even teams up with her depression from time to time.
The personification of anxiety and depression as creatures who follow us around is so spot on, making this an essential read for anyone looking to learn more about what it’s like to live with anxiety.
Anxiety Comics #1 is 17 pages long and is available at Stacey Bru's Etsy for $3.51 USD.
Black Women and Self Care: Thoughts On Mental Health, Oppression & Healing
Naomi Moyer’s zine, Black Women and Self Care: Thoughts on Mental Health, Oppression & Healing is brilliant and insightful, and I especially appreciate the way that she addresses the social constructs that affect our mental health. In the section “Surviving White Supremacy,” Naomi writes,
“As Black women, we experience side effects of white supremacy and patriarchy on a daily basis through racism, discrimination, and misogyny. Dealing with folks who are sexist, transphobic, homophobic, racist or folks who benefit from and sustain white supremacy can be draining.”
Discussions about mental health often ignore the myriad ways that different forms of oppression damage our wellbeing and can exacerbate existing conditions like depression and anxiety. But Naomi tackles this head-on, confronting the ways that racism and misogyny have negative consequences for the mental health of Black women. While addressing the intersection of these hardships head on, she also offers thoughtful methods for being gentle and self-loving. One of the best parts of the zine is the section with a handful of recipes, like a “Racial Angst Headache Roll-On” treatment, and a “Milk And Honey Depression Elixir.”
Black Women and Self Care is 21 pages long and is available at elastiquedesigns for $4.12 USD.
Heart & Hands Issue One: Self-Care
This is one of my all-time favorite zines across any genre. Janelle Silver’s Heart & Hands: Self-Care is an interactive delight and is creative on so many levels. Each zine arrives with a handwritten note from Janelle, letting you know how pleased she is that you want to take care of yourself and that she is “sending love and positive vibes” your way. Her work is inspirational and heartfelt, far from hokey or traditionally self-helpy. While there’s information about self-care, the joys of this zine are in the adorable miniature coloring pages, stickers, and suggestion cards to deal with various heartaches.
Heart & Hands Issue One: Self-Care is 12 pages long and is available at janelle-silver.com for $14 AUD.
Mindful Occupation: Rising Up Without Burning Out
Mindful Occupation: Rising Up Without Burning Out was created by radical mental health activists from across North America and focuses on creating a communal culture of caring, with extensive information regarding self-care for activists. Those of us who work for nonprofits, participate in protests, or work with traumatized people can easily get worn down and burnt out while doing very necessary work.
This zine is an essential resource for everyone, but especially people whose work is in fighting against the social status-quo. With ideas for “emotional first aid” and discussions about how to prioritize physical needs and personal safety as well as instructions for how to help traumatized group members, the booklet is straightforward, thoughtful, and exceptionally helpful. I’d even recommend purchasing this zine for friends or family in your community who do social justice work and are prone to become emotionally and psychologically exhausted in their work.
Read the last installment of Cut & Paste: Five Black Zine Lives.