Sex Criminals and Mental Health
By Michele S
When I started reading Sex Criminals, the book surprised me in a lot of ways- it had a positive view of sex, there were lots of female characters who were all different from each other. But the biggest surprise came in the comic’s depiction of what it’s like to struggle with mental illness. One of the main characters, Jon, has ADHD, ODD, and OCD. As someone who also struggles with mental illness, Jon’s character really resonated with me.
Jon not only struggles with his mental illness, but also with figuring out the best way to manage his illness. Jon is shown as having tried medicating, not medicating, and switching therapists. Like Jon, sometimes you think you’re on an OK path, and then all of a sudden you realize it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. It’s important to find a good treatment plan that works for you, but figuring out what works can be tremendously difficult. It takes time and lots of trial and error. I still struggle with the best way to manage some of my symptoms.
One of the things Jon tries to help mange his mental illness is therapy. I really liked Sex Criminal’s depiction of therapy (minus Jon lying down a couch during his sessions- I have never heard of that happening in real life). Sometimes you have to try out a few therapists before you find one that works for you. Sometimes therapy isn’t for you and that’s OK too. (Just make sure to find something that works!) But Jon wasn’t kidding when he said that therapy is hard. It won’t magically fix all your problems overnight. Like Jon’s therapist, Dr. Glass, my therapists have given me homework too. Jon and I were both skeptical of this approach at first, but it helps. One hour a week isn’t always enough. And I had to laugh when I saw that Dr. Glass suggested exercise and making friends because every therapist I have seen has stressed those same things.
Jon also uses medication to manage his symptoms. In the comic, Jon is shown as having mixed feelings towards taking meds. He has taken them in the past, but they dull his emotions so much that he barely feels anything. Jon decides to take them again, though, because he has gotten so far off-track that he figures “anything is better than feeling like this.” I’ve been in the same situation as Jon- after getting off of meds, I realized that my emotions were much more intense than they had been in a very long time. I worried about having to go back on them because I didn’t want to not feel things again. I was off meds for almost two years when I realized that due some bad life circumstances exacerbating my symptoms, I needed to try meds again. It was hard to admit that to myself, but, like Jon, I knew I couldn’t keep going on the way things were. Seeing Jon talk about his mixed feelings about taking medication made me feel better about my own mixed feelings. It was reassuring to see that I am not the only one who has struggled with this problem.
*Note that I am NOT advocating to not take your meds, please make all decisions how to deal with your head stuff (whether it involves medication, therapy, etc.) with the assistance of licensed medical professionals and talk over any concerns you might have with them. (And remember that it may take a few tries to find medication(s) that are right for you.)
One of the most important and amazing parts of the comic is the letters column. (And it’s not just because of the hysterical sex tips.) So many people have written in to share their experiences with mental health and how it differed or didn’t differ from the comic, opinions on taking or not taking meds, and so much more. Mental illness can make you feel extremely isolated and trap you inside your head. The letters column in Sex Criminals is full of people sharing their experiences and reminding everyone else that they’re not alone in what they’re going through. So, thanks Sex Criminals for being a positive force in the world and helping us cope a little bit better.