Epigram readers have put together a great list of mental health related book recommendations! Check them out below.
‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig
‘Books always seem to fall in my lap in the right place at the right time, so no surprising when I was in a bad head space The Humans by Matt Haig came to me.
Being depressed was something I was always in denial about, something I just got on with, battling it alone is not recommended. The Humans opened doors for me, allowed me to see humanity from an outside perspective.
Seeing the world as I did through cynical eyes, this book is a gentle reminder to not take life so seriously, laugh a little, read poetry, listen to good music, be open, it reminded me mistakes are okay, everybody hurts, life goes on and most importantly, things do get better.
I would recommend this book to humans, all of them, to get some perspective on what it means to be an impossible creation and remember life is beautiful.’ (Adam Clare)
‘Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression’ by Sally Brampton
‘There was a period last year when I struggled to focus on reading anything, a fact that was deeply unsettling for a prospective English Literature student. I soon found that this was because I was not reading anything that I found relatable to my current experience. I thought that perhaps by reading something more in the realm of ‘self-help’, a term I use hesitantly, would be beneficial.
It was after reading a very moving obituary of Sally Brampton that I decided to buy her memoir Shoot The Damn Dog. Title implied, I wanted to get rid of all my preconceived ideas about depression and a first had account seemed to be the best way to do this.
The chapter that resonated with me the most was entitled ‘Self Absorption and Symptoms’. This was perhaps due to the subjective, yet relatable nature that was both refreshing and brutally honest.
It caught my attention by addressing how the stigma towards mental illness actively prevents those who are fragile from speaking out. While this seems obvious to me now, at the time it was anything but and this really helped me to take what I was experiencing seriously. Brampton eloquently expressed this sentiment by saying that ‘our unwillingness to discuss it openly creates a dangerous ignorance’.
This led to the importance of being able to see through the stigma to recognise the early warning signs. As Brampton describes, ‘it may be possible to avert the full-blown disorder’ by seeking help as soon as you recognise the problem.
For me this was a turning point in learning to accept what I was experiencing could be helped. Beforehand, I believed that this was a phase that would pass, not increase if I didn’t talk about it. It was this more than anything, which made me actively seek help.
Other parts of this chapter that I found particularly insightful were ones in which Brampton points out how commonplace mental illness really is.
For instance, after spending some time in a mental facility with other patients ‘you would not, if you passed them on the street point them out as mental patients.’ For me this highlighted a problem that is a sad truth within our society.
Brampton pointed this out in such a logical way – from her account, mental illness seems to be such a pervasive issue in our everyday lives that it is perhaps cruelly overlooked by those who tell us to ‘pull yourself together’ and that ‘there are lots of people worse off’.
To an extent this is true, but that is beside the point. In the same way that it is not helpful to tell a crying baby to pull itself together, telling someone with depression to pull themselves together is simply not helpful. It is counterproductive.
Overall Sally Brampton’s memoir of her battle with depression proved to be far more helpful than any academic article I read on the subject. Her eloquent conclusion particularly rung true with me; ‘it was not the way we saw ourselves. It was not the way that we wanted others to see us’.’ (Isobel Parker)
‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ by Malcolm Gladwell
‘Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is a book about those successful statistical outliers within groups who society/history tends to record as great, pioneering, ‘self-made’ folk.
But the important message throughout the whole book is that NO ONE becomes great on their own. Nobody achieves success in ANY area of life without the circumstances and support of those around them.
For me, reading it at a time when I felt extremely isolated from both people and the potential for new experiences and opportunities, it felt woven through with a message of hope and the possibility of re-connection with a world that had long since seemed irrevocably to recede.
I’ve never felt the slightest flicker of ambition, or even remotely sought ‘success’, but this book spoke to me in a way I never expected.
Whatever the author’s intention, it taught me the importance of seeking those who would stand with you, and the devastatingly destructive power of what it is to make a virtue of being ‘self-made’.’ (Zeb Pearce)
Further general recommendations:
(All blurbs are quoted from the official book and each recommendation is available on Amazon.com)
‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle – Tolle provides the spiritual framework for people to move beyond themselves to make this world a better, more spiritually evolved place to live. Shattering modern ideas of ego and entitlement, self and society, Tolle lifts the veil of fear that has hung over humanity during this new millennium, and shines an illuminating light that leads to happiness and health that every reader can follow.
‘A Sane New World’ by Ruby Wax – With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she explains how our busy, chattering, self-critical thoughts drive us to anxiety and stress. If we are to break the cycle, we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world.
‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig – Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.
‘Loving the Life Less Lived’ by Gail Marie Mitchell – Like many people, Gail Marie Mitchell battled with anxiety and depression for many years, finding it exhausting, stressful and demoralising at times. Realising that this approach to her condition was futile, Gail chose a different approach: acceptance. Taking control in this way removed some of the pressure and enabled Gail to focus on developing coping strategies, creating the tips and tools that are included in this empathetic and practical book. Gail focuses on the positive aspects of her condition, showing how a person living with mental illness is so much more than the label that society puts on them. She found acceptance empowering, enabling her to live her life to the full. Perhaps not the life she had planned, but one that is happy and fulfilling and that she loves. She is Loving the Life Less Lived.
‘The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of A Thirteen Year Old Boy With Autism’ by Naoki Higashida – it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within. Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: -Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly? – -Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks? – -Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking? – and -What’s the reason you jump? – (Naoki’s answer: -When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. -) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights–into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory–are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
‘The Rules of Life’ by Richard Templar – With a stunning new look in 2015, and with more new Rules than ever, get ready to experience the Rules effect. Begin to get more out of life, shrug off adversity more easily and generally be a happier, calmer, more fulfilled person. You’ll feel the benefits, and so will everyone around you.
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