“If suffering like hers had any use, she reasoned, it was not to the sufferer. The only way that an individual’s pain gained meaning was through its communication to others.”
Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography
At this year’s Academy Awards, Jennifer Lawrence talked briefly about the stigma that surrounds mental illness after her Best Actress win for her role as a bipolar woman in “The Silver Linings Playbook.”
Mental illness is a fraught issue in our society because there is so little understanding around it. Personal stories in film and literature help illuminate the mystery and hopefully help dismantle the stigma that exists for people who do struggle and live with mental illness.
MaryKate’s recent post on Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking made me think about how important memoirs about mental illness can be for others encountering their own diagnoses or misdiagnoses, the family and friends that are impacted and people who just want to learn more about what it means to have a mental illness.
Seattle artist Ellen Forney’s new graphic novel memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me, is a funny, frank and brutally honest look at her experiences as a bipolar woman. Forney illustrates her journey as an artist, her diagnosis, her sessions with her therapist and her endless travails with finding the right medication and dosage while tying her personal story of mental illness into the larger picture of artists who suffered from mental illness throughout history. Marbles is an engaging, winningly-drawn memoir about one artist’s search for herself and her sanity.
There is more out there about mental illness than ever before and yet there is so much that we don’t know or understand. The human mind is complex and neuroscience and psychology will go on in search of better understanding for centuries to come.
For book groups, there are so many books to choose from. Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot features a character whose struggles with mental illness are realistically and sympathetically described.
And whether you suffer from mental illness or not, there are so many resources out there and brave individuals pouring out their life stories in wonderful proliferation on the Internet and in books. There are comics like Maria Bamford who shares her experiences in mental hospitals in her skeyches. I recently listened to Maria Bamford on the JV Club podcast, put on by another wonderful comic, Janet Varney, who also regularly shares her struggles with depression. There is even a podcast series called The Mental Illness Happy Hour–a straight-forward, blunt and informational podcast series aimed at conveying the message that those suffering from mental illness are not alone.