Mental Health: Zen Pencils

Hello! If you’re reading this, you probably came from Zen Pencils. If not, you should go and read Zen Pencils!

Recently, I emailed Gavin, thanking him for his role in helping me get through the toughest bout of depression I’ve had so far. In no small way, the man’s art saved my life. Imagine my surprise when he asked to (and then did) feature the story in his monthly ‘Reader of the Month‘ blog post, inspired by his comic on the Invictus poem.

I honestly, did not expect that. And even more so, were the reactions. From Facebook, to his website, and even emails I’ve received. The reaction was touching, and I really cried when I read them, and now, I’m at a lost for how to thank everyone and at the same time, appreciate everyone’s thanks.

So, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and write. I will share more on my story with Zen Pencils, experiences with suicide, further insigts into the minds of the suicidally depressed, and my feelings on Gavin’s comics. Very possibly in that order.

For new readers, I should warn you, I tend to ramble on in these mental health posts, to make things honest and true to my feelings, beliefs, and thought. So it can get a little confusing at times. I’m also very candid, so, you know, some possible language and risk or hurt feelings, I guess.

First off, I want to apologize for how late this post is. It’s been 2 days after the fact, and I had been caught off guard by it. Some of you may know that I had a special 3 chapter release for my serial novels this week, 2 for The Number 139, and 1 for Keep Walking. They took a little longer to write than I had expected, but I hope they are fun to read.

Now, on to Zen Pencils. I started reading it when, well, I don’t even remember now. When it first came out basically.

Here’s the funny thing about suicide (see, that’s funny, because it’s not. Hah!). There’s an unrealistic expectation on the subject. It’s either something that ‘just happens’ or you simply ‘get over’.

I’ve shared before how a friend of mind was one of the reasons why I did not manage to end my life the first time. But here’s the thing. During a period of suicide, you usually won’t make just one attempt. Over the past 5 years, with just the ones I’ve managed to count, I’ve been to the roof over 20 times, had a knife to my wrist about a dozen, tried death by train 4 times, and death as roadkill twice.

The difference between each attempt is how far I got to it. The 3 most harrowing ones were a death by train with my friend above, a one with a katana to my guts,  and the story shared on Zen Pencils of the one of the roof. Those were my 3 closest calls where I almost went through with it.

Since you don’t usually just make one attempt per bout of depression, you end up needing multiple reasons to live. Zen Pencils provided me with that strength twice. My friends on some occasions. My family on others. And many, many more. It’s not in your instinct to just up and die, so as much as you’ll convince yourself to go through with it, you’ll also put as effort into coming up with excuses and finding reasons to live.

Why Zen Pencils worked for me was not just due to Gavin’s great storytelling capabilities through the comics, but also, the nature of the quotes he adapted. They are hard hitting and real. They were not the patronizing type like something you’d read in a self help book. They were also not self centred quotes like the often misquoted “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” (She never said that. Ever!)

I felt the quotes dealt real blows to life experience. And that is what you need most when dealing with mental illness, a foundation in reality. It’s completely delusional and unhealthy for the mind to think that you can succeed simply by ‘believing in yourself’ without hard work. And coming from me, that’s saying something, since I’m delusional half the time.

Another on of his comics I love is his adaptation of Richard Dawkin’s quote. The Lucky Ones.

Again, it deals with a drastic topic, like old age and death, with such simple yet beautiful storytelling and art.

It doesn’t mince meanings either. It shows that yes, life sucks sometimes, but it is still a wonderful journey.

A character I wrote once said,

“Quotes are crackers of knowledge from people across time and space, preserved in words. Bits of history and wisdom passed down in bite-sized pieces for our lazy brains to chew on. A single quote can explain the entire meaning behind a story despite its length. People don’t have to remember what I write as long as they can remember what knowledge and feelings I’m trying to convey. The quotes are like summaries. If they can just remember the quote before it, then my job is done.”

And I think Gavin does a great job with passing on that knowledge and meaning through his comics. I know he has helped me a lot, what with saving my life and all that. So if you like what I write, go check Zen Pencils out. It will be a ride of your life.

(Note: For more links on resources, blogs, or articles about mental health and services, visit the Links and Resources page.)



  1. Hi Aden! I found your blog through Zen Pencils and really like your writing. Keep up the great work!


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