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.
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 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.
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.