It is only within the past year I’ve started reading books like the ones I am going to discuss in this post. Books that are so honest about mental health that I could relate to. Books that make me feel like part of a group. Books that made me inspired to write my own blog in the same honest and open way. They are the ones that have resonated with me the most. Expect some spoilers!
Reasons To Stay Alive
This book is perfect. It is an account from the author, Matt Haig, about his experience with depression where he explains it amazingly well and in such depth. He also really highlights how depression can slowly creep up on you, of the warning signs that you miss over time but in hindsight can pick out easily. Haig really focuses on the guilt and pain he felt because his illness was not visible which I think resonates with a lot of us who have a mental health illness. There is even a whole chapter called: “Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life threatening situations” which is both funny and heart-breaking. Similarly, a later chapter called “Things that happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression” lists both IBS and a scalded hand gaining more fuss than being extremely mentally unwell.
Although Haig writes stunningly about his gruelling battle with depression, the book is also so full of hope and happiness. He reminds the reader that we existed before this mental illness took over, that the constant feeling that everything is going to get so much worse is just merely a symptom of our illness and that we are an observer of our mind and the terrible thoughts it churns out, not its victim. These simple sentences make me feel so much stronger.
I totally agree with Haig’s point towards the end of his book where he writes that he will never get over his depressive breakdown: “If the stone falls hard enough the ripples last a life time”. I still look back on my time battling with depression in complete shock that it happened to me and in fear that it will happen again. Whilst reading Reasons To Stay Alive, I felt like my chest was going to burst and tears streamed down my face. The same thing happened again when I skim read it before writing this post. It is so beautiful and everyone should read it, whether you are a sufferer of a mental illness or supporting someone who is struggling.
Because We Are Bad
This book is written by Lily Bailey who I have, admittedly, developed a little girl crush for. It was the first book I had read where someone wrote so openly about their struggles with OCD. Although I could see myself in a lot of the obsessions and compulsions that Bailey writes about, there were often points in the book where she described symptoms that I myself do not have. I think that this is really important because everyone is unique. Not everyone’s experience of a mental illness is going to be the same and with an illness like OCD, there are many variations and symptoms. The honest way in which Bailey has written about her symptoms, I’m sure, is going to help many readers identify the illness in themselves. She describes the illness perfectly when writing about reaching a “blank slate” after carrying out compulsions. It’s so true that we do these rituals in order to reach this place of emptiness and calm for no longer than a few seconds. Then the whole cycle starts over and over again.
In Because We Are Bad, Bailey writes lovingly about her Psychiatrist who treated her during her battle with OCD. She sounds amazing and it is so nice to hear that she had a good experience with a mental health professional through her recovery. She shares things that her Psychiatrist said to her during their sessions which have really stayed with me and I hope have stayed with her too. Bailey also highlights the importance in her book of not inviting the thoughts to “sit at the table” and to just accept their presence. Although this is incredibly hard to do, it is an excellent way to challenge your mental illness.
P.S. If you ever read this Lily, I’m training to be a Counsellor at the moment and I told my tutors about you/your book. They shared this in one of my lectures with all my course mates and said they’d get a copy of your book for the library! Just call me your very own uni publicist.
I read this book on my holiday which I have previously blogged about in the post My Happy Place. It was such a funny read and I finished it within 2 days- I didn’t want it to ever end! (Please be my BFF Bryony Gordon) Gordon is a journalist whose book is again a very personal account of her struggles with depression and OCD. Throughout the book, she also writes about the physical effects these mental illnesses caused and the addictions she battled with to cope. For that, I salute you Bryony. She is incredibly brave writing this book and sharing such personal thoughts and experiences. She hits the nail on the head when comparing OCD to mould that takes over your brain, causing the ridiculous and illogical to become the norm. Gordon also describes feeling her intrusive thoughts are “warnings” and comparing waking up every day with the illness as Groundhog Day; once you get through one day you immediately start thinking of the same struggles you will be facing the next. I could not agree with that more.
Gordon also decides to make her OCD a separate entity, something I find really important in coping with my own mental illness. It is my absolute favourite part of the book because Gordon refers to her’s as “Jareth the Goblin King”. If that does not make sense to you, you NEED to watch Labyrinth. David Bowie plays this Goblin King and wears quite possibly the tightest leggings you can imagine. As you read on, Gordon has a beautiful epiphany that “everyone has the power to change things” and that she is going to do just that. She has this beautiful epiphany whilst changing a tampon which she openly shares with the reader. She’s amazing.
Bryony Gordon has also started a regular meet-up for those with mental health illnesses called Mental Health Mates. The website is as follows: http://www.mentalhealthmates.com/
A brilliant idea from a truly brilliant lady.