And hhaaaaappy May, everyone! Oof. Time flies. (Regardless of if you’re having fun or not, lmao) Anyways. Books!
So I was digging through my Post Vault (the dark, treacherous thing) and I found this post that I wrote around when I wrote my Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock review (aka months ago). The two fit together.
This post is basically one long, 2am ramble on how I feel mental illness should be in books nowadays. This is not at all saying that I know a ton on this subject or whatever, but it’s just how I feel.
Now, I give to you, my first discussion post in forever!!
In this day and age, mental illness is such a big deal. Not that it is more common now then a hundred, or even fifty, years ago (perhaps more frequently diagnosed), but rather, people are coming out and admitting that they’re not okay. Celebrities are doing this, giving courage to others. Social media has given just the right amount of publicity to cause a stir in the world. And I think that it is about time.
In coming with that, more and more novels are being written on the subject. Some are written well, others not. However, each person (and I’m sure that many of you can relate to this) has a different experience with different diagnosises. Or even second- or third-hand experience. And that’s okay!
Many times, however, it can be hard to read these kinds of books. They either trudge up feelings that we don’t want to think about or acknowledge or whatever. I’ve definitely been guilty of this. Why would I want to be reading a heavy handed book about bipolar disorder when I can’t relate to the illness and I could rather being reading a fluffy contemporary or epic fantasy book? And that is important to acknowledge, I think. We don’t need to read representing books all the time. We aren’t required to.
I also think that books should branch out from just contemporary. Obviously, it is just the easiest to write. It is something that directly correlates with our everyday living. It is where that kind of stuff belongs. And of course, I love reading mental heath in contemporaries! It makes it feel more real, more relevant. But shouldn’t we also be able to see a high fantasy warrior who has OCD? A sci-fi rebel who has severe anxiety? These are things that people have, are, and always will face. A fantasy world mostly likely has never not had a mental illness. In the future I highly doubt that we will have found a cure for depression. It doesn’t even have to be an in-your-face rep! (more on that in a second)
In The Stormlight Archive, namely The Way of Kings, we see Kaladin dealing with a bipolar disorder. It’s so subtle, you may think that he’s just seen some things and is a little moody. (though it is in canon that he has some sort of depression) And honestly? It was just so refreshing to find a not over-the-top character. It makes it so much more real and relateable, in my opinion.
Now, back to the subject that I promised! I think that sometimes books go too over-the-top with their chemically imbalanced characters. Sometimes thinking that go big or go home is the best way. And sometimes that turns out fantastic! (Such as Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock) It’s okay if the whole plot of a book revolves around a diagnosis (or lack thereof). Sometimes that is exactly what we need! And yet, I feel like there should be some more subtle characters.
No, I’m not meaning those lame secondary or third(ary?) characters that get killed off or bullied or whatever. But rather some main characters whose who lives don’t revolve around an illness, or rather the whole plot doesn’t. That way, people who normally shy away from those books can find the importance of representation. Or that, while a big part of your life, and mental illness doesn’t have to entirely define who you are! You can read a book with depression and if you yourself have that, you can see that not all is hopeless. Yes of course you want the representation to be accurate (and again, people experience things differently), but that there is still hope. You can find that in a world where you can escape to.
Just as when we read a book and there is a character that we absolutely love and relate to and shares many of our struggles and you can seem them overcome! You can root for them, knowing the difficulties, because you’ve been there. Not a romance-cures-all trope or anything-is-possible-in-fictional-worlds, but where you can see that going to people for help, well, helps! That you aren’t a lost case because of some diagnosis. You can still live life. You can go on those adventures. You can relate, but not be slammed with all of your problems.
But, that’s my opinion.
To end us off, here are some books with some great representation. Please check some (or all) of them out!
All the Bright Places (depression, suicide, ptsd)
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (depression, suicide)
The Stormlight Archives (bipolar)
Storm Siren (self-worth, cutting)
I hope that you’ve all enjoyed this post (or that it made you think)! I – actually – had a lot of fun writing it. the words all just flowed. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Let’s discuss (respectfully) down below! Happy May, y’all! 😀