I had seen ‘Mad Girl’ reviewed a number of times – and knew of Bryony Gordon from her newspaper and magazine writing – so wanted to shoe horn this in to my Reading Challenge!
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
“Bryony Gordon has OCD.
It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.”
People often comment about my husband’s OCD – and whilst mostly this is in jest (as he’s a neat freak) I do wonder if it’s quite so innocent, as I know when he’s stressed by external factors (work, family, health) he will bleach toilets and hoover excessively. Bryony’s OCD isn’t neat freak – it’s about imagining she’s done things and forgotten about it, or rituals or phrases she has to repeat to ensure bad things don’t happen. Now this is something I totally empathise with (although would never have considered it OCD) – doesn’t everyone have to make sure the light switches are facing the right way before they go to bed? Or check the children at bedtime in ascending or descending age order? Obviously if the light switches are out of sync or the kids are checked in a random order, something bad will happen over night? But I’d already been made aware of other people’s experiences with PROPER OCD – counting things being the major one (tiles in a classroom ceiling then turning into number of times they’d swallowed in a day etc) and knew this could be really debilitating – and Bryony’s OCD definitely falls in to the latter category.
The book charts her experiences and how the OCD has effected life from a child, through teenage years, early 20s and working life. It is interesting throughout – and really feels like you know what Bryony went through – but it’s done in an amusing and self deprecating way, It felt like I was in the pub with Bryony having a chat as I read it (although with less booze and illegal drugs than Bryony had when she was in the pub at some points in her life, so at least I could remember it afterwards).
Half way through reading the book, I was reading my monthly Red Magazine – and came across a letter written by Bryony to ‘lovely Red reader’ – which clearly was written just for me!! I ended up sobbing reading it on a plane (which slightly freaked out my 5 year old daughter who also commandeered the magazine to read – but preferred the pictures of pretty clothes!)
Partly it was the spookiness of it (I had weighed myself that morning – and weighed EXACTLY the weight that Bryony had got to when she’d been eating away her pain (although in my case this wasn’t the peak, the peak had been a stone further up a few weeks before)). I Tweeted Bryony about this and she replied ‘I may be heavy but I am also strong’. This was JUST what I needed to hear. I should be proud of my body – it’s borne me 4 beautiful children (admittedly so have Victoria Beckham’s and Heidi Klum’s!) – and heavier people are harder to kidnap and all that?!
Bryony also talked both in the magazine article and in the epilogue of her book about how running has helped her mental health – which was something I was already very familiar with as a friend who is bipolar credits running with keeping himself sane – literally (http://www.runningformylife.uk/). For me, it’s boxing. An hour of boxing drills and sparring leaves me energised – and aching – but feeling strong and powerful too.
I think it was clearly meant to be that I read the magazine article whilst reading the book – as motivation to me to stop feeding my issues (literally) and do something about them. I’m lucky that I don’t have OCD, it hasn’t caused me additional issues, like it did for Bryony – but I need to take care of myself and my own health – not just that of my family, friends, staff etc.
I think the perfect end to this blog post is to quote Bryony directly:
“All I want to do is let you know that if I can do it, anyone can.
This is how you become more powerful than you could ever imagine, You become unapologetically you on full beam, turned up to 11, you with the mega wattage, Like a summer house boarded up for the winter, the sockets turned off, you have always had the power, Not you just need to go and switch it on.”