This Artist's Graphic Novel About Postpartum Depression Illustrates What It's Really Like
Teresa Wong is a Calgary-based writer and artist who had three children in less than five years. Her beautifully illustrated graphic memoir Dear Scarlet covers her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet.
Speaking with BuzzFeed, Wong explained the origin of her graphic memoir,
Dear Scarlet began as a way to work through some unresolved feelings. When I was pregnant with my third baby, I started having flashbacks to the delivery room and to Scarlet’s newborn days. The memories were so vivid they made me cry. I realized I wasn’t ‘done’ with my postpartum depression — even after all the counseling and treatment I’d been through — so I thought writing about it would help.
She continued, “Anyone who has taken care of a newborn knows how quiet those days can be, when there’s nobody to talk to but the baby, and I felt like drawings would be the best way to convey that silent time.”
The page reads: “To this day, whenever I hear about mothers who abandon their babies or drown them in the bath, I feel very, very sad. But not only for the babies… I was lucky because I could never hurt you.”
Her book tackles some difficult subjects…
The page reads: “But I understood what it was like to feel trapped. I could never go back to the life I’d had. And my new life was full of worry, fatigue, and disconnectedness. I fantasized about leaving. Just getting in the car and driving away. Or simply going to sleep forever.”
…and she simply, but cleverly, uses her art to visually convey those thoughts.
The page reads: Just like the dream I kept having about climbing into a bin at the grocery store and feeling apples rain down on top of me. But I also couldn’t bear the thought of you growing up without a mother…”
Wong said the process of making her book was difficult, but fun. “I had never done a graphic narrative before, and I am a writer, not an illustrator, so I was a little out of my league when it came to drawing the book. I literally googled: ‘how to make a graphic novel.'”
And it’s clear her book has made an impact with audiences. They’ve even told Wong about their own struggles with postpartum depression. She explained,
Readers have told me how much it means to them to see their own experiences reflected in my story. One reviewer wrote about getting help as a direct result of reading my book. She had been thinking she was a “bad mom” for months without recognizing that she might actually be going through ppd. That made me want to cry. I wrote the book for myself, to work through my own feelings, but it’s extremely encouraging to hear that it’s helping other mothers too.
And what does Wong hope people will take away from the book?
I hope Dear Scarlet will be helpful to other moms who struggle with mental health issues and helps them feel less alone. Many women hide their postpartum depression because they don’t want to seem like bad mothers. That leads to a lot of loneliness and guilt, which only adds to the depression. I hope it opens up the conversation around postpartum mental health, and that it takes away the shame that some women feel about not being a perfect mom.
You can get Dear Scarlet from Amazon for $12.16 or a local bookstore through Indiebound. And to see more of Teresa Wong’s work follow her on Instagram!
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