ANXY: A BEAUTIFULLY-DESIGNED MAGAZINE ABOUT OUR
Embracing your individuality and creativity and sharing it with the world requires a lot of courage, regardless of whether it comes easily to you or not. It means you're putting time into discovering yourself. We at WNW are always thrilled to see our members address not just the highs but especially the lows that come with the territory of self-discovery. Anxy Magazine is a prime example. Anxy's founder and Creative Director, WNW Member Indhira Rojas, tells us, "Anxy is intended to be a creative and artful exploration of mental health combined with powerful personal narratives. We are looking to create a publication that allows us to dive into our inner experiences and share what’s *really* going on in our lives. Our mission is to reduce the stigma around mental health conversations and make them an integral part of our daily lives."
Anxy aims to show that there's no longer a need to expend all of your energy on internalizing your struggle. And that the curtain we use to hide anxiety is really just a thin veil that distorts the realities of it: "We want to normalize these bad feelings and share how others have navigated or are still navigating those negative and dark moments... Each issue of Anxy uses a central theme—“loneliness” or “boundaries”—to build an original, insightful, and creative perspective through interviews, personal essays, reported features, visual stories, and recommendations for what to read, watch and download to round out the conversation." In our interview below, Indhira opens up about her own experiences with anxiety, expresses why a tactile magazine is the right medium to guide this conversation, and offers some insightful and generous tips on embracing your own anxiety.
Yesterday, Anxy was featured as the Project of the Day on Kickstarter. Head over to Kickstarter to back this mission. And if you are interested in the project and want to collaborate with the Anxy team, email them here: firstname.lastname@example.org. They'll be looking for writers, illustrators, photographers, you name it.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Who is Indhira and how did she get here?
I’m the founder and creative director of Anxy Magazine, and principal at Redindhi Studio, a design practice focused on branding, editorial and interaction design. As a designer, I’m curious how the stories we tell each other shape our lives, influence our behavior and evoke our emotions. Most of my career I’ve been in the intersection of publishing and technology, developing visual strategies and identities that enable compelling narratives.
I’ve worked on a wide array of projects, from leading interaction and art direction at The Bold Italic, to launching the Once Magazine app and the Modern Farmer website, working on the re-branding of Atlas Obscura and designing Eric Ries' latest book The Leader’s Guide. Another transformative milestone in my career was working at Medium, where I lead the branding and creative art direction of some of our first publications such as Matter, Gone, Re:form and Backchannel.
Now, how I got here, here: I’m originally from the Dominican Republic—a Caribeña. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship that brought me to the US to complete a degree in Communication Design at Parsons School of Design in New York City. I later moved to San Francisco, CA to pursue a Masters in Design at California College of the Arts, which allowed me to transition into tech.
What is Anxy, and what led you to start it?
Anxy is intended to be a creative and artful exploration of mental health combined with powerful personal narratives. We are looking to create a publication that allows us to dive into our inner experiences and share what’s *really* going on in our lives. Our mission is to reduce the stigma around mental health conversations and make them an integral part of our daily lives.
I decided to start the magazine because I found myself in the middle of a rough time, dealing with a lot of grief and anger from doing my own therapy work and just feeling like — wait, I can’t be the only one. Why is it so hard to reach out to someone and say: “I’m feeling this huge void in my chest right now, and I know it’s sadness, and I don’t know what to do with it. Have you ever felt that way?” It’s like, unless there’s a death in the family, where there’s permission to grieve, we don’t allow ourselves to have those raw conversations and talk about some really dark feelings and experiences. We are all working so hard to make each other believe we have our shit together. Um. We don’t. Let’s get real.
I wanted to hear about other people’s experiences and how they have navigated them —what they do with the things that arise, how it has influenced their work, their everyday lives. I also wanted to bring together the psychology concepts that can bring language to what sometimes is so hard to describe and pinpoint.
Unless there’s a death in the family, where there’s permission to grieve, we don’t allow ourselves to have those raw conversations and talk about some really dark feelings and experiences. We are all working so hard to make each other believe we have our shit together. Um. We don’t. Let’s get real.
How did you decide on the format of Anxy? How does a serial publication better enable a conversation into anxiety?
For Anxy, we decided on a bi-annual publication, in which each issue is based on a theme, such as “loneliness” or “boundaries,” because we wanted to create a tactile collection of conversations. That way we can dive deep into a specific topic and create a complete volume of original, insightful, and creative perspectives. So much online content gets lost in the vortex. If you don’t click on the link from that email or feed—wooosshh—the story disappears forever (or until your Google it, if you ever do). And even when you do read it, even if you ‘save it’ … it still gets lost in some kind of digital archive.
We are looking to share these themes and stories through interviews with folks we admire, personal essays, reported features, and visual stories. We hope it will be content people can come back to for months to come, the way you do with a good book—you read it in stages and sometimes more than once.
The advantage of a serial publication, as opposed to a podcast or blog, is getting to experience content on a printed (tactile) page. It enables the juxtaposition of words and images in a way that connects to your senses differently. If done artfully and with an appreciation for beautiful design, Anxy can hopefully go beyond what’s currently in the market covering these topics.
The advantage of a serial publication, as opposed to a podcast or blog, is getting to experience content on a printed (tactile) page. It enables the juxtaposition of words and images in a way that connects to your senses differently.
