Shattering Stigmas – My Struggle with Mental Health and Book Recommendations with Incredible Mental Health Representation

Happy Thursday, friends!  Another day to share another awesome blog post from one of my fellow book bloggers and dear friends, for the Shattering Stigmas event! In case you missed it, Shattering Stigmas is an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.

Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.

This year, for the Shattering Stigmas 4.0, you will be able to find incredible guest posts on blogs from all four hosts of the event: Taylor, Ben, Madalyn, Kitty and Marie.

You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!

It’s such an honor to feature one of my dear, long-time blogging friend Beth today. She is opening up about her struggles with mental health, as well as sharing some of her favorite book recommendations with mental health. Feel free to share your thoughts about the post in comments and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

Trigger warnings: this post deals with anxiety.

My Struggle with Mental Health…

“Anxiety felt like a grapnel anchor had been pickaxed into your back, one prong in each lung, one through the heart, one through the spine, the weight curving your posture forward, dragging you down to the murky depths of the sea floor. The good news was that you kind of got used to it after a while. Got used to the gasping, brink-of-heart-attack feeling that followed you everywhere.”
– A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

I can’t really point to a specific moment in my life when I realised I had some form of mental illness, because for so long it was just a part of who I was the same way my hair or eye colour is. My mind has always been a little messed up; things my parents and my sister can push to one side, move past the way most people do minor inconveniences, always become ‘Big Things’ to me and before I know if my brain has spiralled down into a black hole that’s going to swallow the rest of me whole.

It scares me a little, the places my mind goes to when it spirals out of control. I’m not suicidal but I have tried to end my own life, and as much as I never want to be in a position where I try that again there are times when I find myself thinking it’s my only option, my only way out. A few years ago it got really bad; I was scared of speaking to people about what was happening to me, about how I was really feeling, but the places my mind was going to were terrifying me and I was diagnosed with anxiety, more specifically stress related anxiety attacks.

Having a name to go with what I was feeling didn’t help, it was what came after that diagnosis which helped. I opened up to my friends and family about what I was going through, I went into counselling, and actively made changes to my life which took me out of and away from the situation that had turned my anxiety into something unmanageable.

Now I like to think I’m content. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be at a place where I say I’m ‘happy’ so content is what I shoot for, but that doesn’t mean my anxiety issues won’t rear their head again. There have been times when I’ve struggled, even though I speak to the people I love around me, even though I know what my mind is doing, I still feel like I’m drowning under the weight of some small inconvenience anyone else would be able to put aside.

One of the hardest things I’ve learnt about mental illness, and maybe this won’t apply to everyone, is that there’s no cure. I’m never going to be able to stop my mind from spiralling when things go bad, all I can do is try to manage it, so that’s what I try and do. I’ve gotten better at asking for help, better at talking to people about what I’m feeling, better at shutting my mind down when it starts spiralling. I still have bad days and bad weeks, I think I always will, but the good are starting to outweigh them.

“You’re okay,” he murmured.
“No. I’m not.”
“I know.” He rubbed my back up and down. “It’s okay not to be okay.”
– Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

…and Book Recommendations with Incredible Mental Health Representation

Representation in books, not just mental illness representation but all kinds, is really important to me. I like to see parts of myself in the characters I love and knowing someone else, even if it’s just a fictional someone else, is going through the same things I went through makes me feel less alone.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
The most recent story centred around a character with mental illness I’ve read, while I don’t have depression a lot of the emotions Darius experienced and the things he thought about his mental illness were things I could and did relate to.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
There is so much incredible representation in Queens of Geek, it was one of the things I kept hearing about this book and it didn’t disappoint. Taylor was a character I instantly connected to for so many reasons, she’s pretty much me in book form.

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley
Before picking up Highly Illogical Behaviour I had never read a book entered around a character with agoraphobia. While I didn’t connect with Solomon the same way I did Taylor, like with Darius I could relate to aspects of his character and his mental illness.

Adam Silvera
Adam Silvera is one of my favourite authors, and all his books have featured characters who deal with one form of mental illness or another. Silvera’s writing keeps breaking my heart, but it’s full of such incredible representation as well.

Patrick Ness
While I can’t think of any characters who struggle with mental illness in the Chaos Walking trilogy there’s plenty of representation present in More Than This, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and most recently Release.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I think Fangirl was the first book I picked up centred around a character mental illness that I connected to right away. Like Taylor Cath is me in book form; her struggles with anxiety, especially around university, were ones I strongly related to.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Granted there were parts of this story I found problematic, but overall the representation of Eliza’s character and her anxiety were really well written. I connect instantly to characters I see myself in and Eliza was another one of them.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
This is a beautifully written story but it doesn’t make mental illness beautiful, which I appreciated because I don’t think it is beautiful. Instead, while it showed the ugly side of the ‘curse’ Esther’s family was under, it also showed how strong their love for one another was in the face of their fears.

Not all of these books feature characters who suffer from the same mental illness problems I do (although I think more of them do than don’t) but they’re all incredible stories, with wonderfully researched and written representation, that I’d highly recommend.

