Allie Brosh is a New York Times best-selling author, her self-published blog draws three to seven million curious readers every month, and her writing has been publicly praised by Bill Gates––yet, she’s nowhere to be found. She wrote only two Tweets last year, and her last public appearance was on a Reddit Ask Me Anything over two years ago. So what happened?
“Where’s Allie?” is a question Brosh herself probably struggles to answer. Does she occasionally sit before a blank document, her hands hovering over the keys of a warm laptop? Sharing the sentiment of the white page, does she shut off her computer and let another day pass with her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, left untouched?
Allie suffers from clinical depression, a condition that plagues the artistic world but often goes unnoticed and unmentioned. When it is acknowledged, lay observers cast a host of well-meaning but misplaced sympathies, never fully comprehending or appreciating the depth of these artists’ sorrows. The burden of depression is misunderstood and perceived as an unfortunate fluke in the cards dealt to an otherwise brilliant and talented artist. However, it’s not: in fact, it’s a by-product, a prerequisite, an instigator, and an instinct that results from artists’ acute sensitivity to the vibrant and abstract. It’s not that all brilliant artists must be depressed, or that depression somehow breeds brilliant artists. Rather, it’s that a melancholy artist is an archetype necessary for the hierarchy of society. The art itself is praised, and its creator is congratulated, prayed for, and shortly thereafter, mourned.
Allie Brosh is a heroine of biblical proportions for surviving the maelstrom of her own success. Does she walk slowly with her head down through a gray world, with her rational sensibilities teasing her with promises of prettier colors and oranger days? She’s thought about suicide, but she’s too amused with the numbness and wonders how much her world can implode before an angel appears and tells her the test is over and she passed, she made it through. But the angel never comes, and her laptop taunts her with constant reminders of her potential.
What a hard hat is to a construction worker, a bottle of liquor is to an artist. Getting hit with a ton of bricks at your own risk to build something greater than yourself is not unique to either professional. Don’t scoff at an addict writhing in a bus shelter; the dopamine calms his visions down. Don’t shame the belligerent drunk; his wife left him for his brother. Don’t cry when a warrior is wounded; his enemy is dead. Don’t warn against waves when a sailor drowns; sail to the place he never saw. Celebrate and dance and marvel at visionaries and their achievements, love them for living, and kiss them for walking through hell to bring back some relief for the suffering of millions. There are occupations in the natural world, and some are left with the charge to self-destruct. They leave fireworks behind to inspire the awe of the living, and those who escape that fate build technologies that mimic the pyrotechnic marvel that is the majesty of death. Either path is selfless, righteous, and essential to the tribe’s morale.
Allie is funny, Allie is witty, Allie is clever and insightful but nobody knows where Allie is but Allie. Those whose lives were changed and nights warmed by her crude comics and hilarious stories sincerely hope that she returns to delight us with more of her signature, charming hyperbole.