LEARNING ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS IS EMPOWERING. Good books, inspiring words, and compelling bits of information keep me moving forward.
THE NOONDAY DEMON
by Andrew Solomon
A thoroughly researched and beautifully written survey of depression and mental illness through the ages. Solomon offers a moving autobiography-of-sorts that includes fairly detailed information on various medical and therapeutic treatments for depression. Read this book with care, especially if you’re feeling depressed, as the author’s descriptions of his own experiences with depression may be triggering. For all of its realism, the book is incredibly informative and ultimately tells a story of acceptance, strength, and transcendence.
I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT
by Terrence Real
As a man struggling with depression, I found this book incredibly helpful. Prior to reading it, I had some reservations about describing depression from the perspective of gender. In my experience, my symptoms are common to both men and women. The book does however address what may be a key component of male depression, namely, the feeling of weakness and deep shame for surrender to a disease of emotion. One idea that really hit home was the description of covert versus overt depression. According to Real, in failing to acknowledge and deal with their emotional pain, many men experience covert depression, which manifests in a variety of destructive behaviors that include, among others, rage, neglect, and addiction. It is when men let go of these unhealthy coping mechanisms that their depression becomes overt and can lead to real healing for themselves and their families.
THE MIND AND THE BRAIN
by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., and Sharon Begley
The premise of this book is hopeful and inspiring. The authors make a strong case for the power of the mind to change, or “rewire,” the very structure of our physical brains, otherwise known as neuroplasticity. Even better, according to the authors, the brain’s neuroplasticity continues throughout our adult lives. The book contains a lot of detailed brain research, neuro-biology, quantum theory, and philosophy so be sure your coffee cup is full! Ultimately, the reader will find a message of hope. Namely, that through mindfulness, mental force, and consistent willful effort, we have the power to overcome debilitating conditions from obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety, strokes, and beyond. One last note, some of the research involves testing on animals, which although it has led to medical and psychiatric advances for humans, for me, is troubling none the less.
MINDFULNESS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO AWAKENING
by Joseph Goldstein
This book is almost like a college course in Buddhist Mindfulness. It is a comprehensive overview of how to live a mindful life using Buddhist principles. The author discusses in detail mindfulness as it relates to a variety of areas including mindfulness of mind, body, feelings, hindrances, and much more. The reader comes away with a deeper and more technical understanding of Buddhism without being overwhelmed by the vastness of the topic.
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
“Our great challenge is to apply the lessons of neuroplasticity, the flexibility of brain circuits, to rewire the brains and reorganize the minds of people who have been programmed by life itself to experience others as threats and themselves as helpless.” The book provides a vivid description of the effects of trauma on the body and mind, as well as research and methods of effectively treating PTSD. The effects of trauma are powerful and wide ranging, but this book provides hope as it outlines advances in neuroscience and therapies that are showing real promise. If you’ve experienced the confusion that trauma causes, this book will go a long way toward self-understanding and ultimately healing. It left me feeling optimistic.
BIPOLAR DISORDER: A Guide for Patients and Families (3rd Edition)
by Franis Mark Mondimore, M.D.
This book helped me understand my diagnosis of Bipolar 2. It described my symptoms very accurately. In addition to very clear descriptions of Bipolar and other mood disorders, the book provides useful information for patients and family members. Treatments and medications are discussed in detail. Additionally, the author describes how mood disorders can affect several demographics, including women, children, and addicts. Overall, the book provides a real sense of taking control of one’s illness. Cannot recommend this book enough.