“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragon’s exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ Neil Gaiman
So, last week in my advice to those who may be new to this whole mental illness thing I suggested reading some of the many books and blogs out there about living with mental illness. I found that doing this helped me to understand my own conditions as well as to realise just how far from alone I was in dealing with them.
One commenter asked if I could make some recommendations; my response became rather long before I was even half done with my suggestions so I said that I would post a list.
– Your Voice In My Head by Emma Forrest
Reading this was the first time I thought, ‘Wow! This is me, I’m not alone, someone has put words to what’s been going on with me for all these years!’ The writing style may not be to everyone’s taste but I loved it, I thought it was beautiful and honest.
– Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
I found this so helpful that I immediately wanted to go out and buy a copy for every single person I know, people I don’t know but happen to see on the train a lot, and anyone who seemed like a nice person as I walked by them in the street.
It’s a book about women and sex but there’s loads of psychological stuff in there about how we react to stress, and depression, and the people around us that I actually found a lot more relevant to my mental health. Some of the things she talked about where a revelation to me and yet make so much sense; such as her explanation of the fight, flight, or freeze response cycle, and how in the modern world that cycle rarely gets the chance to flow through to its natural conclusion and that it getting stuck in the middle can become problematic.
– Blackout by Sarah Hepola
I recommend this book to anyone who’s been self medicating their mental health issues with alcohol. Or probably any other substance.
It’s fantastically written and I could identify with so much of it; as both I and the writer have since come out of the other side of our problematic drinking I found it a very cathartic read but I see it being helpful to those who aren’t quite there yet as well.
– Brave Enough and/or Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Reading her writing feels like being dipped balm. Even when delivering some honest tough love Cheryl Strayed’s words are always kind, compassionate, and supportive, the things those of us battling with mental illnesses so often struggle to be too ourselves.
– Daring Greatly and/or Rising Strong and/or The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
More kind and supportive writing here, emphasising the importance of being kind to ourselves and engaging with our difficult feelings, anxieties, and vulnerabilities.
–Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
This is another great memoir, it deals with his experiences growing up with an abusive father and with coming to terms with his family history as an adult. Beautifully and generously written.
– The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
Not a book about mental or emotional well-being per se; but the authors do discuss the ever-increasing pressure on all of us to maximise our own wellbeing and productiveness, the creeping portrayal of the healthy lifestyle as the only virtuous lifestyle, and the ways that this is actually making us feel worse.
I recommend it in the hope that reading it will help to ease any guilt you might feel about your health.
– I Never Called It Rape by Robin Warshaw and/or Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedan and Jessica Valenti
I found these books very useful in helping me to reframe my sexuality as something that was for me and that was mine to control.
– Sane New World by Ruby Wax
I’ll confess that I haven’t actually read this one yet, it’s on my to get to pile, but I know that some doctors are recommending it to patients with depression.
I’m not making the suggestion completely blind though, I have seen interviews and articles with and by Wax on the subject of her depression and anxiety which I thought were very good. I also have a lot of time for the work she did in setting up the Black Dog Tribe community, which is now run by SANE.
Blogs are a little bit harder to recommend as they tend to be more personal, which means that their usefulness might depend on how closely the writer’s specific condition matches with your own.
But here are some good ones:
This is cooking, and mental health, and cancer. And the most beautiful, beautiful words.
It’s no exaggeration to say that there have been days when Ella, and her writing, and her Bad Day recipes have literally saved my life.
A sweetly honest reflection on family life with agoraphobia and post natal depression.
A blog by the extremely brave eating disorder and general mental health activist, Claire Greaves, about her life with mental illness. Her aim is to increase understanding of these issues in a bid to reduce the stigma surrounding them.
A blog by a mental health professional who also experiences mental health problems, and so has insights from both sides of the fence as it were. She’s also a sharp, fierce, and excellent lady.
You can find more blogs written by people who have lived experience of the whole spectrum of mental health issues by searching for ‘mental health’ or the names of specific conditions on either WordPress or Blogger.
Are there any other writers or bloggers you think deserve a mention? Please add your own recommendations in the comments.