Show Me All Your Scars

True Stories of Living with Mental Illness

Edited by Lee Gutkind


What do you do when your father kills himself, or your mother is committed to a psych ward, or your daughter starts hearing voices telling her to harm herself—or when you yourself hear such voices?

In any given year, one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness—but the tremendous stigma attached to being labeled as “crazy” still prevents many from reaching out to professionals or even loved ones for help. As former US Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy writes in his introduction: “The only way for this to change is for people to share their truth. Total honesty is essential not only for recovery, but also for changing societal attitudes and enacting public policies.”

Addressing bipolar disorder, OCD, trichotillomania, self-harm, PTSD, and other diagnoses, the twenty fascinating stories collected in Show Me All Your Scars vividly depict the difficulties and sorrows—and sometimes, too, the unexpected rewards—of living with mental illness.



"Conveys what it is like to experience mental illness and ... demonstrates that narrative ... can be the most effective way to impart information and promote activism."- Publishers Weekly

"Like a beacon of light, sending out a message of recognition ... these narratives offer insight and clarity into something that can be very difficult to understand. Anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness can find hope in the stories included in this book." - Foreword Reviews

"The deeply personal essays—full of courage, resilience, and recovery—shred the stigma of mental illness and challenge our indifference toward the 'mentally ill.'" - Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness

"This collection stands as protest against silence, and challenges us to create a culture that fosters true mental health." - Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life

"Heartbreaking and soaring. This sensitive and carefully cultivated anthology stands as a testament to the private battle millions of families are waging." - Sheila Hamilton, author of All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness

"Show Me All Your Scars will shatter your stereotypes of mental illness and its treatment. The brilliant essays are at once gripping, chilling, compelling, and inspiring." - Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D., author of  The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change

“An intensely human exploration of the lived experience of mental illness. Harrowing, illuminating, and often surprising.” - Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

"Courageous and redemptive, Show Me All Your Scars displays the most poignant and stabilizing force in psychiatry and life in general: hope. This collection will help people, and that's no small feat in this world." - David Fitzpatrick, author of Sharp: My Story of Madness, Cutting, and How I Reclaimed My Life

"Beautifully written ...  a remarkable gathering of human beings who have dared to tell their stories." - Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Table of Contents

Introduction Patrick J. Kennedy
Editor's Note Lee Gutkind
Take Care Ella Wilson
A Little Crazy Susie Meserve
Goodbye, Suicide Optimism One
Show Me All Your Scars: Why People Hurt Themselves and What They Can Teach Us Jane Campbell
Flying High Andrea Rizzo
How I Became an Angel Jennifer Metsker
True Americans Andy Smart
Scuse Me While I Fuck the Sky Ryan Bloom
One of Those Annita Sawyer
Make It a Daisy
A Day in the Life With Bipolar Illness—And Nine Years Later Madeline Strong Diehl
The Pain that Tore in You an Ocean Chloë Mattingly
There's a Name for That? Living with Trichotillomania Alison Townsend
Playing Catch Terri Sherrill
Another Trail of Breadcrumbs Peg Quinn
Like a Scratch on Vinyl Beazie Griffin
Sequelae: The Inner War Beth Wiles
Thief of Souls Jessamine Price


Patrick J. Kennedy

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation's leading political voice on... read more

Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind, recognized by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” is the founder and editor of Creative... read more

Karen Wolk Feinstein

Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD is president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its two supporting organizations, the... read more

Ella Wilson

Ella Wilson grew up on the Yorkshire moors in England and moved to New York in 2002. She has been writing nonfiction for the past twelve... read more

Yvette Frock Gottshall

Yvette Frock Gottshall grew up in Turkey; Okinawa, Japan; Germany; and around the United States, including Texas. She earned an MFA in... read more

Susie Meserve

Susie Meserve grew up outside of Boston and was educated at Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her poetry and... read more

Optimism One

Optimism One earned his MFA in creative nonfiction from Sierra Nevada College. He is a Buddhist, a triathlete, a world traveler, and a... read more

Jane Campbell

Jane Campbell has an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in Grain, Revolver, The Impressment... read more

Andrea Rizzo

Andrea Rizzo has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. She is the senior editor of a mental health and wellness website for... read more

Jennifer Metsker

Jennifer Metsker recceived an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in the Seattle Review, ... read more

Andy Smart

Andy Smart lives and writes in Saint Louis, Missouri. He is passionate about relieving the stigma of mental illness, especially in an... read more

Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom is an English lecturer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has written for the New Yorker, Guernica,... read more

Annita Sawyer

Annita Sawyer is a clinical psychologist with a longstanding clinical practice and a writer with a more recent, but expanding, literary... read more

Joyce O'Connor

Joyce O'Connor was a professional actress on Broadway, off-Broadway, and television in New York City when her son was diagnosed with... read more

Madeline Strong Diehl

Madeline Strong Diehl has worked as a magazine journalist, editor, and grant writer for almost thirty years. She has won the T.S. Eliot... read more

Leslie Smith Townsend

Leslie Smith Townsend is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Her essays and poetry have been published in the... read more

Chloë Mattingly

Chloë Mattingly received her bachelor's degree in creative nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh. She has lived in many... read more

Alison Townsend

Alison Townsend is the author of two books of poetry, Persephone in America and The Blue Dress, and two chapbooks, And Still... read more

Terri Sherrill

Terri Sherrill is a program manager at a multinational pharmaceutical company. Her writing has appeared in blogs and venues such as... read more

Peg Quinn

Peg Quinn's poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies and twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She paints... read more

Beazie Griffin

Beazie Griffin received her master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University in 2014. She currently resides in Long... read more

Beth Wiles

Beth Wiles received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence. She is currently an M.Div. candidate at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. read more

Jessamine Price

Jessamine Price is a teacher and writer with an M.Phil. in history from Oxford and an MFA in creative writing from American University. She... read more


Writing Away the Stigma Lee Gutkind

A couple of years ago, an episode of 60 Minutes... read more

Stories That Must Be Told Patrick J. Kennedy

Inside these pages, you will meet 20 people who... read more



June 14, 2016

Why not offer booklovers a chance to send an additional book to their Congressional and state representatives directly? (perhaps partner with another site?) Educating society on mental health is the only way to expand appropriate care, increase medical coverage for therapy and educate those in our justice system, educational institutions & policing organizations.

None of our leaders or government representatives learned about mental illness in school. But they were probably readers and might be willing to learn now on their own schedule. If attitudes adjust and become more realistic through reading these first person accounts of mental illness, society will demand better, more accessible treatment alongside compassion for sufferers’ families.


June 15, 2016

The use of the word 'madness' in describing this book is the type of language we need to eliminate when talking about mental illness. It perpetuates the stigma when this book is attempting to break it down. Stigma is so insidious we have to be sensitized to recognize it in all it's forms.