This post is in collaboration with Story of the Mind. See the original article here!
Books about anxiety, especially those written by those with lived experience are a bit like a reassuring “Oh, thank goodness that I’m not the only one” moment for me every time I read them. I’ve read a fair few, but these are the ones that really resonated with me.
THE WORRY TRAP
CHAD LEJEUNE, PHD
This is another one recommended to me by my psychologist. It is written as a companion to therapy but no doubt you could also read it on your own. It is a book about dealing with anxiety using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It involves a lot of mindfulness based coping techniques – I had been taught a lot of them before but there were a few new ones (and some pretty funny ones!) It is good in that in really concentrates on just letting the anxiety sit, accept it and then it becomes less. Anxious people often have a tendency to try and control what they are thinking and feeling (100% me) which makes them more anxious, this is where the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy seems ideal.
FIRST, WE MAKE THE BEAST BEAUTIFUL
I found this book to be brilliant. Sarah Wilson gives some great strategies, albeit some a little unusual as she tells the story of how her life has played out it felt like she was the same person as me - high achieving, determined, over worked, obsessive and anxious.
She talks of how being anxious constantly is a lonely place to be, a feeling I know too well. "Anxiety is a very lonely condition; when you're anxious you've got to suffer alone. But we can all reach out and let each other know that we're not on our own, there's other people going through the same thing."
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful reads like an anxious person’s mind which is oddly comforting as that’s what I'm like. It's not a preachy self-help book (thank goodness, I’m not a fan of those), but it does have some practical tips. It makes you go "Oh thank god, here is this super successful person who is just like me! Phew!" It is raw, honest and touching – I imagine a book like this would be personally taxing and revealing to write. It is perfect for anyone who is anxious or anyone who loves someone who is anxious. It will give you a good insight into the way their world works.
HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON
I love this book, not so much because of how it is written, more because it just explains so much about me! HSP describes a trait which encompasses about 20% of the population. Aron is a psychologist who has researched this trait over her career. Highly sensitive people tend to think and feel more deeply, they are more predisposed to anxiety and depression, they can be hypersensitive, struggle with decisions & working when others are watching, are usually conscientious & polite, are affected by other people’s emotions and can “make excellent leaders, friends and partners”- HSPs are sensitive souls and are often the most genuine, compassionate and honest people you'll come across. HSPs will be there for you. I would definitely recommend this book if this sounds at all like you, or like someone you might like to understand better.
BECAUSE WE ARE BAD
Lily Bailey is a UK based 22-year-old write and model. Her book is about her experience with OCD. Many parts of the book sounded like they could have been my diary, the way she would analyse and go over every interaction and every little thing she had done wrong and what this meant about her character. How accidental glances at people meant that she was a pervert, that she had killed people with her brain and the compulsive praying sounded rather familiar.
"Ever since I can remember my brain has been flooded with weird and strange and uncomfortable thoughts, What if I kill someone with a thought? What if I think I want that person to die and then they do? What if my sister dies in her sleep? What if family leaves me in the night?"
Her book talks about how she would convince herself she was a pervert if she happened to look at someone's chest, a pedophile if she looked at a child, a murderer if she thought that someone had died. Then would come a huge list of every little thing she had said, done or thought wrong throughout the day.
"Until I was 16 nobody realised. Because I was so centred around not being perceived as bad, I hid it so people thought I was a a good student with nice friends and a happy life."
This seems to be something that is pretty common with people with this type of OCD, I know it was for me. That voice in my head would say I couldn't tell anyone about what I thought, that I was a monster and that I deserved to go to jail. Like Lily, it took me a very long time to work out that I was in fact not a psychopath and believe that maybe this was just OCD - just not the type that is really spoken about.
I would really recommend reading Lily's book to anyone who wants to understand what it is like inside the head of someone with OCD or if you struggle with it yourself. I will warn you that all this is quite raw for me at the moment as I've really only started getting help and you might find it a bit confronting too if it's like your experience, but it is reassuring to know that you aren't the only one and you really aren't all that bad.
THE MAN WHO COULDN’T STOP
I found this book rather confronting, not because anything in it was new. Just because it was a) brutally honest, really exploring the darkest parts of our brains (a place I avoid going – but I doubt denial is healthy either) and b) in places it was so similar to my own experiences – it felt odd seeing it written down on paper. He describes intrusive thoughts as a snowflake falling from the sky on a summer day. Something harmless which turns into a raging blizzard.