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I came across a recent video looking at anxiety and drugs by the makers of penny arcade. Penny arcade is a webcomic, mostly revolving around computer gaming. The authors, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik were recently named in the time 100. It’s a sizable video, so apologies for people on slower internet connections, but I found it to be a particularly interesting look at mental illness.

I liked their discussion of how mental illness can be unique. For them mental illness wasn’t about being boring, looking out of a window, seeing the world in bland colours, with nothing to look forward to. They make the point that people respond in different ways, and for them it was telling jokes, responding with humour. Those of you who have read the comic will be aware of Mike and Jerry’s unique sense of humour.

And related to this, they discuss the fear that medication would have caused them to their lose their creativity, their craziness, fearing that mental illness is what makes them have their ability to write webcomics. Mike tells us that he wouldn’t have stuck with anti-depressants if the drugs took away his creativity and made things different. But, as he found out, through drugs he could feel better, while still retaining his creativity, and was still able to ‘be crazy’.

Near the end there was an interesting discussion involving illegal drugs. Jerry saw illegal drugs as similar to medical drugs, and a legitimate way to deal with life, while Mike, having seen his brother overdose was opposed to illegal drugs. I tend to agree with Mike. People with mental illness sometimes self-medicate recreational drugs (including alcohol) because they seem to help in the short term. However, this can create a dependence on the substance, as the substance can quickly become all that the user knows that will make them feel better. Eventually substances need to be taken just to feel normal, which creates a whole other set of problems. Recreational drugs may seem to help in the short term, but it’s probably better to find a longer term solution to the problem.

Overall I found the video to be heartwarming, a frank and friendly discussion of a difficult topic. It was good to hear how they looked out for each other, and how they want to help others by sharing about a personal topic.

June 2010