Books I read to help me improve my mental health

Yesterday I finished reading a book which I read for more than a year. It was a tough reading, as it was very positive, and at the beginning I could not bear its positivity. As I finished it yesterday, there must have happened such a huge change in my mind since I started to read it… That is the reason why I decided to make a list of books I chose to read in order to improve my mental health since B. was born in 2018. The list is approximately chronological.

The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions and Restoring Your Vitality (written by Kimberly Ann Johnson)

The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions and Restoring Your Vitality (written by Kimberly Ann Johnson)

I ordered this book in the middle of my pregnancy at the beginning of 2018. I was gathering general information about how to restore my body and mind after giving birth. Back then I felt offended when I found out that there were mostly books about postpartum depression. At that time I did not find it possible I could have any mental health issues after giving birth.

I started to read this book before B. was born and stopped exactly where the section “Congratulations! You did it. You crossed the threshold. You birthed a baby, and you birthed yourself into a new phase of life,” began. I continued reading few weeks after giving birth while trying to pump the breastmilk.

I remember myself crying above some passages of the book, as I felt understood by the author. She articulated feelings, emotions and states of mind I was not able to express. What hit me the most was the author’s description about how a woman who have just given birth understands relationship with her own mother differently. There was a lively image in my head. Me crossing the bridge of motherhood that immediately afterwards fell apart, so there was no chance of going back. I felt like no one, who did not give birth, could understand that transforming experience. I am very grateful to my mom, who came to our home and helped us with the newborn B., brought calmness of an outsider to our household and even helped us with cleaning.

After reading this book I felt like I understand what happened to me much more clearly. I highly recommend this book.

Slzy po porodu or Tears after giving birth (written by Elisabeth Geisel)

The book I read was in Czech language and I think English translation is not available, I just freely translated the title. The book was lent to me by a doula who visited us few weeks after B. was born. I read the book in the autumn 2018 and winter 2018/2019 usually when I went for a walk with B. sleeping in the stroller.

The usefulness of this book lies in a short checklist for postpartum depression. The language used makes the book available for many readers in Czech and Slovak republic who do not understand English.

I remember how this book made me doubt myself as a mother. Many advice given includes and builds upon breastfeeding which I was really struggling with for months and gave up on it later. Therefore, I definitely do not recommend this book for women with postpartum depression struggling with breastfeeding at the same time. From present point of view I am not very eager to recommend the book at all because I do not remember the book helping me, but maybe someone could find it helpful.

After reading this book I started to realize that I am not OK. I ordered few books about postpartum depression in English.

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression (written by Brooke Shields)

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression (written by Brooke Shields)

One of the books I ordered was this one – a real story of an actress who suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth to her older daughter. I read it probably at the beginning of 2019.

I chose a book about someone’s real experiences because I needed to relate to someone and find out, whether my experiences are at least a little similar to hers. I felt so lonely in my situation. As I still was not sure about me having postpartum depression, I did not consider it worthy to consult another specialist to prove it or not. I thought I was quite all right, although I was not myself at all. Probably I did not want to accept I had such a complicated problem.

I remember reading this book in the evenings, crying and underlining passages I could relate to with a pencil. Again, another person who could express what I was not able to. Recommended.

Although I didn’t dislike her, I wasn’t sure I wanted her living with us.

Brooke Shields: Down Came the Rain

This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression (written by Karen R. Kleiman and Valerie Davis Raskin)

This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression (written by Karen R. Kleiman and Valerie Davis Raskin)

Finally, in first half of 2019 I dared to read a proper book about postpartum emotional problems. The book slowly reveals itself for a reader who has enough time to find out what is going on with her. There are numerous symptoms checklists that help readers to identify their problems with postpartum depression, anxiety/panic disorder, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder and the final postpartum emergency checklist.

From these checklists I realized that I might have more than one postpartum mental health issue. I identified a possibility of postpartum depression, anxiety disorder and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder.

I have continued reading this book, working through worksheets to realize that I intuitively find my own way to what authors recommend. Maybe it would offer me more useful pieces of advice; however, I have never finished reading the book because of one event. Some may consider it banal but it was not for me at that time.

B. and I took one of day naps. I woke up or just could not fall asleep at all, so I grabbed the book and started to read. After a while I needed to go to toilet. When I came back I found B. awake and chewing on the book. I got desperate. I wanted to read through the book without any sign of being read through and sell it in perfect condition. Giving postpartum mental problems away as it never happened. Now, when B. chewed on the book it was impossible. I cannot pretend I never needed this book, I cannot pretend nothing happened, I cannot pretend we are all right! I cried for hours. And I have never continued in reading the book.

