I count myself very lucky to have never suffered from a mental illness. But unfortunately I have seen, and still see, a number of close family members struggle under its crippling darkness. And when you see others endure a battle which often leads to them fighting for their lives, you realise that you can’t take your own mental health for granted.
To watch someone suffer with mental illness is, I think, torture in itself. You don’t know what to say or what to do. You don’t know if you’re going to come home to that person, or whether when you leave home that’s the last time you will see them.
As mental illness has always been hiding in the background of my family, I’ve been brought up fully aware of its effects on people and how it can completely turn worlds upside down. I suppose you could say I began reading about mental illness and self help so that I could try and save others, and ensure I could be strong enough for them to lean on me. It was the only thing I felt I could do to help.
But after spending so long reading about mental illness and wellbeing, it has brought so much to my life. More than I could have ever imagined.
Not all the books I’ve read are marketed as self-help or mental health books, but their stories bring awareness of the importance of life and the choices that we make.
I always find it funny how we workout to improve our physical health, but never do much in the way of actively improving our mental health.
While I’m a strong advocate that physical and mental health both work hand-in-hand; I do also believe that we should all be more pro-active in supporting our minds as well as our bodies.
Improve my understanding of others
Without putting myself in the shoes of others who are going through mental illness, I don’t feel I would have been as supportive.
Reading such books that focus on your state of mind, allows you to at least try and understand what thoughts might be holding people back from communicating.
Instead of forcing a conversation about the elephant in the room, sometimes it really is best just to be there. A hug, a shoulder to cry on and a good cup of tea, is often all that is needed.
As a natural problem-solver, this was always hard for me. I just like to try and fix everything and make it alright. But there’s no quick-fix to mental health, and you certainly can’t fix it by incessantly telling someone what they should be doing to fix it. It’s just patronising and makes them feel even more like crap.
Instead, I’ve learned to offer help and advice when it’s asked for.
Made me more resilient
While reading mental health books has certainly made me feel more helpful and supportive to those struggling with different conditions, what I didn’t realise is how much it would improve my own mental resilience.
Getting to know my own mind has been like having my very own eureka moment. And it’s all been brought on by broadening my mind through reading these incredible books.
Each book has offered me a tool that I can use in my life so that whenever an issue arises, I feel mentally strong and empowered enough to know what I want out of my life and be confident to make those decisions.
The world isn’t an easy place, and there are always people telling you that you’re doing it wrong. You just can’t win!
But I’ve found that actually, what I want out of my life isn’t the same as others, and that’s actually fine.
I’ve been through some turbulent times in my short life, and who knows where I would be on the mental health spectrum if it wasn’t for having the acceptance that unfortunately, shit happens. It just depends on how you react to it.
Helped me know my happy moments
I’ve never felt the dark cloud of depression or anxiety, but like anyone, I have had my moments of feeling blue. We all have them. Whether you get the Monday blues or have a totally shit day. Blue moments happen.
But thanks to learning about my own mental health and what makes me the happiest or most content. I can draw upon my ‘happy list’ to find a pick me up.
These aren’t moments that make me feel totally elated like I’m high on life, they’re moments of comfort and warmth that make me feel like the world is on my side and everything is ok.
This includes simple things; going for a walk in the fresh air, going for a run, eating my beloveds homemade mac & cheese, having a cup of tea, having cuddles with my chubby cheeked nephew.
And of course, as well as knowing what grounds me, I’ve also been able to identify the things that trigger negative thoughts so that I can remove myself from those situations.
Made me grateful
Thanks to social media it’s very easy to compare yourself to others. Before you know it, after a quick dive into Instagram you can instantly start to think that your life is boring, or you’re ugly etc.
But in reality, we only put the highlights online, and many of us never know what goes on behind closed doors.
Since reading mental health books, rather than get myself worked up on the frivolous show reel of social media, I take a moment each morning and night to count the things that I’m grateful for. And this doesn’t include materialistic things. It’s the things that really matter.
Still having both my parents, my brother’s health, having a roof over my head and nutritious food in my belly. The list often goes on and on.
But doing this on a daily basis has been a stepping stone in being able to remain positive.
So there you have it, I read mental health and self-help books because reading such stories is like building a mental tool kit for life. When we share what we’ve been through we become more understanding, more accepting, and by default, more aware.
If more people were mindful of how others feel when they’re suffering with mental health, and how they too can educate themselves on their own mental health, perhaps we could all be more accepting and find a way of fighting mental illness together.
I’ve listed the books below which I would highly recommend if you’re thinking about increasing your mental awareness. But if you have any suggestions, please comment below.
The Books I would recommend