Her Guide To Life

An Unofficial Guide to Staying Sane(ish) in your 20s

Friday, 30 December 2016

Review: MAD GIRL by Bryony Gordon

MAD GIRL by Bryony Gordon
Published 29th December 2016 by Headline Publishing Group
ISBN 9781472232090 | £7.99

Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery

Bryony Gordon is a Telegraph columnist. She has interviewed everybody from Justin Timberlake to Bjork. She has walked part of the Great Wall of China with Sir Cliff Richard, Joan Rivers, and Olivia Newton-John, and has had private dance lessons with Strictly's Anton du Beke (jealous).

She is, by most people's standards, an incredibly successful woman. She is also a woman who has struggled with OCD most of her life, with intermittent bouts of clinical depression.

Picture credit © Headline Books
I went to see Bryony talk on a Grazia panel in May. She's funny, a bit loud, very, very open, which is something I love in anybody. She talked so unflinchingly about topics that other people skirt around, or try to shy away from. Mad Girl is a first and foremost, a memoir, starting with (*spoiler alert*) Bryony's first experiences with OCD at the age of twelve, and chronicling her life from this point onwards, with its various relapses and mental health issues, through dropping out of uni, drug abuse, abusive relationships, bulimia, dirty flats in London, and much, much more.

The writing is bold, shocking at times, and never dressed either up or down - Bryony wants, more than anything, just to be honest. With this she manages to cut through the pages and (at least for me) really, really get through to the reader. If I ever meet her in real life again, I'll give her a big cuddle for being so flippin' brave to be able to share about her insecurities, her self-esteem issues, and everything else that is so blimmin' common, and yet we're still all so scared to show people and talk about.

Two things stuck with me when reading Mad Girl. Number 1: mental illness likes to trick you into thinking that you're alone. It's what it thrives on - cutting you off from family, friends, and others, just at the moment when you're feeling low and you need people around you who care about you. The voice in your head tells you that nobody has ever felt like this before, that there is something wrong with you, that everybody else is walking around leading perfectly normal, perfectly rational lives, when you can't even get out of bed, shower and get dressed without the hugest effort.

Recently, this facade has started to fall down, where people have started talking about their own experiences with mental illness. People like the brilliant Matt Haig, in Reasons to Stay Alive. More and more people are speaking up about their lives, their insecurities. If you loved Reasons to Stay Alive, this is absolutely the next book you should pick up.

Number 2: mental illness isn't black-and-white.

Picture credit © Her Guide To Life 

If number 1 is mostly for people who HAVE had mental health issues, number 2 is for people who...haven't. Bryony shows that it is possible to have mental health problems, and at the same time, to be...well, normal. More than that: that it IS completely normal to have these mental health issues. She goes to work, she goes to parties, she travels (admittedly, not without a healthy does of airplane anxiety). She is, by her own definition, happy, at some points. She isn't rocking in a corner 24/7. She wasn't born 'mad'. Conversations like this are incredibly, incredibly important to help continue to fight the stigma around mental illness, and this book, I think, is an incredible reminder that this stigma still needs fighting.

For anybody who's ever felt a bit lonely in their 'madness' - after all, mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people at any given time - give it a read, and be reassured. You are not alone. Sometimes we all just need a book like Mad Girl  to fall into our lap to remind us of this.

Hannah x

(P.S: If you want to see more of what I'm reading, you can follow me on Goodreads!)

Feature image © Hannah Billie Perry 

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