There's no avoiding the subject of mental illness and mental health these days. Whether we suffer from the ailments of mental illness or not, it would be wise for all of us to notice the precariousness of one the most treasured faculties of the human body: the brain. These six books may help shed some light on the mind itself.
Broken (in The Best Possible Way) is the new book by Jenny Lawson, author of the popular memoirs Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously happy. Using warm humor to color various anecdotal personal stories, she delights her readers with how she manages and copes with a diverse array of health problems, not limited to, but including, clinical depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.
The Collected Schizophrenias is a collection of essays by Esmé Weijun Wang chronicling her experiences as a patient diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, later, schizoaffective disorder. She describes symptoms such as aural and visual hallucinations as well as extreme paranoia that are rarely talked about by those who have mental illness themselves. Usually symptoms such as these are only written about from a doctor's perspective. Her writing is sparse, direct and factual, acting as an urgent text for those in the throes of an illness that obliterates and attacks all the mind has previously understood as literal "reality."
In the vividly atmospheric The Edge of Every Day, author Marin Sardy shares explicit stories of the time spent with her mother suffering from schizophrenia. Sardy's writing is adventurous, captivating, and does not over-simplify her mother's story to a singular narrative but opens it up to perspectives from others who suffer from the same illness in different ways. Writing about her mother from a distance, readers will sympathize with Sardy's insight on the frenetic effects of schizophrenia, a sickness too often misunderstood.
Girl, Interrupted, the memoir that inspired the Academy Award winning film by the same name, is now a classic American memoir documenting the unraveling of one young woman's mind while within the confines of a 1960s psychiatric ward. The author, Susanna Kaysen, exposes the inner dialogue of her psyche as she finds herself interacting with those with similar symptoms and those who run the ward.
The Last Ocean traverses a daughter's journey alongside her father who suffers from dementia. The narrative is profound even as it is rooted in actual day-to-day experiences found within psychiatric clinics, at home, at social events, and within all those intimate spaces held in memory and time. The grace, humility, and honesty brought forth in author Nicci Gerrard's writing is a gift.
The Scar offers an insider's view into the world of depression: its emotional terrain, its affects of detachment, and its terrible hopelessness. Small snippets of life - particularly dialogues within the hospital - are strewn throughout the pages, helping readers see from the perspective of the patient, making a condition that is generally diagnosed understood through an individual experience.