Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Li wrote this book as she was experiencing suicidal depression. It’s an organized stream-of-consciousness that flows in and out of memories, discussions of books that have influenced Li’s thinking on mental health, and life philosophies. It reads like being inside a person’s brain as they try to make sense of why life is worth living. This is not an uplifting book—at least, not immediately. But the reason Li writes about books is because she finds meaning in stories. That meaning becomes a powerful reason to stay around. As she quotes in a letter from her friend Trevor, “Stories are a hope, and often they obligingly answer questions.”
My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta
This book is innovative, funny, sad, powerful—and pretty much any other good thing I can say about a book. There’s a chapter where Washuta compares her Bipolar Disorder to that of celebrities like Kurt Cobain and Britney Spears. In another, Washuta talks about sexual assaults she’s experienced as though they were scripts for a Law & Order: SVU episode—giving her a way to process traumatic experiences. It’s a great mix of memoir and research, where you learn a lot about Washuta’s experience of the world and the world in general. Discussing Bipolar Disorder and treatment, Washuta says, “Getting the brain right is the most important thing there is…the brain is a mass of tissue, another part of the body that can escape me, no different from a busted ankle or a nonfunctioning gall bladder…forget the ankle. Those can be fixed for good if they get busted. I want my brain.”
Now My Heart is Full by Laura June
Now My Heart is Full is June’s account of new motherhood and her own mother’s Alcohol Use Disorder. The first few years of June’s life, she was close with her mom. But when June was about 7 or 8, her mom started drinking a lot—and stopped showing up for her. June learned about alcoholism in school, but when she tried to talk to her mom about her concerns, her mom dismissed it. June later went on to cut her mom—who eventually died of complications from Alcohol Use Disorder—out of her life. When June got pregnant, she started thinking a lot about her relationship to her mom. She’d thought it had ended with her mom’s death. But in this book, she realizes it’s still changing—perhaps more than ever—as she changes the way she thinks about it.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Mailhot started writing this book while she was in the hospital for Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. Having grown up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in Canada, Mailhot thinks a lot about how her experience as a Native American interacts with the other parts of her life. The book deals with colonization, trauma, addiction, mental illness, writing, and relationships. Mailhot turns vulnerability into a power. As she puts it, “…I can name my pain so well that people are afraid of the consequences and power.”
Memoirs about addiction, recovery and mental health show us the breadth of stories—how everyone’s experience with each condition is unique. And still, if you are in recovery or have struggled with mental health, there is often a lot to relate to. It’s a reminder that many of the experiences of addiction, sobriety and mental health are both individual and universal. If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder during this crisis, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers is open and here for you, with hospital-grade sanitization and telehealth options so that you can feel safe getting treatment. At our facilities across the country, our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a life in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.