Book review: Since We Fell

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This novel is a hot mess, in a super addicting, gotta-read-until-I-finish way. Dennis Lehane’s Since We Fell is basically a short soap opera on paper. With a main character who suffers from debilitating anxiety.

After a traumatic event, Rachel starts getting panic attacks. She starts to unravel until she reaches a point where she stops leaving her home for months at a time. Stepping out of her apartment doors causes her both intense anxiety and great amounts of pride.

I’m not going to say anything else about this mystery because I’m afraid of giving something away. I don’t even want to go over the general plot because it starts in one place, goes to another, skips over to another time and the finishes with a wild, unexpected adventure. And then just drops off, leaving readers wondering what the hell happens next while giving so much unnecessary information about what went on before. To tell you the first part of the plot gives you no real information and to go further risks spoilers.

I’m not dissing this book at all. Relaying the juicy details of Rachel’s life to my partner gave me great pleasure. “Babe! Guess what happened in my book today??? Well … ”

What I specifically loved about Since We Fell was that the main character had an anxiety disorder. In the past year, I’ve been pretty much non-stop listening to audio books because of my concussion and this is the first work of fiction that dealt with mental illness in a major way. What’s better is, Lehane dealt with it in a great way.

Rachel’s anxiety is normalized by an understanding partner who holds her hand through her recovery, offering the right amount of support while still pushing her to break out of her comfort zone in small ways. It touches on the loss and loneliness that comes with struggling with an unseen illness that most people don’t understand. Her anxiety plays a central role in the novel; as the mystery unfolds, Rachel’s choices are to take a huge leap out of her bubble or risk death.

If you dig mystery, drama and anxious characters, I highly recommend this novel. It’s no great work of art, but reading it is a fantastic way to spend a lazy day.

I’d give this book three out of five cats.

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Book review: 100 Days of Mental Health

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Full disclosure, I haven’t finished this book. This time, it’s not because I hated it. Actually, I was quite enjoying it when I slipped on the ice. While for most people jerking back in time to prevent a fall would be a good thing, but for my concussion-weakened brain, it wasn’t so great. So, I’m back to being unable to read. Sigh.

When my brain gets itself sorted out again, I’ll dive right back into Paul Green‘s ebook, 100 Days of Mental Health. Each day for 100 days, Green wrote a bit about what he had gone through that day. There are triumphs–like getting out to large public events–and lots of bad times–like feeling unable to get anything done.

For people who struggle with anxiety or depression, I think this is a great read. Knowing others have similar struggles can make those struggles seem normal and okay.

Who I’d really recommend this book for, though, is people who have not experienced mental health issues. It’s a quick read (if you’re not concussed) and Green has a great sense of humour, which definitely shows through in the book. Although it’s just one person’s experience, Green’s book gives some insight into what it’s like to be constantly fighting with your brain and emotions. For anyone who has difficulty understanding mental illness, this book could help.

This book was only available as an ebook, but I’m having trouble finding it now. But Green does regularly blog on his website, so that’s a great place to get a taste of his dry humour and openness about his mental health.

Book review: A Worrywart’s Companion

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I can see why reading Beverly Potter’s The Worrywart’s Companion: Twenty-One Ways to Soothe Yourself and Worry Smart is highly recommended for all the folks who join support groups at the Anxiety Disorder Association of Manitoba.

A lot of the more helpful points in the book, such as how to argue with the thoughts causing your anxiety, were tricks I picked up in counselling. And since not everyone has the resources to go to counselling, it’s fantastic that all that info is packed in this book.

Some of the suggestions seemed a bit hokey to me. I can’t see myself setting up a dedicated worry spot in my home where I sit for X minutes a day to worry, but I also got a lot of my worrywarting under control before reading this book.

And what I love about it is that Potter gives many, many options for controlling worry, from distraction to limiting it to redirecting thoughts. While there were some suggestions I really didn’t think would work for me, there were many others that I’m going to add to my anxiety toolbox.

I highly recommend buying the book rather than borrowing a copy, if you can. I initially borrowed it, but there’s a ton of info that is difficult to absorb in one library borrow. I also really appreciate having it around to reference.

The book starts off with a questionnaire where you rate your anxiety and thinking patterns on a scale of 1 to 9. Your final score tells you how much of a worrier you are. After trying out some of the books techniques, you can go back to the quiz and see how much it’s helped you. It’s a great way to gage how you’re improving, over time.

