October is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and our Creativity Matters posts this month will address the issues and education surrounding this concern.
Many creators know the difficulties of trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles intimately, and there is a great deal to share about how the ways we read and write help us process them. Although depression and anxiety were already on the rise, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that increase. Unfortunately, there is still misunderstanding, stigma, and ignorance surrounding the ways we communicate about these topics.
Much of these misconceptions show up in the form of toxic statements that place the blame solely on the person suffering, diminish and deny their life experiences, or burden them with the need to “try harder.” I’m not here to try to debunk all of these false notions. That’s not the purpose of this post. But in a nutshell…
It’s not a choice.
It’s not a weakness of character.
It’s not an attempt to get attention.
It’s a health condition that diminishes a person’s quality of life and requires intervention, often the intervention of medical treatment. You would never ask someone with heart disease whether they’re afraid their medication is “changing who they are.” You would never advise someone with cancer to “try not having cancer.” No one deserves to be shamed for taking care of their body.
There’s nothing about the toxic dialogue surrounding people in mental health crisis that is okay.
Perhaps that’s why as writers, it’s so healing to hear what our fellow creators have to say about these problems.
In a world where many of us are misunderstood and marginalized for aspects of our lives that already cause us so much pain, learning that other people—other artists, nonetheless—have stood where we are is empowering.
One of the best ways to change the conversation about mental health is by looking at what our fellow authors have written across decades and even centuries.
People have always struggled with these problems. They aren’t new. And there’s something about seeing our own experiences on the pages of a book written years ago, from authors we admire, that makes us feel hopeful and understood. Please enjoy these words from authors about the experience of mental health struggles, as well as the hope and healing that can lie on the other side. Feel free the share the images below on your own blogs and social media to continue the conversation among other artists.
"We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen."
—D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
“Feelings don't try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous. You're responsible for its consequences, you're responsible for treating it. But...you're not responsible for causing it. You're not morally at fault for it. No more than you would be for a tumor.”
― Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here
“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn't.”
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
"Don't let yourself feel worthless: often through life you will really be at your worst when you seem to think best of yourself; and don't worry about losing your "personality," as you persist in calling it: at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4 p.m."
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
"Make not your thoughts your prisons."
―William Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra
“you look at me and cry everything hurts i hold you and whisper but everything can heal”
― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Tears are words that need to be written.”
― Paulo Coelho
“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” ― Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places
“I’m here now. Letting them out. Freeing my words Building better walls.” ― Tamara Ireland Stone, Every Last Word
“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
What about you? What literary quotes about mental and emotional health have inspired you? Type them in the comments below.