Posted in Managing Mental Health, Mental Health, positivity

5 Books on My Mental Health Journey

I’ve always loved reading, so today I wanted to share with you 5 books that have been incredibly important to me in my mental health journey as a teenager dealing with mental illness. Let me know what books have been impactful in your journey in the comments below – I would love to hear about them!

  1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher 

This book isn’t actually specific to mental illness, but it introduced me to Carrie Fisher – an incredible Bipolar disorder and addiction advocate – and that changed my life. 

When I found this book I felt very alone and unseen, but reading this was like seeing my brain laid out on a page. Someone else thought like I did, felt like I did. I’ve gone on to read all of her other books which range from entertaining to informative. And they are all hilarious. Carrie Fisher’s ability to turn a phrase is totally unique and unrivalled. 

  1. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi 

When I finally realised I had problems with food and restriction, I was struggling to wrap my head around it. This book helped me understand the severity of what was going on, and again made me feel less alone. It also helped me to understand the way I thought about food was not normal or healthy and how much it was hurting me, because I got to see it from an outside perspective.

I will warn that the details in this book are potentially very triggering and not necessarily helpful to those grappling with disordered eating, so a warning there if you are considering reading it. 

  1. Sedated: How Modern Capitalism Created Our Mental Health Crisis by James Davies 

This book was important to me as I started to be a bit more sceptical and analytical of the major narrative on mental health and the mental health system. I’ve had my fair share of unhelpful and downright damaging interactions with the psychiatric complex, and I started to question how we view, understand, and categorise mental distress, but it’s hard to find any research or information out there that even slightly criticises the accepted narrative. This book not only verbalised new ways to consider these issues but also provided evidence and further studies to explore. Of course, I don’t blindly accept everything in this book either – that would be counterproductive. But it was a huge relief to discover it and really helped me form a foundation for reimagining how we consider mental health and mental health systems within the wider social context of a capitalistic society. 

  1. 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane 

This is actually a play not a book but I’ve only ever read the full script, not seen it performed, though my class did perform extracts as part of coursework, which was another interesting experience. 

In late February/ March 2020 I was experiencing my first mixed episode and it was truly overwhelming and terrifying. Sitting at my teacher’s desk in the drama studio I was scribbling something resembling poetry across several sheets of paper and one of my drama teachers caught a glimpse. They had been doing a truly incredible job of looking after me (something way above their pay grade) but I think by this point they were at a loss for what to do or how to help me process what was happening to me. 

However, upon seeing what I was writing this teacher remarked how it reminded her of Sarah Kane’s work. My teachers had a debate over whether to show me the play or not – after all it’s true it could have definitely triggered me further – but without much else to do, they gave it to me and told me to read it and come up with ideas of how it might be staged (a tactic that provided me a task to complete which was very helpful). 

I read the play and it was the first time in days that I felt anything close to calm or focused. The disorganised, brutal admissions of a mentally ill mind came to life around me and made perfect sense while the world around me seemed to make less and less sense. 

It made me feel seen in ways I had never experienced before, and also helped me realise that creativity doesn’t have to be neat nor does it have to conform to people’s sensibilities. My expression is mine alone and it can be as raw as I choose. 

I will say please use discretion if you’re going to read this and perhaps have someone on stand-by in case it affects you because it is very raw and cuts to the point of pain in a way I don’t think many of us are used to. Also I’d provide a trigger warning for pretty much everything for this one, but especially for self harm, psychiatric trauma, and suicide. 

  1. People, Places, and Things by Duncan Macmillan

Again, this is not actually a book but a play (can you tell theatre is my passion yet?) and I’ve never seen it performed. Emma – the leading lady – is my absolute dream role. 

This is basically a play about a woman’s journey through rehab and addiction into recovery, and I discovered it while still in active addiction but while I was still in denial. I related so much to her and her words; it helped me come to terms with my own addiction. And it gave me hope for recovery. 

Like 4.48 Psychosis some of the lines feel so deeply true it was almost jarring. And the innovation of the structure along with how it could be staged filled me with ideas and excitement for theatre all over again.

