I’ve spent many an afternoon wandering around the library. To me the library has always been a place of opportunity, and it has helped me find books that ignite new interests and explain unknown worlds to me. I’ve loved collecting books over the years, and looking back at my favourites reminds me if where I was at that point in my life, how I was feeling and what I was doing.
Having depression and anxiety means I often look for answers in the books I read. Recently I reflected on some of the books that helped me make sense of my own mental illness and it’s something that I think you might find helpful, so I’ve listed my top 3 books below.
Of course, I couldn’t write a list like this without including my own book Depression in a Digital Age. I grew up without an iPhone, used actual landlines to make calls, and didn’t have the luxury (or perhaps the curse) of Facebook during my adolescent years. But though my childhood took place in an analogue world, I found myself suffering from the same problems many young people face today; the race for perfectionism, high levels of anxiety, a fear of success.
After an unfulfilling university experience, a stressful beginning in a management career, and a severe case of impostor syndrome, I suffered a nervous breakdown in my mid-twenties. Amongst therapy and medication, it was the online community which gave me the comfort she needed to recover.
In Depression in a Digital Age, I trace my life dealing with anxiety and the subsequent depression, and how a digital life helped me find my voice.
I only finished reading this memoir last week and I actually posted a full review which you can read here. I was engrossed in this from the moment I picked it up and it’s the quickest I’ve read a book in ages.
Nikki takes us through her life story, starting with when she developed an eating disorder at eight years old to when she finally got help as an adult. During that time she was physically and sexually abused by family members, addicted to drugs and alcohol and struggled with self-harm and body dysmorphia.
As an international top model the pressure to be thin was overwhelming, and only served to exacerbate her eating disorder as well as her psychotic episodes. This painfully honest account is a testament to her strength and offers hope to anyone experiencing even the darkest of times.
I read this book back in about 2009, years before I was diagnosed with any form of mental illness. I really can’t say why I felt compelled to pick up a book about depression other than I felt I was becoming unhinged at times, and had taken to drinking during the day to relieve stress.
Sally’s book didn’t point out any glaring symptoms in myself, but I was utterly hooked by her story and how her relationship with alcohol made things so much worse. This combined with a failing marriage and a daughter to look after made for a heartbreaking tale.
I found it upsetting to read, but absolutely essential to my understanding of how powerful depression is at taking over the mind and body. She does well to describe how one cannot simply ‘shake off’ these bad feelings and get on with daily life, something that many non-sufferers could benefit from understanding.
I didn’t know until recently that Sally died from suicide last year, which makes her work even more significant and worth reading.
I bought this book after I started to become concerned about my eating habits. I was laying in bed one night, sobbing and feeling ashamed after another day of uncontrollable eating when I searched ‘how to stop binge eating’ on You Tube. I came across a video of someone talking about how this book changed their life, so I ordered it immediately.
Kathryn went through years of unsuccessful therapy for binge eating disorder and couldn’t seem to get it under control. The most common theory is that binge eating is a coping mechanism for some underlying psychological issue that must be unearthed in order to stop the pattern.
She spent years following the doctor’s orders, writing down and exploring all her habits and thoughts in an attempt to identify the problem. I won’t spoil the book for you but Kathryn goes on to explain how she developed her own method for stopping the illness in its tracks.
I’ve never been diagnosed with binge eating disorder because honestly, I was too scared to tell anyone about the symptoms and addictions I was developing. I believe I managed to stop the habits from forming by applying the techniques I read in this book.
It was also just incredibly comforting to read someone describe the same urges that I was experiencing, because no one really talks about binge eating openly and I really needed confirmation that there was a problem and I wasn’t just exaggerating things in my head.
What are your favourite books about mental illness?