June 20, 2016

Battling With The Asshole Brain: A Review of I FEEL WEIRD by Haleigh Buck

By Haleigh Buck
Published by Hey Boy! Press
Available Here
Haleigh Buck makes comics I like to read. Raw, confessional, naked, powerful, oftentimes funny, poignant, and full of truth, Buck’s comics maneuver through her own understanding of herself in her world and, in her furtive gestures, end up touching upon the universal. Her thick-inked pages belie the smudges and obfuscation we shroud ourselves in on our bad days. Her cartooning is damp with the desperate sweat stench that pervades our bedsheets after having swaddled us during dark days when our depression won’t let us leave our rooms. Her panels and lettering are jagged with the electricity of anxiety and the charge of panic attacks.

Nobody draws a thick grove of trees as ominous and inviting as Haleigh Buck.

Her latest book is I Feel Weird, a thirty-two page collection of diary comics she says were “written on (her) ‘good days’ after a mental breakdown in late 2015,” and which chronicle “the beginning to a long, looonnggg story of trying to recover from mental illness.”
This is a visceral, confessional, and ultimately healing comic book. In panel after panel, Buck captures her despair and her struggles. From a dog-interrupted suicide attempt (“Once you’ve accepted death as an option, it’s always the first place your mind goes to when you have really hit rock bottom”), to the unbelievable harassment she receives at the hands of an emergency room staff, to the healing safe space of her friend’s folk’s house, to her time working at Atomic Books in Baltimore, to her struggles with medication, all of it is here, presented fervently and unembellished. Buck places the reader beside her as she feels, reflects, and recounts. It would be almost overwhelming were it not what it is, a testament to an artist compulsively using her skills to understand.

And it is this that transforms I Feel Weird from diary to art -- that liminal space between experience and transmutation -- from immediacy to contemplation in the moment of creation. By the very existence of these pages, the reader carries through, confronted with the emotional crotch-kick of Buck’s narrative, knowing that through her art she has put distance to her inner horror and has reconstructed it into something for us all.
At the end of the book, Buck writes, “My hope is that this comic will help someone. Mental health is not a fun battle. It’s even less fun fighting it alone.” By publishing I Feel Weird, Buck uses her struggles as a rallying cry. It’s the open hand of a friend stretched out to help the rest of us get off the ground. It reminds us that, even in the depths, there’s still “shit to do” and that it is only us who can do it.

Unlike the pap that pervades some small press autobio comics, I Feel Weird is neither pedantic nor pathetic. It never speaks down nor stands on a soapbox. It’s not look-at-me, it’s look-at-us. It’s truth and it’s important because it exists. It reminds us that no matter what our asshole brains tell us, we are capable of spectacular things, things that will remain undone until we do them, and that we are the only ones who can make them a reality.

Do this. Go buy I Feel Weird here.

Other reviews of books by Haleigh Buck:

You can also follow Haleigh Buck:
On her BLOG
(someone needs to tell her to get on Twitter -- or maybe not -- it can be a terrible place sometimes)

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