Here is my 7th book review for my #52Booksby52Publishers 2017 reading challenge, in time for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.
This cause is very important to me, as an editor of mental health self-help and non-fiction books, so I was very pleased to be contacted about this book.
Today’s publisher is…
RedDoor is a genuinely innovative publishing house, home to some of the UK’s most exciting authors.
Our list is strong and focused, comprising brilliant fiction, commercial non-fiction and thought-provoking business books. We’re extremely selective in what we take on, and – once a book is with us – we work very, very hard for its success.
The brilliant book they’ve given me to review is:
The literary world needs more books like these. Simple as that. (Thankfully, I’m working day in, day out at Trigger Press to make this a reality!)
Loving the Life Less Lived is about Gail Mitchell’s life story. But more specifically, it’s about her story with severe anxiety and depression, and the ups and downs that these conditions have brought to her life over the years.
This book is categorised as a ‘self-help book’ on the back cover but actually fairly early on in the book Gail Mitchell admits that it isn’t. It’s not a self-help book; it’s more an educational story of one woman’s horrific battle with severe anxiety and depression, interspersed with tips, ‘toolboxes’, and life lessons that she’s picked up along the way. She isn’t pretending to have the solution; she isn’t trying to be a doctor or claiming to be able to solve your mental health issues. She’s simply a woman who’s been through some of the worst things mental illness can throw at you, and wants to share coping mechanisms with you now that she’s on the other side.
She’s also very honest in this book: she doesn’t pretend that she’s completely free of anxiety. In fact, she does something far, far more valuable – she advises you to embrace your anxiety. The crux of it all is that things were far harder for her for a long time when she didn’t accept who she was and what she suffered with. When she tried to run away from anxiety, all it did was catch up with her and knock her down. When she embraced it and accepted herself for who she was, she was able to face the anxiety head on and get to know herself. As a result, she learned what helped her and what didn’t; what helped keep anxiety at bay, and what exacerbated it. She learned to discuss it openly and live with, and around, her mental illness. And only then did she realise that not only could she Love the Life Less Lived, but she could teach others to love it too.
A lot of people who suffer with anxiety struggle to put the experience into words: thankfully Gail has no trouble with this and her descriptions of her anxiety attacks are so vividly depicted that I could easily climb into her mind and understand what she went through (I’m unsure if this would need a trigger warning: I suffer with anxiety myself and it didn’t make me feel anxious; it just made me feel like there was some kind of unspoken understanding between me and the author, and because these scenes are quickly and effectively counter-balanced with tips for feeling calmer and happier, I didn’t feel triggered whatsoever. But I’m just one person.)
Gail also comes across as incredibly wise, not just in an intelligence sense (though, as an ex-accountant and successful professional, she is clearly very intelligent) but in an emotional sense. And she takes us through her journey and teaches us, as readers, how she became emotionally wise and how we can be too. She makes us realise that the simple things in life can be the most rewarding, beneficial, and healthy. She makes us reevaluate ourselves and our priorities and reminds us to feed our souls and creativity, rather than just our corporate ambitions (though of course this is important to many people too).
I’m not going to pretend that the tips in this book are brand new or groundbreaking, as I’ve read a lot of them before and a lot of them are just general good practice for life (but, to be fair, I work in mental health publishing, so maybe they’re not as familiar to others as they are to me!) but they are pretty smart and founded in research – they discuss having a good diet, the importance of sleeping well, picking up hobbies, giving CBT a try, etc. Many of them do, admittedly, feel like a little bit of basic common sense but it’s only when you really stop to think about it when you realise that actually, you’re probably not as great at sticking to these healthy life habits as you think you are.
What I liked about Gail is that she isn’t arrogant or preachy (she does discuss her faith a little bit, which isn’t relevant to me as an atheist, but not once did I ever feel uncomfortable with this part of the book) and she admits fully when she doesn’t always follow her own advice. In order to feel human, I think, we need to know that it’s humans, warts and all, that are advising us. That way, there is no holier-than-thou attitude within the pages to balk at – just holistic, intrinsically kind advice to help us through the dark days.
Many times in this narrative stigma is all too well depicted, as we all know it exists, especially in the workplace. But there are some very touching scenes within this book that prove the strength and effectiveness of kindness and understanding. Actually, a lot of this kindness and understanding in Gail’s life has come from strangers (in the street, in the shops, at work) but it always helped her enormously.
Gail’s writing is honest, frank, funny, and enjoyable to read. It also doesn’t sugar the pill, and that is what society needs right now. We need to be open and honest about mental health, and we need to try to help one another. Red Door Publishing and Gail Mitchell do this very well in this book.
I very much enjoyed this book – four stars from me!
To buy the book from Amazon, click here.