Posted in Managing Mental Health, Mental Health, positivity

Identity in Mental Illness

As an autistic person with mental illnesses sometimes it can be hard to figure out who I am.

If you have diagnoses you might feel like you have to split up parts of yourself and your actions into boxes, like this part of you is autism and that part of you is anxiety, for example.

Or you might feel like your whole identity is your diagnoses.

Even without a diagnosis you might feel like parts of you are defined by the way you feel, split up and separate.

This can make us feel like we have to be ashamed of these parts of ourselves or like we are not really whole. It can be confusing to know who we are and find our identity in the midst of it all.

Then you add in other identity factors like sexuality, gender, and race which in many cases can complicate our mental health and understanding of ourselves even further – especially because it impacts how others see us, and this is even more prevalent for minority identities.

Rather than trying to see ourselves as a selection of different parts and separate ourselves into these parts, maybe we can start to think of it more like colours blended together and filters on the image of who we are.

Like my anxiety is red and it bleeds into my passion for theatre which is blue. They mix to create a purple in the middle, and that’s where stage fright lives. But all the colours are a part of me, blending together to make me who I am.

And my autism is a filter with a yellow tinge and that does affect how I view and interact with the whole world, but it isn’t my whole identity, nor is it separate to every other part of me. They all work together in different ways to make me who I am.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to have everything figured out about your life and who you are. No one does. It’s a journey and an ongoing process which can be really scary to think about. But it’s actually pretty amazing, all these colours that make up the rainbow of you, changing and growing each day. Remember – no one but you gets to define who you are; your identity is personal and you don’t owe it to anyone else, nor do you need to define who you are! 

But you are wonderfully unique, allowed to take up space, and your rainbow is so much more than you could ever imagine.

Posted in Happy Notes, positivity

50 Compliments That Are Not Appearance Based

I know personally that it can feel a bit awkward to give or receive compliments, the protocol on when to compliment someone and how to react is a bit confusing to me. But I also like to imagine a society in which complimenting people was a more normal thing to do; where being open about how we feel (including our positive feelings towards others – complimenting them) was encouraged and normalised. However much of the time when we do compliment people it is appearance based. This is difficult because it can sometimes reduce someone to their appearance, which they don’t always have control over, and looks past who they are as a person and what they mean in our lives – especially when it’s to do with their body and not the way they dress (something they may use as a form of expression) for example. So I’ve put together a list of 50 compliments and open statements that are not appearance based. My challenge to you is to compliment at least one person a day for the next week on something other than their appearance. Let me know how it goes and any other ideas for compliments in the comments below!

  1. You make me smile 
  2. You’re funny 
  3. You make me happy 
  4. You’re kind 
  5. You make me feel safe 
  6. You glow 
  7. Your sensitivity is so strong 
  8. I appreciate you 
  9. You inspire me 
  10. You’re so strong 
  11. I admire your work ethic 
  12. You mean a lot to me 
  13. I love your honesty 
  14. You have a great mindset 
  15. You’re so brave
  16. You’re so loving 
  17. You’re are worthy 
  18. I am comfortable around you 
  19. You did great today 
  20. You are a warm person 
  21. You’re so understanding 
  22. You are a good listener 
  23. You are really insightful 
  24. You always care 
  25. You’re wonderfully unique 
  26. You are perfect exactly as you are 
  27. I wish more people were like you 
  28. I respect you 
  29. I trust you 
  30. I’m so happy you’re in my life 
  31. You’ve flourished as a person 
  32. You make a difference 
  33. You’re becoming even more amazing – and I didn’t think that was possible
  34. Your personality lights up the room 
  35. You deserve good things 
  36. You’re great at giving advice 
  37. I love how passionate you are about (blank)
  38. I love your imagination 
  39. You matter to me
  40. I love being around you 
  41. I love how confident you are 
  42. You make people feel important 
  43. I respect your integrity 
  44. You are a generous person
  45. You’re have an open heart 
  46. You are on your perfect path 
  47. I’m proud of you 
  48. Your ideas/ beliefs matter 
  49. Your happiness is infectious 
  50. You are a great leader