20 Books That Have Helped People Through Depression

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If you live with depression, sometimes facing the day is difficult. When you find yourself fighting symptoms like feelings of isolation, fatigue and ruminating thoughts — just to name a few — it can be hard to cope. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, it can also be hard to find others who truly understand what you’re going through.

It’s at times like these that books may come in handy.

Sometimes a book gives you the words to explain what you’ve been feeling for so long. Sometimes books can make you feel less alone in your struggle — like someone else has been there, too. Or sometimes a book can simply provide a temporary reprieve from the depressive thoughts that crowd your brain. Whatever the reasons may be, we know books can be useful tools in battling depression, so we asked members of our mental health community to share a book they’d recommend to someone struggling with depression.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini

“It’s a great book for teenagers with depression because it makes you realize there will be people out there who understand what you’re going through, and also the emotions you feel are valid in every way.” — Kenzie L.

2. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

“It’s a biographical book about her struggles and own battles with depression in which she overcame them by accepting her flaws, made peace with her past and love who she has become because of what she went through. The book has and will always help me stay alive. Existence is pain, but it eases a little knowing even the greatest human beings too hurt just like you and me.” — Boonn H.

3. “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

“This book made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Everything he said in this memoir I could nod my head to. It was real, didn’t fluff over stuff and gave it the attention it needed. Anyone who feels guilt or shame about how they are feeling needs to read this. It normalized my experience and made me feel OK. It was also easy to read with short sections, so I could put it down when I was tired without feeling I had to get to a break.” — Erin W.

4. “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel

“I totally relate to Elizabeth Wurtzel and she explains how it feels to have depression so well. I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing someone else felt exactly how I feel now and she survived. Absolutely fabulous book.” — April B.

5. “Feeling Good” by David Burns

“It has completely changed the way I started approaching my own thoughts and moods. I learned to observe them, analyze them and stopped treating them as dogmas. It has allowed to me substitute them with more rational and helpful thoughts, which in turn allows me to say that after many months of depression I finally… feel good.” — Piotr K.

6. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

“It was a hard and emotional read, but I had never related to a character before in terms of a book character and my depression. I felt like I was looking at myself a lot of times, and it really is such an amazing book. It doesn’t paint it in a glorifying way, and I am thankful for that. Would definitely recommend but be warned it is triggering.” — Kaela W.

7. “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson

“While this book is about an eighth grader and her experience being raped, Melinda struggles with severe depression because of the trauma and struggles to find her voice, metaphorically and literally. Melinda often is mute because of the incident. Her art class becomes her sanctuary and slowly she finds her voice to speak up about the trauma she has endured. While I wasn’t raped, I experienced childhood abuse physically and mentally and when my 11th grade English teacher recommended this book, it cracked my shell and made me have more of an interest in art, which is now how I try and escape my major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder and my PTSD. [My teacher] helped me find the most important thing I’ll find within myself — a voice.” — Ashley C.

8. “Note to Self” by Connor Franta

“In Connor Franta’s book ‘Note to Self,’ he has a whole chapter about living with depression and how to support someone living with depression. It’s beautifully written. His sole purpose isn’t to give depression more awareness, although that is as extremely important thing to do, his purpose is to help people struggling by finding comfort in his words, to know they aren’t alone, to know that even people who appear to live a ‘perfect life’ struggle too. It’s so beautiful to see media influencers using their internet platforms to spread mental health awareness.” — Jasmine M.

9. “If You Feel Too Much” by Jamie Tworkowski

“The author is the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms, which raises awareness and offers help and resources for mental illness and suicide. It’s a collection of blog posts over several years, and I always feel comforted and less alone after reading a section or two.” — Shannen A.

10. “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson

“It’s a youth novel, but it’s so powerful. It lets readers know the darkness you feel can always give way to the light at the end of a tunnel.” — Bailey S.

11. “Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk

“[It’s a] fascinating study of President Lincoln and how depression shaped his life and presidency. It’s a nice reminder you can have a mental illness and still contribute to the world in a positive way.” — Annette A.

12. “Undoing Depression” by Richard O’Connor

“Incredibly thorough, covering many perspectives and crucially says, ‘You need a therapist, you can’t do it alone.’” — David P.

13. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

“It may be slightly triggering, but I could relate to what the protagonist was going through. In a way, it felt good to read the book to know that depression is common, even back in the 1960s, when the story was set.” — Mariah A.

14. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom

“It’s an amazing storyline and gives an incredible perspective to life and how you live it. Especially your interactions with others and how they can change their lives no matter how small that interaction is.” — Katie G.

15. “You Are Special” by Max Lucado

“It’s a children’s book, but it’s so poignant. The message of the story explicitly contradicts a lot of what depression says about oneself (you’re a mistake, you don’t have value, you’re a burden, etc.) I was given a copy of this book when I was 5 years old, and my mom would read it to me on bad depression days and it would just make everything better. I took that same copy with me to college and I would read it whenever I was really down and now, my husband will read it to me. The book reminds me I’m not a mistake and, despite what my depression tells me, I am worthy of life.” — Ellen G.

16. “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson

“It’s funny, poignant and inspiring. Lawson really ‘takes you there’ and opens up about depression, self-harm, therapy, relationships and the challenges that can come from living a life with mental illness.” — Tiffany A.

17. “My Fight, Your Fight” by Ronda Rousey

“Ronda struggled through her dad’s suicide, dropping out of high school and many other things. Her struggles made her who she is today though, a UFC fighter [who] never gives up.” — Aaron O.

18. Game of Thrones ( A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R.R. Martin

“They were a wonderful distraction and you get so much insight on the characters and their talents and flaws from a first person perspective of so many different kinds of people. You witness abuse through their eyes and you witness how that shapes them and either breaks them or allows them to persevere and grow.” — J.S.

19. “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

“Excellent book especially for those struggling to find hope and meaning in their suffering. Very helpful if you struggle with existentialism, as I do. I highly recommend this book to everyone!” — Bethany P.

20. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

“It’s not a book, but a series. The Harry Potter series, to be exact. This series was the only reason I stayed alive through my teenage years. It’s such an immersive, imaginative, incredible world, and you can’t help but cry with Harry, love with Harry and triumph with Harry. Through all his struggles, he kept going. With his friends love and encouragement, he found hope. Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Kat P.

What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via Tasia12.


20 Books That Have Helped People Through Depression
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What to Know About Loving Me Regarding My Depression

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It’s not impossible to love me.

I cannot lie – it will not be easy, but no relationship is.

Relationships are hard, and this one may be the hardest of them all.

However, it could be wonderful. I have so much love to give.

It will be hard, but not impossible. Not if I commit. Commit to continuing my treatment. Commit to looking after myself. Commit to trying make myself happy. Commit myself to you. To us.

It’ll be hard, but not impossible. Not if I understand. Understand that seeing me low will upset you. Understand you’ll be hurt when I push you away. Understand your fear and frustration and feelings of helplessness are valid. Understand that, when I’m OK, you’ll need me to tell what to do next time I fall ill.

If I commit and understand, then you can love me.

Stand by me.

Be patient with me.

Love me.

But I must commit and I must understand. I must.

And… I did not.

I did not commit or understand. My love now lies deep inside me. Unspent. Wasted. I can have no complaints.

Loving me is not impossible. I just made it so.

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Thinkstock photo via OcusFocus

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Why It's Important to Note I Woke Up Happy Today

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I woke up happy today.

And to you that may seem strange. You woke up happy? Why wouldn’t you wake up happy? Sure, everyone has their complaints in the morning – “it’s raining, again?” – the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, you’re still trying to wipe the fog from your brain in the shower. Sure, not everyone wakes up happy as soon as they pop their eyelids open, but why wouldn’t you be happy?

Because the truth of the matter is I don’t wake up happy every day.

It’s not because I haven’t accepted the normality of my life and I sometimes take for granted how precious each and every day is. It’s not because I sometimes just don’t see the beauty in the small things – a sunny day, a good morning kiss from my fiancé, a nightmare-free sleep, because I do appreciate all of those things. It’s just that sometimes, despite the weather, despite how long it takes my morning latte to kick in, despite the affection I get from my fur babies as I untangle myself from my bed sheets – sometimes I just don’t wake up happy.

Because sometimes my mental illness doesn’t let me wake up happy.

