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5 Great Books About Mental Health – because therapy isn’t cheap!

Black and white board with “Self Care Isn’t Selfish” written on it.

We are in the third year of a pandemic. Everyone is going through something right now. Some people are doing better than others, and how well someone is doing right now can be affected by a lot of things. Money, job and housing security, intimate relationships, friendships and support safety nets differ from person to person. In Australia, there are some ways to access subsidised mental health care, but it is also not so straightforward to access and it is limited. There are just not enough resources invested in mental health care for people to really benefit from it, in my opinion. I believe this to be true for the world at large.

Books are not going to be a substitute for medication or therapy, but they do have their place in mental health and self-care. The simple act of reading a book, any book, can help lower your heart rate and give you space to destress and decompress. What I wanted to do with today’s post, is share some books that I either read or listened to that helped me look after my own mental health. This is in no way medical advice, nor should these books replace any medications or therapies you are already taking. What I hope though, is that these books might be able to give you a starting point to help navigate your own mental health concerns and maybe these books might even give you the courage to seek out the help and support you need.

1. My Year of Living Vulnerably – by Rick Morton

Book cover of Rick Morton’s My Year Of Living Vulnerably. Orange and pink ombre background with white writing.

Rick Morton is an Australian author who wrote about his life, the early stages of the pandemic, trauma and sexual assault, and living with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. I found this book to be extremely comforting when I read it in the last lockdown we had that started last winter and went on forever. My brother had been recently diagnosed with cancer and I was cut off from him for months due to border closures while he went for surgery after surgery after surgery to try and save him. That separation brought up a lot of old traumas around my father’s death from cancer ten years earlier and I was not okay.

Morton has a very easy way of speaking about mental health and also describing how his mental health affected his life. I found it particularly eye-opening at the subtle things about PTSD he described and how one could easily overlook these things or shrug them off as something else. I didn’t think I would want to read a book like this if I am honest. I thought to myself, I am living through this f**king pandemic, I don’t need to read about it too! But it turns out, that was exactly what I needed.

2. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls – by Jes Baker

Book cover of Jes Baker’s book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. Light blue background with red writing and a red silhouette of a woman laying down.

Body image. The Covid-15 pounds. Lockdown binging. The discourses around the pandemic are on hyperdrive when it comes to health, wellness, and fitness. There is every kind of guru out there telling you to drink everything from celery juice to your own urine to help you stay healthy. But what is healthy? Apparently if social media and Hollywood are to be believed it is skinny white women doing yogalates. Baker’s book is a myth-busting fat liberation self-love handbook. It is the kind of book I would tell anyone to read, regardless of their size. If you are waking up each day and making it through a once in a lifetime catastrophic event like a global pandemic on the backdrop of rapid climate change and a potential all-out war – then, to use the words of Kris Jenner, “You’re doing amazing sweetie!”

3. Set Boundaries, Find Peace – by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Book cover of Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab. White background with black and orange writing, and four coloured squares on each corner of the cover.

I recommend this book to everyone I know and everyone I don’t. Hey you! You reading this – if there is one book you read this year, let it be this book. I have seen so many articles, social media posts, memes, and everything in between talking about setting boundaries. Boundaries are extremely important, but most people have no clue how to set healthy boundaries. And I emphasis healthy here because a lot of people will think they are setting healthy boundaries when really, they are doing the total opposite. If you have ever wanted solid examples about what boundaries look like, how to set them, how to reset them, how to enforce them in healthy ways, and how to recognise how to respect other people’s boundaries then this is the book for you. This changed a lot for me. It was a turning point. It was like a thousand light bulbs went off when I read this and I think I will be coming back to this book for many years to come.

4. Can’t Even – by Anne Helen Petersen

Book cover of Anne Helen Petersen’s book Can’t Even. The book cover is a light peach with white and blue writing and a burnt match stick.

I have never felt so validated by a book before. If you have felt a general ick for a while, but you can’t quite figure it out then Petersen’s book might help you find ways to describe what you are feeling. Petersen’s book isn’t really a self-help book like some of the other books on this list, but it is a social commentary sociology discussion of what it means to be a millennial right now. And if you thought you were alone in thinking that things were looking pretty bleak, then let me tell you… you are not alone. Petersen outlines what societal burnout looks like and also addresses some of the larger socio-economic and political reasons we are all feeling a little bit exhausted.

5. The Body Is Not An Apology – by Sonya Renee Taylor

Book cover of Sonya Renee Taylor’s book The Body is Not An Apology. Image of the author laying naked with flowers around her.

I might be saving the best till last, but I absolutely loved Taylor’s book. Her work is part self-help, part social and political commentary, part race-theory, part radical self-love. Her theory on “body terrorism” is mind-blowing and absolutely so needed in our world today. This book specifically looks at the intersections of race and body and what it means to have a black body in a world that hates black bodies. Again, if you are tired of being made to feel bad for how you look, your size, the colour of your skin, and your hair texture, then this book will help you know you are not alone and also give you some amazing tools to go forward.

There are so many more books that could be added to this list, but you know that the algorithms like it when you keep it short and snappy. Please let me know if you read any of these books and if they helped you in any way. Also, please don’t let this list stop here. Tell me in the comments what books you would recommend for people to help with their mental health. As always, share the reading love.

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