Beth

Find Beth on : BlogGoodreads

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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. 📚 |🌍 | 💞 Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

29 thoughts on “Shattering Stigmas – My Struggle with Mental Health and Book Recommendations with Incredible Mental Health Representation

    1. That’s all right, and I’m really glad you enjoyed this post too. 🙂 ❤ It's a great initiative, and so important to talk about mental health too because I think sometimes there are so few opportunities to overall.
      A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is a book I'd highly recommend, it's a hidden gem but it's a favourite of mine. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s all right, I’m glad you enjoyed reading. 🙂 ❤ This has actually been the first time I've shared my story, and some of the harder things to admit when it comes to my mental health. I guess it was easier because I wasn't actively talking to someone in front of me but writing it all down, I'm better at writing than speaking a lot of the time. 😀
      Oh if you're looking for new mental health reads these are all books I can't recommend enough, they're all pretty much favourites of mine.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. This post is SO real. Thank you for finding the courage to share your story with us. I think its so important when we’re down and feeling alone that we come together and help each other in whatever ways we can. Mental illness really makes you feel alone but having such a welcoming community where you can talk about your struggles helps make you feel like you’re not the only one fighting in the dark.

    I’m so glad to hear your good days are starting to outweigh your bad ones. ❤ ❤

    Thank you for the wonderful recommendations, going to check them out for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, and yes I definitely agree. In my experience with my mental health having people to surround and support me has been so important; one of my friends did that for me at the very beginning and even though a lot of the time we didn’t openly speak about what I was going through just knowing she was there was so important. It’s why I wanted to take part in this event; I think it’s so important to talk about this, and for people out there who feel like they are alone to know they’re not, there’s a whole community here to support you. 🙂 ❤
      Thanks so much, and yes any of these books you pick up I hope you love as much as I do. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I appreciate you sharing your story with us, Beth! 💛Sometimes it’s so hard to share, but also can be so encouraging for others going through it, so it was so so good to hear about your journey. And I definitely aim for being content too (with my anxiety) and trying to accept myself for who I am, since this is gonna be it! And omg I love books with excellent mental health rep…it’s so good to not feel alone! Adam Silver’s books are exceptionally amazing for that and LOVE Patrick Ness’ too. Also Queens of Geek was so sweet and nerdy and adorable 😭😭💛I love books where the anxious character also gets a bit of a happy ending!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much ❤ and yeah I've always found it difficult to share how I'm feeling. Even now knowing how much it's helped me I still have a bad habit of keeping things buried inside until I feel like I'm going to explode, but I definitely need to not do that going forwards. Content is definitely something worthwhile to aim for, I think sometimes it can show how far you've come more than when you feel happy you know? We can't change ourselves, so like you said this is gonna be it. 🙂
      Yes Queens of Geek was such a sweet read, and it was kind of nice to see a character like Taylor with anxiety who had accepted how she was. This wasn't a story about her battling her anxiety but working around it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, hopefully you’ll enjoy these books and find them as helpful as I did then. 🙂
      And oh that’s amazing to hear. ❤ Dealing with anxiety is never easy but it's important to know there are other people going through the same thing, which is why rep in books is so so important right?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Beth! That was probably very hard to do, but know that you’re doing amazing ❤ Those recommendations were great, some of the books are on my TBR and the fact that you loved them and could find yourself in those characters makes me even more determined to pick them up.
    Thank you again for this post! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so so much Marta. 🙂 ❤ I need to learn to open up about my mental health more, and posting about it in the Shattering Stigmas event is me leading up to speaking to my friends and family more about it too (it's a whole process I have in my head).
      Yeah they're all amazing reads, and all of them helped me in one way or another even if it was just showing me characters who suffered from the same mental illness as I did, or who had similar thoughts about the way their minds worked as I did.
      That's all right, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so happy to see Darius the Great is Not Okay on this list! The author is going to be at a book festival that I’m attending this weekend! I will make sure to pick up a copy to get signed now.

    Thank you for the mental illness book recs and for sharing your own journey Beth. Many of these are on my TBR, but I really need to make a bigger effort to read more books with mental illness representation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh it’s great you’re going to get to see the author at that book festival; Darius the Great is Not Okay is an amazing read so I’d highly recommend picking up a copy. 🙂
      That’s all right, and I’m glad you enjoyed this post too. All of these are incredible books so hopefully you’ll love them too, but I know what you mean because I want to make more of an effort to pick up more books with mental health rep. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this post! I really connected with it. ❤

    Unfortunately, I didn't love 'Highly Illogical Behaviour'. I was recovering from an agoraphobic episode myself when I read it and I found it quite a frustrating read (although I suppose everyone's experience is different and Solomon's agoraphobia might not have been the same as mine). But I definitely related to 'Fangirl'. And Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much, Beth, for sharing your story with us. you are very brave. Though I can imagine how difficult your journey must have been, I am glad I get to read that.
    Thank you for all the amazing recommendations. Most of these are already on my TBR and I hope to read them soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for your post, Beth! I could really relate to your story – especially the part where you say you strive for “content” because you don’t know if you could ever be “happy”. I feel this, hard.
    Your recommendations are amazing. If you thought it was interesting to read about agoraphobia, I highly recommend Under Rose-Tainted Skies as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love all the recs you gave, I’ve already read most of them so you have a great taste! 😊

    As a person who has high levels of anxiety I somewhat understand what you’re going through. I haven’t been diagnosed because there is a stigma in my country against mental illnessess and as a psychology student I’m hoping to fight against it. But I know my family us going to disregard my anxiety sljust as over thinking or worrying too much, not a disorder. Thanks for telling your story, it helps every time I hear about people dealing with anxiety ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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