9 Memoirs By Women About Mental Illness To Help You Start Conversations & Better Understand Yourself And Your Loved Ones
There are a few niche book categories that will never fail to get my attention: nonfiction about North Korea, dystopian novels for adults, and memoirs of mental illness. Because I don't think any of us reads this last category enough, I have picked out nine memoirs of women with mental illness that you should put on your TBR, A.S.A.P.
Nearly 20 percent of all adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime, and a solid 20 percent of teens ages 18 and younger live with a chronic mental illness, so why do we still have a problem talking about mental health? That's not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. I live with my mental and chronic illnesses every day, but they can still be difficult to talk about, even to other people who have the same diagnoses as me.
Mental health remains largely misunderstood in our society, and that's why I believe that reading memoirs of mental illness is a critical step toward understanding both our fellow human beings and ourselves. If you have never read a book from this subgenre before, any of the titles on the list below will be an excellent place to start.
'Girl, Interrupted' by Susanna Kaysen
You might have seen the movie with Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, and Whoopi Goldberg, but have you read the book? Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted is a short, necessary read about mental health treatment for women in 1960s New England.
'Willow Weep for Me' by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
Immigrant artist and poet Meri Nana-Ama Danquah writes about living with depression as a black woman in her 1998 memoir, Willow Weep for Me.
'Furiously Happy' by Jenny Lawson
Blogger Jenny Lawson has been diagnosed with "depression, anxiety, mild self-harm issues, avoidant personality disorder, occasional depersonalization disorder, mild OCD and trichotillomania," and her memoir Furiously Happy exposes the highs and lows of living with multiple mental illnesses, all served with a hilarious twist.
'Agorafabulous!' by Sara Benincasa
YouTube celebrity Sara Benincasa explores her life with panic disorder and agoraphobia — the fear of leaving one's home — in her first book, the 2012 memoir Agorafabulous!.
'An Unquiet Mind' by Kay Redfield Jamison
A psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Kay Redfield Jamison specializes in the study of bipolar disorder, with which she was diagnosed shortly after beginning her career as an academic. In An Unquiet Mind, Jamison recounts her experiences with mental illness in terrifyingly vivid prose.
'Prozac Nation' by Elizabeth Wurtzel
After making a splash when it was first published in 1994, Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation remains one of the most famous memoirs of mental illness in English literature.
'Wishful Drinking' by Carrie Fisher
From our dearly departed Space Mom comes this memoir of alcoholism, drug addiction, and bipolar disorder, told with Carrie Fisher's signature dry wit.
'My Body Is a Book of Rules' by Elissa Washuta
A memoir of bipolar disorder and sexual trauma, written by an American Indian (Cowlitz) author, My Body Is a Book of Rules was nominated for the Washington State Book Award in 2015.
'Divided Minds' by Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn S. Spiro
Written by identical twin sisters, one of whom was diagnosed with schizophrenia in college, Divided Minds explores the ways in which mental illness can impact an entire family.