Saturday, July 13, 2024
HomeCultureBooksFive books for when life is painful

Five books for when life is painful

Read one of these if you’re feeling vulnerable as a new year hurtles into full swing …

Do you mind?

Minding Your Mind is based on James O’Loghlin and Professor Ian Hickie’s popular podcast and it broaches burn-out and depression, humour and community, trauma and addiction, anger and self-control, managing your body clock and more. Like a warm chat on a cold day, it offers insights into how we can understand, change and improve our mental health. From the chapter on burn-out: “This is all about minding your mind pre-emptively. Do some planning to try and make sure you have a good life.”

Opting in

Matt Haig’s depression came laced with anxiety and it hit him hard. “Now, listen,” he writes in Reasons to Stay Alive, “if you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They just want to feel an absence of pain.” He links the increased prevalence of depression and anxiety to the broader malaise of modern society (wanting more than we have, worshipping work above play) and also writes, “Where talk exists, so does hope.”

Panic stations

Tim Clare tried everything he could to be free of the debilitating anxiety and panic attacks he’d suffered for over a decade. He interviewed experts, read research and became a guinea pig – trying exercise, SSRIs, hypnosis, cold water bathing, walking in nature and more, to beat his foes. In Coward: Why we get anxious and what we can do about it he shares what helped him and might help others. A high intake of fruit and vegetables, bibliotherapy, supportive workplaces, expressive writing … and more.

Articulate and meticulous

A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan is a frank and meticulously researched memoir that shepherds us into doctor’s surgeries, therapy sessions, the mind of a terrified parent, the brokenness of Australia’s mental health system and more. It shows us the stigma that comes with certain diagnoses and the relief that flows when you can finally walk outside your house on a Sunday when you haven’t done so for years. She concludes: “You can learn to self-advocate, or you can get worse.”

Nature nurtures

Born and raised in Derry, the daughter of a Catholic mother and Protestant father, Kerri ní Dochartaigh grew up with sectarianism and violence. When she was 11 a homemade petrol bomb was thrown through her bedroom window – and the family narrowly escaped. When they returned home, strangers had moved in. The Troubles left their mark on ní Dochartaigh – altering her nervous system and her psyche. But Thin Places is ultimately a survivor’s story, and nature is palliative. A curlew’s cry in a soft December sky heals a rift …


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