Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this book published by Barbican Press. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift of the book.
Chris knows he will never get over his anxiety. He didn’t want a ‘How to get better’ book. He wanted to understand his condition. So he wrote this book.
An honest heart-breaking account of how generalized anxiety disorder affected Chris, his family and everyone around him, yet went undiagnosed.
‘This book offers young people an insight into the range of unique ways the world can be
experienced and the chance to reflect on their own struggles and know they are not alone in
these. I have recommended this book to my academic colleagues, my students and my
Dr Judith Dyson, Reader Healthcare Research, Birmingham City University
‘Chris Westoby shows us what it is to make use of the resonant power of words to offer a
portal into what it is really like. A vital touchstone for public and health professionals alike,
to understand deeply, to see and to learn from first person experience.’
Kathleen T. Galvin, Professor of Nursing Practice, University of Brighton
When Anne sent through the invitation to read and review this book, I signed up as a mother of teenagers, as someone who works with young people and also as someone who suffers from anxieties herself.
Chris Westoby has written an account of what life was like during Year 12 and Year 13 for someone with anxiety having to face lots of changes to his life – a new college, a long journey, a brother heading to University, his dad starting his own business, settling into a proper relationship.
Some students would have seen these as an opportunity to mix with new friends and to enjoy the college experience. Chris, in this brutally honest account, talks about how it became harder to get on the bus to go to college, to visit friends, to leave the house. Some of Chris’s memories are humorous, whilst others are heartbreaking, as you start to understand how much smaller his world became. There were so many obsessions too, the gym, the food, the cleanliness, and the constant hand washing.
As a parent, I understood how confused his parents must have been by this, especially when Chris was going out of the door to college and then sneaking back in, without his college making them aware of how his attendance was reducing. One of the saddest recollections was when Chris, his mum and his tutor met the Deputy Head to discuss his attendance. The Deputy had laughed about his passion for wanting to be a writer. Has she been sent a copy of the book?
As someone who works with young people, this book helped me to understand how a young person may be thinking and how their anxieties may stop them joining in. This book shows why it is important for young people to have non judgemental people in their lives that they can talk to, to help them find small goals, such as a packet of sweets if they get to a class they have been avoiding. I think that all sixth forms, colleges and universities need to encourage their staff to read this book.
I did feel a bit uncomfortable in places at the level of detail shared, especially in relation to his relationship with Emma, and I would recommend that this book is read by young people aged 16 and above (I found myself blushing a few times). However, I’m pleased that I’ve been able to read such a honest memoir, about a mental health issue that is often dismissed as something minor, when actually it can stop a person from living their life and achieving their potential.
Chris Westoby has a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, where he is now Programme Director of the Hull Online Creative Writing MA. He guest lectures in subjects of mental health, teaches reflective writing to Mental Health Nursing Students, and runs cross-faculty writing workshops. Chris was born and raised in Barton, on the Lincolnshire side of the Humber, where he still lives.