Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon – Book Review
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon was one of the best autobiographies that I have read for years. With her brutally honest story-telling and close-to-home truths about dealing with mental health issues, I found myself laughing, crying and feeling, if I’m honest, a little bit blue throughout the time I spent reading this.
Bryony Gordon is a British Journalist, who for years led a double lifestyle, trying to quiet her mental health issues with addictions and bad lifestyle choices. From a young age, Bryony shared what it was like when intrusive OCD thoughts began to occupy her normal, logical thinking brain and what brought upon a downward spiral of alcoholic and drug use.
With so many opportunities and prospects, Bryony found it hard to cope with the pressures caused by the thoughts, compulsions and obsessiveness that OCD can bring.
Mad Girl hit home for me in a number of different aspects; finding the right kind of mental health care can sometimes prove to be even harder than dealing with the symptoms themselves. Bryony tried a number of different methods, including an outright charlatan, doctors who weren’t truly prepared to listen and eventually services that worked for her that was able to see a positive change within her life, rather than constantly chasing away the feelings with substances or unhealthy vices.
In my own experience, finding someone who will truly listen and want to treat the intrusive thoughts and compulsions is hard. OCD is a very, very broad illness with compulsions that pop up like a game of whack-a-mole. When a symptom or compulsion passes, a new one might pop up. Even when you find someone who will diagnose, sometimes its hard to find someone who will actually know how to treat it correctly.
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon is a bitter-sweet story of growing up with so much potential and talent and so much struggle. Compulsions that Bryony faced were also some of the one’s I’ve also faced (have not faced POCD Thank God) and the intrusive thoughts may never be the same as what I’ve experienced but they all take on the same tone and generally the same result. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much; for solidarity purposes.
Here are two examples of Mad Girl that have run in to my own life;
Pictured above is my bathroom and the photo that you will find dozens of times in my phone’s gallery. What’s the point? OCD can create a fake memory, or at least it is an intrusive thought. Sometimes I am one hundred percent sure that I have turned off my hair straightening tongs and have unplugged them from the wall and touched them thirty six times to make sure that they are cool, but my brain can make me second guess myself to the point that I have left the house more than two or three times “just to be sure”, so I began to take photos — photos can’t lie… or yet, can they? And so, with that idea, I sometimes take the hair straightening tongs with me in the car because it leaves me a lot more relaxed than having to obsess all day long over them. I take photos of light switches, oven dials, iron plugs — whatever else bothers me on the particular day.
The passage from the book;
“Some mornings, I take the iron to work in my handbag because that is easier and more time efficient (if not energy efficient) than having to spend hours checking that it is properly switched off, and I do not think this is weird.”
If there is a better, more well-explained book regarding OCD, then I suggest that you tell me, because this is succinct.
When I was 12 or 13, I found myself repeating things in my head over and over again to prevent myself getting sick “again” or worse, my grandmother dying even though she had cancer and that was always going to be the end result. These obsessive rotations of thought are a child’s way in an adult mind of having control over situations that you have otherwise no say over.
I was impressed with Mad Girl because it gave me hope and it made me laugh — both things that are incredibly important when dealing with any kind of mental health issues. The fact that Bryony Gordon was brave enough to air all of her dirty laundry and still manage to laugh about it at the end of her book says something to me; that it’s not all bad and that even in the bad there can be some beauty and hopeful moments.
Bryony has developed a UK organisation called Mental Health Mates and hosts a podcast that recently had Prince Harry talking about his experiences with mental health issues. I recommend this book for sufferers of Mental Health Illness, if only for a laugh and a smile at all the things you will be able to relate to, and then also to those who struggle understanding the whys and the hows behind Mental Health matters.