This Fake Magazine Captures Anxiety in a Hilarious Way

June 17th 2016

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' description of generalized anxiety disorder is pretty dry:

"Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not and for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance)."

Fortunately, one Twitter user has found the perfect — and perfectly hilarious — way to capture what it's really like to suffer from this disorder: a fake magazine called Anxiety. If you have it, you'll recognize why:

Issue 1 of AnxietyCrayon

The creator is anonymous Twitter user @crayonelyse, who prefers the nom de satire Crayon.

With four magazine issues under her belt, she has created images that tap into the experience of having anxiety disorders, which are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults aged 18 and older — or 18 percent of the population — according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Given the widespread stigma around mental illness, it's refreshing to see someone tackle the topic with realness, vulnerability, and humor. In an email interview with ATTN:, Crayon discussed her motivation behind the Anxiety magazine covers. (The following has been edited for length and clarity.)

ATTN: What’s your background in art and design?

Crayon: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Oh, no. Well, I spent a lot of time on KidPix when I was little?

I guess I've actually done a fair amount of image manipulation — usually for scientific posters and data presentation, but it's had other functions in my research, as well. To this end, I am entirely self-taught, and I certainly haven't taught myself much. I probably could have made these look nicer if I'd used Illustrator, but I don't have Adobe Suite on my lil laptop, so this has just been me and PowerPoint.

ATTN: Do you yourself suffer from anxiety? If not, why does anxiety resonate with you?

Crayon: I'm actually glad you asked. While most people have been very positive in their responses to my project (which is amazing), I have definitely seen that some people were upset that I was joking about something deeply painful. Some people felt that this wasn't truly a representation of anxiety, that anxiety isn't funny, or [we] shouldn't be talking about [it] this way. (Which I get, and I'm really sorry to anyone who feels hurt or misrepresented by my work. I hear you.) I wound up writing this in response, but then it was just sitting there, because I didn't have anywhere to put it (way too long for Twitter). So here you go (I think it addresses a few of your questions):

"Asking whether I have anxiety is like asking someone who has been standing in the ocean her whole life whether she is drowning. Some of the time, I'm really not drowning. Some days I can feel the waves pushing at me, but I get out of the way so they don't push me down. Sometimes I can look down and see it, think about it, FEEL IT, but it doesn't control me. I am grateful for these days.

"Then there are days when the water is over my head, and I'm just struggling to breathe. These are not the days that I'm making the Anxiety magazine — or really doing anything at all. I recognize that for some people, anxiety is more like this ALL THE TIME. I recognize how lucky I am for the days that I spend in the shallow water, and I don't want to make light of the serious depths this experience can reach.

"But, for me, it has been helpful to look at my thoughts from the outside. It reminds that these thoughts aren't reality, or at least, they don't have to be. Laughing helps. It helps keep me breathing, thinking. It helps me be me.

"I'm blown away by the positive response I've received, so thank you to everyone who is reading. Your support means a lot to me, and I want you to know that you are not alone."

issue 2 of AnxietyCrayon

ATTN: Where do you get ideas for what you feature on the covers?

Crayon: I draw inspiration from my job, my friends, current events — all of which are things that I spend a lot of time worrying about. I'm in a Ph.D. program, which is an amazing opportunity to worry harder than you ever thought you could. It can also push you to find new ways to procrastinate — both of which have been instrumental to my creative process.

To be fair, my creative process is mostly just writing down actual thoughts that have happened in my brain, and then leveraging my PowerPoint prowess to make it look official.

Was it important to make them have a sense of humor? 

Crayon: It's hard for me to separate this project from the goal of humor. I mean, if these weren't funny, it would just be sad lists. OK, wait, actually, "Sad Lists" is a hilarious idea. Maybe I'll do that next.

issue 3 of AnxietyCrayon

ATTN: Why did you think the magazine cover format worked for your purpose?

Crayon: Part of comedy is that disconnect between expectations and outcomes. The dissonance between the upbeat and eye-catching magazine aesthetic and the uncomfortable content definitely lends itself to the joke.

ATTN: Do you have an idea of how many issues you want to do? Or how long you want to create these covers?

Crayon: Well, I'd finished a handful of issues before anyone noticed I was making these, so I will definitely post those. But now that I have, well, an audience, I've been over-thinking it a little. I don't want something that was supposed to make me less stressed become something that I stress about. (I could DEFINITELY fill several covers with the things I've worried about since gaining a couple hundred Twitter followers overnight. Oy.) We'll see what happens. Hopefully, I'll keep making more for a while.

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