I’m a bit late to the party with this little beauty from Bryony Gordon. But I’m bloody glad I turned up….fashionably.
Mad Girl tackles the topic of OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Specifically, it’s Bryony’s personal experience of living with OCD and that’s why it’s equally authentic, uplifting and pee your pants funny.
First of all let’s get one thing clear. You won’t receive a diagnosis of OCD based purely on the fact that your idea of R&R involves donning the marigolds and wafting the feather duster. That just means you like things clean (or, in some cases, dirty. Ahem). OCD is an illness. And it’s really not very nice.
But the important thing about sharing stories about mental illness, in my opinion, is striking a balance between the often dark thoughts and symptoms and the strength and hope that can overcome them. Mad Girl does this brilliantly.
Bryony’s life has been blighted by dark and terrible symptoms. But overall, all things considered, she’s lived a really happy, successful and loving life. She is living proof that it can happen.
Now I don’t want to be all like ‘ah, I read this and now I think I’m a bit OCD’ but I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and there are some striking similarities. At one point, Bryony describes herself as a meerkat – which is exactly how my counsellor used to describe me. Plus I totally get the obsessions with illness and death (I’ve had a few A&E trips for various ‘life threatening’ issues during my time). But unlike the anxious girl’s frenemy (aka google) finding out you share a similarity with Bryony doesn’t bring you more doom and gloom. Nope. Instead, it makes you chuckle with familiarity, feel a bit more normal and a bit less alone.
And of course there’s the backdrop to all of this. The crazy lifestyle, meeting the wrong men, popping too many party pills and downing too much fizz in swanky cocktail bars. But whether you do it for self-medication or simply because you want in with the Primrose Hill set, one thing’s for sure, it’s not particularly good for mental wellbeing. We’ve all done it (except I’d have to swap the fizz for a pint o’ Smooth in a backstreet pub in Hull) – but the impact of Bryony’s mishaps serve as a pretty good reminder as to why it’s probably not the best solution to the problem.
So I urge everyone to read this book. Whether you have experience of mental illness or not, you will no doubt have a friend or relative who shares some of Bryony’s experiences. And, well, if nowt else, you’ll have a bloody good laugh and come to respect the serious battle that is OCD along the way.