Sow Ay’s illustrations capture the complex emotions of those suffering with anxiety and depression
For the over 40 million people in the U.S. suffering from depression and anxiety, life feels like a constant state of overwhelming dread and hopelessness. Symptoms vary but can be persistent and disabling, interfering with daily activities and an ability to fully enjoy life. For those suffering, it can be hard to explain to others what is going on inside your body, to put into words the complex range of emotions.
Sow Ay suffers with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and depression and decided to start making illustrations to help explain what anxiety and depression feels like. “I started these drawings because I’m really bad at explaining what’s inside my head, and explaining by drawing has always been a lot easier for me,” Sow explains.
Sow is a twenty-something living in the center of France. A self-taught freelance illustrator, Sow tells Scary Mommy “I’ve always been drawing about what’s in my mind. I would say it got more personal and I dared more after last summer.” Sow’s drawings are a simple but powerful way to show others what is often so difficult to put into words for so many.
Image via Sow Ay
Anxiety disorders and depression are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Some feel ashamed to seek treatment and others don’t understand the symptoms (lethargy, lack of motivation) tied to a mental illness. In any given year, total rates of psychological disorders are 20% to 40% higher in women than men, according to Daniel and Jason Freeman, authors of The Stressed Sex: Uncovering the Truth about Men, Women and Mental Health. These disorders also affect one in eight children, and if left untreated, can be associated with a higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.
Sow’s drawings not only speak to adults who suffer, but would be relatable to children and may be a useful tool to get them talking, to see they are not alone in how they are feeling. “I think I found an amazing purpose and plan to draw more for hope and love,” Sow tells Scary Mommy. Sow is also planning to make exhibitions in addition to the illustrations, and is working on a book. Sow’s powerful images are connecting with people all over the world and we hope this is only the beginning of the amazing work we will see in the future.