Obviously, I was not ready to accept what was happening to me and us, I was not ready to articulate it. This is also a proof how much have changed – I write posts about my mental health problems which can be read by anyone in the world…

Mother love: Myth and reality (written by Elisabeth Badinter)

Mother love: Myth and reality (written by Elisabeth Badinter)

After realizing I might have more complex mental health problems, then I originally estimated, I have decided to try a therapy. After the first consultation I felt the worst, I cried for days. Despite of that, I continued and the more sessions I underwent, the more sure I was I quit. And I did. It lasted for two or three months. I needed to discover what motherhood was in the past and is now, so I decided to read Elisabeth Badinter’s Mother love, which a copy of I own in Slovak language translation.

This book offered me a look how uninformed belief and expectations about motherhood formed the reality of many women. Those expectations and belief persist for centuries until today and do not seem to reflect the reality of 21st century families.

The book is not related to mental health but it may be useful for those who try to make sense of their situation from many points of view.

The Journey : A Practical Guide to Healing Your Life and Setting Yourself Free (written by Brandon Bays)

The Journey : A Practical Guide to Healing Your Life and Setting Yourself Free (written by Brandon Bays)

I have read the whole book in Slovak language like nothing in autumn 2019, I like books that are written like stories. I asked M. whether I find The Journey therapist or he reads the book and becomes a therapy partner. We agreed on the second option.

I had about five therapy sessions. It was always a very powerful experience. During the first session I was trembling in pain and scared of being swallowed by a monster – monster being my painful feelings, memories and experiences. With each session I felt less pain but felt kind of lost in my body and mind. So I have decided to change the direction of my journey.

I am aware that this kind of therapy might not be for everyone. I find it useful for myself and it got me ready for next steps.

Books written by Heinz-Peter Röhr

I am lucky I found books written by Heinz-Peter Röhr. Although they are not related to postpartum mental health at all, those helped the most. The first one I read in February 2020 is called Nedostatečný pocit vlastní hodnoty or Self-esteem Analysis – The Art of Appreciating Yourself. It helped me to understand myself into depth – the deepest I have ever got. I made a “map” of “secret programs” in my mind and analyzed many events of my life. The author has many recommendations which could help with increasing self-esteem. I tried and try some of them and they helped me in long-term.

All of these books I have in Czech language. For information I provide also original German titles and free English translations of titles:

  • Nedostatečný pocit vlastní hodnoty: Sebedestruktivní vnitřní programySelbstwertanalyse – Die Kunst, sich wertzuschätzen – Self-esteem Analysis – The Art of Appreciating Yourself
  • Závislé vztahy: Léčba a uzdravení závislé poruchy osobnostiWege aus der Abhängigkeit: Destruktive Beziehungen überwinden – Ways out of addiction: Overcoming destructive relationships
  • Zneužití: Léčba následků sexuálního či emočního násilíIch traue meiner Wahrnehmung: Sexueller und emotionaler Mißbrauch oder das Allerleirauh-Schicksal – I trust my perception: Sexual and emotional abuse or the fate of the all-trades
  • Cesty z úzkosti a deprese: O štěstí lásky k sobě samémuVom Glück sich selbst zu lieben: Wege aus Angst und Depression – About the happiness of loving yourself: ways out of anxiety and depression

All these books by Heinz-Peter Röhr overlap but create really complex image of mental health.

You Can Heal Your Life (written by Louise L. Hay)

You Can Heal Your Life (written by Louise L. Hay)

This is the book I mentioned in the opening paragraph. The one I started to read more than a year ago. The one that was too positive. I needed to digest words from this book gradually for a long time. For the beginning I kept telling myself that I am willing to change. I wrote sentences from this book on cards and I come back to them when I do not feel well.

Ešte netlačte

Ešte netlačte: všetko, čo potrebujete vedieť o rodení na Slovensku or Don’t Push Yet: Everything You Need to Know About Giving Birth in Slovakia (written by Iveta Aldana, Lucia Lišiaková a Veronika Pizano)

As my mental health problems started after giving birth to my son and weeks afterwards, I needed to make sense of what happened at the hospital. Why I felt how I felt, why my physical body was so devastated, why everyone (including M.) told me that the birth went well and it was not as horrible as I describe it. In this book I found experiences of other women from my region and also professionals commenting on on those women’s experiences and safety and effects of procedures performed. I feel like I need to dive deeper into this which I have started in my previous post with.

Anne of Green Gables series

Anne of Green Gables (written by Lucy Maud Montgormey)

And this is a bonus book, or rather series of books, which helped me in some way. Anne Shirley loves walks and enjoys beauties of nature with real presence of mind. That is something I got inspired with.

Each book either helped me or brought me to something else what helped me. This has been my book healing journey so far. I still have so many books to read but now I already have also a life to live. Live is a journey and I am still on my way. Also thanks to these books.

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