Living with a mental health disorder is different for every person. Whether it’s anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder, everyone’s experience is unique to them. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms. As someone who experiences social anxiety, my coping strategies revolve around surrounding myself with pop culture because it’s what I’m passionate about. It’s what makes me happy. It reminds me that there are things worth fighting for.
Comics have played a huge role in improving my mental health. They’ve inspired me so much that I decided to do the worst thing that people with social anxiety can experience: put myself in a room with complete strangers and talk openly. More than that, comics inspired me to take the plunge with my first public presentation at the Doki Doki Festival in Manchester!
A presentation about comics and Japanese culture
The presentation that I put together was called ‘How Comics Have Retold The Story Of The Samurai For A Modern Generation.’ I’ve always found samurai and the concept of bushido to be fascinating. So, I wanted to research the western perspective of bushido and how superheroes like Wolverine have helped to reinterpret the legend of Japan’s most famous warriors.
The presentation covered details on how Wolverine’s backstory was reimagined by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller as a failed samurai. I also discussed the relationship Wolverine has to women like Mariko Yashida and Yukio, and the role of onna-bugeisha in Japanese society.
Anxiety vs public speaking
Leading up to the presentation, my anxiety was high. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up, or if I’d be able to speak coherently in front of an audience. Thankfully, it turned out that some folk actually like listening to a comic geek rambling on about his appreciation for Japan.
I wish I could say that everything went well with the presentation and that I felt confident every step of the way. But anxiety doesn’t work like that. I could feel it getting to me halfway through. It felt like I rushed. Sometimes, it felt like I stumbled over my words. But in the end, I reached a solid conclusion and invited questions from the audience. That made me feel pretty damn good.
Looking back, I’m glad that I did the presentation. It was a great experience to be able to challenge myself and prove that I could overcome my social anxiety long enough to deliver something that meant a lot to me. It makes me realise just how crucial comics have become to my own mental health routine.
This realisation was personified by the Wolverine quote I included at the end of the presentation:
“The key isn’t winning or losing. It’s making the attempt. I may never be what I ought to be, want to be, but how I will know unless I try? Sure, it’s scary, but what’s the alternative? Stagnation. A safer, more terrible form of death. Not of the body, but of the spirit. An animal knows what it is and accepts it. A man may know what he is, but he questions. He dreams. He strives. Changes. Grows.”
By the end of the presentation, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Of knowing that I’d accomplished something of worth to myself. If you experience anxiety and that feeling comes to you, I’d urge you to live in it for as long as possible. Because it’s magical.