Sometimes, those of us who suffer with mental illness take some perverse comfort (perverse because; who should really wish their fellow human beings ill) in the knowledge that we are not alone. I am no different. When I was first diagnosed with chronic depression I needed to see what that illness looked like. As is my nature, I began to ask lots of questions which lead me to books on the topic.
Did you know that the author of the nineteenth century novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, was chronically depressed? She wrote the following in her personal journal,
“ My mind slumbers and my heart is dull—is life quite over? Have the wreaks and storms of the last years destroyed my intellect, my imagination, my capacity of invention—what am I become?”
Mental illness was treated very differently in the mid-nineteenth century. Patients were tided down, kept in the dark, or worse. Back then, mental illness was a subject that was never spoken of for the fear of what would happen to the ill person. Unlike our own experience, Mary Shelley had no one to model what mental illness looked like. She suffered in silence, in private, and only confessed her fears and conditions to trusted friends,family, and in her very private journals. I am grateful that mental illness is not so stigmatized (though there is still room to grow). All I can say is thank goodness for books.
©Holly Ballantyne 2011