Mad about books, and generally Mad.

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IMG_6513Well hello there dearest Internet peoples! I hope you’re all having a lovely day. As I type, I am downing pints of blackcurrant squash and listening to the not-so-soothing tones of an impatient, barking Alfie. I’m slowly getting less dehydrated, but more stir crazy.

SPEAKING of crazy, let’s talk about mental health- yay! (Smooth transition there, eh? 😉 ) But yes folks, once again, I want to talk about the interior noggin, because it’s important to know that you’re not alone when you’re experiencing problems. And maybe you know another person personally who has faced similar problems to you, or maybe you are a bit too scared to open up and talk about what’s happening.

I have always been a huge bookworm, but books were a massive part of my recovery from OCD, and a great source of information and comfort when I felt confused or alone. And as such, I wanted to share some of the books which I found to be the most helpful during my own sickness. Before I continue, it’s important to note that of these five books,

  • two are (primarily) about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • the other three are about Depression
  • one deals primarily with grief
  • all of them touch on Depression at stages
  • two deal with eating disorders (both anorexia and bulimia are mentioned)
  • and there are elements of anxiety in all of them too

Sounds like light reading, eh?

Seriously though, I cannot begin to tell you how useful these books were when I was unwell. They reassured me that I wasn’t a total freak; that other people had dealt with the same stupid stuff I had been through. They helped me to understand the complexities of mental illness, and how one can lead to another oh so easily. One of the biggest shocks to my system was when a doctor told me that my OCD was the cause of my anxiety, and that whilst suffering with anxiety I also had depression. I thought she was the one who was crazy at that point- surely you can’t be anxious AND depressed at the same time?!

But it turns out, you can. And that’s one of the reasons these books are so good- they demonstrate how one leads to the other.

Perhaps you’re a perfectly mentally healthy little dude at this moment; to that, I say wow!! Amazing! It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read these books however; experiencing is understanding, and these authors are so fantastic, they’ll take you on their journey with them. It’ll help you to better understand friends or loved ones who might be experiencing these problems!

So without further ado, here is the list of books. Enjoy!

  1. Mad Girl, Bryony Gordon
  2. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  3. Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
  4. Because We Are Bad, Lily Bailey
  5. The Trick is to Keep Breathing, Janice Galloway

Mad Girl is Bryony Gordon’s fantastically honest autobiography, in which she describes her experiences with OCD; how is first surfaced, and how it grew and grew as she got older, causing a whole variety of problems when left ineffectively treated (drug abuse, eating disorders etc). For me, it was great to read such an honest account of another person’s experience- she makes fun of herself, as many of us with OCD do when we’ve come out the other side, and I think it’s incredible that she’s written such an honest story. The web of problems grows bigger and bigger as she leaves her disorder untreated, and proves that for OCD to be effectively cured, it needs to be dealt with properly.

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Plath’s The Bell Jar isn’t exactly as much a barrel of laughs, however. I read this after my first year at university, and had to put the book down at several intervals, as it was all a little bit too real. The gritty way in which Plath details the treatment of mental illness in the 1950’s is shocking, and makes me so appreciative of how society and psychology have progressed. Still, it is a fantastic book, whether you’ve been through a bout of depression or not, and overall just one of those books you HAVE to read. Plath is a genius, lads.

In Reasons to Stay Alive (I know, the title sounds scary. But it’s not scary, I promise!), Matt Haig discusses how his anxiety brought him to the point where life didn’t feel worth living any longer, and he brings us on his journey from a near-suicide attempt, to recovery. The way he describes how much he relied on his parents and partner was so bittersweet- it reminded me of how much I needed my mama and papa, and Chris, during my own ordeals. His journey is inspiring, and made me feel like less of a weirdo for the things I was going through.

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Possibly my favourite book on the list, however, is Because We Are Bad. Now, you might read all of these books and think, what is so special about this one?! This will always have a place in my heart, because it was the first book I read about OCD, and all I could think was ‘this is so me. She’s describing me here, right?!’ I cannot tell you the flood of relief which whooshed through my body when I read certain chapters- for the smallest millisecond, I knew that at least one other person in the world “got it”; if she was standing here in front of me now, I’d give her the BIGGEST hug, because guys I wept while reading that book, tears of JOY, that I was not so alone. (Mad props to Chris by the way, for finding and buying me this book. Recovery has been sweeter with you, my friend.)

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Finally, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, aka probably my least favourite, but the one I read the most recently. I’m including this book because I massively appreciate the deep, psychoanalytical nature of the text- Galloway is AMAZING at demonstrating how not dealing with a trauma leads to a much more destructive, all-consuming problem, and can spark several smaller problems. It’s a really fascinating journey through the psyche, and well-worth reading, too.

 

And that’s it! I think that a lot of television and movies represent mental illness in a bad way; they have us written off as “crazy” people, who rock back and forth in a padded cell with no hope of a future, or as depressed teens who aren’t even trying to help themselves. But these books prove that we are more than that- they show us the dark times, yes, but they also prove that recovery is possible when we reach out for help. Be encouraged!

 

Much love to you all,

 

A bientôt,

 

Amber xx

 

 

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