May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., so as we near the end of this month, we want to share with you some books that have been helpful in our own mental wellness journeys.
Mental health is a topic near and dear to all three of us. At different points in our lives, we have each wrestled with shame, insecurities and the feeling of not being good enough. Although these experiences feel isolating, we are never as alone as we think. There is solace in recognizing the universality of our emotions and even on the loneliest days, we can seek comfort in books and their stories. Finding friends in characters and seeing personal truths revealed in prose, we in turn discover courage, strength and a renewed sense of hope. It is our wish that these books here will do the same for you.
To me, mental wellness means…
...building a healthy tolerance for the speed bumps in life, and embracing my own limitations as qualities that will open up different sets of possibilities.
...sitting still with my fears, cultivating a non-judgmental attitude towards them and practising self-compassion.
...being okay with not being okay because feeling vulnerable is not a weakness, but a chance for self-love and growth.
“Dear other iterations of my past self, Thank you for not being so goddamn weird that I felt I had to address you personally in a letter from the future. I commend you.”
Sometimes it’s enough to just have a friend who understands, and Brosh is that but more—she will also make you laugh. Hyperbole and a Half is written in the style of her popular blog, and features a collection of hilarious short stories accompanied by Brosh’s trademark illustrations (some of which have become Internet memes). In between outrageous tales about dogs and her childhood, you’ll happen upon pieces like Depression Part One, Depression Part Two, and Identity Part Two that are some of the most relatable and poignant writings on mental well-being we’ve read.
“Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of light.”
We all experience shame. Yet like many topics in our society, a common human experience doesn’t necessarily make it easier for discussion. Brown explores this topic through introducing years of research as well as sharing gut wrenching and heartwarming stories of herself, her family and the people she has interviewed. To be able to talk about shame, Brown argues that we have to be vulnerable—to have courage to share the parts of ourselves we want to shield. Through humor and honesty, she asks us to dispel the popular myth that showing vulnerability is a weakness.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
“People often think they go to therapy for an explanation...but what they’re really there for is an experience, something unique that’s being created by two people over time for about an hour each week. It was the meaning of this experience that allowed me to find meaning in other ways.”
And by “you” in the title, Gottlieb really means everyone. Although this book may appear to be the most technical or clinical of this list, we assure you that it’s incredibly enjoyable to read. Gottlieb is a wonderful storyteller, giving us an honest glimpse of what happens in therapy from both ends of the therapist’s couch. Backed by easy-to-understand psychological theories and concepts, she masterfully weaves the experiences of her patients with those of her own to illustrate how grief and personal trauma can be confronted and overcome.
Book of Joy by Tenzin Gyatso & Desmond Tutu
“A person is a person through other persons.”
Spending time in exile and battling prostate cancer don’t seem like uplifting stories, yet the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Demsond Tutu are able to maintain genuine joy in the face of these experiences. They are neither naive nor unrealistic, but are candid about their sufferings and simply unrelenting in their belief that humans thrive on togetherness. In the Book of Joy, we witness these two friends exchange playful banter (where the Archbishop describes himself as a “large-nosed black man from Africa”), display their humble personalities and share wise insights. In recognising that there is basic goodness in human nature, they advocate and demonstrate that in giving we are also receiving.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
“There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.”
Accustomed to routines and isolation, Eleanor is a quirky social misfit with a sharp sense of wit. While the character’s dry sense of humour will no doubt give you some laugh-out-loud moments, Eleanor’s story is also one shrouded by intense loneliness and painful trauma. That is until an unexpected friendship began to shine light on her life. A page turner with an unforgettable heroine and a clever storyline, this novel reminds us that overcoming trauma and mental issues is a challenging process, but it doesn’t have to be endured alone. Being open to receive kindness and compassion can give you a heartwarming lift to help you through the journey.
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
“Gratitude is a celebration we are all invited to.”
Heart Talk is a warm hug at the end of a long day. Aptly asking us to treat this book as a friend, Wade becomes our cheerleader with her encouraging words and messages. Succinct and able to pack a punch, she shares affirmations in the form of scribbles as if she’s writing to us personally. Wade brings these affirmations to life by relating a first hand account and giving context to the messages she delivers. Leafing through a few pages before you go to bed will leave you a bit more hopeful to face tomorrow.
We hope that you find these suggestions helpful! Sending positivity, love, and light.