Artist’s statement: This 8-page sequence, “Shards,” is part of a longer graphic memoir (in progress) titled InQuest. The memoir documents my own experience in a psychiatric hospital during a particularly intense mental health crisis, and my slow reentry to life routines after returning home.

I can still feel those experiences in my muscle memory. I vividly recall the sensations of fear, confusion, desperation, and dissociation. I could tell I was not making sense to those around me, but did not know how to change that. I was flooded with perception and realization, but could not find a coherent way to express what was happening in my mind.

One image that has stayed with me ever since this time is that of a sharp squiggly shape, like a shard of glass. When I imagine this shard shape, it represents fragmentation of thought and of self – which is what that experience felt like to me. My thoughts were not missing or meaningless simply because they did not make sense to those around me. My thoughts were there and they had meaning, they were just splintered. It would take time to reassemble them – and myself – after that splintering.

What I hope comes across in this work is the message that all parts of ourselves are valid and meaningful – even the shards and splinters. It may be tempting to dismiss or discard the sharper, more painful pieces of ourselves, seeing them as dangerous by nature. But if we discard these pieces, we are discarding pieces of our full selves. If we deem those shards as “dangerous” by nature, then what are we saying about ourselves?

Instead of dismissing people during their most difficult times, we must strive to accept and support folks for precisely who and how they are in the moment. Mental health is not an end goal. It is fluid and messy and unpredictable. It is not contingent on everything going as expected. Acceptance and support, then, shouldn’t be contingent on that either.


To see the author discussing the work in context with the larger project, click below: