NOTE: The author has since made edits to her book. The physical copy I read may now differ from the newer version.
I have known Jordanna Jade since Year 10, and we’ve been friends since Year 12. She’s always been the person scribbling in a notebook, the person I’ve known with 100% certainty would publish a book. She was the kind of student who could convince any tutor she was hanging on their every word and taking extensive notes. In reality, she was penning the next chapter of her novel. Over the years, sitting beside her in class, her novel took many shapes. The Eternal Garden is its final form.
No matter how hard you think a junior doctor works, they work ten times harder. This is Going to Hurt is a collection of diary entries from Adam Kay’s six years on the front line of the NHS. Often funny, at times stomach-churning, and inevitably heartbreaking. This is life on and (very rarely) off the hospital ward, “verrucas and all.”
Divided into 10 sections, each dedicated to a specific post throughout his career, the bite-sized storytelling makes it the perfect book if you only have sporadic moments for reading.
Sleep consumes a third of our lives and its necessity often feels like a burden considering how busy we all are. It’s no wonder so many of us will delay a good night’s rest to complete work or continue chatting with loved ones into the early hours. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Right?
Matthew Walker is here to tell you that this is an attitude that needs to stop. Not only is poor sleep damaging your health right now, the longer it continues the more years it’s likely to shave off your life. In fact, Walker is here to tell you that sleep is the foundation of our health, perhaps even more important than our essential need for food, water and exercise.
When I got my first full-time job there was so much I didn’t understand and was not prepared for. Having now had over a year’s experience of full-time work, there’s still a lot I never learnt or fully understood. And I know there are many my age or younger who are in a similar position.
Lucy Clayton and Steven Haines recognised this disconnect between young people leaving education and the world of work, and they wrote the instruction manual on beginning your career. Whether you’ve never had a job before or if you’re still in the early years of your career, How To Go To Work is a helpful read.
Post-introduction, the books kicks off with busting some myths about careers advice. By starting with dispelling the common myths we’ve all heard, it’s clear from the get-go that pragmatic optimism is the intended takeaway from the book. You will be successful and you can find the job you want. It’s a feeling that radiates with every section and is precisely what I felt when I turned the final page.
Going to work is an enormous, life-changing thing. You’ll never be the same again. You begin knowing nothing and then, very quickly, you can never unknow what it’s like to be bone tired from a fourteen-hour shift or the exhilaration of receiving your first pay slip. The experiences you are about to have will change you forever. And yet, no one is really preparing you for them.
Between the tweets about Brexit and Trump, the Twitter algorithm likes to show me snippets of people’s love lives. From self-deprecating jokes inspired by heartbreak and sassy memes about your cheating ex to inspiring quotes with handclap emojis about not faking orgasms and #RelationshipGoals. Even those not looking for love seem compelled to tell everyone just how happy they are in their independent singleness. I mean, there is a lot more bed to go around when you don’t have to share the sheets, am I right? Love: it’s either the inescapable ruler of our daily lives or it’s waiting on the sidelines for its chance to assert dominion over us. But what’s so great about love?
In the second episode of season 5, “The Dog Days Are Over”, writer and blogger Diane Nguyen takes an impulsive trip to Vietnam to get in touch with her cultural roots. This is her means of escape from the present challenges in her life. Pressured by her job, she turns her adventure into a listicle, transforming her emotional turmoil into “clickable content.”
So considering my own big life change and returning to my own roots, albeit without any real cultural difference, it seemed like a fun thing to emulate for this blog. So let’s get started with . . .
Reason 1: To break the routine
You graduated and decided trading independence for your old room wasn’t what you wanted, so followed in the footsteps of past graduates and found a full-time job locally. After moving in with your friends and starting your 9-5, it almost feels like the uni days haven’t ended. But then reality creeps up on you.
No more getting drunk on weeknights because you can’t skip your 9am start tomorrow. You try to stick to your old routines and attempt to keep the same social life. But instead you programme a new autopilot: cycling through the same meals, meet with the same people and are never short of excuses for why this comfort zone is a prison. It’s a circle of stagnation. And only one solution presents itself.
My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse
It was this blurb that kept me coming back to this book every time I passed it in Tesco. If I had known the first time I picked it up that this was a story that would make me cry so hard I’d have to stop reading several times, it wouldn’t have ended up back on the shelf. But for many weeks Wonder would avoid the trolley, my brain prioritising food over the non-existent space for another addition to my TBR pile. Until one day, curiosity got the better of me, and Palacio’s novel got through self-checkout and found its way to my bookshelf.
No-one’s experience with “the black dog” can be a carbon copy of someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from or find comfort in hearing other people’s stories. Today, I want to talk about Sally Brampton’s experience that she beautifully details in her eye-opening and brutal memoir, Shoot the Damn Dog.
