I’ve been reading about bibliotherapy recently, the name given to the process of using literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems. It’s been approved by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) UK, and Australian GPs have started offering a ‘Books on Prescription service’. Studies have shown it to be effective for mild depression and studies repeatedly show regular readers to be more satisfied with books.
Whilst I’m heartened, I’m not surprised. I’ve always felt better after curling up with a good book, and enjoy learning from characters, visiting different worlds, and seeing my feelings articulated on the page. My walls are covered with inspirational quotes, just like my exercise books at school were. I often ask myself ‘What Would Jane Do?’, like Virginia Woolf have ‘often imagined paradise to be a kind of library,’ and concur with F Scott Fitzgerald that ‘part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.’
Here are seven of the most inspirational, motivating, thought provoking and resonant quotes to support recovery.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.
– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar is not considered by everyone to be recommended reading for those suffering from a mental illness – although I personally loved it – and Esther’s struggles with her life in the city where she was ‘supposed to be having the time of her life’ can be harrowing. This phrase sums up for me the essence of mindfulness – the rhythm of the breath, the beat of the heart, and the assertion that you are. If you take nothing else from this article, take that mantra: I am, I am, I am.
The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.
– Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse
I used to believe that I could not be happy, or I could not recover, or I could not change my ways until something happened. I was waiting for a sign from above, that lightbulb moment, when I knew that now I could take a different path. I wanted a line to be drawn on my past, and a clear and fundamental shift in circumstance and emotion before my life could be different. Now I know that the moment will never come. Things won’t click. Life won’t fall into place around me. But there will be small smiles, little victories, happy moments – and piece by piece they will build up into the life I want.
Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.
– Charles Bukowski – Gamblers All
A proponent of living life to the full and accepting things as they are, Bukowski’s words are often very matter of fact. A fear often seems overwhelming – until it is done. Then we might wonder what we were worried for. During recovery remember to take note of the small successes, whether it is having a challenging snack, speaking out to a friend, resisting weighing yourself, and when next faced with a challenging situation remind yourself that you have faced challenges before, and overcome them.
I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into it’s expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst it’s perils.
– Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
Life is scary, big, daunting, and unknown. And the fear of being unable to navigate it is what keeps many people trapped within their eating disorders. But it is also thrilling, bursting with extraordinary sights, interesting people, and full of opportunities and chances. Some will be positive, some will be harder, but the myriad of experiences and emotions that humans experience make up the fabric of life, and only those who are brave enough to step into it will truly live.
I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.
– Lewis Carroll – Alice In Wonderland
Dwelling on the past, wishing things had been different, fixating on what might have been – sound familiar? The choices we make are based upon who we are at the time, and what seemed right to us. There’s no point going back over the past, because we can not change a thing, and whilst reflection is important, ruminating too much can be dangerous. Instead, accept what has happened, recognise that it has made you who you are today and commit to taking action to move to the life you want in the future.
This above all: to thine own self be true.
– Shakespeare, Hamlet
I spend my life worrying about what the ‘right’ way to live is. Whether to imitate the businesswoman, the marathon runner, the mother, the actor, the woman who rises at 5am or the one who parties until then, the woman who makes $100,000 a year or the one at ease with being an impoverished artist, the one who cycles or the one who runs – everyone. And all this means is that I become confused, can never live up to all of these standards, am constantly seeking reassurance, and become more and more detached from what really matters – what I want.
Forever – is composed of Nows
– Emily Dickinson – Forever – is composed of Nows
How many times have you said that you will start recovery tomorrow? Just one more day of the habits, then tomorrow will be different. A month passes. A year. A decade. Each moment is part of our life. Every action, and non-action, is a choice we make. Life is not a grand scheme or epic test to pass. Forever does not look like an achievement, and life is not a destination. Every little second is part of it. Begin your life now.