29 Quotes That Help You Understand Mental Illness

image - Flickr / Neil Krug
image – Flickr / Neil Krug

Some people still hold [the] view that restraints help psychiatric patients feel safe. I’ve never met a psychiatric patient who agreed. – Elyn R. Saks, Ted Talk

I realize that this may sound hopelessly naïve, and I also realize that there was a lot about my fellow patients’ histories and conditions that I didn’t and couldn’t know, but it seemed to me that a lot of the therapy they needed was of this simple tactile and sympathetic kind. Not because they were crazy, mind you, or because such therapy could cure them, but because they were human and everybody benefits from sympathy. – Norah Vincent: Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin

I kept in mind with reference to them the principle laid down by Goethe, that the insane should be treated as if they were of sound mind. – A Chaplain’s Substitute, “A Month Among the Mad”

Mental illness leaves a huge legacy, not just for the person suffering it but for those around them. – Lysette Anthony

What people don’t understand about depression is how much it hurts. It’s like your brain is convinced that it’s dying and produces an acid that eats away at you from the inside, until all that’s less is a scary hollowness. Your mind fills with dark thoughts; you become convinced that your friends secretly hate you, you’re worthless, and then there’s no hope. I never got so low as to consider ending it all, but I understand how that can happen to some people. Depression simply hurts too much. – Tyler Hamilton, The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France

If you haven’t caused a scene in a psych unit, it’s just because you haven’t been inside long enough. – Victor LaValle, The Devil in Silver

A phenomenon that a number of people have noted while in deep depression is the sense of being accompanied by a second self—a wraithlike observer who, not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides to embrace it. There is a theatrical quality about all this, and during the next several days, as I went about stolidly preparing for extinction, I couldn’t shake off a sense of melodrama—a melodrama in which I, the victim-to-be of self-murder, was both the solitary actor and lone member of the audience. – William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

One person’s craziness is another person’s reality. – Tim Burton

Resistance to change in the mental health system comes disguised as protection of civil liberties and freedom of speech. As a result, many parents, families, and caregivers are at a loss and feel defeated by the majority of Americans who strive to maintain the current rules of society. — Tamara Hill, Mental Health In A Failed American System: What Every Parent, Family, & Caregiver

Should Know

It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane. – Philip K. Dick, Valis

A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption. – Guy de Maupassant, Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques

There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him. — Antonin Artaud, “Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society

Men were always quick to believe in the madness of women. — Alison Goodman, Eona: The Last Dragoneye

Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—I whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. — Edgar Allan Poe, “Eleonora”

I did learn something about insanity while I was down there. People go crazy, not because they are crazy, but because it’s the best available option at the time. — Gabrielle Zevin, All These Things I’ve Done

You see spirits who talk to you in broad daylight, at night you see perfectly shaped, perfectly distinct phantoms, you think you remember having lived in other forms, you imagine you are growing very tall and that your head is touching the stars, the horizon of Saturn and Jupiter spreads before your eyes, bizarre creatures appear before you with all the characteristics of real beings… If the mind has to become completely unhinged in order to place us in communication with another world, it is clear that the mad will never be able to prove to the sane how blind they are, to say the very least! — Gérard de Nerval, Selected Writings

When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane. – Hermann Hesse

There are certain people in whom you can detect the seeds of madness—seeds that have remained dormant only because the people in question have lived relatively comfortable, middle class lives. They function perfectly well in the world, but you can imagine, given a nasty parent, or a prolonged bout of unemployment, how their potential for craziness might have been realized.
— Zoë Heller, What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal

Do you know what the definition of insane is? Yes. It’s the inability to relate to another human being. It’s the inability to love. — Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

Psychiatric illness, like a medical problem but more so, is mired in the ugly realities of the American class structure. This is one reason psychiatric illness presents our society with moral choices. — Tanya Luhrman, Of Two Minds: The Growing Disorder in American Psychiatry

The line between normal and crazy seemed impossibly thin. A person would have to be an expert tightrope walker in order not to fall. — Augusten Burroughs, Running with Scissors: A Memoir

Anyone who is truly crazy, in my book, wouldn’t be able to understand the dialectic of crazy and not-crazy. Listen, I’ve worked for the pharmaceutical companies, they have a vested belief in making you believe that if you have a chemical imbalance you need them to be ‘cured’ of your current issues and personality. Indefinitely. Imagine diagnosing personality only in terms of its negative aspects. Does this strike you as a strategy designed for health? The only way to deal with a problem is to fucking deal with it. Get inside what positive motivation, what intention, makes you behave in the way you are… and how you could maybe satisfy that need in a healthier or at least more agreeable manner. America wants quick, easy and painless; being a real person is slow, difficult and very messy. — James Curcio, Join My Cult!

Never attempt to apply logic to madness, for there is none; it is the nature of madness to be illogical. — Navessa Allen, Scandal

Barbee had wondered about insanity, sometimes with a brooding dread—for his own father, whom he scarcely remembered, had died in the forbidding stone pile of the state asylum. He had vaguely supposed that a mental breakdown must be somehow strange and thrilling, with an exciting conflict of horrible depression and wild elation. But perhaps it was more often like this, just a baffled apathetic retreat from problems grown too difficult to solve. — Jack Williamson, Darker Than You Think

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream. — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

You must always be puzzled by mental illness. The thing I would dread most, if I became mentally ill, would be your adopting a common sense attitude; that you could take it for granted that I was deluded. — Ludwig Wittgenstein / Maurice Drury, Conversations avec Ludwig Wittgenstein

I always made a point of telling the doctors I was sane, and asking to be released, but the more I endeavored to assure them of my sanity, the more they doubted it. — Nellie Bly, “10 Days in the Madhouse”

One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication. — Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

Perfect sanity is a myth propagated by straitjacket salesmen. — Rebecca McKinsey Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Find out what journalist Sabine Heinlein discovered about Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in her new book The Orphan Zoo.


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