Hi everybody, and welcome to a new Top Ten Tuesday!
Today I’d like to talk a bit about books featuring characters with a mental illness. Even today, mental illness is still stigmatized, judged and misunderstood. I think it was only last week when I saw a Twitter discussion where someone was saying depression was a choice and people suffering from depression should just ‘get over it’. And sadly, thoughts like this are not an isolated event. We need to talk more about mental illness. People need to be educated and there needs to be more understanding.
Though it of course can’t solve everything, I do believe that literature can play a big part in helping overcome that stigma and misunderstanding. Not only could it help educate people, but it could also help people with a mental illness in seeing that they are not alone.
So for today I’d like to spotlight some books featuring characters with a mental illness. I would like to say that I am no expert, so while I do think these have some good representation, they might not be 100% accurate or could potentially be triggering in some cases. Also, I know this is only a small selection and I am always looking for more stories with great mental health rep, so feel free to comment with some recs!
“He was afraid of the world, afraid it would find a way to swallow him up. But, maybe everyone was sometimes. Maybe some people can just turn it off when they need to.”
The main character Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years. In comes Lisa, a girl trying to “fix” Solomon so she can get into one of the best psychology programs in college.
“Here’s the thing about anxiety: it’s not rational. It’s not rational, but it’s still real, and it’s still scary, and that’s okay. “
Steffi is a selective mute because of her severe social anxiety. One day she meets Rhys, who’s deaf. Since Steffi knows basic sign language, they end up forming a bond.
“That’s what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Socializing is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, and yet here we are, moving forward anyway. That’s not weak.”
Queens of Geek is an adorable story about 3 best friends going to a convention together. One of those three characters, Jamie, is on the Autism spectrum and has anxiety.
“There’s nothing wrong with someone saving my life, I’ve realized, especially when I can’t trust myself to get the job done right. People need people. That’s that.”
This is a story focusing on Griffin, who just lost his first love and ex-boyfriend Theo. Though it’s a story about mourning first of all, it also focuses a lot on Griffin’s OCD.
“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”
Violet feels alienated after the death of her sister and Finch is thinking about ending it all. Their story starts when they meet eachother at the top of the school belltower. (Note: I personally loved this story but it has been called out for romanticising depression so please take this into account)
“The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying ‘I’m fine’ to people when you’re not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: ‘Why aren’t I fine?”
Audrey is a 14-year old girl who can’t leave the house or make eye contact and wears sunglasses 24/7 because of her social anxiety. The story deals with her mental illness, but also tells everything with a lot of humor and family dynamics.
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
This is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories I know, and main character and wallflower Charlie is an amazing main character.
“I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.”
Cath has social anxiety and is struggling though her first year of college, but escapes into writing fanfiction.
“In a typical mental health catch-22, the alienating nature of depression tends to keep its sufferers from finding their way to the very support groups that might help them.”
Prozac Nation is a memoir about Elizabeth Wurtzel’s struggle with depression. I read it ages ago and remember liking it, but I’ve also seen some negative reviews. Not sure how I’d feel about it now, but I think it’s still worth the read.