Thursday, October 1, 2009

Post Bell Jar Thoughts

I did move on to a lighter book since Bell Jar but some of it stayed with me. Plath's writing made me think a lot about what it's like to look inside a mind of a person who has mental illness. I'm not a clinician -- my knowledge about mental illness comes from college classes, reading, and of course, the media.

Reading Bell Jar was hard for me because I sometimes empathize so much with the protagonist that I almost feel like I'm going through what she's experiencing. After finishing it I caught myself thinking about how she was feeling so much that a thought crossed my mind -- could thinking about it like this make me become mentally ill -- slightly similar to how med students start thinking they have the illnesses they're studying.

The fact Esther didn't go through a particular event that made caused her to start the path to a mental breakdown was eerie but made it easier to relate to her. From a state of 'normalcy' -- whatever this is -- to imbalance. This got me thinking about the fact many of us have mental health issues but some are able to mask them better (or deal with them more effectively). I contemplated the definition of a normal (mentally healthy), or a well adjusted person, in societal terms. Is it the ability to have a long term relationship? Hold a job? After all, in the US the definition of disability is inability to work for one year or more. So are we mentally 'normal' as long as we can work?

Also see Book Review: Bell Jar

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