A Collection of Quotes and Thoughts on Mental Illness

Maya Angelou quote: "Do the best you can until you can do better. Then do better."

I’ll start with a bit of a disclaimer and say that I didn’t do any searching to verify these quotes, and internet quotes are notoriously unreliable, so these people may or may not have said the things that I’m telling you they said. Regardless of who said what, I think these words are relevant to mental illness.

The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.

Robert Tew

I feel like there are a lot of other variations on this theme out there, and if a lot of people are saying the same thing, perhaps there’s something to it. It’s the same kind of deal as what Nietzsche said about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Researchers at Northwestern University found some solid basis for this; people with early career failures who keep plugging away at it end up doing really in the long term.

I would say that sometimes what doesn’t kill you seriously kicks the shit out of you, but overall, I’d agree that practice dealing with shit makes you better prepared to deal with future shit. That may not be eloquent enough to be quote-worthy, but that’s okay.

Do the best you can until you can do better. Then do better.

Maya Angelou

I like this. It reminds me of the basic assumption in dialectical behaviour therapy that people are doing the best they can. It’s possible to build new skills and reinforce others so that better can happen, but until then, the best you can is the best you’ve got.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.


I like the spirit of this, but maybe not so much the literal aspect. People don’t get perfect, for one. And trials may not make people polished; battle-scarred might be more like it. Maybe another way to put it is that when you put massive amounts of pressure on carbon sources, they can turn into diamonds. Those diamonds live below the surface, as does the beauty on the inside. Or something like that.

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.

C.S. Lewis

To me, this is about acceptance. No matter how shitty the beginning was, and how much it fucked you over, you’re here now. Now is what you can do something about. You may not have an unlimited choice of endings that are available, but you can steer in a different direction. I don’t think acceptance is something that usually happens right away, and there may be things to mourn that the beginning took away, but acceptance is a good place to arrive at.

The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that keeps you from killing yourself.

Albert Camus

This quote is based on Camus’s absurdist philosophy. Absurdism is based on the contradictory coexistence of “the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find these with any certainty” (Wikipedia). Mental illness adds another layer, though, as the killing yourself bit can be a much closer prospect than it would in Camus’s sense.

The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.

Juliette Lewis

I like this because it captures how difficult a prospect living can appear to be. Sometimes, for some people, that decision may need to be repeated over and over every day. It’s not an easy thing, this mental illness life.

Juliette Lewis: "The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die."

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaรฏs Nin

We only have an indirect connection to reality; it all gets filtered through our senses and our brains, and there’s no way to remove that interference and get a purely objective view. It’s oh so very easy to assume we see things as they are, and in that assumption, we blind ourselves to the indelible stamp of ourselves that’s on everything we perceive. I doubt that it’s possible to just magically make that go away, but it’s probably worth a little inner reminder every so often.

Do you have any favourite quotes that have a lot of meaning for you?

More quote posts

34 thoughts on “A Collection of Quotes and Thoughts on Mental Illness”

  1. I like the C.S. Lewis quote. I really hate inspirational quotes and yet I have a folder full on my computer and a Tumbler filled with them. A lot of my favorites quotes are not upbeat, but rather what I consider a truth, or at least my truth, and it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

  2. I love your comments on the quotes and fully agree. It’s funny, I wrote today about Susan Jeffer’s book “Feel Fear And Do It Anyway” and her quote ” There are no “good” or “bad” decisions, just opportunities to grow”. That’s one that helps me a lot but not only in dealing with depression ๐Ÿค—

  3. Loved the quotes! Loved YOUR thoughts on the quotes!๐Ÿ”ฅ. Must admit my heart gets such a joy from seeing you in my inbox!!๐Ÿ˜. Still marinating on these gems. More please and thanks. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  4. “The struggle youโ€™re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.” Poignant, and hopefully true. Sometimes mental illness people in crisis alienate supportive friends, especially if drugs are brought into the bargain. It’s only when we lose a valued support that we realize just how badly we messed up. It can bring about an awful level of hurt, especially when we know it is our own fault. From that, we can learn what to avoid next time we make a friend. Foremost getting off drugs / alcohol and mitigating crisis in the first place.After the lethargy eventually rolls away. The quote fits somewhat.

      1. I am very sorry, Ashley. I will never cross a boundary like that again. I am doing an assessment in less than an hour which then leads into other treatments, etc.

          1. Thank you. Relieved that you responded, I’ve been hurting very badly because of my behavior. I’m still inside a black sea, but this little relief makes a little bit of difference. Anyway I am going to stop commenting on your blog now. Wish you well.

  5. Great quotes Ashley.

    Love the quote by Confucius.

    Human psychology and resulting mental related problems always intriguing.

    In this context I love this particular quotes, which in a simple way tells us the reason.”

    “There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet”.
    Matt Haig

  6. I like the CS Lewis quote — I’d never heard that before. Also the Anais Nin quote. Both of those ring really true for me. (Haven’t thought of a quote to add to these, off-hand.)

      1. What DIDN’T kill me, when I WANTED to die, DOESN’T show my today!

        Hehehe….hugs A…you are getting stronger and looking good.

  7. This resonates with my recent life experience:
    We donโ€™t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    I have been tidying my mind closet in solitude.
    It’s not just about stigma, but my life in general.
    I think our mind needs to get brilliant in filtering out unnecessary information to have a right frame of mind. Our self will influence how we see the world too.

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