- “My head and me” is the monthly program of 20 minutes, devoted to youth mental health.
- The goal of this meeting: to understand certain mental pathologies thanks to the testimonies of young people concerned, and to try to find solutions to get better.
- For this sixth issue, we met Théo Grosjean, a 26-year-old cartoonist who tells us about his generalized anxiety disorder, which he took the gamble of laughing about in his comic strip. Most freaked out man in the world
Social phobia, OCD, derealization. Théo Grosjean combines all these pathologies. The 26-year-old cartoonist suffers from generalized anxiety, a disorder that is thought to affect 10 to 20% of the population. At the end of 2018, when he is at his worst and has just suffered yet another anxiety attack, the young man decides to tell what is happening to him on Instagram. Most freaked out man in the world see the day.
In his drawings, he makes fun of the negative thoughts that invade him all the time and that handicap him in everyday life. Two and a half years later, Théo Grosjean’s cartoons are a hit. 157,000 people follow his adventures on Instagram. So many anxious people who feel less alone.
How did you come up with the idea of drawing daily anecdotes from your anecdotal life on your Instagram account?
It was not well thought out. I did this on a whim. For my first drawing, I told about an anxiety attack that I had on the train. A man who seemed suspicious to me asked me to watch his bag and I thought he had put a bomb in it. I had made a whole scenario and it had taken on a disproportionate scale. During the whole trip, I felt extremely bad and I imagined lots of strategies.
When he returned, I realized he just hadn’t stamped his ticket, hence he looked a little stressed. I found it funny because, when you are anxious, the situation is experienced in an extreme way, whereas afterwards, in the vast majority of cases, you realize that it was nothing. The brain works out a whole scenario that is not real. This contrast between the fact that we have lived an interior experience which is very violent, and the reality, which is often banal, gives something quite funny. And that makes for a good comic book script.
You tackle dark and taboo subjects like the fear of death. These are fears that many people dare not talk about. Has it never been shameful for you?
Yes, I was ashamed of it. But at one point, the angst grew so much that it ruined my life. I could not do anything. A meeting was decisive at that time. I met a friend who was very anxious and who had this perspective. He laughed at it with a yellow laugh. It made me really uninhibited to see that he managed to express his anxiety in an ironic way. I also wanted to transform it. I was like, “Okay, I have this. I did not choose to have it and I can see that it is a situation over which I do not have much control. “
So as much to do with it and become this character of the most freaked out man in the world, even if it means being a little caricature. Because since I only focus on the times when I feel anxiety, it can feel like it’s extreme when it isn’t that much. Even if overall the comic is close to reality. And… I drifted onto the question.
We were talking about very dark fears …
Yes, I am a rather pessimistic person by nature. I always see the negative side of things and life as very scary. But I don’t necessarily want to transcribe it as it is. I want this show to do people good. After that, it evolved a lot because, when I started the series, I didn’t have the idea that it was something about anxiety at all. It was just an autobiography. But people almost appropriated the series by putting themes in it… Me too, at the same time, I was learning things. It was built a bit like that. I thought I would do ten small, humorous, unassuming autobiographical comics. But it quickly gained momentum on Instagram.
Exactly, today you have more than 157,000 subscribers on your Instagram account. Did the sheer number of readers, especially those who suffer from anxiety and identify with situations, surprise you?
No, frankly, that didn’t surprise me too much because I know few people who are not at all anxious, without having generalized anxiety or depression. Our times are anxious. Paradoxically, it is a time when we are quite overprotected. But it leaves us more time to think about everything that can be scary such as climate problems… It leaves more time to think about it, to think about our place in the world, to say to ourselves “What am I doing?” the ? “
The figures are still alarming. The number of suicides among young people is very high. It shows that something is wrong. I was glad it spoke to people, more from an artistic point of view. And I said to myself: “I am not an isolated case”.
I understood that this was not the original goal but did you gradually feel the desire to improve your understanding around generalized anxiety disorder and more generally even anxiety? ?
Now, yes, there is a little bit of that urge, because I think it had a positive effect. For example, readers tell me that they buy my book to give it to their parents who are not anxious. There is someone there to explain things to them that they cannot verbalize. I find it super cool to have this relationship to the book. It’s paradoxical because I find it hard to talk about anxiety with people who are close to me, especially my family, while I talk about it without taboos with 150,000 people.
And does it help you get better?
Yes totally. Me, it really helped me. there is a before and an after Most freaked out man in the world. It transformed me in many ways. Overall,
it cannot be seen from the outside (laughs) but there are things I’m doing now that I never imagined myself doing before, like this interview. I let myself be carried more by life. I feel less in constant tension with everything that is going on, as if I was fighting against something invisible. Overall, I am still a very anxious person. I ask myself questions about everything all the time and I have new anxieties that appear. It’s moving, actually, and I think you have to accept the fact that it’s not going to go away overnight.
The first time I had a real panic attack, I had this feeling of fate. I was like “this is never going to go away”, and it was very scary. I was obsessed with the idea of finding testimonials from people who had no anxiety at all, who were healed, as if it was an illness. And I could not find any or few. People were saying “I’m doing better but I’m still having trouble”. The moment when we accept that it is part of his nature is important. When it takes forms that are very disabling, we have to act to make it better, but we still have to accept that it is part of us.
20 seconds of context
Most freaked out man in the world has his Instagram account but also his comic book, published by Delcourt, including the second volume was released at the beginning of the year.