The Real Madness of Mental Illness

Harvard freshman Stephen Hinshaw was back home in Columbus, Ohio for spring break. His father, prominent Ohio State philosopher Virgil Hinshaw Jr., called him into his study for a talk. Within minutes, the son’s life changed forever.

For Stephen, the ensuing talks with his father answered questions he had kept buried for a lifetime. Why did Dad disappear all those times? Where did he go?

In Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness Stephen Hinshaw brilliantly shares his family’s story.

Now an eminent psychology professor at UC Berkeley, the author relates his father’s story. He tells how his family’s silence left its marks that he sees in himself every day.

Where did his dad go all those times? To various institutions for what was diagnosed at the time as schizophrenia. The treatments were extreme and included electric shock therapy.

Why did his father have to go away? His highs and lows were so extreme that he was unable to function in his job, in his family. Later came the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or manic depression.

Stephen Hinshaw describes how ending the silence and stigma attached to mental illness can heal and even prevent scars in patients and their families. The book will help some readers recognize scars in themselves.

Another Kind of Madness envisions a world in which stigma is no longer attached to any condition of human life.

You Can Make Anxiety Your Friend

If you are worried that you don’t know how to deal with anxiety, Sarah Rayner may be the just the person who can help.

Making Friends With Anxiety may seem like a terrible title if anxiety threatens your peace of mind, follows you everywhere, and ruins what should be the best of times. So, if making anxiety your enemy makes it worse, what should you do?

Rayner uses the gentle approach of a friend who understands. She describes how-to exercises and tips about life, including diet, breathing, and handling criticism. She breaks down medications, how to approach your doctor, the kinds of anxiety, and much more.

The author knows from experience. At one point, she admitted herself to a clinic to get help. Her struggle is real. Her words are genuine.

She helped me understand that my body sets off adrenaline and other stress hormones as a signal that something is wrong. It showed me it is harmful to come down hard on myself when I can’t necessarily stop the physical symptoms.

She makes it clear anxiety can be a difficult friend to live with. But Making Friends With Anxiety is full of support and hope.

As a companion book, have you read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? Click the title to see my brief discussion about one of the greatest books related to mental well-being.

My best wishes.

The Boy Between: A Gripping Story About Depression

There is a scourge that does not discriminate, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or sexuality. It often finds its way to victims through social media. And it does not watch a clock–it hits some people during the prime of life.

Depression tightens its grip on Josh Hartley when he goes away to England’s Southhampton University. He watches fellow students have the time of their lives, but for him, university life heightens the loneliness and despair he has experienced for years.

In The Boy Between: A Mother and Son’s Journey From a World Gone Grey, English novelist Amanda Prowse describes her struggle to lift her son from the depths of depression. She gains new hope as he heads off to university.

In alternating chapters, mother and son describe the journey. Josh’s narrative is especially powerful as he buries his shame under the covers of his bed. How do you come clean that you are not perfect? That you failed in college? Or, he asks himself, is it easier to check yourself out? For Josh, the book was a way to open the mental health conversation, especially for boys and men, with a message. He encourages males to say “I cry,” or “I suffer” and admit, “I need help.”

He is thankful he has a loving family to support him, but he and his mother now know those who have depression must lead their fight to get better. He pleads that other sufferers hang in there. “You are not alone.”

This is a book for the mentally ill, but also for those who want to understand an illness that affects so many. It holds a message of hope. It offers education through a story that relates the pitfalls of ignorance, like when someone tells a suffering youth to “Man up.”

As a sufferer of anxiety and depression as long as I can remember, I have found solace and much more on the long-distance trails of Europe. Like Josh, I told my story in a book (Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows), which was cathartic for me. I am most touched when readers write that my story helped them with their own struggles. Like Josh writes, we are all in this together.