I was not familiar with Ellen Forney’s work prior to picking up this graphic novel on a whim at the library, but Forney has a written and illustrated a few other books, and discusses some of her work in the novel as well. I was a bit uncertain about how much I would enjoy this book given its subtitle, as I have been struggling a bit with depression and anxiety myself lately. Escapist reading generally doesn’t include some in depth examination of your own problems, generally, but this was great.
In Marbles, Forney writes and illustrates her journey to balance after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She struggles throughout to reconcile her health issues with her creativity – she worries that medication will dull her creative impulse and alter her personality. Forney gives a lot of detail about her efforts to find the correct medication and treatment plans, how her illness affects her career and also her personal life to some extent.
The book itself has a lot of variety in its illustration – much of it is illustrated by Forney in a comic style, but there are also some photographs of pages of her journal and several lists. She provides some background information on the costs of treating mental illnesses, and also summarizes some research about famous artists and writers and how their struggles influenced their work. She writes with a lot of honesty and forthrightness, presenting her struggles in kind of a matter of fact manner without being overly clinical. Despite it being such an intensely personal story, there really isn’t any sense of a “woe is me” attitude about it – that might be partly a result of the perspective that comes from years of balance after finding the right treatment, but she just generally seems to be well adjusted about the whole thing. Marbles was wonderful – enjoyable and relatable, just a great read .