Tag: mental health

sylvia gondola

Sylvia Plath Was Writing a Sequel to ‘The Bell Jar’

In the whole of Sylvia Plath’s career, she only ever published one novel. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman who suffers from a depressive breakdown after returning home from a prestigious editing internship in New York. The bulk of Plath’s work was devoted to poetry, and the original publication of The Bell Jar was done under a pen name.


Plath did not want the novel’s reception to detract from her poetic legacy, nor did she want the people who made their way into The Bell Jar as characters to become aware of what Plath had written about them. Plath’s concerns were valid, as many readers of The Bell Jar have noted that the people who populate Esther Greenwood’s (Plath’s autobiographical protagonist) world come off as flat, unsympathetic, and even grotesque.



Sylvia Plath

Image via The Wall Street Journal


For Plath to write honestly about illness, she had to honestly describe what illness does to one’s relationships. Esther’s illness renders her unable to thoughtfully engage with the people around her; she harbors hostile feelings for her friends, for her fellow patients at the mental health facility where she stays, and even for her own mother. This cold lack of sympathy has put readers off since the book’s release. We never get to see how a healthy Esther would interact with others, so it is easy to interpret this coldness as a trait, rather than a symptom. But there’s something many readers and Plath fans may not be aware of: Plath never intended for The Bell Jar to be the end of Esther’s story.


Sylvia at her typewriter

Image via The New Yorker


The Bell Jar ends just as Esther is about to stand before a panel of doctors who will determine whether or not she may be released from their care. It appears to be a cliffhanger, but the beginning of the novel holds a clue as to what becomes of Esther. Early in the novel, Esther briefly describes what became of the various gifts she had received as an intern in New York:


For a long time afterward I hid them away, but later, when I was all right again, I brought them out, and I still have them around the house. I use the lipsticks now and then, and last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with.


This simple passage implies that The Bell Jar is written by an older, healthier Esther, who may even be a mother, if “the baby” is meant to be interpreted as her own. This means that there is a significant period of time during which Esther becomes “all right again” to which we are not privy. But historical documents indicate that Plath intended on filling in this gap and showing us Esther’s world through the eyes of her recovery.


Sylvia outdoors

Image via Hallie Shepherd


Plath referred to The Bell Jar as her “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.” To Plath, The Bell Jar was an exercise in catharsis, and one could even say that The Bell Jar’s true purpose was to act as the foundation for the novel on wellness Plath intended to write— it is worth noting that Plath began writing the sequel between when The Bell Jar was accepted for publication and when it was actually published.


Plath’s mother Aurelia was open about her daughter’s unfinished projects, and it is because of Aurelia that we have so much information about the unfinished sequel. She once said that


The companion book [to The Bell Jar] which was to follow this—and I have this all spelled out in letters from her—was to be the triumph of the healed central figure of the first volume and in this the caricatured characters of the first volume were to assume their true identities.


Sylvia Plath with her mother Aurelia and her children

Image via FamousFix


Unfortunately, Plath’s wellness was inextricably tied to her relationship with Ted Hughes. Plath’s marriage to Hughes had a powerful effect on her mental health, and when things in the relationship began to deteriorate, so too, did Plath’s psyche. When Plath discovered that Hughes had been having an affair, she set fire to not only his manuscripts, but hers as well, including what would have been the sequel to The Bell Jar. With the sequel obliterated from existence, Plath began to work on a different novel, one in which the protagonist is betrayed by her unfaithful husband (this version of the novel seems to have disappeared, according to Hughes).


Neither The Bell Jar‘s sequel, nor its permutation were ever released. About a month after the first publication of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath died by suicide. The novel, or novels, she intended to write would never be.


Sylvia Plath’s legacy as one of the first writers to thoughtfully and honestly write about mental illness has reverberated throughout the reading community ever since its release.


If you, or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, don’t suffer alone. Seek professional help; call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or if you prefer, chat with them online here.


Featured Image Via Sylvia Plath Info

To the Bone

7 Stunning Memoirs About Mental Illness

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 Hotline1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline1-800-662-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 LineText 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



Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind

Image Via Amazon


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



Black Rainbow

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



So Sad Today

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 



Your Voice In My Head

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



A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise

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



How to Murder Your Life

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

Brain Mental Health

Buy Books to Support Mental Health Awareness!

Well folks, we’re almost halfway through May, which means we’re almost halfway through Mental Health Awareness Month. Personally, I am a big advocate for mental health awareness at any time of the year, but if you’re looking to do something for the cause before the month ends, then here’s your chance to buy books and show your support at the same time.


The Annual Mental Health Awareness Month Book Fundraiser is organized by a group of authors who have agreed to donate a portion of their May sales to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This year marks the fundraiser’s sixth year, and there are over one hundred and fifty books from a total of thirty-seven authors available as a part of the campaign. Many of the books are romance, but there are also other genres included, such as dystopian, memoir, and women’s fiction. 



Image Via Goodreads


These authors have already raised $2,600 for the fund at Wicked Book Weekend. You can help them raise more money by purchasing a book, or, if you prefer, you can raise awareness and show your support simply by sharing any of the custom photos that the authors post on their social media. In fact, creating awareness about mental health might really be the most important goal of the fundraiser. In an interview with USA Today, author Drew Elyse said:


I am honoured to work with the Keith Milano Memorial Fund to help open up a conversation that we need to be having, because silence and stigmas only hurt. It’s past time for us to end them, and raising awareness is the first step.


If you would like more information about the fundraiser or the available titles, you can find it here on the fund’s official Facebook page.


Feature Image Via Optimal Living Dynamics.


