Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I am going to make a bold claim. I think The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is one of the most important books I have ever read. I'd even go one step further - I think it's also one of the most important books written in the English language. And I think everyone who can read, should read it.

I might have missed Mental Health Awareness Week which was last week but we are still embroiled in the heart of Mental Health May. So to add my contribution into the mix of blogposts, I am going to urge you all to read this book.

It is incredible to me that we can live in the 21st century (in a supposedly free and open society, that is accepting of so many things) yet people with mental health issues can still meet as much of a stigma as they do. How is it possible that when so many people suffer such a varied number of diseases, they still encounter such an awful prejudice from the people around them. Even from those people who are meant to care for them.

The problem is, people just don't understand mental health illnesses. Because they can't see it. And because it is hard to explain. And because opening up about it and talking about feelings makes a person extremely vulnerable. Which means people tend not to do it. So people don't understand it and so there is a stigma around it. Because people can't see it. And because it is hard to explain. And so the vicious circle goes on and on.

By reading The Bell Jar, you break the circle. Here is an ideal opportunity to examine one person's descent into darkness and it is an incredibly moving read. If you can handle it. It is very intense, very dark and very detailed. Plath has no qualms in depicting her demons completely thoroughly and opens up in a way that is impossible for the majority of sufferers to do.

When I read it, I realised just how mild my own depression was and how much worse it could be. Although I related to some bits of the book, I have never suffered anywhere near to the same amount but it was reassuring to know that I was not alone in my hurting. Below I have picked out a couple of lines from The Bell Jar which really resonated with me and could help anyone who doesn't suffer with mental health disorders to understand a little more about the thought process that goes on when our brains do not behave themselves.

'I hated these visits because I kept feeling the visitors measuring [me]...against what I had been and what they wanted me to be.'
There is nothing worse for someone who suffers, than if they feel like they are being judged. It can set progress back by months and makes them clam up. Everyone has an idea of how a person should be and how they should act and the problem with mental health sufferers is they don't fall neatly into those little boxes. And that's something that the person involved has to come to terms with, in order to improve. So to be judged against how they should be or how they were when they seemed 'fine' is not helpful. At all.

'The world itself is the bad dream'
This will be impossible for anyone to understand unless you have been there yourself. But battling against your own brain is exhausting. And you can't escape it. The world becomes a nightmare and every single moment can be agony. Yet nobody notices. It is heartbreaking and I wish nobody had to suffer in silence.

'They were a part of me. They were my landscape.'
If you suffer from mental health issues it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. However hard everyone tries to make you feel that way. And that's what we all have to remember. They are a part of our personality. Not a particularly nice part for us but a part of us all the same. And that's ok. You are allowed to be exactly who you are. Nobody should make you feel bad for not fitting the mould. And the sooner everyone just became more accepting of those who are different to themselves, the better.

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