Memoirs of Mental Health: Edward Enninful

A Visible Man by Edward Enninful was one of a few memoirs that I finished in December. The book is different from most of the memoirs I choose because I had no prior knowledge of who the author was; rather, Audible kept recommending it to me. I’m glad I gave his book a chance and I look forward to sharing some of the mental health insights that I gained along the way.

Mental Health Themes

Depression, Grief, and Addiction

Throughout the memoir, Enninful discusses the various bouts of depression that he endured throughout his life. Making matters worse, his go-to coping skills included alcohol and drug abuse along with workaholism. I was happy to hear how Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was a useful tool for him, as he participated faithfully for over fourteen years. As for the workaholism, he struggled throughout his life with work-life balance. The example of how he almost went blind (detached retinas) due to years of poor sleep habits, drug abuse, and poor self-care was especially thought-provoking.

Enninful describes the death of his mother as losing “the love of my life.” He attended therapy during this time, which was encouraging, as he men from his upbringing tended to cope with their problems with alcohol and stoicism.

Health Anxiety and Imposter Syndrome

Enninful describes himself as a hypochondriac in the memoir, which he comes by honestly given the scary nature of his sickle cell anemia, that often results in medical crises. His story resonates, as Black people often experience high levels of both distrust in and discrimination from healthcare institutions; for example, morphine has been one of the only treatments that can provide relief when his sickle cell condition flares; however, because he’s a celebrity in the fashion industry, he has been treated like a junkie and denied care on numerous occasions.

“I filled my time up with as much work as I could get my hands on to escape from the depression I never properly addressed. It would strike in the middle of the night when my mind would go around and round with self-recrimination. ‘I’m not being a good son to my mother. I’m turning my back on my family. I’m getting by on my charm. Did that exasperated look from that photographer mean my work isn’t as good as I thought it was. And on and on and on…’ “


Enninful shares about his upbringing in Ghana, where his father served in the military. During his childhood, Ghana experienced a great deal of political instability. Given his father’s military status, the family experienced threats to their safety. Furthermore, their home was within view of public executions, which left an impression on the author in his formative years. The family eventually fled to London, as did many Ghanaians at the time.

The next major trauma came when Enninful decided to drop out of college. Given that his father was a strict and often harsh military man, this decision was seen as unacceptable. His father kicked him out of the house in a very humiliating manner and that experience impacted him for years afterwards, despite finding great success soon thereafter.

I also appreciate Enninful’s accounts of being a gay man at the height of the AIDS epidemic, as this period was a collective trauma for many, especially those in the LGBTQ+ communities. Similar to the accounts shared in Jenifer Lewis’ memoir, Enninful illustrates the despair of seeing so many friends and colleagues vanishing throughout those years. Furthermore, due to the high level of stigma and politics surrounding the epidemic, many suffered in silence. In the book, Enninful gets vulnerable about how this time impacted his own development and relationships as a queer person.

“There was so much fear, so much vulnerability in this community that I had just become a part of. Even if I did badly want someone to call my own, I only had a child’s idea of what that even meant. When you’ve grown up gay in a world primed to detest you, you often have to grow up twice. Once when you leave home; where more often than not, it was your being gay that made you leave, and then a second time when you find the gay community and discover a whole new set of rules and codes to switch in and out of. With these rules, came a whole new set of potential rejections too. Now add that to being Black, an immigrant, and working class.”


While I’m well versed in the racism in the United States, I didn’t know much about how it plays out in the United Kingdom. Enninful shares his experiences with racism nationally, professionally, and personally. I appreciate his take on the racist immigration policies of Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister, as it took place at the time his family was fleeing Ghana. Enninful experienced racism early in his career, as he was deemed “too Black” to model. More recently, he’s gotten criticism over his decision to consistently feature a range of Black models in British Vogue and other publications, the consensus being that he’s taking the “Black thing” too far…


I received feedback on my last few posts in this series noting that the posts are sad or a downer. I suppose I’m biased since I work in the mental health field. With that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that the books I discuss are not completely doom and gloom. I just focus on the mental health aspects in my summaries.

I enjoyed A Visible Man by Edward Enninful and highly recommend the audio version, as it’s read by the author.

Side note: I’ve been intrigued by West Africa for a while now, as I am half African (Sierra Leone). The numerous books I’ve consumed about this region and its people aren’t cutting it anymore, so I’m currently getting my coins together and plan to go on a solo tour of Ghana in early 2024!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this content, feel free to buy me a coffee to support the blog and podcast.

Be sure to sign up for my email list, to receive new articles and podcast episodes direct to your inbox.

Spread the love