This Is How I Disappear by Mirion Malle
- Buy the book here
- Page count: 208
- Genre: Graphic novel, mental health, contemporary, fiction
- Content warning: discussions of self harm, suicide, depression, and sexual assault.
I am not a frequent reader of graphic novels. While exploring Amsterdam with some friends, I ended up in the magnificent Lambiek Comics. The store had many options for comic and graphic novel lovers, or for newbies to the form like myself. I picked up This Is How I Disappear just to page through and look at the art, but then I found myself full-on reading it. Clara’s experiences spoke to me. I soon realized I needed to read this entire graphic novel.
This Is How I Disappear by Mirion Malle is a poignant look at living with depression in early adulthood. This graphic novel, originally written in French and translated to English by Aleshia Jensen and Bronwyn Haslam, speaks deeply to the experience of many young women growing independent in a world of social media, high career demands, and complicated interpersonal relationships.
Clara, a young woman in her twenties, is a poet who works in publishing. She’s at a breaking point in her life and the battle with depression is seeping into her professional and personal lives. People try to reach out and help, but Clara is on an island, growing farther and farther away from friends as the days progress.
This graphic novel is great for those who love character-driven stories. Malle gives the reader Clara in full force. We wander through her days—good and bad—and get swept into her most private moments of anxiety, depression, and trauma. There isn’t much development of the other characters and we only see glimpses of Clara’s friends. There’s Amélie, with whom Clara bonds at a party, but the friendship spirals into Clara becoming a “therapist friend” to Amélie, with Clara providing lots of support but receiving none. Clara’s friend Isa points out Clara’s concerning behavior, but Clara isn’t able to connect with Isa over the issue. Her friend who “gets it”, Nico, is living far away for the time being.
Aside from difficulties communication about depression with friends, Mirion Malle also touches on an unfortunately frequent issue for those struggling with depression. Clara’s explorations of “getting help” are thwarted by long wait times (months, often) to work with therapists or treatment centers.
I wouldn’t say this story ties itself up in a nice bow at the end. It does, however, give a glimmer of hope for Clara. I won’t spoil the ending, though. Just know that it made me very emotional. Malle handles the topic of depression with a lot of care, and it is clear that she holds a lot of empathy for those who have had experiences like Clara’s.
If readers take away anything from this story, I believe it will be this essential empathy. This Is How I Disappear shows readers that their struggles and experiences with depression matter. As a young woman myself, I felt grateful for Malle’s depiction of depression and finding light again. The moment where Clara begins to feel the warmth of the sun again (both physically and metaphorically) made me tear up. This graphic novel is a special story that will speak to many people.