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10 Timeless Quotes Dealing with Mental Illness

Simon Owens By Simon Owens Published on May 31, 2017
This article was updated on June 5, 2017

When it comes to the subject of dealing with mental health issues, the fact is that there’s no single process that helps everyone. Just as the symptoms of mental illnesses vary from one person to the next, so too do the coping mechanisms that work for us. That said, it can often be reassuring to maintain an awareness that other people have struggled with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, and that they have moved beyond those experiences. With that in mind, we’ve assembled the following list of some of our favourite quotes on dealing with mental illness from great authors, literary figures, and artists, particularly given the stigma around mental illnesses. 

It can be easy to let things get on top of us, to see ourselves in terms of what can often feel like our shortcomings. It's important to remember that ‘dealing with mental illness’ needn't mean progressing past something, but living with it and living well. There will always be times when we can benefit from something as simple as reading someone with a slightly different point of view describing their experience of something we struggle with. 

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“You say you're 'depressed' – all i see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn't mean you're defective – it just means you're human.”

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say 'My tooth is aching' than to say 'My heart is broken'.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“The largest part of what we call 'personality' is determined by how we've opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness.”

—Alain de Botton

"I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape."

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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“Feelings don't try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous.”

—Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest comers. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

Vincent Van Gogh

“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”

—Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression

"God made the world just as much for me as for any one else."

—Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

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“Which of my feelings are real? Which of the me's is me? The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy one? Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed, and tired one? Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.”

—Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Finally, for those of you reading this because you have a friend or a spouse with a mental health issue, we feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this excellent quote from Stephen Fry on the importance of understanding how best to approach subjects like depression. It stresses the importance of looking beyond something as simple as "causes." 

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

—Stephen Fry

I am a man who enjoys hiking and woodland walks. I love the smell of freshly cut grass and of wild onions in early spring.


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