Hi, this show talks about books that feature mental health and mental illness topics. The discussion will be from the point of view of mental health professionals. There are many books that include this topic and my hope is that more and more people know about them because they help to decrease the stigma and help people not feel so alone in their struggle.
I am your host Robyn Tamanaha, LMFT. Welcome to the BONUS episode. Today, I will be talking about books that are about mental illness written by authors who live with mental illness. These are books I have read and are accurate depictions of mental illness (and therapy, if that is also part of the book). There are many books that fall into this category, so this bonus episode is just part one, and there will be another one in the future. Like my other BONUS episodes, this is a brief overview of books. My regular episodes discuss one book each episode and delve deep into what the book is about, how it is related to mental illness, and reflections and viewpoints from the perspective of the mental health professional.
So, for this episode, I have a little over a handful of books to discuss. The first is…
Helena Fox: How it Feels to Float
Sometimes you come across certain books that really stick with you. This is that book for me. The author did an amazing job writing about the main character who experiences grief, trauma, sexual orientation questions, thoughts of death, and dissociation. There’s also a character who provides an example of social support, and how powerful it is to just be there next to someone as they’re experiencing things, not trying to change, just being present, calm, and patient. The author, herself, experiences dissociation and had a difficult past. Helena said, “With this book, I wanted to write with tremendous compassion about those living with mental illness—those who come undone and think of leaving, as well as those who aren’t able to stay. I also wanted to write about the people who offer love and empathy, comfort and hope, to those who are struggling. Biz (which is the main character) is as dear to me as family. I hope her story gives hope to others, people of all ages, who have their own hard things to carry.”
John Green: Turtles All the Way Down
John Green is one of the big names in YA fiction. If you have not heard his name, you’ve probably heard about the work he’s done. His book the fault in our stars was made into a movie, and his book looking for Alaska was recently released on Hulu as a show. I have read both of these books, but the book I want to discuss is his book Turtles All the Way down. John Green, not only has experienced depression, but also lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In Turtles All the Way down, one character lives with OCD and describes her inner obsessive thoughts and compulsions, and her compulsions are kind of subtle, which is why some don’t notice it at first. The character describes her thoughts as “light swallowing wormholes” and although her OCD terrifies her, she doesn’t let it get in the way of her happiness. A different character in the book, has a father who has gone missing. Other than mental health, I’m very into crime and mystery, so being that this book has both mental illness and crime, this is my favorite John Green book.
Reina Telgemier: Guts
The author lives with anxiety and loves art and Guts is an extension of herself. Her graphic novel Gut’s is about a girl who experiences anxiety following a scary event, and when it builds and builds, it becomes too much to ignore, so she goes to therapy. This is an accurate description of different types of anxietys and how its treated in therapy. To find out more, listen to the episode right before this one, titled A Scary Experience Leads to a Fear of Nearly Everything.
Keith O’Neil: Under My Helmet, A Football Players Lifelong Battle with Bipolar
I found out about Keith O’Neil when I read a blog. Keith is a former NFL player who played for the Cowboys, Colts, and Giants. Bipolar Disorder is my specialty, and I’ve pretty much read nearly every autobiography out there about it, but until reading that blog, I did not know about this book. I ended up putting in a request at my local public library for this book, and they did order it, I read, and now many others at the library can too. This book is wonderful because Keith was so upfront and honest about his symptoms, the cycles, and, unfortunately, how long it took to be diagnosed, which is not uncommon. When it comes to bipolar disorder, we get a timeline of symptoms and events for the diagnosis. And in Keith’s case, it took a while because he did not initially have a mental health professional familiar with the diagnosis. And then, once he was diagnosed, he describes what it realistically looks like to manage symptoms of the diagnosis. I love how Keith has turned his life mission into being a mental health advocate. I think he’s one of the strongest people out there.
Ellen Forney: Rock Steady (self-help)
Ellen Forney is a cartoonist living with Bipolar I. Her book, RockSteady, is a self-help in the form of cartoons. It breaks down the diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and how to manage it in nice bite size pieces. Each chapter and topic is very clear and concise. And, its in cartoon form. I think the visual aspect of this book, makes a diagnosis that can seem confusing, more understandable. Her TEDtalk was recently released, so definitely check that out online. Also, this book will be the next episode on this podcast, so definite check back so that you can listen to my thoughts on this one.
Theo Fleury: Playing with Fire
I listened to Theo’s guest episode on a different podcast and because he was a hockey player and experienced mental illness, I immediately wanted to know about his life. The only sport I watch, and follow, is hockey. Because of the trauma he experienced and learning about trauma either on his own or maybe through treatment, he is very versed how it impacts on the brain. This autobiography called Playing with Fire, got a lot of attention at the time because it had come out that he was sexually abused and raped by his longtime hockey coach, which he describes in this book. When it comes to trauma work, one form of treatment involves processing the experience and sharing the narrative or story to a loved one in the therapy. However, especially as we’ve seen in recent years in the US, more and more people who have survived sexual abuse and rape are going public, which also important and does help others not feel so alone. I firmly believe that it takes a lot of strength to do that and I look at those individuals with so much respect.
Adib Khorram: Darius the Great is Not Okay
The author, Adib, lives with mild depression. This book is about a teen who is half Persian, half Caucasian who lives with depression and takes medication for it. The main characters father also has depression and takes also medication. The story follows his trip to Iran, his experience explaining it to individuals in Iran, and meeting a new person. This was one of the books that lead to the creation of this podcast. If you would like to know more about my thoughts on this book, please go to the Video Blog page of my website to watch my video. The video I created was way before I made this podcast. So, if you would like to watch it, go to My website: robyntamanahatherapy.com and click the video blog tab.
So that concludes the books about mental illness written by authors who live with mental illness, so far. Like I said, there are others, so there will be another BONUS episode later.
Thanks for listening. If you have any book suggestions, or books you would like discussed on this podcast, you can email it to BooksBetweenSessions@gmail.com. This could be books about mental health in general or books written by authors who live with mental illness. If you’re a mental health professional, and either have a book you love or have written one yourself, and would like to on this podcast, contact me at BooksBetweenSessions@gmail.com. Also, this podcast is not psychotherapy or counseling. If you need to speak with a professional, you should find one local to you and contact them directly. I focus on individuals who live with depression and bipolar disorder at my private practice in Orange County, CA, so if you would like to reach out to me for services, I’ll provide my website in the show notes. And, IF THIS IS AN EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER OR GO TO YOUR NEAREST EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT.