I've spent the last twenty minutes, heart aching and wiping the tears from my eyes. I finished my first read through of Float, by Howie Noel. It is an autobiographical account of his experiences with anxiety in the form of a graphic novel. To be honest I had no idea what to expect from this. I had seen a lot of the previews for the art, and sample pages- but wasn't sure how it was all going to fit together. Beautiful. In a word. No. I need three words. Painful. Beautiful. Relatable. I've spent most of my life with great anxiety, and Howie's book encompassed anxiety perfectly. The endless shame, guilt, pain. How it tricks one's mind into truly believing they are worthless, and undeserving of love. How those feelings make you push everything and everyone you love out of your life, because you actually believe that you are meant to be alone. That no one could possibly be willing to be anywhere near you because you are a complete loser.
This book hit hard. A lot harder than I was expecting it to, because to be honest you see a lot of people talk about anxiety, and other mental illness- but they never really get down n dirty and show the ugliest parts. The parts that leave a person curled up in the fetal position, crying- incapable of doing anything else. Unable to pick themselves up, or have the will to move forward. Hours, days, weeks, even months completely lost because the sadness, worry, and panic took over. Showing all of that in this story was just...I don't know if I have words for what it did to me. It made me feel like someone out there finally got it. Someone else out there really felt the way that I have on so many days. Like life was just choking every single breath. I know good and well there are many people out there that suffer with this despicable disease. To have it represented- ESPECIALLY in comic form is catharic.
We talk about representation in comics a lot. I believe that the industry has had many positive breakthroughs over the years by being more inclusive of various races, genders, sexual orientation, body types, etc... but to have something that truly shows the ugly faces of mental illness....that speaks to me. The stigma around mental illness has finally started to crumble, but there are still so many silent sufferers out there. People who don't have it in them to reach out for help. Lord knows I was one of them for over twenty years. I know how hard that can be. The worst thing you can do to yourself is create an environment where you are further isolated. Taking away whatever meager support you had... but I understand why people do it. It is part of the dirty tricks anxiety and other illness plays on us.
I encourage every person out there, dealing with anxiety or not, to read this book. I think it is imperative that all people have a grasp on different types of mental illness. Society needs to have a better handle on these diseases, and how to help those with them cope. I think Howie was incredibly brave for publishing this story. It took a great deal of courage for him to come forward and tell his story about the ongoing battle he faces with anxiety. He not only told it, but he bled across the pages and it shows. He cut himself open to let the world see everything for as it truly is. That's what gave this story it's true power- it didn't gloss over anything.
The part that really wrenched my heart was reading the rejection letter. As I read it and my heart ached and the tears started flowing...and I was angry. Angry because I know what it's like to be turned down for various jobs and projects that I was incredibly passionate about. The tears didn't stop any time soon.. because every page thereafter was another affirmation of what it feels like to be burdened with anxiety.
I cannot stress enough how much I think people could benefit from this book. It has amazing potential to help a lot of people out there dealing with this to not feel alone. It wasn't just the story that made me feel connected, the art was just absolutely stunning. It cut just as deep as the words did, and was perfect. I've always admired Howie's illustrative work. He is a one man show: pencils, inks, colors, letters, and story. Every panel, letter, shade, lighting, color...all of it had every bit of his soul poured into it and it shows. When this was on kickstarter, I backed for the digital copy of it- because at the time as badly as I wanted the hard cover- it just wasn't in the budget. This is something that I will be buying a physical copy of, as soon as I can get my hands on one. It is something I hope to gift to some close friends of mine, and hell even my therapist. This is something that I know I will be going back to, again and again because it helped give me something that I never had before- a way to shout, "YES! That is EXACTLY how I feel!" Trying to describe anxiety feels nearly impossible... and Howie did just that. Howie, when you read this, I want to say thank you. Thank you for what you did in this book because I know I needed to be able to experience something like this.... I know a lot of other people did too. You're a strong person and I cannot thank you, your amazing wife Shelley, or Leah (the best editor ever) enough for getting this book out.
Howie will be at Emerald City Comic Con March 1-4 located at the Washington State Convention Center, downtown Seattle.
You can also purchase his works, and discover more about Float and other comics by Howie at:
Additionally, if you are seeking editing services for your works- I cannot reccommend Leah Lederman enough. You can find her here, on Facebook: