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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Mental Health Representation in Books: Depression

As I have written before, depression is something I have dealt with since I was a teen.

A young teen.

I admit my favored genres don’t seem like ones I am likely to see myself in (fantasy and historical mystery) Except that genre books often have excellent representation—after all, the relatable bits of those stories are about people.

I have read so very many passages in so very many books and immediately thought, “That! That is how I feel!” So, I’m sharing some of the ways books have clarified or shown a light on things I didn’t have the words for myself.

The Charm Offensive

Depression and anxiety were self-abnegating and self-centering at the same time. It was so easy to believe that because my feelings were huge, they exerted a force beyond me. It was so easy to forget that even though I was always being forced to think about myself, not everyone else did.

Roan Parrish, Invitation to the Blues

It’s hard to step outside yourself—even when you aren’t depressed. But when you are depressed it’s can feel impossible.

I was in my head, and that was the worst place for anyone to be, especially me.

Alexis Hall, Boyfriend Material

When you’re in a depressive episode, it’s almost impossible to escape your own head.

I couldn’t breathe and I was running through every single shitty thing I’d ever done, pulling my mistakes around me like some kind of armor against the hope of anything good.

Riven, Roan Parrish

There is isolation, a feeling of being trapped with your own brain.

Husband Material

I’d give my blood or my firstborn or my voice or my entire bloody inheritance for a mind that does not stand on the opposite side of the battlefield from me.

Mackenzi Lee, The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks

You can see the things that other people have, but can’t believe they will ever be for you.

“I suppose you weren’t in the mood for any of Callie’s lovely barbecues last summer?”

No, Zach hadn’t been. Although, his mood might have improved if anyone had thought to invite him to those barbecues. Or tell him he’d been missed. Or ask if he was okay. Or remember he existed at all.

Talia Hibbert, That Kind of Guy

And you know other people are judging you, making assumptions.

(S)he was, as people loved to put it, mentally unstable. (They thought) unbelievably common blips in brain chemistry made her some kind of separate species.

Talia Hibbert, Untouchable

Thing is, you’re not doing this on purpose. You know things aren’t right. You want to make things better.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown

“When I’m depressed,” Nate said casually, “I always know what I should be doing. I know exactly. I just don’t do it.”

Talia Hibbert, Untouchable

You know your friends aren’t judging you, but are certain they must be disappointed in you.

I’d fuck up and let them down, they’d feel sad, I’d feel sad, they’d feel sad for making me feel sad, and so on, and so on, and so on. As if I didn’t bear enough frustration and regret on my own account, without also feeling guilty for hurting the people who loved me.

Alexis Hall, Glitterland

Even when trying to be helpful, people don’t get that there is nothing they can do to make you better. The demons are in your head and as much as you want to excise them—you can’t.

They wanted to make things okay for me, as if cooking the right dinner or renting the right movie might fundamentally change the way my brain worked. It was painful to watch. Painful to see them flounder over and over to turn the world into a place I could fit.

Roan Parrish, Invitation to the Blues

Which leads to hiding from everyone, because you lack the ability to explain yourself, which makes everything too much work.

A Case for Christmas

I suppose that’s what comes of purposefully avoiding everyone you love. But I had to— have to— stay away from them, at least until I’m not so miserable, so distant, such a burden. Don’t I?

Talia Hibbert, Work for It

And doing everything you can to hide how much you are struggling from those who might notice.

The nice thing about heavy sweaters was you could wear them a long time without having to wash them, but still. There was a limit. There were a lot of limits, actually. Since grooming was one of those things people watched for, I made sure to clean beneath my fingernails and behind my ears.

Josh Lanyon, The Haunted Heart: Winter

Sometimes the problem is the things you do, but sometimes it’s things you don’t do.

He closed his eyes. He hadn’t told his brother that he hadn’t drawn in eight months.

Roan Parrish, Better Than People

When you’re struggling, you feel alone. It doesn’t matter what people say, because your brain is so much louder than anyone else’s words.

“(I)t’s difficult, sometimes, for me to understand that I have the power to hurt someone. You see, it requires me to accept that somebody might like me in the first place.”

