Study Guide

All the Bright Places Mental Illness

By Jennifer Niven

Mental Illness

I can't tell you what was different this time around, only that when I woke up, I felt deader than usual. Awake, yeah, but completely empty, like someone had been feasting on my blood. (1.6)

Finch's last depressive episode really took something out of him. It sounds like his illness is getting worse, not better.

I smile so she can see what I mean. Everything where it should be, on the outside at least. (1.26)

Finch implies that there's something wrong on the inside, where people can't see. We soon learn that's true.

The fact is, I was sick, but not in an easily explained flu kind of way. It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other recognizable disease just to make it simple for me and also for them. (1.86)

One of the problems with mental illness is there's no "proof" on the surface, where people can see. That doesn't mean it's not real, though.

"I get these headaches sometimes. No big deal." This isn't an out-and-out lie, because the headaches are part of it. It's like my brain is firing so fast that it can't keep up with itself. Words. Colors. Sounds. (18.8)

Here Finch describes his manic episodes. Notice he only tells Violet about the headache part and keeps the rest to himself.

Sometimes there are warnings. Sound, of course, and headaches, but I've also learned to look out for things like changes in space, as in the way you see it, the way it feels. (18.17)

Finch has come to recognize the signs of his depressive episodes. As readers, we see him experiencing some of them later in the book.

If he's in the basement, it can only mean one thing. He's in one of his moods, as Mom calls them. (21.4)

Finch says his dad has black moods, which basically involve lots of screaming and physical abuse. We know that Finch has violent tendencies. Maybe it runs in the family.

Upstairs, I brave Decca's chamber of horrors to make sure she's okay. …I find her on the floor, cutting words out of books she's collected from around the house. (21.59-21.60)

When Finch's little sister is upset, she cuts all the "mean parts" out of every book she can find. That sounds an awful lot like something Finch would do. Is it possible she's showing signs of bipolar disorder, too?

She'll tell me to help myself to the Advil in her purse and that I need to relax and stop getting so worked up, because in this house there's no such thing as being sick unless you can measure it with a thermometer under the tongue. (25.7)

Finch is telling all the kids all across the land: Take it from him, parents just don't understand.

"What do you know about bipolar disorder?" I almost say, What do you know about it? But I make myself breathe and smile. "Is that the Jekyll-Hyde thing?" My voice sounds flat and event. Maybe a little bored, even though my mind and body are on alert. (41.36)

In his last meeting with Finch, the school counselor broaches the topic of bipolar disorder. Why do you think Finch acts disinterested?

I want to get away from the stigma they all clearly feel just because they have an illness of the mind as opposed to, say, an illness of the lungs or blood. (44.17)

Though Finch recognizes how the stigma of mental illness affects people in the suicide support group he attends, he doesn't seem to see how it holds him back in his own life.