6 Moving Memoirs of Mental Illness
A well-written memoir can have the power to draw society’s awareness, discussion and eventually understanding to sensitive topics. Although a memoir is a story of one, memoirs often highlight experiences that others have shared and have underlying themes to which others can relate.
In recognition of May being Mental Health Month, Argosy University, Online Programs presents the following memoirs written by those who have been affected by mental illness, in the hopes of bringing your attention to the topics of mental health and illness.
Later in his life, Styron, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and National Book Award winner Sophie’s Choice, fell into a deep depression and was hospitalized for several weeks. Styron applies his lyrical gifts in narrating his struggle with despair. Darkness Visible is a poetic account of a person overcoming depression.
Jamison is a psychologist who suffers from bipolar disorder. As both clinician and patient, Jamison offers a unique perspective, writing on how her manic and depressive episodes wrecked her life and how lithium brought her out of her mania but also dulled her imaginative energy. In addition to Unquiet Mind, Jamison has coauthored the clinical textbook Manic-Depressive Illness and authored Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, exploring the relationship between mental illness and creativity, and Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide.
In The Noonday Demon, winner of the National Book Award, Solomon writes about his debilitating depression in which any social encounter, such as a book-signing event, could become terrifying. Solomon writes about his search for the right combination of psychiatric medication to alleviate his depression and the financial costs of the medicine. Solomon also writes of his mother’s terminal illness and her decision to end her own life. The book also explores mental health policy in the United States and policy makers whose lives are affected by psychiatric disorders.
Saks is a law professor with schizophrenia and is an expert on mental health and law. The Center Cannot Hold not only provides Saks' account of her struggles with her illness but also addresses mental health stigma in society.
Published when Hornbacher was 23, Wasted was short-listed for the Pulitzer Price and gives an account of her struggle with an eating disorder. Her follow-up Madness: A Bipolar Life recounts her years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Later made into a popular movie, Girl, Interrupted is about an 18-year-old’s psychiatric hospitalization for depression after a suicide attempt in 1967. Kaysen writes about her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and her views on the conceptualization of mental health in the United States.