When battling through an episode of anxiety or depression, one of the most common thoughts is ‘I am crazy,’ shortly followed by ‘I am alone.’ For some, relief comes in the form of medication. For others, meditation. Mine was, eventually, words. In my worst moments, reading was not on the agenda, but when the fog would lift, if even for a day, I would turn to books on mental health to help me see some light. These books all held so much power for me in providing hope and sometimes solutions and I hope they can offer you, or someone you may know, the same comfort…
There was something refreshing about reading this book, but I guess that’s what you get when a comedian writes a book about mental health. Having suffered from depression herself (and then studied a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy), Ruby offers an insight into how to master that inner voice that seems like it will never switch off. You know which one I mean- the one that tells you how useless you are whilst simultaneously listing the thousands of things you haven’t yet done that you should of, whilst also reminding you how lucky you are and therefore even more useless than you first thought… She breaks the science part into understandable bite size pieces and intermingles them with honest accounts of her own periods of depression, making it not just a candid account, but full of useful guidance as to how to cope with mental health issues. It’s also pretty damn funny in parts.
I think what is potentially most striking about this book is how it deals with the fact that just like any illness, issues with mental health can hit anyone, seemingly out of nowhere. As a young guy living in Ibiza, Matt did not see his illness coming and yet when it did, it led to him uprooting his entire life in a bid to recover. With suicide the biggest cause of death in men under 45, Matt also provides a male voice to the issue, though this makes it no less of an impactful read as a woman. In fact, it can feel so accurate at times, you feel that Matt Haig may have been reading your mind.
I love this book. As I previously said, I was more than a bit sceptical about Ferne Cotton writing a book about being happy. In fact, I think my exact thoughts were ‘WTF has she got not to be happy about.’ Not one of my finest moments, granted. It turns out that Ferne is just like the rest of us (literally) and reading this book always feels like entering a spa- I feel instantly calmer, lulled and safe. It’s full of little exercises that gently provide you with ways to bring a little more happy into your life, without ramrodding an hour of meditation, a raw vegan diet and a phone less existence down your throat (yes, I probably would be happy, but I would also be living alone on as island and bored after ten minutes). Plus, the book itself is so gorgeous you can’t help but smile a little looking at it.
Having previously read ‘The Wrong Knickers- A Decade of Chaos,’ the last thing I expected Bryony Gordon to write about was OCD and hair loss. In Mad Girl she provides a detailed account of what it is like to live with OCD and how it has affected her life in so many ways. As someone in the public eye, I always find it incredible to know how much can truly be going on ‘behind the scenes’. Plus, because it’s Bryony, it somehow remains funny, meaning that despite its subject matter, it remains an accessible read.
I can honestly say this book changed my life. It is one of the most raw, honest and at times painful accounts of depression I have ever read. It moved me to tears on multiple occasions, for a whole multitude of reasons. It made me see I wasn’t alone, but it also showed me how much worst it could get and for reasons that I’ll never understand, it was the thing that totally shifted my way of thinking and living.
Unfortunately Sally lost her battle with depression, but I truly believe she lives on helping others through her writing.