Mental Health Memoirs to Help with Understanding and Awareness

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These powerful memoirs are filled with the struggle, successes, and experiences of living with a mental health issue.  Reading one of these first hand accounts can help to increase understanding, reduce stigma, and make you feel a little less alone.


My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

Focuses on: Anxiety

Part memoir and part education, Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic magazine, examines the research conducted to work to understand anxiety, as well as the myriad of treatments offered for anxiety.  He also shares his personal struggle with anxiety, and how he has worked to control and manage his symptoms.


The Man Who Couldn’t Stop

Focuses on: OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Having lived with OCD for over twenty years, David Adam wrote this book which explores the experiences of people living with OCD, including his own, with a refreshing dose of humour. 


Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over

Focuses on: Depression, Grief, Self-Harm

Though it's not a typical memoir, this book is filled with essays and photos from individuals sharing their own stories and experiences.  Everything is centered around Project Semicolon's idea that your story isn't yet over.


Reasons to Stay Alive

Focuses on: Depression

After recovering from depression, Matt Haig writes to his former self in the depths of depression. With a tone of deep understanding, Matt explores learning to celebrate the small things.


Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

Focuses on: Depression, Anxiety, Avoidant Personality Disorder

Though depression and anxiety might not seem hilarious, Jenny Lawson has a way of making this so.  She also provides a super realistic view of living with mental health issues, including recognizing terms like "just cheer up" aren't going to work.



This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression

Focuses on: Depression

Daphne Merkin has lived with depression her entire life - and has been hospitalized three times throughout her life, including while she was in grade school and after she gave birth to her daughter for postpartum depression.  This book is not so much about overcoming depression, but living with it at a manageable level. She also incorporates her story of working and developing as a writer.


The Buddha and the Borderline: A Memoir

Focuses on: Borderline Personality Disorder

After dealing with different issues like addiction, self-harm, and depression for more than twenty years, author Kiera Van Gelder was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Her memoir not only explores her experience leading up to diagnosis, but also her recovery, including therapy and how  Buddhist Spirituality helped her to rediscover compassion for herself and others.


Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Focuses on: Eating Disorders

Actress Portia de Rossi shares her story of dealing with anorexia and bulimia from her time of being a model in Australia to while acting on Ally McBeal.  With wonderful honesty, she goes over how hiding her sexuality made her feel isolated and how she worked to get to a place of health and being able to share her story.



Focuses on: Surviving sexual assault

Though it doesn't deal with a mental health disorder, this memoir deals with author of The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold's experience after being sexual assaulted when she was 18. Alice's vulnerability and strength makes this book an important read.


Manic: A Memoir

Focuses on: Bipolar Disorder

Terri Cheney is a successful entertainment lawyer - who also happens to live with bipolar disorder.  In this memoir, she really describes and gives a voice to the ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder.


The Center Cannot Hold

Focuses on: Schizophrenia

Although she has dealt with schizophrenia for most of her life, Dr. Saks is a professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist.  Her book gives a look into living with paranoia and overcoming obstacles.


An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Focuses on: Bipolar Disorder

Dr. Kay Jamison has the unique perspective in that she is both an expert in bipolar disorder and someone who lives with bipolar disorder herself. She does a fantastic job balancing discussing the ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder with providing her own wisdom.


Just Checking: Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive

Focuses on: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

With a wonderful sense of humor, Emily Colas' shares her experience of going from living as a wife and mother of two to when OCD began to take over her life.  As she attempts to gain her control back, we see her unbreakable spirit emerge.



Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me

Focuses on: OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Ellen Forney is a creative artist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just before age 13.  After fearing that being on medication would affect her creativity, she set out to explore the benefits and drawbacks of different medications and their impact on bipolar disorder and creativity. The result is a wonderful memoir with plenty of images and a great focus on brilliant artists and writers who also dealt with mood disorders.


Get Me Out Of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder

Focuses on: Borderline Personality Disorder

Rachel Reiland does a wonderful job at explaining exactly how borderline personality disorder feels from the inside.  This book also gives a really realistic yet hopeful look toward recovery. 



Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Though this book is a memoir that deals with psychosis caused by a medical issue, it's still a gripping book that deals with the experience of being labeled psychotic, the diagnostic process, and the journey of recoverying one's identity.


Open Heart, Open Mind

Focuses on: Depression

Clara Hughes was the first athlete to win medals in both the winter and summer Olympic Games - but she's also been through a struggle with depression.  In her memoir, Clara takes us through her childhood as living with a father who had alcoholism, to her successful career in professional sports, to her struggle with depression and towards becoming the national spokesperson for Bell Let's Talk and a strong mental health advocate.