First, we make the beast beautiful – Sarah Wilson

This is a book about anxiety. But, it isn’t a self-help book as such, and it isn’t a medical book. It’s kind of a memoir, and it’s kind of a philosophy book. Sarah Wilson doesn’t show us how to manage your anxiety, she simply presents what it’s like living with it (chronically) and that it doesn’t mean there’s something terribly wrong with you if you have it.

I was a little shocked at how dark this book is. Sarah doesn’t cover up anything. She lays herself bare, describing all the thoughts, feelings and experiences in all their shocking, gory detail. Anxiety is not nice. It’s not fun. It’s brutal. It can make people hurt themselves, hurt others or simply be afraid of life.

But, here’s how she beautifully describes the premise of the book:

‘The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it beautiful.’

The Chinese proverb puts things in the imperative. I prefer to phrase it as a gentle invitation: Let’s make our beast beautiful.

I believe with all my heart that just understanding the meta-purpose of the anxious struggle helps to make it beautiful. Purposeful, creative, bold, rich, deep things are always beautiful.

So, essentially, as dark and disgusting and bleak as anxiety is, we don’t have to view it as an illness to be cured – that puts pressure on us to make it go away, and get better. Rather, we can view it as a part of ourselves, albeit an unfortunate part, and try to understand it and how it can make our lives richer.

It may sound a little unrealistic perhaps. But, like I said, this is not a self-help book. It’s not useless and airy-fairy. I believe it truly has something powerful to say.

I was surprised that Sarah Wilson, this beautiful, happy lady I’ve seen on the cover of cook books, could in fact express her experiences so darkly, brutally, honestly. It was so, so dark and exposed. Good on her. I think the point is that we don’t talk about anxiety (and indeed, all mental illness) in this way. It still has a stigma, even though we all quietly deal with it in some form. We deal with it alone, and it eats away at us. But Sarah offers another solutions – to embrace it, talk about it, nurture it, share it, deal with it, and in turn make it something special.

This is NOT a feel-good read, so don’t read it if you want to perk yourself up. It’s raw and real and will stir stuff up in you. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s what you need.

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