'Blogging a way for me to have a bit of contact with the outside world when I couldn’t physically be there'

Ruby Elliot was 14-years-old when she was diagnosed with anorexia. Then came the depressionbulimia and bi-polar. 

She loved drawing as a young child – emulating the humour of The Beano and The Simpsons – but she found art lessons too prescriptive and fell out of love with it in secondary school. 

But when she dropped out of school aged 17 after a particularly intense bout of depression, she started blogging to ease her sense of isolation and once again reached for her sketchbook and pen. She filled her webpage with sparse and darkly witty illustrations depicting her struggle with mental illness. Difficult topics range from finding the right therapist, to taking mood stabilisers and the negative attitudes of others. 

Now aged 22, Elliot and her cartoons have amassed over 68,000 followers on Instagram. She recently released her first book: It’s All Absolutely Fine

The Independent spoke to Elliot about art as catharsis, and having the power to change how people views of mental health

Your work confronts mental health very honestly but also humorously. Is this an approach that you thought about, or did it just happen?

I struggled a lot with severe self-harm for a few years too. I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar until a couple of years ago, but I’m well-ish right now, which is good. Humour has always been a coping mechanism for me during traumatic experiences; it gives me a bit of control back to be able to laugh at this stuff. I think I would have probably tried to be funny whatever I was drawing about, mental health just happened to be the context. 

Why did you decide to share your work online?

At the time I was incredibly isolated due to how unwell I was, and blogging was one of the easiest ways for me to have a bit of contact with the outside world, so to speak, when I couldn’t physically be there. 

Ruby Elliot's blog explores the reality of dealing with mental illness 

Does drawing give you a sense of release? 

Sometimes it’s about catharsis or trying to process something in a non-destructive way. Other times it’s about communicating difficulties or emotions I may not be able to verbalise. It’s quite a big part of my identity now – so I take a sketchbook and pens everywhere I go. If I’m getting anxious or feeling detached I know I can get out and draw to try and focus on something more external.  

How does it feel to have a positive response to your work, so much so that it has been made into a book?

It feels lovely, and occasionally overwhelming. One of the most brilliant and special things for me is hearing from people who have started drawing or making artwork about their own struggles after seeing mine. I really believe art is for everyone, and it’s lovely to know I might have helped someone access that.