I live a fairly simple life. My days aren’t filled with great wonder, or awe-inspiring moments, or spectacular opportunities. I live as most people do, uncomplicated for the most part – and a bit mundane for the most part. Sure, I get to spend my days creating vivid universes and inspiring characters to share with the world (hopefully some day soon), but for the most part, I live just like everybody else. I have set routines in place. I follow schedules. I spend time with my pets. I cuddle with my fiancé in the evening. Yes, these things are precious to me, but they’re nothing that would make your jaw drop. I live a fairly simple life and I’m OK with that.

But sometimes my mental illness doesn’t let me appreciate this. Sometimes my mental illness takes away those precious moments. Sometimes my illness doesn’t let me value life’s greatest gift – simply just being alive.

Not every day, because I have come a long way, but sometimes my illness likes to slap me across the face, reminding me I’m not always in control. My illness likes to creep in the shadows while plotting against me, and every now and then — just when I think I feel secure — my illness likes to strike back.

Today I woke up happy, but yesterday I didn’t.

The looming dark cloud draped over me as soon as I opened my eyelids. That bottomless sense of doom made me feel so empty my chest ached. Regardless of the weather peeping through the blinds, I didn’t wake up happy – and it wasn’t because I didn’t have my morning dose of caffeine. I retreated into myself and pulled the comforter over my head, blocking out everything around me. I didn’t wake up happy.

But today I did.

And waking up happy doesn’t mean I have some great “Ah ha!” moment. Waking up happy doesn’t mean I have these wondrous epiphanies that give me some meta-philosophical perspective that makes me value the world around me. Do I get excited when I wake up and have a killer idea for my novel or a mind-blowing plot twist? Hell yes, but for me, I don’t want these grand moments.

I just want to be able to wake up and simply say, “I’m happy.”

Because to wake up and be able to pull myself out of bed – that’s an accomplishment. To be able to shower and take pride in my appearance – that’s a total win. To go about my day and not have that lurking sense of doom, that one fleeting moment of anxiety – that’s the ultimate prize! And yes, most days my illness does linger in the back of my mind. My illness is always there whether I’m consciously aware of it or not, but most days are better than others. Most days I can tell my illness to piss off, but other days it’s persistent – like a devil whispering in my ear, filling my head with terrible thoughts.

And most days, sometimes the best thing I can do is hold the line. Sometimes I reach a stalemate with my illness, so unsure whether I’m losing the battle or winning the war. Some days I’m unclear as to what I am feeling, but I do my best to trudge forward. It’s like holding a dam together with chewing gum. If I have to stick my fingers in the holes to prevent the water from escaping, then I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the flood gates from bursting open. Every day doesn’t have to be a win. Do I get a smug sense of pride being able to whisper a quiet “F**k you!” to my illness? Of course I do, but there are days my stalemates are small victories too.

So it’s not about the weather, or the amount of caffeine I consume before noon, or foregoing showering to spend the day in my sweats. It’s not a question of whether I went for a morning run or if I write ten pages – or just one. It’s not a matter of taming the dark thoughts or ignoring the devil on my shoulder by drowning him out with the music score from the new Power Rangers movie. While all of those things play important roles in setting the pace for my day, sometimes the best I can do is just take it one moment at a time, hour by hour, minute by minute.

Because I woke up happy today.

And that’s all that matters.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Thinkstock photo via ArthurHidden

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The Importance of Self-Care Before You Self-Destruct

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I used to think celebrities were just being dramatic when they would go to rehab for stress or exhaustion. After having three children, I totally get it. In fact, I get it so much that, if I had the money, I’d have checked myself in months ago.

Being tired is sucky. Being tired, depressed, anxious and just stressed the hell out is super sucky. Top it off with some everyday stress, strong-willed offspring and a sloppy spouse (sorry dear, we all know it’s true), and I’m on the verge of a super-duper sucky meltdown.

My mother tried to warn me of this, in the form of: “Always make time for yourself! If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I’m not your average mama bear, I’ve got this!”

I have recently realized that maybe I don’t got this and it’s really hard to admit, but I’ve been making sure to let people know I’m struggling with my everyday responsibilities. Naturally, I was expecting some negative feedback. Instead, I found support, which was very refreshing.

I was offered a weekend getaway, because my husband is just that nice. I’ll still be close by, at my best girlfriend’s house, but that’s vacation enough for me. I will only have to worry about taking care of myself, for a change. I will miss my children and husband so very much, but I really need some of that “me time” so I can better handle all the “we time.” I can’t continue to take care of them if I continue to neglect myself. I will come home well-rested and ready to go back to my life. I need this reset weekend, because I just don’t think a reset day is going to help this time.

