Bryony Gordon has OCD.
It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.
After reading (and thoroughly loving) Bryony’s first memoir, The Wrong Knickers, two years ago, I will freely admit to already being slightly in love with her. I loved the honesty, the humour and the huge strength of character that shone through her words. However, after both hysterically sobbing and laughing my way through Mad Girl I now officially love Bryony Gordon even more and I just want to give her the biggest, squishy-iest, most suffocating, hug ever.
As a big reader I have naturally read hundreds, if not thousands of books, but I can honestly say few have affected me quite as much as this one did.
Mad Girl is Bryony’s brutally honest, heart-breaking and sometimes down-right frightening account of her battle with OCD (or as she likes to refer to it, Jared the Goblin King) which developed when she was twelve, along with other deliberating mental illnesses including bulimia and depression, which try their very best to derail her throughout her twenties and thirties.
Bryony was a perfectly happy child before Jared (aka the OCD) made an appearance in her twelve year old brain. There was no traumatic event which triggered the onset as the biggest concern in Bryony’s life leapt from which of Take That she was going to marry to being convinced that she was dying of AIDS. The things that entered teenager Bryony’s head on a daily basis (e.g have I killed someone? Am I a paedophile?) began to take over her life as she performed rituals and developed tics in order to keep the bag thoughts at bay. Things eventually led to downward spiral of eating disorders, drugs, alcohol and toxic relationships.
The thing that I love most about the way in which Bryony tells this story is how she never, NEVER comes across as feeling sorry for herself or does she want to reader to feel sympathetic towards her. She often states that she had a fairly privileged upbringing and was as ‘normal’ as normal can be when she was a child. As her illness progressed throughout her twenties, Bryony had her dream job and was getting to travel all over the world. However, there was no way you’d know the battles she was fighting in her head and that, to me, says it all. After all – who knows what our friends/colleagues/neighbours are feeling? Appearances can be deceptive and that’s perhaps one of the biggest messages I gained from reading Mad Girl. OCD, anorexia, depression etc can affect absolutely anyone. As far as targets go, Jared and co are certainly not fussy…
Bryony is straight up about the fact that this is not a self-help book, but I believe that if you are suffering from any kind of mental illness then reading Mad Girl will help insofar as it will prove to you that you are most certainly not alone. As scary and deliberating as these conditions can be, it’s amazing how much medicinal power knowing that someone else has been there too provides. This book is one of the biggest comforts and supports you will be able to find if you are seeking reassurance that you’re not alone.
The other thing I love about Mad Girl is how upbeat it is. It’s genuinely wet-your-pants funny and Bryony is such a superb writer. The topics she is covering must be amongst some of the most difficult in the world to write about, let alone to try and put a humorous spin on at the same time. The poor girl really had her work cut out but she has taken these upsetting and taboo subjects and thrown them well and truly on their head. She is also never afraid to shy away from exactly how bad things were. She never tries to gloss over any of her problems or deliberately leave out parts that she doesn’t want to share. Mad Girl is written straight from the heart and this is what makes it so special. Bryony’s brilliant humour combined with her chatty, informal style of writing give this book a really personal feel. It’s almost as if it’s just you and Bryony, sat down for a coffee for one heck of a frank chat. She is such an easy person to connect to and her personality radiates from each page.
Mad Girl is a book that will get you thinking, a book that will lead to you ask questions and also cause you to have a whole different outlook on mental illness and the impact it can have on your life. Whether you yourself are suffering, or you know of someone else who is suffering, or even if you just like Bryony’s writing – this book is perfect. Not only will it give you a greater understanding but it will also demonstrate exactly what life is really like with a mental illness. If you’re just reading it because you flipping love Bryony (And let’s be honest, who doesn’t!?) then you will get so much out of this book too, because at the bottom line is that it’s a cracking good read.
I really hope it gets the recognition it deserves because I think this book has such huge potential to change lives. Without blabbering on any more than is necessary, I’m just going to say: READ THIS BOOK AND HELP TO KICK MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE BUTT. So there.
A huge thank you to Georgina at Headline for sending me a review copy of Mad Girl.
In the 15 years that she has worked for The Telegraph,Bryony Gordon has become one of the paper’s best loved writers. Her weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph has won her an army of fans who have followed her journey from single girl about town to – finally! – settled mum. Bryony is now 35 and lives in Nappy Valley (Clapham) with her baby daughter Edie and her husband, a financial journalist. The last sentence is one she never thought she would see written down on paper.