Hello again! I write today in a midst of pregnancy joys and aches and pains but alas, the tiny human grows on and all of that is a blog for another time. Today, I’m emerging from the depths of blog tumbleweed to start a new feature that just might encourage me to finish the ever growing pile of books that remain by the side of my bed, half read.
Speaking of halves, half term has just begun and although much of the day has been spent ‘nesting’, or as I prefer to call it, ‘catching up with everyone else’s normal realms of cleanliness and tidiness’, I have spent the last couple of hours laying next to my cat and enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. And the book in question is Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon.
I laughed a lot reading this book but that’s not to say the main subject matter is in any way amusing. Bryony writes of a life, a happy life, that is encroached on by painful and debilitating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Not the kind that people use in casual conversation to describe a loved one who likes their DVDs stored alphabetically, no, think, colossal, intrusive and at times life-threatening OCD. The kind that turns you into a monster in your head making your rational thoughts cave into themselves after being repeatedly struck sidewards by thoughts of the darkest kind. And yet she writes about it in such a way that draws you deep into her funny, loving and beautiful personality that, despite what she may feel throughout many difficult times in her twenties and thirties, is still there, thriving and growing. She writes about mental illness in a frank way, in a way that says ‘all the while this goes on, it’s a bit shit, but there’s good stuff happening too’. She writes about it in a way that invites people to say, yeah that’s happened to me and it’s awful and horrendous yet I am normal. I can live, I can breathe, I can cope and it doesn’t define who I am.
I recommend this book to anyone who has ever come into contact with another human. It doesn’t have to be someone who has experienced mental health ‘issues’ or even someone who has ever heard of this kind of OCD. It just has to be someone, because the likelihood of someone you know and love deeply experiencing difficulty with their mental health is huge – 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (mind.org.uk). And with all the progress in amazing charities, celebrities and people and their loving and accepting attitudes, it remains a taboo in friendships, families and workplaces all over the world. But Bryony is one of those people who, despite the obvious pain it must have been to relive and share these experiences, has done it bravely, beautifully and with balls, bringing this topic into homes and book shops, airports and cafes all over the country.
This book left me feeling hopeful. It left me feeling that I need to be more accepting, that I need to be more forgiving, not just of myself but of others. Most of all, it left me feeling worthy – something I think she sums up wonderfully with the end paragraph of the book which I will leave here now as a reminder to whoever reads this of your own validity, worth and place in this world.
Mental illness lies to you. It lies to you and lies to you and lies to you. It tells you that you are a freak, that you are worthless, that nobody understands you or what you are going through in your head. It is wrong. You are not a freak. You are worth more than gold. But most of all, you are not alone. – Bryony Gordon, Mad Girl