Alexis Hall, Glitterland

Team Phison Forever

There is also the knowledge that even if things are okay today, that doesn’t mean it all won’t come crashing down tomorrow.

(E)very day when I was okay shimmered with a threat just out of view. I’d stop in the middle of doing something and check in: did I still feel okay? I did. I would reassure myself, See! You are still okay! But once I began to look down and check that the ground was still flat, every step felt like the one that might suddenly slope downhill. And even when it didn’t, the edge felt like it was growing nearer and each day became more and more vertiginous.

Roan Parrish, Invitation to the Blues

You try do the right things, because you know they help.

“Plus this”—Charlie adopts Dev’s frantic hand gesture—“this is for my mental health. All the exercise, I mean. I don’t do it because I care what my body looks like. I do it because I care how my brain feels.”

Alison Cochrun, The Charm Offensive

And meds help—they do! But even with meds the world can still come crashing down around you.

I wouldn’t have called myself a superstitious man, but when it came to the intricacies of my biochemistry, the complexities of my illness, I was as helpless as a frightened child who prayed to a god called science.

Alexis Hall, Glitterland

American Fairytale

Even when everything was fine, when she should be great, unease stalked her like a predator. Because she knew that at any moment, things might change. Her own fucking brain chemistry, the traitor, might drag her out of her body again.

Talia Hibbert, Untouchable

What’s harder is it’s often a slow descent. You’re ok, and then you have a bad day. And another bad day. Until you realize you can’t remember the last time you had a good day.

It was a bad feeling, knowing the depression had crept up and was already drowning me before I had realized it.

Lissa Kasey, Model Investigator

And here’s why these books are so important: Because when things are bad, knowing you aren’t alone—that others have struggled and found a way to put your feelings into words—matters.

It helps to know that it’s not just you, to remember you have come out the other side before, and you can do it again.

 

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call or text 988

Veterans Crisis Line Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255

Mental Health Resources

MentalHealth.gov

NAMI

NIMH

The Right Resources Can Help You Manage Depression

5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

 


 

Books with Depression Representation

 

Romance: Contemporary

Getting it Right (2015) A.M. Arthur (Restoration) main character, supporting character

The Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun, main character

Glitterland (2018) Alexis Hall (Spires) main character

London Calling series by Alexis Hall, main character (Contemporary Romance): Boyfriend Material (2020), Husband Material (2022)

Untouchable (2018) Talia Hibbert (Ravenswood) main character

That Kind of Guy (2019) Talia Hibbert (Ravenswood) main character

Work for It (2019) Talia Hibbert, main character

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (2020) Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters) main character

Invitation to the Blues (2018) Roan Parrish (Small Change) main character

Rend (2018) Roan Parrish (Riven) main character

Better than People (2020) Roan Parrish (Garnet Run) main character

Whiteout (2017) Elyse Springer (Seasons of Love) main character

Team Phison Forever (2019) Chace Verity, main character

American Fairytale (2019) Adriana Herrera, parental

Romance: Historical

After the Wedding (2018) Courtney Milan (Worth Saga) main character

To Charm a Naughty Countess (2014) Theresa Romain, main character (The Matchmaker Trilogy) main character

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress (2015) Theresa Romain, main character (The Matchmaker Trilogy) main character

Mystery: Contemporary

The Haunted Heart: Winter (2013) Josh Lanyon, main character

Haven Investigations series by Lissa Kasey, main character: Model Citizen (2016), Model Bodyguard (2016), Model Exposure (2017), Model Investigator (2017)

Mystery: Historical

A Case for Christmas (2021) J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry (The Lords of Bucknall Club) main character

Fantasy

Spirits that Walk in Shadow (2006) Nina Kiriki Hoffman main character

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (2016) Paul Cornell (Shadow Police) main character

 

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call or text 988

 

Why Representation in Books Is Important
Mental Health Representation in Books: Anxiety
Mental Health Representation in Books: Grief
Mental Health Representation in Books: PTSD
Mental Health Representation in Books: Addiction and Eating Disorders

 

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