I wasn’t comfortable talking about mental health for a long while. More specifically, I wasn’t comfortable with speaking about my mental health. As an adult however I felt like I had to speak about it. Many twists, tumbles and turns later, I decided I would like to remain quiet about it. Those conversations were not worth the exhaustion.
Six years ago, when I started to work as a writer, I was privy to some conversations about mental health. These conversations took place among people who had the power to inform others and I found out to my greatest horror that they had absolutely no sensitivity to mental health issues at all. Certain writers who wrote extensively on the subject, wrote so horribly–succumbed to the sensationalist values and narratives we were forced to abide by when it came to chasing a story. I tried and failed in changing attitudes. That’s a story for a different day.
This is when my adult brain realised that as much as film and art depicted mental health, there were also books that dealt with mental health issues. The first book I read with this new found information was The Perks of being a Wallflower way back in 2012, followed by the Bell Jar and several others. These books were an intriguing space to understand different issues and even more different perspectives.
This post however is about my love for the bookstagram community, a wonderful, inclusive and open space to discuss, embrace and talk about mental health among many other issues. A space which has empowered me to voice my opinions, when I feel it’s necessary, an option I didn’t quite consider before. In fact, so many bookstagrammers during the week of the Kavanaugh hearing shared stories from all corners of the world, which was both heartwarming and painful to see unravel.
It is entirely by chance I discovered that this lovely community was much more than pretty photographs of books, flowers, coffee and cats. If it wasn’t for the amazing bookstagrammers talking about representation, I wouldn’t have found a terrific writer named Helen Hoang, who wrote about her incredible journey, which has undoubtedly set me on my own search of meaning. My thoughts on Hoang’s debut will be for another post, but while you’re here, check out my five must-reads picks on the subject:
1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie the ‘wallflower’ is in limbo. He is faced with charting a course through adolescence and adulthood. Thrust into a world of new friends, first dates, sex and drugs complemented by family drama, this novel also deals with loss, love and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
2. Girl, Interrupted
After a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen is put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spends most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.
3. The Bell Jar
It’s no secret that Sylvia Path was a troubled woman with exceptional skill of word-stringing. Her book among many based on her own struggles is about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Plath draws Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real.
4. Alice and the Fly
A haunting revelation of phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. This novel is about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it. A debut novel about the horrors of schizophrenia, bullying and loneliness, a strangely addictive read.
5. The Kiss Quotient
Love, relationships and sex are all part of a normal life. It’s never easy but it’s not supposed to be excruciatingly painful either. An endearing look at a woman dealing with everyday problems, doubled by difficulty. For Stella, the only thing that unites the universe is math. With a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old, she decides to seek professional help. And so the adventure begins.