Mental Illness Success Stories
December 1, 2016 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone share stories of people who have been successful/achieved their dreams despite mental health issues? Books, articles, any other media or personal stories would be welcome.
posted by cosmic owl to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I am sure this has been suggested in previous threads, but An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is a lucid account of a very high-functioning woman and her experience with bipolar disorder. She doesn't necessarily recover from bipolar disorder, but obviously she was able to publish her memoir (as well as several other books) and work as a psychologist, which is an amazing achievement.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Lithium Jesus by Charles Monroe-Kane documents his struggles with schizophrenia. He's now a producer with Wisconsin Public Radio.
posted by Floydd at 11:37 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

John Nash is the first person that comes to mind.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:37 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

NYT's Lives Restored: "A series profiling people who are functioning normally despite severe mental illness and have chosen to speak out about their struggles."

Al Jazeera America's profile of law professor and MacArthur genius grant recipient Elyn Saks, who wrote The Center Cannot Hold.

Allie Brosh suffers from severe depression and wrote a pair of amazing Hyperbole and a Half comics about it: Adventures in Depression, Depression Part Two.

Also, this and this.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks is one of the most fascinating things I've ever read. She's a very highly regarded law professor at USC who is also schizophrenic.
posted by something something at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Zen teacher Cheri Huber has written about her experience with depression (possibly bipolar disorder, I don't remember) and her suicide attempt. Here's one interview about it. Now she's a teacher whose books and guidance have helped many people in their own struggles with depression.
posted by Lexica at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are arguably the single greatest citizens their respective nations ever produced. Both suffered from, at times, fairly severe depression.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

SuperBloggers The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) and Dooce (Heather B Armstrong) both experience depression and write about it quite eloquently.

Agreeing with above poster who recommended Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half depression webcomics: they are fantastic

And Asperger's isn't mental illness so this is a bit off topic for what you asked, but I suggest it because this book is super interesting and a really inspiring memoir about a person who lives an interesting, rich, and well-examined life while not being neurotypical: Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's by John Elder Robeson (he is Augusten Burroughs' brother, and he designed the famous flaming stage guitars for the band Kiss)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:35 PM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Bloggess for sure. Her blog and Twitter are so great. Her most recent book, Furiously Happy, is subtitled "a funny book about horrible things" which is pretty accurate, except that "funny" is not a strong enough word to describe it. It was banned from my bedroom because I kept waking my husband up when I read it in bed.
posted by radioamy at 12:54 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding something something's recommendation for The Center Cannot Hold. It's amazing and really changed my thinking about schizophrenia.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Marsha Linehan, who developed one of the most successful treatments for borderline personality disorder, was hospitalized for schizophrenia in her teens.
posted by praemunire at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

While I would hesitate to put a retrospective diagnosis on him, it seems pretty clear that Glenn Gould was suffering from some form of mental illness or other disorder.

At the other end of the cultural spectrum, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has spoken openly of battling depression as a teenager.
posted by praemunire at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Esme Wang is a writer very open about living and working with schizoeffective disorder.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The actress Patty Duke was bipolar. She wrote an autobiography called Call Me Anna.
posted by FencingGal at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams are two of the rawest memories that spring to mind.

In general a great many comedians and actors.
posted by cmoj at 1:17 PM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Carrie Fisher is bipolar and her various books (Postcards from the Edge comes to mind) detail the tenuous relationship she has with her mind. She's a success story if there ever was one, and my hero to boot.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:27 PM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just finished reading the graphic novel Marbles which details Ellen Forney's long and frustrating (but ultimately pretty successful) work to tame her bipolar disorder and keep working. It's a good read because it's a hassle for her to get there and the path can seem unrewarding but she's in a pretty goodplace now. I've been following what's been happening with Kanye lately and it's pretty clear he's not neurotypical and also wildly successful. Similarly Struck by Genius by Jason Padgett talks about struggling back from a head injury that left him brain injured but also somewhat savantish. Not quite what you're looking for (and he's not wildly successful but he is stable and his story reads quite honestly). I also liked but did not love The World's Strongest Librarian about a guy with pretty bad OCD that goes untreated for some time and he manages to get it under control and become a very happy librarian.
posted by jessamyn at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

The stupendously-accomplished Stephen Fry made a documentary about bipolar, including lots of discussion of his own experience of having the condition -
Part I
Part II
Warning - it starts with him describing a suicide attempt he made in the mid-90s. Nothing gruesome, but just to let you know before you click.
posted by penguin pie at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, and the Stephen Fry doco includes interviews with Robbie Williams, Richard Dreyfuss and Carrie Fisher (among others) about their own experiences of mental illness.
posted by penguin pie at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sara Benincasa is a successful woman who's book Agorafabulous talked a fair bit about her severe anxiety. I've loved a lot of her on-line writing, too.
posted by ldthomps at 2:23 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

The movie Shine is about pianist David Helfgott who spent years institutionalized and later got his life back.
posted by Michele in California at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've read and re-read biographies about Truman Capote and Dorothy Parker for exactly this reason.
posted by soakimbo at 5:09 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a really great story about a successful coffee shop owner in San Francisco who is living with schizoaffective disorder. It details her struggle and how she became successful.

I'm a therapist and I do early intervention work with young adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and I have a bunch of client anecdotes (sans personal info) I'd be happy to share with you over MeFi mail.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 5:23 PM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Hope Jahren is a pretty well known tenured professor who studies plants and also has bipolar disorder. Her memoir, is short and beautiful.
posted by congen at 5:59 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rona Maynard is a Canadian journalist, author, speaker and former editor of Chatelaine magazine for many years. She has been very open about her struggles, and was one of the first public figure to talk about it back in the 90s. I recently had the opportunity to listen to her speak and she was so inspiring precisely because she doesn't sugar coat her illness, but she also doesn't let it stop her from doing what she can.
posted by A hidden well at 7:15 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maria Bamford and Chris Gethard are both successful comedians with bipolar disorder.
posted by Chenko at 7:32 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not sure she's successful enough for you, but Demi Lovato talks pretty openly about her struggles with bipolar and other issues.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:34 PM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would call the Hyperbole and a Half comics accurate depictions of depression, but they are definitely not inspiring or a story about succeeding and achieving one's dreams.
posted by schroedinger at 10:39 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Following up on Lincoln: very good article in The Atlantic from 2005 on how severe depression shaped his life and may have even strengthened his leadership capacity.

Also, bonus content: Lincoln's depression/rhetoric + general civil war vibes channeled via the cultural shadow of Bruce Springsteen are used brilliantly on The Monitor by Titus Andronicus, one of the best albums of the last decade and a lyrically brilliant and forthright punk exploration of mental illness from Patrick Stickles & co.
posted by Chipmazing at 2:01 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are interested in Asperger's/Autism, the person you want to look up is Temple Grandin. She is extremely successful and multiple books have been written about her life with autism.

If Joan of Arc were alive today, she would no doubt have some sort of mental health diagnosis and be on meds to try to suppress the voices that guided her in ending the Hundred Years War, putting a king on the throne and playing handmaiden to the birth of modern France. My understanding is that her military tactics still influence French tactics to this day, 500 or so years later. Stories about her life are fascinating.
posted by Michele in California at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2016

Andrew Solomon.
posted by valannc at 2:49 PM on December 2, 2016

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