Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-Up Mind by Bryony Gordon

Content/Trigger Warning: This post will frankly discuss mental health — specifically drug dependency, OCD, depression, and maybe more — as always, please take care of yourself first. 

First of all, we all know how much of a hot mess I am. I struggle with anxiety, OCD, depression, and more. I like to think I have a handle on it but then sometimes, I forget to do the daily work to keep it in check and there have been times where the lid blows off and I’m back at square one. But I firmly believe openly discussing our own personal mental health struggles will decrease the stigma surrounding asking for help with an ultimate end goal (of many) to treat mental health as a society similar to how we treat physical ailments. Mental health is the only thing I can think of where if you mention you’re on medication, people’s first question is often something along the lines of “Well, have you tried getting outside? It’s all in your head — just get over it!”

Anyway, before I get on a tangent, I recently finished the book Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-Up Mind by Bryony Gordon and holy wow, do I identify with almost all of this book. It nails my own experiences with similar disorders almost to a T and how it has manifested into unhealthy relationships, habits, and dependencies. It’s funny how mental health works that way — your body and mind have a way of forcing you to deal with your internal pain and trauma, whether it’s through addiction, medication, or something else entirely.

Gordon has a way of personalizing OCD without making it feel intimidating. She details that although she grew up in an upper-middle-class family with two loving parents and a great support system, she still was diagnosed with OCD and alopecia (where you tear your own hair out) and developed bulimia as well as a dependency on cocaine. Mental health does not discriminate and Gordon does a great job of attacking the stigma head on that although she didn’t go through anything “horrendous” as a child, her illness and experiences are still incredibly valid, that her struggles are real and authentic all the same.

It’s easy to dismiss mental health as noting that somebody will always have it worse than you will but that doesn’t mean your struggles and hardships aren’t there. It’s hard to admit that you need help sometimes and some days you aren’t going to want to put in the work you need to in order to take care of yourself. It took Gordon almost 20 years to get to a spot where she felt like she could adequately manage her OCD and in her book, she mentions there were valleys & peaks in her journey to managing it. She makes her struggles and story so relatable and it was hard not to draw a tremendous amount of inspiration, goals, and more from her book. There is a very good chance I will be rereading this book again soon as I try to get a handle on my own anxiety.

Mental health is hard. I lovingly and annoyingly refer to my symptoms as “anxiety brain”. The best way I can describe it when it takes over is that logically, I know I’m going to be fine, that it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to. But my brain is telling me something else entirely — it’s creating a full body experience where emotionally, I think I’m going to die, fail, or something else that’s entirely negative. My brain, with all its quirks and weirdness, is trying to tell me that I’m not okay, that there’s something wrong in a particular scenario — when in all reality, there isn’t. Some things trigger my anxiety brain more than others and some days, I get by. I’m still learning that healing is an everyday thing, that I will need to work on my own stuff for the rest of my life — which is honestly, beyond intimidating and terrifying. And I’m really looking forward to the day when this ‘work’ doesn’t feel as forced but much more natural.

What I love about Mad Girl is that Gordon has a way of frankly talking about her journey while also not talking down to her reader if they’re going through that same journey right now. We all need wake up calls and we all need reminders that mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so. This book is a great reminder to prioritize it, work on it, and remind yourself that you’re not a failure or an awful person because of your brain or mind — even if every fiber in your being is trying to convince you otherwise.

Favourite Quote (besides the entire novel): Your parents warn you about the monsters you might encounter in dark alleyways, but they never warn you about the monsters you might find in your own mind, the ones that taunt & trouble you and make you question yourself to your very core.

And for once, I listen to myself. For once, I choose to take my words for things…

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