‘Riverdale’ Star Reveals How She Overcame Crippling Anxiety

Lili Reinhardt has revealed how her anxiety nearly stopped her from being cast as Betty Cooper in the hit show Riverdale. In an interview with W magazine, Reinhardt described how difficult her time in L.A. was before she landed her role in the hit show, based on the Archie comics, Riverdale


Reinhardt acquired a manager at fourteen and, as a result, landed guest roles in shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Surviving Jack, as well as a few small films. When she turned eighteen in 2015, she moved to Los Angeles, auditioning as much as possible. However, the challenge of supporting herself financially while auditioning became too much. She said


I didn’t have a car, so I was spending $500 Ubering everywhere. I remember looking at my bank account and seeing all of this money that I had saved acting over the course of many years just gone. I had so much anxiety booking work, and I spent almost five months holed up in this bedroom in this house just feeling anxious, waiting for my next audition, and not doing anything else. It was the most miserable time of my life.”


Having quit several side jobs because of her anxiety, she pushed herself to get another in a restaurant at Universal Citywalk. However, when she got there, she was instructed to go and buy a uniform of a black shirt and black shoes, however, she was unable to find appropriate clothing in any of the shops she went to, and ended up having a panic attack in her Uber home. “I threw up in my Uber because, one, I was carsick, and two, I was having a panic attack. I get home, lock the door in my room, immediately Skype my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m not okay.’


I had to get a brown paper bag and breathe into it, which felt so dramatic, but I really could not breathe. I felt like my world was crashing. I didn’t want to admit defeat, but I was like, ‘I need to come home. My mental health is suffering, and it is making me physically ill.’



Image Via Zimibio


Reinhardt moved home after this incident, and began seeing a therapist who she says “really helped me build myself back up again.” She landed her first audition for Riverdale when she was “rebuilding” herself and “in between meds.” She said: 


I went on a medicine that gave me the worst mood swings – I felt like a monster. My mom was like, ‘I can’t even be in the same room as you.’ And this is when I was self-taping for Riverdale. I spent three hours on my first audition tape, and I felt like I could not get it right.


She wasn’t surprised when they passed her up, but she didn’t let the initial rejection deter her, saying, “Somehow, I revved myself up. I was like, ‘I’ve wanted this for so long, I went out there, failed, and now I’m going to try it again.’ I didn’t work my ass off for one try.” 


Once she was better, Reinhardt moved back to L.A. and auditioned again, this time in person. 


I felt so close, and I had been so close to so many things before, that I didn’t want to let this one slip through. And I remember leaving the final audition and calling my manager, as I was driving towards the sunset, and saying, ‘I feel proud of myself for what I’ve done. Regardless of what happens, I feel happy and really at peace.’ And I truly felt that.


And look what happened! It’s great to see someone in the public eye speaking out about how important it is to recognize when something is taking its toll on your mental health, and making sure you put your health first.  


Featured Image Via Heavy.com

book covers

6 YA Books That Get Mental Health Right

Young adult fiction is known for tackling issues that young people can relate to and recently a great number of YA authors have begun tackling mental health, as the conversation surrounding mental health grows and becomes less taboo. Here’s a list of 5 YA novels that brilliantly tackle mental health issues. 


1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


book cover

Image Via Amazon


King of YA, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down focusses on Aza, a sixteen-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Aza and her best friend Daisy investigate the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett. Green, who himself suffers from OCD and anxiety, has spoken about how personal the book is to him. The Guardian has said that Turtles All the Way Down ‘will resonate with, and comfort, anxious young minds everywhere. It might just be a new modern classic.’


2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 


book cover

Image Via Amazon


Violet and Finch meet at the top of a bell tower. Violet is struggling with her sister’s death, while Theodore Finch intends to die. Who saves who?  The New York Times drew comparisons between Niven’s debut and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, sayingViolet and Finch are the archetypal offering in contemporary young adult fiction: a pair of damaged, heart-tugging teenagers who are at once outcasts and isolated, trapped by the dissonant alchemy of their combined fates.’ 


3. Mosquitoland by David Arnold 


book cover

Image Via Amazon


Mim’s family falls apart and she leaves Ohio for Mississippi to live with her father and stepmother. However, almost immediately she hears her mother is sick back in Cleveland, so she boards a Greyhound bus back home. According to Booklist ‘Arnold boldly tackles mental illness and despair, and sexual assault and sexual identity, without ever once losing the bigheartedness of the story. . . In the words of one of Mim’s Greyhound seatmates, Mosquitoland has pizazz—lots and lots of it.’


4. Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa


book cover

Image Via Amazon


This novel centers around three friends: Sebby who is gay and deeply unhappy in his foster care situation; Jeremy, an artistic introvert who is recovering from a traumatic incident the year before; and Mira, who suffers from depression which makes the simplest task overwhelming. The Guardian noted that ‘depression is written about in a way that is understandable but not sugar-coated.’ 


5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 


book cover

Image Via Goodreads


Wintergirls follows Lia Overbrook, who suffers from anorexia and self harm. After receiving the news that her estranged best friend has died from bulimia, Lia’s struggle to keep herself alive intensifies. The Guardian calls it ‘an exhausting novel to read: brilliant, intoxicating, full of drama, love and, like all the best books of this kind, hope.’


It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini


book cover

Image Via Amazon 


Craig has studied hard to gain admission to Executive Pre-Professional High School, however he finds himself out of his depth once there. His stress eventually results in an eating disorder, affected sleep habits, and suicidal thoughts. He ends up in a psychiatric hospital where he meets fellow patient Noelle. The two become friends and help each other in their recovery. The book was made into a film in 2010 starring Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts. 


Featured Image Via Amazon, Goodreads