Sometimes it is hard to tell our own story. In fact, sometimes it is difficult to even fully understand our own story for ourselves. This may especially be true for those struggling with a mental health disorder. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, a trauma-based disorder, or another kind of mental health challenge, you may find it hard to describe what you are feeling to others—and you may be hard pressed to understand your feelings yourself.
Mental Health Memoirs: An Introduction
The result can be a sense of isolation and loneliness. You may feel like you are completely alone in your struggles, and this feeling of loneliness can itself have a negative effect on your overall mental well-being. Soon enough, you could find yourself in a cycle of worsening mental health symptoms.
When these sorts of feelings arise, it is important to maintain the foundational aspects of your mental health care. If you are taking medication, keep taking it. If you are in therapy, keep your appointments. If you are in recovery for a substance use disorder, go to a supportive meeting or call your sponsor. Keep exercising, eating right, and getting the rest you need.
But even with all of those strategies in play, it can be helpful to engage with the story of someone who has had struggles similar to your own. That is why the mental health memoirs of people who have grappled with varying disorders can be both illuminating and helpful. When you read about other people’s experiences, you may better understand your own. Similarly, if you struggle to explain your difficulties to others, mental health memoirs can help your friends and family gain a better understanding of what you are going through. Perhaps most importantly, these books can help you feel less isolated as you pursue better mental health.
Our Recommendations & More
A Classic: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
Writer William Styron is probably best known as the author of Sophie’s Choice—but he is equally important as a writer who bravely wrote about his own mental illness at a time when the subject was still quite taboo. Styron’s 1990 memoir details the author’s difficult battle with depression, and the writing is beautiful, honest, and revealing. While the book is undeniably a classic, we do want to point out that “madness” is no longer a word we use to describe a mental health disorder.
A Comic: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney
When you think of comic books, you may think of costumed heroes with exceptional powers and a range of evil antagonists to battle. But the graphic form can be used to tell any kind of story in visually appealing and creative ways. For Ellen Forney, a graphic memoir was the perfect vehicle for examining her own struggles with bipolar disorder. Forney delves deeply into her own fears that treatment for her mental health disorder would cause her to lose her creativity—a fear many creative people carry with them.
A Compilation: Unholy Ghosts: Writers On Depression edited by Nell Casey
A full memoir can seem like a big commitment. We are all so busy, so carving out time to read can be tough. And sometimes mental health disorder symptoms can make focusing on what you are reading more difficult than it would ordinarily be. In those cases, an essay can be a helpful alternative. Editor Nell Casey has brought together the work of an impressive lineup of authors who have battled depression and have had to come to terms with the ways in which the disorder can interrupt and disrupt a person’s life.
A Community: The Color of Hope: People of Color Mental Health Narratives edited by Vanessa Hazzard
Featuring personal essays written by people of color, including writers of Asian, African, and Latinx descent, this collection investigates a wide array of mental health challenges. These narratives are intended to help break down long-standing stigmas and normalize conversations about mental health. Whether writing about post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, or another mental health disorder, these writers share their own stories in the hope of building a stronger culture of empathy among everyone.
You Can Rewrite Your Personal Story With Us
If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, it can seem like your life story is always going to be an unhappy one. But help is available—and that help can lead to the beginning of a brand new chapter. At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we have the compassion and expertise needed to craft a personalized plan of treatment that can help you manage your mental health more successfully. If you are ready for a personal plot twist that can improve your overall quality of life, we are ready to help.