After the birth of my first child, I self-medicated through postpartum depression with Amy Tan novels. After my father died, “The Year of Magical Thinking” helped me navigate grief. I coped with the betrayal of false friends by meditating on Ecclesiastes.
Unbeknownst to me, I was practicing bibliotherapy, the ancient practice of prescribed reading for relief from anxiety or depression.
Bibliotherapy, the ancient practice of prescribed reading for relief from anxiety or depression, has been considered therapeutic for millennia.
A library in Ancient Greece inscribed “Healing—place of the soul” above the entrance.
In the 19th century, doctors and nurses in mental hospitals offered patients books as a means of easing nervous disorders.
Of course, at its worst, the cognitive dulling of depression doesn’t allow for a Netflix binge, let alone a few hours of reading. Friend and fellow writer Pamela Chanko shared,
“If I'm having an Episode with a capital E, one of the first things to go is my ability to read. In that case, I go for anything short including favorite children's books. Medium depression, comfort food like Jane Austen. Slight depression, moving prose like Welcome to the Goon Squad or Bee Season. The beauty of the language is just as cathartic as the stories are.”
An informal poll of friends resulted in the modest list below. Four genres are represented: Memoir, Fiction, Poetry and Spirituality, with quotes that may speak to what ails you, and entice you to read further.
“Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
“Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey Through Depression,” by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
“The illusion of strength has been and continues to be of major significance to me as a black woman. The one myth that I have had to endure my entire life is that of my supposed birthright to strength.