Title: Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-Up Mind
Author: Bryony Gordon
Publication date: 7 June 2016
Genre: Non-fiction / Memoir
With a little help from her Mum and As Good As It Gets, Bryony Gordon began to suspect she had obsessive compulsive disorder at the age of seventeen. She went to see her GP, who diagnosed her with OCD and clinical depression, before swiftly telling her to go away and to only come back if it got worse.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it did get worse. Mad Girl tells Bryony’s story of how the lack of effective early intervention led to spiralling mental illness. From OCD, depression and alopecia, through to an eating disorder, recreational drug use and an abusive relationship, she puts everything out on the table. It is a raw, unfiltered description of her life and how she was feeling from age seventeen through to her early 30s.
It is, in many ways, a difficult book to read. I had a combined near-crying, near-fainting moment on a tube journey home after reading the description of a feared miscarriage, and some of Bryony’s experiences were distressingly relatable. But thanks to her darkly comic approach and the warmth of her voice, Bryony’s book manages to also be an easy, engaging read, and one that is pointedly not a misery memoir.
As she notes in the prologue, this is not self-help and I think it may well be triggering for some people. But it will, without doubt, make you feel less alone. While the ending is a relatively happy one, it is not without the disclaimer that OCD is not an illness that goes away forever and that mental health should always be a concern, just as physical health is. She also calls for us all to tell our own stories, if we feel able, in the hope that it will lead to a united voice that cannot be ignored, demanding better mental health services in the UK.
“Later, I will wonder what happens to all the people who have breakdowns and can’t afford to go to posh doctors, the ones who don’t have anyone they feel they can call.” – Bryony Gordon