At the suggestion of my writer’s group, I recently picked up The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Through Ester Greenwood Plath takes you inside the head of someone who is literally going crazy.
This book was suggested because in my current novel-in-progress, Home, I have a narrator, Ashley, who goes from being a normal, functioning member of society to a panic stricken agoraphobic who cannot leave the house. Not only does she not admit she has a problem, she doesn’t know how to articulate the problem to those around her.
In The Bell Jar, Plath takes you fully inside the mind of Ester, an english major in her junior year of college in the 70s. While the world seems to be open to her, Ester has an inherent distrust and uneasiness about her that she cannot articulate to those around her. She doesn’t even understand it herself. But by taking you inside her head, Plath lets you feel what Ester is feeling. You understand and even sympathize with her near-constant thoughts of suicide. You understand why she doesn’t trust her doctors, her mother, her friends. If you haven’t read this yet, it’s a quick read and will help you to see people with mental illness in a different way.