Books About Mental Health

Books About Mental Health

Since I have started writing I have read many memoirs about struggles with mental health. So far I have been pretty disappointed with the offerings. Many seem to focus only on the depressed or manic times with nothing in between. And so many are depressing as hell regardless of the illness. I don’t believe this is an honest approach and it can do harm by playing into the stereotypes that we are all crazy people and there is no hope.

This is not to say they are bad books. I am just saying I am looking for something different.

We are humans with challenges, just like everyone else. Life can be improved, managed, and changed for the better. It takes gumption, hard work, and outside help. People can pull this off.

My goal is to provide memoirs about my life with Bipolar 1, ADHD, Anorexia, Bingeing, Bulimia, PTSD, Complicated Grief, and a few more that add complications.  I don’t want to focus on just the episodes, but rather on the entire experience, good times and bad. And my journey has been to become one with myself and create a life of contentment. Too many people allow themselves to be their illnesses rather than having them and working with them.

Here are some of the books and writings I have read regarding life with a mental health disorder.  Specifically the illnesses I have mentioned above. This is a fluid list that I will add to.

All notes are my opinion and should not stop anyone from reading and making their own decision.

More to Come

Books I couldn’t finish

DRY by Augusten Burroughs – addiction – alcohol  I just couldn’t get into this book. I tried and perhaps the first chapter or two had me interested, but the days and nights of being drunk just didn’t hold me. Perhaps I will give it a second chance down the road, but I think the beginning of the book has been said before and I just get tired of pages of slobbering and slovenliness. So, I gave up on it.

Carry Fisher books I really tried, and I think I have read some of her work previously and liked it. But reading now, I just didn’t appreciate her way of writing. The time “Postcards From the Edge” came out as a movie I liked it. But we just watched it again and found it lacking. Though the final scene was a jump up and dance moment and we can always use one of those!!

How To Murder Your Life, a Memoir by Cat Marnell Once again, it just goes on and on. Abuse of Ritalin and other drugs, screwing up in school, partying underage, bulimia, etc. It gets so tiring when that is all I am reading.  I believe there is a struggle to center her life, but I just couldn’t continue sifting through the crap. Also, the falsehood of a stimulant like Ritalin making someone with ADHD high is wrong and misleading. Stimulants whether medications, coffee, or a six-pack of diet coke before noon calmed me down and allowed me to focus. That is what they are used for.

Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping by Susan Johnson This may be interesting to others, but it just wasn’t right for me. Anyone who knows me will determine why.

Books I related to

Inside Out by Demi Moore so much angst from a person who I thought had things together. I am so glad she was able to arrive at a point in her life where she was able to just be and rise from her dysfunctional family.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown – anorexia this was one of the better books I have read regarding anorexia and disordered eating. Harriet weaves a detailed account of the cravings, confusion, change, and chaos her daughter and family go through to try and reach Katie and bring her back from the edge of a disease that kills. Kudos.

Depression Hates a Moving Target by Nina Sweeney  More power to Nina (and her dog) for outrunning her depression and occasional mania. Committed to helping herself, Nina immerses herself in the running world to give herself perspective and connection to the world around her. Reclaiming her power. I wish I had that energy and focus.

Forever Different: A Memoir of One Woman’s Journey Living With Bipolar Disorder by Christine F. Anderson  Now, this book I could really relate too. Not her embezzlement and jail stay, but the feeling of the book. Her writing is of more general life and how it is affected by Bipolar 1. She has well-paying jobs and careers. She is intelligent and resourceful. She is manic. Her highs are not from drugs, but the chase, the edge, and risk. My hat goes off to her for learning what works for her life.

Empty: A memoir by Susan Burton  My jury is still out on this book about Binge Eating. Although she does write about her life outside of the binges, the writing about them is very repetitious and I am getting tired half-way through. Then, in the second half of the book, she seems to start to tackle the true problems and becomes more interesting.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Keysen made into a movie that I loved. I never had to be hospitalized, but I was at the cusp and came up with a healthier option for me. I knew if I went in I would get more damaged. This book solidifies that thought. I really liked the book for the characters and the questions it brings up. Definitely recommend reading.

The Upside of Being Down by Jen Gotch I really loved Jen’s attitude about boosting people up in her company and the fact that she was a success while struggling with Bipolar, ADD, etc. This is not a “poor me” book. This is the book I enjoy reading. Great message about persevering.

All The Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton Sheila and her family suffer from the ravages of her husband’s mental illness as much as he does. They are the ones left behind with questions and guilt. This is a well-written memoir that realistically chronicles what can happen with a Bipolar 1 mind. Definitely recommended.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala Even though this is not a book about Bipolar 1 or ADHD, it is a book about depression and very well written. Sonali loses her entire family in the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004. The following years are heartbreaking as she tries to keep her family a part of her.

Group: How One Therapist and a Circle Of Strangers Saved My Life by Christie Tate I have seen Christie in a number of Interviews and I love her spirit. Her therapist is unconventional, her group supportive, and Christie learns how to take on challenges first of her eating disorder and then her relationships.

Fullness: A Memoir by Azure Moyna overeating is an often stigmatized health condition and this raw account of growing up in an abusive family while taking those jabs and put-downs to heart and taking it out on food as comfort was a story I could definitely relate to. I took it further with purging and starvation but her descriptions of binges really brought me home.


  • Reply
    Chris Zaremba
    February 18, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Ria, good list! I can recommend also “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison, “Haldol and Hyacinths” by Melody Moezzi and “You Can Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse” by Melanie Tonia Evans, which is memoir coupled with self-help. I also like Augusten Burroughs “This is How”, which was a fun format to read. I never read “Dry” but I did enjoy “Running with Scissors”.

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      February 19, 2021 at 10:20 am

      Hi Chris, I do need to add those, but need to re-read some first, An Unquiet Mind and Haldol and Hyacinths and Running with Scissors. I never do remember what all of the books I read are about. Thanks for adding the others to the list.

  • Reply
    Eric R Hall
    July 23, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    I appreciate the list of books that did not work for you as well as the recommendations, Mental health is a difficult process, Im not a psychologist, but I do consider myself a professional people watcher, thus my fascination with it all,
    I respect your transparency, honesty on this, Ill be fascinated by your progress

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      July 23, 2020 at 7:27 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment. Reading through the books that are available about life with a mental illness has been enlightening. I am hoping my memoirs break down some of the stereotypes and offer readers an alternative.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2020 at 2:14 am

    Interesting and some good comments re: each of the books. Useful. I look forward to reading the ones you found useful.

    • Reply
      Ria Talken
      July 19, 2020 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Barbara, I will be adding some more. Hope you like them.

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