The Truth About Depression and the Books That Helped Me Cope

These books helped me cope with my chronic illness diagnosis of depression. They are full of powerful emotions and healing energy.

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Trigger Warning: This article discusses a specific person’s experiences with mention of mental health issues related to depression and anxiety. Please practice self-care as needed.

For several years, I’ve struggled with my chronic illness of depression. It all started in high school, in my junior year, and it spiraled out of control. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t enjoying the things I used to, like reading books, and I was sleeping all the time. It was a struggle getting out of bed, let alone doing basic chores like brushing my teeth, taking a shower, or even changing clothes.

My coping mechanism turned into sleeping. I would sleep several hours a day. My way to deal with my depression was to take naps (which is, I discovered later, a common symptom called depression napping). At least when I was asleep, I wasn’t depressed.

My Story: Diagnosing and Living with Depression

Because of my chronic illness, my junior year of high school was rough. I could barely get out of my bed, let alone do the things that had made me happy. My hobbies became things I dreaded. Reading and writing (which is now my college degree) became something I no longer looked forward to. Even the simple pleasures of playing video games, I no longer felt enjoyment toward. Everything I had previously wanted to do became an ominous task looming ahead of me. Everyday actions became stressful and increased my anxiety. I felt like I couldn’t do anything because it all felt so overwhelming.

Slowly, I sought medical help. I looked for ways to help me cope with my diagnosis of depression. I searched for things that would help me take my mind off my mental illness, which was difficult, especially because I didn’t want to do anything. However, I knew I had to take responsibility and try, even when I didn’t feel like it. Therefore, I turned to reading and video games. I wanted to escape my life, and reading allowed me to do that. When I was reading, I could forget about my worries and my illness and just relax in the world of the book.

While depression is different for every person, and these books are surely not a cure-all, these five books helped me tackle my chronic illness.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur


This poetry collection features four different chapters that take the reader through subjects such as heartbreak, loss, abuse, healing, and love. When I read her poems, it made me feel like I wasn’t entirely alone. Rupi Kaur touches on subjects and issues that everyone struggles with in some form, and she beautifully executes what it feels like to struggle with those issues. This poetry book reminded me I wasn’t the only one to experience depression and that I would be okay, even if I didn’t feel like it.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This one might seem like a cliché, but this book really helped take my mind off my mental illness. As I went into my senior year of high school, I was assigned a book to read in my AP Lit class. We had a list of classics to choose from, and I had always heard about Pride and Prejudice, but I had never read it, so I chose the title. Outside of school, I was still struggling with doing basic things, so the fact that I was forced to read a book sort of helped my depression in that my mind knew I didn’t have a choice — unless I wanted to fail.


Quickly, I was immersed in the world of Longbourn and Pemberley, and this novel helped me escape. I was invested in the characters and the story — I’m a sucker for romance — and Lizzy and Darcy are so cute. I found myself worrying less about my mental illness, as Elizabeth Bennet’s problems seemed much more dramatic. In fact, I loved the book so much that it’s been my favorite ever since and most likely will remain my number one story forever.

If I Stay By Gayle Forman


This book made me ugly cry. When you’re sad, depressed, or just have a bunch of pent-up emotions, sometimes it’s nice to just cry and let it all out. This is the book for that. If I Stay will make you sob. It will also make you grateful for everything you have in life and want to hug those close to you. This book allowed me to release all the emotions I had been feeling. It was truly an escape from my mental illness. If you need a tear-jerker or some kind of catharsis, this novel is for you.

Shatter Me By Tahereh Mafi

I read this book in seventh grade, and from the moment I read it, I fell in love. If I’m ever feeling sad or upset, this is my go-to book. Everyone has that one novel they reread — the one they pick up multiple times a year despite knowing it like the back of their hand. This series is my coping series. Mafi creates a beautiful, dramatic, heartbreaking world and immerses the reader in the world of Juliette Ferrars, who has a crushing backstory.


This book will pull at your heartstrings as there are so many relatable characters — most of whom have some sort of mental illness. If you want a series to drop you into another world and make you forget all your worries, this is the perfect book.

Just Listen By Sarah Dessen

Here’s another tear-jerker. Just Listen takes you through a roller-coaster of emotions and keeps you on your toes throughout its pages. The protagonist is very relatable, especially to those with some sort of illness like depression.


Sarah Dessen allows readers to experience heartbreak and loss, as well as healing. This book, similar to Milk and Honey, reminded me that I wasn’t completely alone. It helps you understand that even though you don’t think you can, you will eventually heal. Be warned; however, it will definitely hit you in the feels.

Depression isn’t something that can be managed easily. These books helped me, but every case of depression is different, so maybe my list isn’t your cup of tea, and that’s okay. However, if you’re looking for a world to escape to or need some healing energy, get poetry collections, short stories, and novels of all kinds that move you.

Check out these other articles on Chronic Illnesses and Mental Health.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental illness, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Mental Health Hotline.

For more articles on chronic illnesses, click here.

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