I was really excited for my copy of Emily Reynolds’ (first) book to arrive in the post! I’ve admired her writing for a long time and have been a fan of her sense of humour since I worked with her for a short time as a student (sadly, not linked with writing). I kind of knew that she had “something going on” in terms of mental health, but never the details. Feeling awkward sticking my nose in and knowing I could hardly help myself at the time, let alone someone else, I didn’t want to pry. This book is a glimpse into what she has been through and was going through the short time when I would see her on the regular.
I haven’t written a book review in a long time and this may just read as a list of compliments but I’m more going for “reasons you need this book”. I will try not to spoil it.
“Beginners Guide…” struck a chord when Emily talks about diagnosis, giving whatever mental illness you have a name, so you can maybe take some step into overcoming it. Something that particularly hit home for me, was the idea that one can hide behind or use their label to excuse certain behaviors.
This wasn’t because I have found myself guilty of this, but because an estranged family member of mine has definitely done this, even pre-diagnosis. There’s a whole dramatic story, which I won’t share here, but safe to say Emily put into words exactly what this relative of mine did to herself and our family. Which in itself has given me deeper insight into a truly difficult situation. (She does go on to talk about how diagnosis is a good thing, by the way)
Her articulation of where a mental health condition starts and where a person begins also resonated as, during depressed times in life, I think a lot of the feelings of hopelessness often make you think this is the person you are stuck with being.
This book is real and raw and brave and clearly outlines how to navigate various health services and how to help yourself. Something that isn’t easy when someone is in a depressed, anxious or manic state. This shows you where to start. I wish I had this book as a teenager and as a student. I also think Doctors should be recommending this to their young patients, as a compass. It’s written in an accessible, honest way and in a voice that doesn’t patronise – it cuts through the bullshit.
If someone had handed me this book (especially when at 17 I was told I was difficult to refer for further help, as I was neither a child, nor an adult) I would have been able to make more sense of what was going on in my head at several dark and difficult times in my life. I think given my parents saw evidence of depression and anxiety when I was younger and (as supportive as they were) perhaps thought it was just teenage angst, putting this book in their hands would have helped them as well.
I sound as though I am gushing and OK maybe I am, but Emily has put into words a subject that can be so negative and can eat away at people and she has turned it into something positive. This book is extremely relevant and practical and I suspect it will continue to be throughout my life. I work with university students and although I’m not a counsellor, I now feel like I have more than just my own experiences to draw on to help those who are clearly struggling. I can imagine opening it whenever I next struggle and reading it again years down the line perhaps if I have kids and it will help them too.
I know I’m not a newspaper, heck I’m not even a half good writer, but I just wanted to add to the praise Emily is getting because it is truly deserved! And I am so grateful to her.