I’d read the synopsis and reviews of Loving the Life Less Lived by Gail Marie Mitchell – a memoir and practical guide to coping with anxiety – and was excited to get stuck in when it dropped through my letterbox. “It will be interesting to read about someone who has lived with social phobia and anxiety” I thought. I was feeling positive and ready to take notes.
But I’d soon find out that Loving the Life Less Lived wasn’t going to be an easy read. After the first few chapters I put the book down and began to put-off finishing it. “I’ll read it tomorrow”, “next week”, and so on…
Why the sudden change of heart? Well, given the subject matter of anxiety and depression, Loving the Life Less Lived was never going to be a walk in the park, but it was highlighting a few too many home truths in me that I wasn’t quite ready to face. Issues I’ve been ignoring and problems I’ve been downplaying, to myself and others.
Gail is unashamedly open about her struggles with (and triumph’s over) her anxiety. I on the other hand, haven’t been so open about my own anxiety journey; which can be quickly summed up with the following meme:
I eventually brushed aside my fears for the purpose of this review, returned to to the book, and – like so many of the things I avoid in life – I’m so glad I did.
I’m coming out of a very difficult period, and I feel like this book couldn’t have come in to my life at a better time. Here’s why…
Review of Gail Marie Mitchell’s Loving the Life Less Lived
As mentioned above, Loving the Life Less Lived can be hard to read. I have a slight overabundance of empathy so putting myself in someone else’s shoes comes a little too easily sometimes.
It’s for this reason that I’ll often avoid sad or emotional stories, and whilst Gail’s story isn’t one of sadness (quite the opposite actually), there are painful moments that strike like a punch to the gut.
Fortunately for both the reader and Gail, these moments are always followed-up with practical lessons, crammed with wisdom from her own experiences, and a way to apply them directly to your own life.
These advice sections are called “Tips from my toolbox”. I smiled when seeing this as I have my own desktop folder labelled “Tool kit” containing websites, videos and music to visit when I’m feeling low. As an anxiety sufferer, you’ll likely see yourself reflected throughout the book. Peeking into Gail’s toolbox has been educational and I’ve gone over key points with my yellow highlighter for future reference. I found her walkthrough of CBT to be especially useful. She uses examples from her own therapy sessions and – like so many times in this book – made it sound a lot less daunting.
There’s something so comforting about Gail’s writing style. She doesn’t romanticise her illness, or dramatise it, or victimise herself. Instead, she fearlessly reveals aspects of her inner workings that many of us with anxiety are still grappling with and would be – whether warranted or not – horrified to share. She does so with a matter-of-fact approach: “This is how I felt. This is how I reacted. This is how I coped. You can cope too”. It’s inspiring to read that it’s possible to reach a point in life where you no longer feel shackled by the fears of being “exposed” by anxiety.
Loving the Life Less Lived is the first “self-help” book that I’ve read that doesn’t claim to have “the answer”. Instead, Gail focuses on acceptance, which as it turns out, can be the most powerful way to combat anxiety. Accepting yourself can be a long and gritty process, but the reward for giving up the fight is great, as demonstrated in this book.
My biggest takeaway has been the knowledge that I’m not alone with the way my mind works, and that there is hope in self acceptance. I recommend anyone who struggles with depression and anxiety to check it out. If you’re a frequent visitor to Rock Bottom and you’re feeling exhausted, you’ll find constructive advice from someone who has been there both unprepared and armed with tools, and has learned how to tame the beast.
Win a copy of Loving the Life Less Lived
Gail and Red Door Publishing has kindly offered an extra copy of Loving the Life Less Lived for one of you lovely folks to win.
To enter, just use the Rafflecopter form below and I’ll announce the winner in two weeks time!
A massive thanks to Gail Mitchell and Red Door Publishing for this review copy and prize.