Zine Review: Flotation Device 16

Flotation Device 16
Keith Helt
44 pages

Flotation Device 16 is a black on cream paper, US-sized half-fold zine about life with panic and anxiety attack over the years.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: People can say what they want about content warnings, but I appreciate them. I was glad to have the heads up about the content being about panic and anxiety so I could make sure to read this when I was in a good space to do so.

Flotation Device 16 opens with the aforementioned warning as well as a creative table of contents introducing the zine’s four parts:

Part 1 – A chronology of selected attacks
Part 2 – A neutral recounting of what happened and how it happened
Part 3 – A selection of recent thoughts
Part 4 – A brief chronology of selected coping strategies

We go right into part one of the zine, which is the first half of the zine. From 1996 to 2017, Keith details a number of panic attacks from before they knew what to call the experiences. The experiences have been written out in diary style format, with just a year covering multiple entries. Keith’s writing style is interesting to me; it’s a balance of not going over the top but not holding back either. The panic is a horrible mix that encompasses the mind and body, but Keith writes about it in a way that documents the experience without trying to elicit any specific response from the reader.

It’s simply honest writing.

From the diary-style of recounting specific attacks, Keith takes a little step back in part two to give a broader overview of what the attacks are like, when they started, what it took to go to the doctor, and what’s happening now. Part three takes us back to 2016 and the diary style of writing, this time focusing on Keith sharing more of the emotional and thought processes of dealing with these anxiety attacks – which clearly causes even more turmoil and depressive type thoughts as well.

Part four takes us in a more positive but still realistic direction with the diary style detailing various coping strategies over time. I think this is a great subject and style to round the zine out with. This section normalises medication, has a healthy list of helpful books, and even ends with a long list of various life highlights. Most importantly (in my opinion) is that it clearly shows that learning to manage your anxiety is a process that grows and changes as you grow.

Save for the inside covers and one page, Flotation Device 16 is a purely text zine. So if you’re looking for a zine that will keep you reading or give you several reading sessions, then this one is for you.

It’s definitely an intense read. Perhaps because I have panic attacks or because I empathise. Perhaps both. I did have to take reading this in parts, but I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. I’ve never read someone write about panic and anxiety quite like Keith, and Flotation Device 16 served as a personal reminder to me that even though people may have the same condition, that condition can still be experienced in a myriad of different ways.

Flotation Device 16 is an interesting look at one experience of panic and anxiety over time. I think this is one that will be sticking with me for quite a while though I’ve finished reading it.

Worrying will not protect me.

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