Warning: contains an extensive use of the pronoun ‘I’.

My dissertation is about mental health. And from the start, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. My plot is based on a character whose instability doesn’t come about from a specific incident or an event such as death, trauma, loss, but a hinted series of minor troubles in her life, her background and childhood. This sounds like a non-fail summary until you actually get down to writing about it, and realise that a specific event such as death or loss is easier for plot and resolution than well, no event. But I am adamant to do it. I feel that half the stigma about mental health comes from the fact that it is more understandable in cases where there is a specific event. And by writing about a healthy, young, female who slowly begins to have anxiety attacks, agoraphobia, hears voices with no specific reason, is the only way I would be furthering knowledge. Because that is what an MA is about, and the point of doing research, and a postgraduate degree; furthering knowledge. Writing about what hasn’t been written. Though I imagine this has been written about before in some way. People who’ve read my stuff – my tutor, friends – say that my dissertation echoes Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and I can see that in it. I’m also to an extent playing with Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of schizophrenia as a response to capitalism and culture. (See: A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia). And I have a ton to talk about for my critical reflection which is always good. At first, I let this put me off. I felt like a fraud, drawing ideas from Plath when I didn’t mean to. Maybe her novel had been embedded into my subconsciousness and was therefore coming out. And then I realised that it didn’t matter. My character wasn’t suicidal, didn’t come from a  certain class, ethnicity and background. And that is the spin you have to put on it. The spin that comes from yourself. From putting in little details of your own personality into the narrative. Because really, there isn’t much out there about ethnic minorities and mental health. The issue is still brushed under the carpet and met with confusion in the community. Writing about ethnicity is still limited to stereotypical issues.

My advice to anyone writing about it is to do a lot of research, and then put that research away and carry on. Because while there’s a risk that you might end up writing about what you may not know, mental health has a lot of leeway also. And while I’ve had some experience with mental health, I still felt like I didn’t have a clue sometimes. It is never defined in a straight line. Except the terminology maybe. That one you probably should get right. But delve into psychology books as well as fiction and theory.

I have a lot more to talk about with regards to my dissertation. (I should probably save that for my essay than blog.) The research that has gone into it, the amount of times I’ve written a whole scene and then taken it out because it just didn’t fit. I just wanted to make a blog post because this morning, I’ve still been trying to figure out the big question: HOW DOES THIS END? I always struggle to plan my endings. I wrote a 400 word possible ending, but I’m not fully satisfied with it. It makes it difficult when you don’t want to give your piece a happy resolution, but you don’t want to end it with a suicide, either. Just some sort of a realistic plot twist. And it’s hard to build up to that, and explore the thoughts and activities of an unstable individual in 10,000 words. It doesn’t help that I’m also a very slow writer who double thinks and polishes everything.

I’m not that far off from finishing. I aim to do it by tomorrow so I can fully focus on the critical essay. I feel like this post will actually become some sort of a foundation/ideas board for that. So I don’t feel too guilty about taking half an hour out to type it up. I guess I’m just so enthusiastic about this issue and writing in general that I can’t not hark on about it everywhere. Pursuing what I love is the only thing that is driving me on lately! I have also been meaning to blog about a ton of other things and give the whole site a good makeover except I’m so cut short with time lately, and so that will have to be a post-dissertation summer project along with everything else.

Posted by:Durre

5 replies on “Writing About Mental Health

  1. Beautifully put. I’d love to read it when you’re open to sharing it 🙂
    You write very eloquently and fluidly, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finishing. You’ve articulated some really big ideas in an accessible and poetic way – quite the skill.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant blog post durre. Can’t wait to read the dissertation (if I may). In many ways my dissertation tackles similar issues – how to explain the inexplicable, how to delineate mental illness in literature without becoming inane or trite or hackneyed. The more we read the more we write the more we understand. Talent borrows, genius steals

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, definitely. You’ve just reminded me – will post it up on the blog for the next meeting actually. That sounds really interesting. Would love to read it as well! Sometimes, writing is the only thing that makes sense or is worth making sense of. I feel like even the idea of the person who has everything and gets depressed and finds a way out through inner reformation has become such a cliche. Sometimes, mental illnesses are too selfish for inner reformation.

      Liked by 1 person

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