Sally Brampton, founding editor of Elle magazine, is by no means an expert on mental illness. But she is an expert on her own journey with depression, and in the beginning she didn’t really understand what that meant. Back then, and even today, the idea that depression is an illness can be hard to understand for some, especially for those who’ve never experienced it. This is the perfect starting point, allowing the reader to learn just as Brampton does as she walks us through her long long road to recovery. On this road she will try every antidepressant at their highest dosages, check in to psychiatric wards and AA meetings, and open up to us about her two suicide attempts.
Just as Brampton cannot speak for anyone else’s unique experience of mental illness, I cannot speak for anyone else’s reading experience but my own. There’s no holding back in this book and this can understandably be distressing for those who may have had similar experiences, and some may learn nothing new.
I, however, found her story helped me better understand myself. For example, one section describes the dangers of abandoning oneself: “If somebody hurts you and you pretend that you are fine, you abandon yourself.” She goes on to list several other scenarios where someone with depression might abandon themselves, as described to her by a therapist. I could relate to almost every single one , and it reminded me of my own counselling. The familiarity was comforting, only for an epiphany to then follow with a passage on the next page. She goes on to describe a state of detachment defined as being “wantless and needless”:
If you adopt the position of not wanting or needing anything emotionally, you are unlikely to get hurt. To sustain that entirely, you withdraw emotionally and even physically from others, although you may show a perfectly sociable exterior when you are out in the world. It is the interior that is fiercely defended. Some people (as I did) adopt this as a solution to emotional pain, forgetting that we are communal animals, biologically and genetically determined to interact with others. The solution then becomes the problem.
I recognised myself in Brampton’s words, and I genuinely believe it’s had an impact on how I think about myself in relation to the world around me. I can be quite an apathetic person, and I had never considered it might be a coping mechanism. It was precisely this revelation that made me want to recommend this book. I truly believe you can learn a lot about depression from her memoir. It’s informative whilst also telling an honest and compelling story.
Sadly, in 2016, Sally Brampton died by suicide. But without hope and recovery, she might never have found a stage in her life when she could have written this book. The fact this memoir exists shows that recovery is possible. Her daughter’s afterword is a heartfelt message that emphasises that Brampton’s suicide does not rob the book of its power.
They see me, the sheep that will moo or oink over common speech. The rest of the flock smiles and trots the line back to a place safer and scarier than the slaughterhouse: a land of joy in horrific pattern. I am not scared, I am not sad, I am not anything. Indecisive, maybe. Run from the barking or purr back? Shall I join the herd and smile with my gaze locked on a portal to infinite knowledge? Oh to be corrupted with the plague of ignorance, and find solace where the inferior of mind scream with superior voices.
The hogs on horses with their spotlight armour, gorgon glares, and whip tongues make me yearn for the world of habit. Starting each day where it ends, the wheel spinning endlessly. But I know I must fight those tight, velvet chains. For how long can the same simple steps produce a smile? Can one be content staring at one painting their entire life? Reading the same book or listening to the same song? At what point do the colours of a painting, the pages of a book, or the rhythms of a song become a drug? The strings of addiction, without it you have nothing to lift you from the folds of fantasy.
This is what I think of as the Pattern Patrol approach me, a lone sheep trying hard to wear another skin. But all it takes is one squeal and I bleat, as expected, before rushing to the line of those much like myself – craving a new pattern but fear to break the old.
Marching back to the cushioned cells, I couldn’t stop thinking. I kept thinking as I consumed the sensations my taste buds knew far too well. The very same thoughts barred me from night fantasies I could never bring to light. All I kept thinking was why did I bleat again? An answer came to me, although I cannot explain how. Picking up a pen had always felt like reattaching a missing limb, but this time the pen felt as foreign to me as planets outside our galaxy are to anyone. And with this alien device I wrote something I both despised and adored at the same time:
I am but a man, a light summer breeze on sea. No ripples or waves.
I’m over you, I truly am. But I’ll never forget the reputation you gave me. An anomaly with an ugly aura, oh how you all sneered. The apathy, you neither knew nor cared how it pained me, Humiliation day after day, oh how you all cheered. I forgive you, I do, and I’m glad you forgave me, But you still sowed the seeds of terror, oh how I fear That from loneliness, nobody will ever wish to save me. I weep with every chunk torn from my heart, oh how I tear.
I’m over you, I truly am. But I’ll never understand how you suddenly changed. From brightly lit paths to dark chasms, oh how you turned. No more laughter, only silence is what we then exchanged. Warm smiles to cold shoulders, oh how you spurned. Our secrets became mysteries as we became estranged. Years of regret and pain, oh how I yearn To show you a side of me not so deranged. But I remain atop your pyre of anger, oh how I burn.
I’m over you, I truly am. But I’ll always remember how you looked right through me. Silly me thought you understood me, oh how you deceived. But the uniqueness in your confidence and character drew me. With the key to my chest, you stole affection, oh how you thieved. Only then did I discover the red flags that threw me: Unpacked baggage, phobic of commitment, oh how I grieve The heart you halved, and you never even knew me. But I won’t let myself lose faith, oh no I still believe.
Oh how I fear, Oh how I yearn, Oh how I grieve.
And I may tear, And I may burn, But I still believe.