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Never Look Back: A look at Elaine M. Will's Look Straight Ahead

Sean Tonelli - Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I don’t remember much from that night. Just flashes from the club and the stories my friends told me. Breaking down after ordering a drink, the uncontrollable crying, being carried out and rushed into a cab. None of it. The only clear memory I have is taking the remote control from my television and breaking it in half. I was lucky that I had such good friends close by to take care of me when I wasn’t taking care of myself. When I awoke the next afternoon, my body trembled from guilt. I just knew that I did something embarrassing. When I went to work, my manager/friend pulled me into his office. This was the first real conversation I had ever had about mental health. My life had gone off the rails. I was partying too much, slacking off at work and neglecting my health. And, I had no idea.

Since then I have taken the time to take care of myself. This hasn’t been easy. I run often, but sometimes I will go months without exercise. I will make excuses, the weather, the time of day etc. But the truth is when I start to feel down, I don’t seem to notice. Things start to turn bland. Writing, my creative outlet, frightens me. I could care less about a new episode of Supernatural. Even chicken wings fail to excite me. Depression sucks. It ruins everything. But it sucks for everyone, and I know I’m not alone.

Elaine M. Will’s graphic novel Look Straight Ahead is important for a number of reasons. Mental illness is hard to describe to those who haven’t dealt with it. “Buck up.” is common expression a person suffering will hear from their family and friends. For those suffering from mental illness, Look Straight Ahead perfectly encapsulates the foreboding feeling depression creates. This makes the book hard for me to read, yet even harder to put down. Jeremy’s journey is terrifyingly familiar. Like depression, you see Jeremy’s fall coming, you know how he can stop it, yet you’re helpless. You have no choice but to watch him fall down that bottomless Sarlacc pit of despair. But, that bottomless pit, guess what? It does have a bottom. We all know it and it’s what keeps you turning that page. Jeremy can pull himself up, he always could, and so could we.

What about those who are fortunate enough to not have problems with mental health? Odds are, you know someone who does. There’s even a good chance you told them to ‘Buck up.’ That’s ok. You don’t need to feel bad. We know you’re coming from a good place. But that’s why this book is for you. Will manages to showcase the mental health struggle in a way no other medium could, in a voice everyone can understand. Jeremy’s world is black and white with glorious splashes of colour, which is how those suffering from depression tend to see things. This book will open your eyes and your minds, giving readers an honest and empathetic view of depression. But mostly, it’ll tell you that we aren’t looking for advice, all we really need is a shoulder.

When Alexander gave me my copy of Look Straight Ahead I didn’t want to read it. I was scared. It felt too real and you know what, it was. But I’m glad. It’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone and I never really am. The reason Look Straight Ahead resonates with honest is that Will based Jeremy’s experiences off of her own. Jeremy’s voice is real, because Will is real.

I take comfort in knowing that when I’m up late at night, and those dark thoughts creep into my head, I can grab my copy and spend some time with Jeremy and Elaine. I can use their shoulder’s that night, so that I can have a brighter morning. Recommended reading for everyone.

Don’t ever be afraid to reach out. If you need resources you can check the links below, or even shoot me an e-mail (sean@renegademail.com). It never hurts to say hello.

Canadian Mental Health Services: https://cmha.ca/resources/

Mental Health Hotline: 1-877-303-2642

Purchase Look Straight Ahead here: http://www.renegadeartsentertainment.com/look_straight_ahead