Mental health, along with the illnesses that can plague us, make up some of the most taboo, stigmatized topics of discussion within our society today. Historically speaking, society has always had a difficult time equating mental illnesses with the same sincerity physical illnesses foster. It’s almost as if there’s this underlying belief that people can think their way out of mental illnesses as opposed to receiving professional medical treatment.
However, within the past five or so years there has been such an uprise in the media of people coming out of the corners, shedding their shame, and openly sharing their struggles with mental health that the way we view mental illnesses has begun dramatically shifting for the better. This is even despite the stigmas society has already planted; it’s a shift that has been so necessary. Mental health is just as crucial to us as our physical health; we cannot function as whole, healthy, happy humans when the neurons in our brains are preventing us from doing so.
Stigmatizing mental health only harms our society more; insinuating that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed of only prevents people from seeking the help they need. It’s important that we are open about our struggles. It’s vital that we are receptive to the struggles of those around us. We have to uplift and support each other, always standing up for the insanely complicated complexities of what it is to be human.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here are hotlines that solely exist to support you. Don’t be afraid to utilize them, there is no shame in feeling trapped inside of that dark, lonely place our minds can sometimes go:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Panic Disorder Information Hotline: 1-800-64-PANIC (72642)
National Eating Disorder Helpline: (800)-931-2237
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: (212)-673-3000
24 Hour Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis and a live, trained Crisis Counselor will receive the text and let you know that they are here to listen.
And, if you’re struggling, here are seven memoirs of people who may have been in your shoes before and have proven that even the worst is never permanent; we are always capable of recovery.
1. Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind by Jamie Lowe
In this stunning memoir, one woman brings us into her struggle with bipolar disorder and the lithium that grounded her, kept her hallucinations at bay, and led her to lead a healthy, normal life. This was for twenty years before doctors told her it was destroying her kidneys and forced her to choose between functioning kidneys, or the little pink pills that saved her life.
Lowe takes us on a raw, honest journey as she adjusts to a new medication while traveling to Bolivia and examining the world’s largest lithium mines and learn all of the mysteries about the drug that kept her sane.
Everything around me came into question: What was real, what was imaginary? What was genuine feeling and what was the disorder? Who was I in relationship to the disease? What was mental illness? How long had it been around?
2. Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – My Journey Through Depression by Rachel Kelly
Image Via Amazon
This book details Times journalist Rachel Kelly’s struggle with moderate anxiety that, in a period of only three days, suddenly progressed to severe, debilitating depression. She delves deep into the darkest periods of her life and how reading poetry helped her to heal in more ways than she could’ve ever guessed.
Filled with the very poems that pulled her out of the void, this memoir acts as a lifeline for when your chest feels heavy and you don’t want to be alone.
Unlike the moment I fell ill, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I got better. This is a relative term. Depression has changed everything for me. I will never not need to manage this illness. The severity of the symptoms comes and goes. The illness is not me; I’m just someone managing it’s symptoms, in the way that many people manage many conditions.
3. So Sad Today: Personal Essays by Melissa Broder
Image Via Amazon
This darkly comedic, poetic, and brutally honest collection stems from Broder’s viral Twitter page; depicting her struggles with anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, obsession, and more. It’s a book everyone can relate to, and a good testament as to why Broder is one of the most popular contemporary writers today.
I know I have an ocean of sadness inside me and I have been damming it my entire life. I have always imagined that something was supposed to rescue me from the ocean. But maybe the ocean is its own ultimate rescue – a reprieve from the linear mind and into the world of feeling. Shouldn’t someone have told me this at birth? Shouldn’t someone have said, “Enjoy your ocean of sadness, there is nothing to fear in it,” so I didn’t have to build all those dams? I think some of us are less equipped to deal with our oceans, or maybe we are just more terrified, because we see and feel a little extra. So we build our shitty dams. But inevitably, the dam always breaks again. It breaks again and the ocean speaks to me. It says ‘I’m alive and it’s real’. It says, ‘I’m going to die, and it’s real.
4. Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
Image Via Amazon
Emma Forrest’s memoir takes a sharp look at her as a twenty-two year old struggling to make it in New York City, growing more manic day-by-day, and falling further into her own vortex of loneliness and destruction. She begins meeting with a psychiatrist and clinging to him as her own personal safe haven until he suddenly passes, leaving her to now pick up the pieces of her newfound mourning; all while learning how to cope with healing alone.
It is madness. And if you don’t know who you are, or if your real self has drifted away from you with the undertow, madness at least gives you an identity. It’s the same with self-loathing. You’re probably just normal and normal-looking but that’s not a real identity, not the way ugliness is. Normality, just accepting that you’re probably normal-looking, lacks the force field of self-disgust. If you don’t know who you are, madness gives you something to believe in.
5. A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia by Sandra Allen
Image Via Amazon
In this powerful, poignant memoir that’s part-biography, part-historical look, Sandra Allen translates the messy, mistyped, and fully capitalized autobiography her schizophrenic uncle, Bob, mails her one day and blends it alongside a look back at their familial history and the cultural shifts occurring during Bob’s adolescence in the sixties and seventies.
This book is such an honest, in-depth look at a mental illness that is still so publicly stigmatized, it will forever change the way you view schizophrenia.
I’M ROBERT: this is a true story of a boy brought up in berkely california durring the sixties and seventies who was unable to identify with reality and there for labeled as a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic for the rest of his life.
6. How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir by Cat Marnell
Image Via Amazon
In this chaotic, tragic memoir, Cat Marnell details her life as a twenty-six year old associate beauty editor, popular Manhattan socialite, and uninhibited party girl who kept secret her chronic struggles with bulimia, drug addiction, hallucinations, and insomnia from the world who knew her well.
This book is such a relatable take on addiction and loneliness it will break your heart.
And you fall deeper and deeper into the earth, but it’s not the earth, exactly, it’s this series of . . . lofts built into the earth like underground tree houses, right, and another floor falls out from under you, and then you are on a different floor of the world, and you are starting to accept that things will never be the same.
7. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Image Via Amazon
In this stunning look at trauma, binge eating disorders, and the dysmorphia beneath it all, Roxane Gay boldly describes her own struggles with food, her body, and the violence that led her here.
This all-too-relatable journey of one woman’s struggle to save herself as she teeters on the line between self-care and self-destruction will leave anyone feeling capable and empowered.
I buried the girl I had been because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. She is still small and scared and ashamed, and perhaps I am writing my way back to her, trying to tell her everything she needs to hear.
Featured Image via Zeit Online