By Reya Mehrotra
For people with depression, the fight against the stigma is as tough as the one against the illness. And these tough times have again brought the discussion to the fore. To better understand what depression, anxiety and mental illnesses really mean and how they impact people, we bring to you some books that can educate you.
(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health
This book is a conversation-starter. The title suggests that there is no single definition of being crazy and that the word does not define what it means to suffer from mental illness. It has essays, comics and illustrations around mental health from 33 writers, athletes and artists. The contributors offer their personal experiences with mental health and how every person’s brain functions differently. Different situations impact people differently.
Dear Stranger, I Know How You Feel
Having battled depression and anxiety himself, popular Instagram poet Ashish Bagrecha wrote a book on his experiences, which became a bestseller in a short span of time. In 2013, the author was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the illness took a toll on his mental health as well. He started writing a series of letters on Instagram to express how he felt. These letters became popular with people who felt an instant connect. Bagrecha released his book in 2019, a compilation of 30 such letters.
Side Effects of Living: An Anthology of Voices on Mental Health
Edited by Jhilmil Breckenridge and Namarita Kathait, the book brings forth 37 personal accounts of experiences with madness. It also voices the process of being considered mentally ill and the road to recovery. The book has been curated with submissions from both Indians and the Indian diaspora abroad. The writers let the readers into their stigmatised worlds. Like different sizes of the body, the book suggests that there are different shades and states of mind.
I’ve Never Been (Un)Happier
Written by Shaheen Bhatt, this short memoir talks about her battle with depression. Bhatt talks about her daily experiences with depression and the bigger picture of what she calls “one of the most misinterpreted mental illnesses in the 21st century”. She takes the reader on a personal journey of living with depression in privileged circumstances. She was diagnosed with depression at 18 after suffering from it for five years. The honest account suggests that there is no possible reason for the onset of depression and that it can happen to anyone living even the best of life.
Inspired by a true story, this novel by Amandeep Sandhu is partly fiction. The author calls the book ‘too real’ and ‘too hard’ and yet full of hope. It is about a young man’s acceptance and understanding of his mother’s illness as he goes down memory lane through family albums, diaries and letters. It was a violent household that he grew up in, with his mother suffering from schizophrenia. The book starts with the declining health of his father and his death at 66. Those looking for answers and closure after their parent’s battle with mental illness will find the book relatable. It is a story of self-discovery and hope.
A Book of Light: When a Loved One Has a Different Mind
Poetry, prose and children’s fiction writer Jerry Pinto’s 2012 book Em and the Big Hoom talked about his struggles of growing up with a bipolar mother. It was the compelling story of the Mendeses mother, father, daughter and son. The book won many awards and prizes, including The Hindu Literary Prize in 2012. Pinto’s book touched many who had similar stories to share. In A Book of Light, he brings out those stories of his readers that are harrowing yet empowering. The book, which is a collection of 13 real-life accounts of those who supported family members with mental illnesses, has been edited by Pinto. The honest accounts will strike a chord with those who have been through the experience and emerged stronger.
How to Travel Light: My Memories of Madness and Melancholia
Written by journalist Shreevatsa Nevatia, the book is his account of being bipolar. Diagnosed at 23, Nevatia struggled for a decade while also fighting depression. He chronicles his former loves and meeting with fellow sufferers as well. Nevatia also writes about his meeting with Deepika Padukone who has also fought depression. Describing the book as cathartic, he also records his experience of sexual abuse at the young age of eight, which further worsened his condition. The book is about fighting inner demons.