Recording a Breakdown

This Week’s Book: The Bell Jar (S. Plath)

I’ll admit it – sometimes non-fiction bores me.  Most of the books that I read for this blog are non-fiction and reading them takes up a good portion of each week.  Yes, I create balance by always having a novel on the go too (for the record, right now it is The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald)…but sometimes I just want to put aside non-fiction 100%.  Luckily, I’m able to find some relevant novels every once in a while.  Shocker: I bought this novel a looooong time ago…yet another one that has been collecting dust for far too long on my shelf.

This book was written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Sylvia Plath, and is said to be semi-autobiographical in nature.  Given the harrowing details and obvious understanding of the thought processes of a person experiencing depression, it seems likely that it is true.  The Bell Jar is a classic novel written about the emotional breakdown of the main character, Esther Greenwood.  Readers follow the journey of Esther as she struggles with a lack of enthusiasm about her college years and the lacklustre relationships of her past and present.  As time progresses, Esther descends into a depression so deep that she is given shock therapy and eventually placed in an asylum.

I think that this is a great read for both professionals and the general population, as it reveals the thought processes that can be commonly linked to depression.  For example, on page 75 that narrator (Esther) states “I started adding up all the things I couldn’t do.”  These types of negative thought spirals are so characteristic to depression and even anxiety.  Throughout the book, readers are also privy to some of Esther’s catastrophic thoughts and her genuine belief that she was going to fail at healing and end her life in suicide.  Readers who are dealing with depression and/or anxiety (or have in the past) will likely recognize some of their own thought patterns in the pages of this book.  If you have been lucky enough to avoid experiencing depression or anxiety, you will learn about many of the hidden aspects and feelings associated with those mental health concerns.

The Bell Jar also exposes the fear and stigma that are associated with some of the psychological remedies of the past.  While the treatments described in the book are not nearly as common or well-spoken of today, they were ground-breaking and well-established at the time that Plath was writing this book.  Is that how people 50 years from now will consider our current treatment methods?  Will some of our methods for treating mental illness be deemed harmful?  For professionals, that’s definitely food for thought.

Interested in this book?  Click here.

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