Please welcome to the blog today, Hayley from Read A Book On You a fairly new UK book blogger who has agreed to write a guest post on her own experiences with mental illness and some of the books that have had an impact on her. Over to you, Hayley...
Through my teens and early twenties I battled with anxiety, depression and OCD. Although I now feel many aspects of those battles are behind me it still hurts to try and talk or make sense of it all, so what I thought I’d do here instead is to discuss some things I found solace in during those years.
The first book that really ‘spoke’ to me was ‘Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel. I know this book has been criticised for being self indulgent and I think the fact that it is written by a woman with so many privileges and opportunities rankles with people. To me though such a criticism is missing the point, depression can darken anyone’s door regardless of privilege and that is one of the things that drew me to the book. I could relate to feeling hopeless and desolate for no specific reason and I loved the raw, angry world within Wurtzel’s words. I too was a girl who hid within music I thought could recognise my pain and felt isolate and serious compared to other carefree teens. ‘Prozac Nation’ is one of the few books I’ve read more than once and each time I read it I find another passage I like or can understand. My original copy is scored with underlined sections, something I’ve never done with another book.
At the same time I bought ‘Prozac Nation’ aged 14, I also bought ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath, possibly the most lyrical and poetic mediation on depression I will ever come across. Another book I’ve read more than once, ‘The Bell Jar’ has honesty in its beauty and vice versa. The part that has always stuck with me is Plath’s evocation of the fundamentally pointless tasks like washing your hair that when you’re in a void of depression are just too tiring to complete again and again. At the heart of ‘The Bell Jar’ there’s a war between resilience and resignation and its development is so fragile and breath taking. Sylvia Plath’s story for me is such a tragedy but her words shed such a beautiful light on the devastating blackness of depression.
During my most isolated times I often found it difficult to talk about my feelings so sought comfort in books and music I felt I could relate to. The amount of stigma that still surrounds mental health issues saddens me, so if I have any advice at all for those suffering it would be to reach out. Speak to a trusted friend or family member or find a message board for people with similar problems. Sometimes the worst feeling in the world is to feel alone. Now I’m at a stage where I can take comfort in the support I receive from others, but it has taken me a long time to get to this stage.