‘Dear Stranger’: an inspiring anthology of letters on happiness

‘Dear Stranger’: an inspiring anthology of letters on happiness‘Dear Stranger’: an inspiring anthology of letters on happiness

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A few months ago I was asked to contribute a letter to an anthology being published by Mind and Penguin. The remit was to write a letter to a stranger on the subject of happiness, to be interpreted however I and the other 49 contributors saw fit.

dear-stranger-stackWhen I first clapped eyes on ‘Dear Stranger’, I was bowled over by the incredible, powerful contributions from authors, artists, celebrities and bloggers – Marian Keyes, Caitlin Moran, Richard Branson, Nicci French, @_sectioned and Tony Parsons, to name but a few (although I feel something of a cuckoo in the nest, I’m in there too!).

I found the letters, musings, drawings and cartoons searching, uplifting and even challenging at times (I think it’s only right that the best writing takes you through a panoply of emotions). But most of, the anthology gave me an overwhelming feeling that ‘Dear Stranger’ might be just the thing needed by people struggling to find happiness in their lives because of mental illness (their own or somebody else’s).  This book is about succour and comfort but it’s also about life, hope and, of course, happiness.

Now it has been published (July 2), it’s your opportunity to see what I mean. Twitter is already buzzing with #dearstranger tweets – this is clearly striking a chord. Please buy it, not just because it’s raising money for Mind (at least £3 for each copy sold), it’ll make perfect summer reading and it’ll look great on your bookshelf but also because, by my reckoning, it is an important anthology that gives hope and may also help to rebuild or even save lives.

You can buy it here – please do.





Follow Martha Roberts :

Freelance journalist and mental health blogger, based in London UK

4 Responses to “‘Dear Stranger’: an inspiring anthology of letters on happiness” Subscribe

  1. Shirley August 4, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    Dear Stranger

    I bought this book on some what of a should I shouldn’t I moment having seen an article about it by Richard Branson. Still on the fence about dear old Richard, anyway having dealt with bouts of sadness since the birth of my daughter 30 yrs ago .
    I had post natal depression with both my children, unfortunately we were stationed in Germany serving with the armed forces. They did not take it to seriously then, a very different world.
    I thought like most depressed people that it had to be me.Why could not function like normal people. But a husband that was constantly away on active duty and two small children 18months apart , my coping strategy was to sleep when ever possible.
    I read your letter and although at the present moment I am what I call relatively sane, depending on the time of the day and day of the week.
    I can honestly say it was the first time I had belly laughed in a long time. For that reason alone it was worth buying the book. I to cope with depression by using a warped sense of humour and when I reached your quote “this to will pass” I knew we had been separated at birth lol.
    It is the one small verse that has kept me hanging in there when all else has failed.
    I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write your letter, it lifted me up and made me smile were medication has failed. Now when I have a bad day I can get out the book and belly laugh over your constipation joke again. The letter to a stranger worked, I feel a little less alone and perhaps less of a stranger than yesterday.
    Kind regards
    l when does the next book come out, everyone is getting this one for Christmas whether they want it or not.lol

    • Martha Roberts August 5, 2015 at 9:14 am #

      Hello Shirley,

      Wow – what a lovely, honest message. Thank you xx I am so sorry to hear that you have been through postnatal depression and, by the sounds of it, some difficulties since then. It sounds like you had a lot on your plate bringing up two under 18 months pretty much alone. That sounds tremendously hard, especially piled on top of PND in the first place.

      I don’t know if this happened to you, but I remember people saying to me ‘You’ve got a lovely baby boy – you’ve got so much to be happy about!’ and whilst I can now see how incredible he is (and how incredible he was back then), at the time I was too depressed to rationalise. And if anything their words made me retreat further into myself, swallowing my depression and making me even more ill. I don’t think people say these things to be mean – probably quite the opposite. I just don’t think they really understand how to handle depression. Hopefully this is getting better in this day and age…I do hope so…

      I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed Dear Stranger and that my letter made you laugh. Laughter has honestly been my salvation. Even in my darkest moments, funny things have happened, like something was trying to pull me back into the light. Thank goodness for humour and funny moments.

      As well as Dear Stranger, I love Sally Brampton’s ‘Shoot The Damn Dog – A Memoir of Depression’ and ‘Living With A Black Dog’ which is a cartoon book that really help people like us and other people to understand, through brilliant visuals, what depression is and how we (and they) can handle it. I can highly recommend them – both of them gave me ‘That’s exactly what I think!’ moments!!!

      I wish you all the best. Do keep in touch and let me know how you’re faring, if you like.

      Martha x

      • Shirley August 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

        Thank you Martha for taking time out of what must be an extremely busy day to reply,a very rare commodity these days.
        Today has become a duvet day, I work shifts and get 3 days off in between, my adult son is at work and my husband works away and only gets home at the weekends.
        So unlike some people I have the luxury of a duvet day at least for today, my beautiful young man has grown up with his mother’s duvet days, sometimes weeks, or months.
        He is very lucky as am I that they have never lasted longer, thank god there has always been that survival mode in there somewhere that refuses to give up no matter what.
        I know you will appreciate this story” sitting with my nibs approved CPN who took an instant dislike to me and I to him, was trying to explain the the fight flight theory to me.
        “What would you do if a lion jumped in through this window” nothing I replied, looking surprised he asked me to explain.
        Well your sitting with your back to the window, so he would get you first. He wasn’t expecting that we parted ways. The interesting thing is when they sent me to the next one, I found myself distancing myself from the other people waiting, I didn’t want people to think I was that crazy, there are levels of craziness, and in my opinion I wasn’t on theirs.
        Sad yes, miserable some days yes, hearing voices only my own. See even depressed people can be snobs.
        So now not only do I avoid the human race like the plague, I now understand the quote “the more I meet people the more I like my dog”. Except I am not a dog lover either lol.
        Cats maybe they are independent and don’t need me and that helps to ease the guilt on the bad days to not be needed.
        Still trying to find something I do like, but just for today it is
        My duvet, chocolate, silence, and countless episodes of NCIS. For today that is enough if not for the guilt I feel for the people who also live with this because of me. I feel as if I am wasting the life I have been given. But if I am strong enough and to date I have been to get through the bad days with duvet days, a good sobbing section in the dark and under the quilt were I can’t be heard.

        • Martha Roberts December 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

          Hello there, I was wondering how things were going? After your lovely, poignant response, I realised I hadn’t then responded myself. I hope 2015 has treated you well. With best wishes, Martha.

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