On Tuesday morning, as often I do, I tuned in to hear BBC Women’s Hour. It was especially of interest to me as Rachel Kelly the author of the recently published Black Rainbow & founder of #healingwords was a guest speaker on the show. The book itself deserves a separate & dedicated post, but her honesty, eloquence & insightful description of Depression coupled with a touching poetry reading is well worth a listen or scan the QR Code below:
It inspired me to briefly share a few of the books that have helped me over the years with my Anxiety & Depression. Now, none of these titles are really ‘Self Help’ in the traditional sense, but they have all played in part in various stages of my recovery & are the ones I will always revisit. Anyone in the vice like grip of the illness will know that reading (or writing) is a basic impossibility; all ‘normal’ functions cease. These are best consumed when mobility is starting to improve & as the mind begins to reawaken. By no means a cure, but anything that can help us to make sense of the confusion or find a little peace & hope is a good thing. Best served with a side of suitable medication & therapies; a little sugar to help the medicine go down.
N.B: They may also help your friends/loved ones/colleagues/strangers gain a little insight into the conditions.
My Top Picks (in no particular order):
Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks
Like many, I’m a huge fan of Faulks’ ability to intricately weave character & context with such poetic grace. This book follows the central characters through their personal experiences & profession in Psychiatry during its infancy. The disturbing backdrop of asylums & early treatment practices makes me realise how far medicine has come, yet highlights the challenges that still exist in society.
Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton
If you’re looking for a real & honest connection, than look no further than Sally Brampton’s memoir of Depression. Tackling the issues of stigma head-on with refreshing honesty, peppered with wit & gut-wrenching familiarity. It will make you cry the way you only can with a close companion. It will inspire you. This book is especially poignant for me as Sally was the launch Editor of ELLE UK in the year I was born – the magazine that went on to change my life.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Yes, an obvious choice, but for very good reasons. I have re-read this book more than any other title. The personal parallels entwined in Esther’s (Sylvia’s – autobiographical) story of her time as an Editorial Intern in New York are just plain spookily special for me. This book will always be in my heart; I just wish I could write like Sylvia! (NB: Also see ‘Pain, Parties & Work’ by Elizabeth Winder – I will do a separate review on this).
The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) by Jean-Dominique Bauby
I actually first read this in about ’98 as part of a Secondary School assignment to read & present an autobiography. It was one of those chance finds where I fell for the cover without actually reading the synopsis & then found myself utterly blown away. Another ELLE connection, Jean Dominique-Bauby was the Editor-in-Chief of the French title at the time of his horrific coma-inducing accident. He dictated this entire beautiful book by blinking his eyes. I’m not saying Depression is the equivalent to Locked-In Syndrome by any means, but sometimes it is paralysing in it’s depths & this story highlights the magic of the simple sensations in life. Astoundingly raw & heartbreaking.
The Little Book of Confidence by Susan Jeffers
This tiny little book was sent to me by the lovely Sarah who I met via Twitter & we have since become pen pals & fellow cheerleaders. It’s often found by my bedside or in my handbag & great for those moments you need a little boost. There are lots of titles in this mini series which are rather handy. A nice gift to give or to receive.
A Thousand Paths to Tranquility by David Baird (various)
Yes, a book of quotes – ‘how profound’, you may be thinking. Yet this is a truly lovely & effectively calming book. (I think mine came with an Elemis gift set from my Mum years ago?). It’s especially great as a bedside buddy for when I’m experiencing insomnia & feeling the Anxiety butterflies. A real gem. I have since discovered the physical benefits of Yoga, Mindfulness & CBT, this being a useful resource to centre & find focus.
The Buddha, Geoff & Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas
This was loaned to my husband & it has never been returned to it’s rightful owner (apologies). This tale gives so much hope & perspective to the stresses of everyday life; I first read it whilst living & working in London & it really struck a chord. Funny & utterly up-lifting.
Cyanide & Happiness by various
Humour is an effective cure for the blues – whoever you are or whatever your illness. I first came across this comic strip series online. Warning: it’s definitely not very PC but the adventures of these little men guarantee the giggles. My dear friend Sarah sent this to me – she just gets me & my odd sense of humour.
I Had a Black Dog/Living With The Black Dog written & illustrated by Matthew Johnstone
Incredible illustrations depicting the nature of The Black Dog. Matthew’s background in Advertising (snap!) artfully breathes life into the famous Winston Churchill metaphor. Brilliantly explains the bite & useful for explaining Depression to others when words fail.
Sane New World by Ruby Wax
As I mentioned here, Ruby has personally helped me to open up about my experiences & campaigns against the associated stigmas of Mental Health in so many ways. Shockingly, I am yet to read this but it’s next up on my list! (I already know it’s going to be brilliant).
I hope you may find some comfort in these suggestions or it at least makes you think about /revisit the titles that work for you. I’d love to hear your recommendations too, so please feel free to add them in the Comments.