There’s lots of copies on Amazon for pretty cheap, including audio versions.

Happy reading!

Book review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

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TW: cis-dude saying creepy things re: men wearing “women’s” clothes and a woman’s body

I only got 37 minutes into the 5+ hour audiobook.

I like the premise, although the title is somewhat misleading. Author Mark Manson is suggesting that people choose what they give a fuck about. Instead of yelling at a cashier for not taking a $0.30 coupon, find something more important to worry about. We’re all going to die. Make life full and meaningful.

This is great advice for someone like me. I’m still anxious about a dude who honked at me three years ago for not speeding into a merging lane. (It’s a traffic intersection I can’t explain in words, but I was in the right. Trust me. I’ve been playing this over in my head for years).

From the half hour I listened to of this book, I got a new tool for my anxiety toolbox. When I get the rude cashier at Good Samaritan and she goes out of her way to imply I’m lacking intelligence, I’m going to shift my attention from hating her and plotting ways to never have to see her face again to thinking about how I’m going to use the new crafting supplies I’ve picked up in upcoming Stitching Hearts projects.

But not giving a fuck, according to Manson, is also about just doing things without caring too much about what people think, etc. “These moments of non-fuckery are the moments that most define our lives,” Manson wrote. I like this. This is sort of how I run my life. I don’t dwell on decisions. I dive into whatever seems the most fun, exciting and fulfilling.

I’ve known my husband a total of 11 months and I’ve already moved to another country to be with him. The moment I made that decision was a moment of non-fuckery. I didn’t think about logistics or finances. I’m now so homesick and so broke and really miss being able to work for money (still waiting on that green card!), but when I’m giggling so hard my stomach hurts and I’m about to fall off the couch, I know I made the right decision. A decision I never would have made if I’d taken the time to gather information and weight the options. This is also how I chose my post-secondary program, became a freelancer and got cats. All some of the best decisions of my life.

However, one of Manson’s examples of not giving a fuck is breaking up with your boyfriend because you caught him wearing your pantyhose one too many times. There are so many things wrong with this line. But, basically, this is something that someone should definitely not give a fuck about. Unless said boyfriend has been asked to not wear your tights for practical reasons like he’s stretching them out. I wish I’d just hit pause and moved on then. I’m a little ashamed to say I decided to keep giving this guy a shot.

But not long after this, Manson writes that we need to accept that we’ll never get to touch Jennifer Aniston’s tits. That’s where I bailed. Way to make the breast-harbouring readers super fucking uncomfortable, dude.

If anyone knows of a book that’s similar but missing out on the transphobic, objectifying bullshit, lemme know!

 

A book review: Present Over Perfect

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Reading has been a pastime I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since I was a child, although I haven’t made time to read enough over the last few years. With plenty of time on my hands since the accident, I’ve made my way back to it. Of course, with a concussion I can’t physically read books. Thank goodness for audiobooks!

And now that my brain is mostly healed (although reading for more than 20 minutes is still difficult) but I’m unable to work for pay due to being in the middle of an immigration process, this seems like an excellent time to do a bit of work on myself.

So, I’ve started listening to self-help books, a genre that previously I’ve shied away from with a great deal of hostility. It seemed like a waste of time. What worked for one person surely won’t work for me. That’s true. A lot of what I’m reading in these books is garbage advice, for me at least. However, I’m still walking away with some great lessons and insights that I can apply to me.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist has a lot more religion that I’d like in any book, but even as an eye-rolling atheist, I was able to get over all the god talk. A lot of what she wrote about actually really resonated with me.

In this book, the author discusses her journey from being an overwhelmed, anxious and too busy writer to living a more quiet and meaningful life where she’s at peace. Sounds pretty much exactly like the journey I was hoping to make before life forced me to just stop.

It’s not really a how-to, but rather a collection of stories of how difficult it was to change her mindset, to say no to work and yes to a healthier life, and to become okay with stillness. This format leaves the reader a lot of space to learn their own lessons from her experiences.

Although she doesn’t specifically talk a lot about mental health, there’s a lot for anxious creatives to learn from her. Specifically, through her stories I got a better idea of which projects I want to accept and which I’d rather pass on. I learned that quiet and stillness are things you can learn to embrace and love. And, most importantly, I learned that I can change me life. It’s just going to be fucking hard.

Present Over Perfect is available as an audiobook (I listened free on Hoopla using my library card) so you can get through it while making art!

Here’s what I did while listening: