“Whimsical illustrations with a powerful message” was the first line when I read about this book. Intrigued, I kept reading to learn what the book was about and who the author was. The art looked familiar, and being cute and colorful, caught my attention immediately. “I wrote this book for my younger self, a person who grappled with feeling isolated, alien, lost, anxious, depressed, and who wrongly believed I was responsible for ALL of it…” wrote the author, Kate Allan, in a Tumblr post.
She continued: “You’re Strong, Smart contains kindly written letters towards a struggling, younger me, as well as over a hundred colorful, affirming animal illustrations. I hope you find it helpful for what you’re going through, and if you don’t, it’s still awful cute and pretty to look at.” I appreciate when creatives add to the ongoing conversation around mental health. Even more so when they are helping to highlight ways we can all open up lines of dialogue with others via more accessible avenues. With titles of chapters such as “This is for when you can’t see what’s ahead.” and “You belong here, I promise.” this little book packs a lot in under two-hundred pages.
A Journey to Wellness
Kate Allan’s book is not a catch-all. It won’t completely cure you of depression or make every day you wake up and glance upon this book a happy one. And it is not meant to be. That is not Allan’s mission. That’s work for you and the folks you allow in your life, from loved ones to professionals, to work on and figure it out, beloved. What this book is, is a starting point to help someone find the language they need to express how they feel. Especially if they are not okay. This book can serve as a reminder for those who need a pick me up.
This read may serve as a gift for those who don’t often have or make time to do emotional self-work. From experience, I can recall starting ‘the big convo’ is always a hard one. Telling friends ‘I’m not okay and I maybe or may not be riding as a passenger on the struggle bus’ is difficult. So having a cute little drawing telling me to ‘be gentle with myself’ or ‘cherish my body’ when I don’t feel like a goddess is a move in the right direction.
When we normalize the small but worthy affirmations like: “I don’t exist only to be attractive to others” and “you don’t have to be at your best all the time…”, big(ger) decisions like finally making that appointment to talk to a therapist or ending a toxic friendship seem more doable.
Pep Talks for Any Occasion
Peppered through the book, between the illustrations that I love so much, are these little letters Kate has written to herself. Addressed “Dear Younger Me”, they are encouraging little notes that gently embrace readers. Touching bases on everything, from how small failures in life are often perceived by us as things will keep us from being great forever — to reinforcing that being liked by everyone, and the inability to do so ultimately hurts us more.
These letters all sound like they come from a friend. The tone is casual, the wording doesn’t sound like psychological jargon that might confuse you and it is very much a fresh breath of air. I am so often so hard on myself. (so much that later when I ask myself–would I be alarmed if I heard someone talking to someone I loved, would I be upset? Yes? Then why am I like this to myself?? (I’m working on it, I promise.) I, like so many of us, need to be more gentle with myself and this book is a striking way to assist in that process. Which is, like me, is a work of process.
Championing Yourself and Others
The biggest takeaway from this book for me is the profound statement and title of the last chapter titled, “You Belong Here, I Promise”. The comfort and feelings of validation that came to me while reading certainly left an impression on me. That led me to share images from the book to everyone from a family member who had a rough week at work, to the gals in my G-chat. It is not too hard of a stretch to stand up for yourself and also stand up for others.
Having been in a dark place sometimes gives you the means to help champion others. By recognizing the same behaviors in a friend and helping ease them toward the light. Look, never underestimate the power of cute art, and never underestimate pieces created during the Tumblr/Instagram digital art era!
You’re Strong, Smart, and You Got This: Drawings, Affirmations, and Comfort to Help with Anxiety and Depression is a book that serves to help alieve anxiety and depression and help good, affirming actions sink in. If you’re a new fan of Allan’s, then this book is a treat and can serve as a great gift! If you’re already hip to her art and you’ve enjoyed reading titles such as You Can Do All Things, Loading Penguin Hugs, Kind of Coping, and Gmorning, Gnight!, then you’ll love the expressions of encouragement found in this intimate collection of wholesomeness.
Kate Allan is an illustrator and designer from Washington State. She writes and draws about painful things but aims to make it okay with bright colors and sparkles. Under the handle The Latest Kate, she has a social media following of more than 100,000 people. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Wear Your Voice Mag, Sparklife, and more. See more fo her work on Twitter: @tlkateart ,Instagram: @thelatestkate , tumblr: thelatestkate.tumblr.com and FB: facebook.com/thelatestkate.
See more about this book and more from Mango Publishing here.