It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue – and Other Lies

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Usually when I submit an article for review, it is indeed that, a review. But when I picked up Scarlett Curtis’ It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue – and Other Lies I realised that in no way, could I even think about reviewing such a book as this.

I’m writing this, simply, because it’s something that I felt I needed to share. We’re living in an age where mental health issues are on the rise each year, and more of us are feeling the strain. Whether it’s real-life or social media, whether you’re young or old, employed or unemployed – mental health issues are more prominent than ever.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is: be kind to yourself” – Girli, singer/songwriter

This book needs readers; to pick it up, consume it, love it and pass it on to others. It’s worthy of having a place on your bookshelf or bedside table because it’s full to the brim of wisdom, courage and advice from the hearts of those who have bared all in the face of mental health awareness to get the world engaged in a vital, global conversation.

It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue – and Other Lies focuses on the ever-relevant topic of mental health; delving into matters such as self-worth, confidence and the value of seeking help. Curator, Scarlett Curtis, has gathered an impressive army of media personalities, actors and actresses, sports stars, musicians and household names including Dame Emma Thompson, Sam Smith, Matt Haig, Scarlett Moffatt, Emilia Clarke, Miranda Hart, Naomi Campbell, and Curtis herself, to talk about their experiences with mental health and well-being. From short poems and songs to anecdotes and essays, each contributor has shared their relationship with their mind, providing an incredibly honest and open insight into their lives away from the spotlight.

“We need to talk more, listen more, share and understand more” – Dawn O’Porter, writer

I whizzed through its 500 pages in record speed, consuming each article and savouring every word that had been said. It is beautifully tragic and uplifting, smart and witty, and above all, an important turning point in modern literature and the relationship we have with our minds.

Whether or not you have a healthy relationship with your mind and mental wellbeing, this book is still worth a read. Its essays are an incredibly comforting and quite frankly, astonishing insight.

“We are changing the dialogue from mental illness to mental wellness to ensure that the story ends well” – Sharon Chalkin Feldstein, Founder of Expert Management, entrepreneur, fashion stylist, costume designer

Granted, the sheer number of contributors to the book means that you may empathise with one person and not another; and that’s okay.

As I sit here writing this in the notes app of my iPhone, I can say that I didn’t necessarily find solace in every single article. There are plenty of topics that I haven’t had much, if any, experience of, haven’t been a part of, or haven’t engaged with yet.

“Then I write down three things that I am grateful for. I don’t want to, but I tell myself I have to. This miraculously works every time” – Ella Purnell, actor

Take Claire Stancliffe’s story – an international footballer, taking on life in the hearing world despite the lack of her own. Following a debilitating knee injury, Stancliffe recalls how her hearing impairment forced her to receive different treatment – a cochlear implant meant that a routine MRI scan was not possible – resulting in a seven week wait to begin her diagnosis, followed my months of surgery, learning how to walk properly again, and missing out on what she loved doing most – playing football.

But, despite the fact that I have never experienced a sports injury and my knowledge of football is pretty much non-existent, reading Claire’s story was the insight I needed to understand that mental health comes in numerous forms; and that’s what makes this book a revolutionary piece of work. Whether you relate to two or twenty contributors, learning and appreciating what others are coping with, no matter how big or small, is yet another strength of this already brilliant book. Curtis’ compilation of contributors and their stories redefines that mental health is a different story for everyone – and the more aware we become, the more we can help, support and empathise with each other.

“Celebrate every small bit of progress and never compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone’s recovery is different and unique” – Claire Stancliffe, football player and deaflympian medalist

It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue – And Other Lies is an exceptional venture into the realms of mental health and illustrates the complexities of mental illness – whether it stems from sports injury, feelings of failure, anxiety disorders, living life in the limelight or simply feeling the pressures of everyday life.

It’s comforting to read articles delivered from the hearts of some of the world’s most famous personalities. To know that even those with flourishing careers, healthy bank accounts and armies of loyal fans still suffer, still think differently and still have a mental health is what makes this book so incredibly special.

“This proves we can continue to move even when we feel nothing but stuck” – Kai-Isaiah Jamal, spoken word poet and performer

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I’m not here to write a review on this book. How could I possibly critique the words that its contributors perhaps spent hours thinking about? Pouring the inner workings of their minds, thoughts and emotions onto a page for the entire world to read? You can’t write a review on the way in which someone delivers their sense of the world, shaped by their experiences with mental health issues. You can’t write a review on how one person’s story differs from another; and you certainly can’t write a review on the way in which this entire book has pieced together the minds of such influential public characters and turned it into a saving grace for others to read and think – ‘shit, maybe I’m not so crazy after all?’.

Whoever you are, whatever you may be struggling with, pick up this book. Give it a read and pass it on. Because when we become more aware, we all move forward. One step at a time, the stigma surrounding mental health will break down and we will start talking more. But until then, books just like Curtis’ creation will serve as a force of good, to kickstart this very important, very much needed, global conversation.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please talk to a friend, family member, health service provider, or your GP.

Other points of contact include –

Samaritans – www.samaritans.org
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk
Rethink – https://www.rethink.org/
Heads Together – www.headstogether.org.uk/get-support

Words by Paige Bradshaw

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