Never be ashamed to let someone know you need help. Being a parent is hard. Just being an adult is hard. Always make sure you’re giving yourself those hours, days, or even weekends, to just focus on you. We all need to remember that we have to keep the machine oiled and serviced regularly, or it will shut down. We’re no good to anyone if we’re completely incapacitated.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages

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To Anyone Not Working Right Now Because of Depression

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“So, what do you do?”

When you meet new people or catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while, one of the first questions they ask is, “What do you do?” It’s a basic “get to know you” question. But when you can’t work because of a mental illness — that question isn’t so easy to answer.

In my experience the conversation goes a lot like this:

Person: So, what do you do?

Me: I’m not really doing much right now.

Person: Are you working?

Me: No.

Person: Are you in school?

Me: No.

Person: Are you studying?

Me: No.

Person (visibly confused): Well, what do you do all day?

I know this question isn’t meant to be malicious, but it’s typically said in a way that makes me feel ashamed of not working or studying; as if the fact that I’m not going out and contributing to society in the conventional way, or studying so that I can do so in the future, makes me less than people who are. People see a physically healthy 18-year-old and wonder why she’s presumably lounging around at home when she should be doing something productive.

For me, surviving is the most productive thing I could possibly be doing right now, and it is not an easy thing to do. Getting through each day is my job, and I don’t get a break from it. There’s no paid vacation when it comes to mental illness. My version of work assignments are the basic tasks needed to keep myself alive: remembering to eat, drink enough water, shower, change my clothes, brush my teeth and take my meds. It might not seem like much, but some days even the basics are near impossible.

I would love nothing more than to be working; to have a stable job and stable income. I don’t live week to week because it’s fun; I do it because at this point in my life I have no other choice. My depression drains me of my energy and motivation and my anxiety stops me from interacting with people and putting myself out there. It’s not that I’m just not trying hard enough to push past all that — it’s that I can’t. Sometimes people are able to push through it — but that’s not the case for everyone.

I wish I could say the more I get asked this question the easier it gets, but every time it comes up, I still find myself at a loss for words. Lately my reply has been, “I’m just trying to get through each day.” This seems to work relatively well with most people. I’m trying to accept I don’t need to make excuses or give anyone an explanation, because it’s simply none of their business. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but the stigma that anyone who isn’t currently working is “lazy” makes it difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to be put in that situation.

If you’re like me and unable to work, I want you to remember these few things:

1. You don’t have to be working to be a valuable member of society. Your worth isn’t measured by your ability to contribute something measurable. Your worth is innate. You are worthy of good things simply because you exist. You don’t have to earn that right.

2. You don’t have to prove to anyone that your illness is “bad enough.” Everyone experiences things differently and you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone.

3. You’re not alone. There are many people that can’t work, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that. It’s out of our control. The best thing we can do is work toward improving our mental health, and that is one of the hardest jobs out there.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via a-wrangler

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Honest Pictures People With Depression Want to Post on Facebook, but Don't

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Members of The Mighty’s mental health community share honest photos of what it looks like when they are struggling with depression.

Read the full version of 20 Honest Pictures People With Depression Want to Post on Facebook, but Don’t.

Read the full transcript:

Honest Pictures People With Depression Want to Post on Facebook, but Don’t

“I wanted to capture that emotion — the feeling of a person with depression. How they feel when happy, sad, empty, etc.”

“For me, depression isn’t a wistful look off into the distance or stroking a wall looking glum.”

“My fear in sharing photos like this is that people will assume that I couldn’t possibly still be depressed.”

“I asked my best friend to sketch me. I told her I wanted to look strong, and I wanted it to resemble beauty despite my scars.”

“This picture was taken at the hospital. I want to show people how far I have come.”

“I was trying to trick everyone, when the reality was every day was spent in fear and misery.”

“I took this picture right before my first dose of antidepressants.”

“This is a portrait of the first time I sat home alone trying to decide whether or not I’d live or die.”

“This is my service dog in training. She is one of the only things that keep me hanging on.”

“I’m really proud of this painting but depression tells me there’s no point.”

“When I’m depressed, sometimes I play with Snapchat’s filters to feel better.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling (800)-273-8255.

You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741-741.

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