Bookshelf: Doris #15 DIY Antidepression Guide


Here at Unlikely Radical HQ, we’re always looking for new and creative ways on how to live a more authentic and radical life.  When this wisdom comes from unexpected places, so much the better.

Today I want to talk about one such unexpected font of wisdom, a comic zine called Doris #15: DIY Antidepression Guide, by Cindy Crabb.  Within the contents of this short zine  there is valuable advice on not just how to manage depression, but also self-employment, how to have healthy and meaningful relationships, and how deal with the revolution not happening in our lifetime.

Travel mugs and the self-directed life

“There is nothing wrong with a little depression.  It is a reasonable response to this fucked up world and you don’t need to hide it or deny it.  But too much depression can be a real drag.”

So begins her ruminations on some simple things one can do to avoid depression.  Some of her initial suggestions are pretty unassailable (don’t watch TV, throw out your mirrors, walk around your town to clear your mind) but where she really shines is in her storytelling, and the way her drawings compliment her words.  I am continually amazed how her drawings, with some characters only slightly more defined than stick figures, can be so emotive and expressive.  (There’s clearly a lesson in this for all you visual artists out there.)

The author recommends quitting the “secure” job you have working for the man and becoming comfortable with a lower standard of living.  While the lower standard of living is initially scary, the much scarier aspect of this for me is having so many more hours in the day to fill than someone who spends half of their waking hours in the service of a job.  Thankfully, the author offers some great solace to those with these fears, and walks us through a suggested itinerary, some of which is abbreviated and paraphrased here:

  • Get out of the house as quickly as possible in the morning.  It’s hard to argue with this. It’s far too easy to get distracted when you’re at home, whether or not you live with anyone, and getting out will get your body and circulation going.  Also, she’s a big fan of bringing coffee with her everywhere, especially on these walks.
  • While out walking, daydream and fantasize to kick your mind into gear.  I agree that we don’t spend nearly enough time daydreaming in our lives, so I quite like this idea. She stresses that this isn’t a chance to think about your issues and problems, it’s a time to fantasize.
  • Head to the library and spend a few hours learning about things you’re interested in.  Self-improvement and education never stops, even when you’re done with school.  (One could argue that that’s when it really starts.)  All the more reason to get into a habit of teaching yourself some things.  As this zine is a few years old, I have no input on how she feels about technology, but I suspect the author would still insist on the library even with the advent of Wikipedia.
  • Spend a few hours working on a project.  Not having a job doesn’t mean that you aren’t working on anything.  (I often need to repeat that to myself, since it’s way too easy to apply causation between “job” and “purpose”.)  She’s very adamant about this part.  “You’ve got to break through the self-doubt and frustration again and again … If you stop doing it when it stops being fun, you are doing the world and yourself a disservice.”  Seriously, move over David Allen; why aren’t we hiring this author to lead seminars on GTD?
  • With the rest of the day, enjoy yourself with people you love.  She gives a dozen good and humorous ways to do this, among them “rock out”, “raise hell”, “swim in the lake”, and “have a romantic rendezvous”, which happen to all be things I’d like to do most nights!
READ MORE:  When cultural expectations don't fit

Much of this zine is quite funny.  The dialog between her “angel of reason” and “demon of subconscious” is dead-on and will hit home with anyone who is conflicted inside, which is to say everyone.  And her drawings are nothing short of adorable, whether it’s drawing people rocking out at a concert or dumpster diving at “Bagel O’Rama”.

True, the author is prone to wild tangents (talking about her first coffee experience in junior high school, daydreaming about being a hit man for the revolution, and a total non-sequitur involving how to manage a bladder infection with home remedies) and the whole plot sometimes seems like it’s about to get lost, but it is always brought back eventually, sometimes by her anthropomorphic dog.  “Pst. Cindy!  Aren’t you supposed to be doing a comic on how to walk around?”  “Oh God. That’s right!”

This guide is refreshingly free of any preaching or pretense.  She even writes that if you take her advice and things end up messed up, “don’t worry, you can blame it all on me!  After all, isn’t half the stress in life caused by worrying that you’ve made the wrong choices?”  So true.

Find a way to buy this

Sadly, the actual zine itself appears to be out of print, but you can buy it as part of an anthology of her early work directly from her website.  I have this compilation too, and the entire book is well-written, incisive, wise, and as beautiful as it can be painful, depending on the subject matter.  This is an author who has hit upon some eternal truths that can be of lasting benefit, whether you’re suffering from depression or just trying to figure out how to best live your life.  I’ve had this zine for years, and I routinely come back to it for advice and inspiration.  If we support authors like this and take their advice, who knows, maybe we can make the revolution happen in our lifetime.

But enough about me.  Do you have any book recommendations on how to live a more radical life?

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