3 BOOKS: to better understand mental illness


One of the most valuable aspects of a book, to me, is its ability to impregnate us with deep empathy for people who are unlike ourselves. Or, as literary icon Atticus Finch said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”.

Mental illness is frequently misunderstood, in part due to the long-standing cultural taboo around the topic. However, as our society moves towards a place of acceptance, mental illness is becoming a topic discussed in both fiction and non-fiction, giving us a wonderful opportunity to learn and understand.

These three books, however, are not explicitly about mental illness. Each could be called a memoir and are beautiful and courageous looks into the lives of the authors. Through these stories we gain an understanding of the thoughts, feelings, and at times inexplicable symptoms that accompany mental illness. These books avoid the temptation of self-pity and don't push grief or shame upon the reader. Written with a strong, poignant, and often hilarious voices, Buffering, Furiously Happy, and Love Warrior are inspiring and engaging. 

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart

Known as a “youtuber” for her internet show My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah Hart tells the honest and gripping story of growing up in an unstable home with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia. Hannah is incredibly hopeful and not only shares about loving someone who is afflicted by mental illness, but also her own journey to understanding and acceptance. 

Topics discussed: self-harm, schizophrenia, sexuality, spirituality, ADHD, childhood trauma and neglect.

More from this author: My Drunk Kitchen: a guide to eating, drinking, and going you’re your gut; youtube.com/harto; Hannahlyze This Podcast.


Furiously Happy: a funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson

Through piles of endless jokes and mind boggling metaphors, Jenny Lawson articulates the deep and unknowable aspects of depression and mental illness in a way that is vibrant yet sobering. This book feels like friendship and includes more stories of taxidermy than you might anticipate.

Topics discussed: major depressive disorder, self-harm, anxiety, Trichotillomania, rheumatoid arthritis, avoidant personality disorder

More from this author: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened; You Are Here: an owner’s manual for dangerous minds; thebloggess.com


Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

While this story may seem to be centered on the topic of marriage, it more accurately is a story of understanding the darkest and brightest parts of ourselves. This book lays a foundation of understanding by speaking in raw, and often child-like, terms. Because of Glennon’s sharp vulnerability the reader is given a rare look into her mind, heart, body, and soul.

Topics discussed: spiritual abuse, sexuality, addiction (drugs, alcohol, porn), bulimia

More from this author: Carry On, Warrior; momastery.com

Note: all of these titles are excellent audiobooks. Each story is read by the author which breathes additional passion and insight into these stories.