leo tolstoy

5 Authors Who Lived With Mental Illness

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in may since 1949. This month is meant to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. For that reason, in this article we’re talking about 5 famous authors who lived with mental illness, and how that affected their work.

[Trigger warning for depression, and suicide.]

1. Silvia Plath

Sylvia Plath | Poetry Foundation
Image via Poetry Foundation

Silvia Plath is perhaps one of the most famous examples of an author with mental illness. Her life and work were greatly affected by her illness; there is even something called the “Sylvia Plath Effect,” which is the phenomenon that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. She was diagnosed with depression when she was 20 years old, and consequently died of suicide at age 30.  In her novel, The Bell Jar, Plath describes the decline of main character Esther into a depressive episode and her stay in a psychiatric ward, which mirrors Silvia’s own life.

2. Leo Tolstoy 

Leo Tolstoy | Russian writer | Britannica
Image via Britannica

Often regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, Leo Tolstoy also battled with depression. After writing his novels War and Peace and Anna Kareninathe writer began experiencing depression, and even went as far as rejecting his literary success and calling Anna Karenina and “abomination.” During his early fifties (the years he struggled with depression), Leo wrote A Confession, a short work on the subject of melancholia, philosophy and religion.

 

 

3. Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre
Image via Wikipedia

Virginia Woolf is another author who severely struggled with depression, and it is also now agreed upon that she had bipolar disorder. Around 1910 she had been admitted three times to a “private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Her novel Mrs. Dalloway is a manifesto of mental health awareness, and in it she criticizes the medical establishment and medical discourse surrounding mental illness at the time.

4. Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre
Image via Wikipedia

Ernest Hemingway had a very complicated history of mental health. He suffered from severe depression, paranoid delusions and bipolar disorder, which were exacerbated by a history of alcoholism, severe head injuries, and a genetic disorder known as hemochromatosis. His family was also greatly impacted by mental health issues, and his father, brother, and sister (and himself) all died by suicide. His granddaughter Mariel, now a mental health advocate, created a documentary called, “Running From Crazy,” which reveals the impact mental illness had on her family.

5. Zelda Fitzgerald 

Zelda Fitzgerald quería ser su propia musa - Gatopardo
Image via Gatopardo

Perhaps less famously than her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda — the novelist, socialite, and painter — also struggled greatly with her mental health. She was in and out of mental hospitals during the 1930s and 1940s, and although she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is agreed today that a more accurate diagnosis would’ve been bipolar disorder. During her time at the mental hospital she experienced a rush of creativity and wrote Save Me the Waltz as part of her therapy.

 

The complicated lives of these writers highlight the importance of destigmatizing mental health, as well as the importance of accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Featured image via lletraferits

No-Shave-November: 10 Authors With Legendary Facial Hair

As we’re now midway through No-Shave-November, and more people around the world are probably taking advantage of this momentous month than usual due to worldwide work-from-home circumstances, I’m sure you’re itching to see some authors with the most legendary facial hair.  I know what you’re wondering…. Does a correlation exist between beard length and literary strength? Is a connection to be found between the most memorable manuscripts and the mustachioed men who penned them? This list says it all:

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Happy Birthday Leo Tolstoy, Author of ‘War And Peace’!

Happy birthday to one of the most acclaimed classic writers of the world: Leo Tolstoy. The Russian writer wrote numerous novels that have become literary mainstays, such as Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyichand War And PeaceSurely you’ve heard of at least one of them, although you may not have actually read them.

 

 

Tolstoy was born in Tula Province, Russia in 1828. In the 1860s, he wrote his most famous novel, which we’ve already mentioned: War And Peace. Initially published serially, later collected into a single volume, spanning the period of 1805 to 1820. Since its publication, it has been regarded as Tolstoy’s finest achievement and a huge high mark of literature in general.

 

Image via Amazon

 

Tolstoy continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s, until his death in 1910. But War And Peace remains his most famous achievement, understandably so. He spent the better of the 1860s toiling over his epic masterpiece. Portions of it were first published in The Russian Messenger, where it was first titled “The Year of 1805.” More chapters were released, until Tolstoy eventually finished in 1868. Both critics and the public were buzzing about the novel’s historical accounts of the Napoleonic Wars, combined with its thoughtful development of realistic yet fictional characters. The novel also uniquely incorporated three long essays satirizing the laws of history. Among the ideas that Tolstoy extols in War and Peace is the belief that the quality and meaning of one’s life is mainly derived from his day-to-day activities.

 

Image via Wikipedia

 

After War And Peace, Tolstoy followed it with Anna Karenina, where the first line is among his most famous quotes. It said:

 

 

‘All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

 

This book was published in installments from 1873 to 1877. The royalties earned from both novels made Tolstoy rich, contributing to his growing status as a beloved author. However, after Anna Karenina, Tolstoy grew depressed and suffered a spiritual crisis. He attempted to find answers in the Russian Orthodox Church but they did not have any answers that satisfied him. He wound up developing his own system of beliefs and expressed them in further books he wrote in the 1880s. However, this cost him to be ousted from the Church and watched by the secret police. This perhaps contributed to his dwindling popularity, with the exception of The Death of Ivan Illyich, which found acclaim and popularity.

Despite this, Tolstoy established himself as a moral and spiritual leader, influencing the likes of Ghandi among others. Also during his later years, Tolstoy reaped the rewards of international acclaim. Yet he still struggled to reconcile his spiritual beliefs with the tensions they created in his home life. His wife not only disagreed with his teachings, she disapproved of his disciples, who regularly visited Tolstoy at the family estate. Their troubled marriage took on an air of notoriety in the press. Anxious to escape his wife’s growing resentment, in October 1910, Tolstoy, his daughter, Aleksandra, and his physician, Dr. Dushan P. Makovitski, embarked on a pilgrimage. Valuing their privacy, they traveled incognito, hoping to dodge the press, to no avail.

He died in November in 1910, where he was buried in the family estate following his passing. He was survived by his wife and his 8 children he had with it. Today, Tolstoy is remembered as a masterpiece of a writer, with a gift for describing a character’s motives and remembering to focus on their everyday actions to describe their overall purpose.

Happy birthday, Tolstoy! Maybe crack open one of his novels and check him out today.

 

 

Featured Image Via The Guardian