In what ways are you applying your experience as a UX and visual designer to the magazine?
I’m applying my experience in some ways that are a bit more obvious, mainly understanding our audience and the need we are looking to fill, and creating the conceptual framework and visual direction of the magazine — from the branding of the publication to the tone of our video, website, and all the promotional materials.
Other aspects that have really come in handy, which are less visible, are putting into practice the strategy and project management skills that I’ve learned through ‘shipping’ things. This is the first time I’ve created a Kickstarter campaign. There are a lot of pieces that have to come together—it’s been quite the journey.
Anxy Mag has the potential to combat the misconception that you’re alone in facing anxiety. Do you see that feeling of loneliness in feeling alone as the most dangerous effect of anxiety and depression?
For me, the most dangerous effects of anxiety, depression, and numerous other mental illnesses, is not wanting to be alive anymore. It can start with a devastating feeling of loneliness and grow to feeling totally invisible and misunderstood. Feeling that no one could ever understand how we feel, because how could they? They are not the ones in this body, with these experiences, dealing with these thoughts.
The misconception we want to tackle is not just that you are not alone, it’s also that trauma is so much more common than we care to admit to each other. We dare claim that it’s a rite of passage in life. At some point, we will experience something difficult in some form or another. Big or small, individual or collective, it’s probably going to happen. And it’s understandable that you may feel buried by it. We want to normalize these bad feelings and share how others have navigated or are still navigating those negative and dark moments.
There seems to be a general consensus that anxiety and depression are particularly prevalent in creative individuals. Why do you think this is?
I’m one of those folks who believes all humans are creative, not just us labelled ‘creative people’. But, putting that aside, us “creatives” generally tend to feel more comfortable in the realm of expression and making. It becomes the way we channel our inner experiences. When making is the channel, our emotions related to our anxiety and depression comes through and becomes more visible (both in the work and how we carry ourselves), especially if what we make is publicly consumed. For others, non-labelled creatives, anxiety and depression are probably just as prevalent, it’s just channelled in ways we are not as aware of.
At times it can feel very rewarding to feel connected and make. Other times, you realize that a busy mind, not being able to think about other things but the problem at hand, is really a mind that cannot think about negative or dark thoughts. Creativity can be that double-edged sword.
How has your creativity helped keep anxiety at bay? And how has your creativity perhaps opened the door to anxiety or depression?
The way my creativity has kept anxiety and depression at bay (which has been a sad revelation, even in its comfort) is that it’s a great tool for distraction, sometimes dissociation. I’ve noticed for me, I get into problem-solving mode or into a flow and then everything else disappears. At times it can feel very rewarding to feel connected and make. Other times, you realize that a busy mind, not being able to think about other things but the problem at hand, is really a mind that cannot think about negative or dark thoughts. Creativity can be that double-edged sword.
The aspect of creativity that can open the door for anxiety and depression is when we lose track of what we are making and start judging ourselves. We can sometimes be very harsh. Whether it’s ‘this is not good enough,’ which can turn into ‘I’m not good enough,’ or ‘why can’t I be this or that?’ It just opens the door for that inner critic and puts you in a real rut.
What are some top tips you can give to fellow WNW members who struggle with anxiety, or are close to someone who struggles with anxiety?
Huge question. I will talk about things that have worked for me. But I don’t think it works for everyone. As we all manage things differently.
If you have become aware enough about your current state to realize something is off and you are tired of being tired, look for support: a professional therapist, a group, a friend who can really hold your experience. Talking to a professional therapist saved my life.
Meditation has been really helpful for me, mainly because it has helped me become an observer of my inner dialog and realize that thoughts are not reality, they are just thoughts—we just tend to believe everything we think. That can be un-learned.
For those who are close to someone who struggles with anxiety (and they are not in a state of self-harm), I would say, just be present for them when you are with them. Be a steady presence in their lives so that they can feel safe and supported when they are with you. Listen to them. Pay attention without judgement, and most importantly without trying to solve their problem (this is really really hard!).
The team you’ve assembled is stacked with so many talented individuals. How did you pitch Anxy as an endeavor worth joining?
Anxy has been a labor of love for everyone involved. I feel so lucky to count on such an awesome team of talented folks. To be honest, pitching Anxy didn’t require heavy lifting. Everyone involved has dabbled with therapy in some way, and feels the same need I feel—a desire to connect with others around our issues and stop with all this pretending. We can see people are craving open discussions about coping with anxiety, depression, fear, anger, trauma, shame, and all those things can change the direction of our work and our lives.
This is the right time to have this conversation. Other publishers are beginning to broach the topic, and many public figures have come forward with personal revelations about mental health. Actor Kristen Bell wrote about her struggles with depression and anxiety; comedian and podcaster Marc Maron has made a career out of talking about complex emotional issues with his creative peers.
We feel a real revolution taking place around normalizing mental health outside the medical arena. It felt like an opportunity ready for the taking and so they jumped on it with me. :)
How can WNW Members get involved in helping Anxy Mag and its mission?
There are many ways to get involved in helping Anxy — the most urgent is supporting our Kickstarter so we can make this project a reality! The second best way, specially for WNW’s huge community of creative professionals, is to become a contributor. If you are interested in the project and want to collaborate with us, please reach out to us at: email@example.com. We will be looking for writers, illustrators, photographers, you name it!