Connecting and Idiots
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to talk about this book I’ve read recently, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. The book is funny, wise but most of all I think it is a book of sadness and hope. I don’t know how others are reading it but those were the two feelings I left with. Because this blog is about mental health, that is what this review is concerned with but it is also just a wonderful book to read yourself. I hope you enjoy it.
Idiots and empathy
One of the most moving pieces to me from this book is the empathy the author creates for making truly poor choices. But more than that, walking us through how we might get there ourselves. It doesn’t spend long on a sad back story of any of the characters, but it leaves us with that moment when we love someone and we make a choice for them. We have a saying in therapy, “If everyone you meet is an idiot, maybe the problem isn’t them.” The problem with that saying is that it ignores all the ways that all of us occasionally truly do act like an idiot. Today alone I’ve mispronounced words, knowingly said something that would annoy my partner, and forgot my key three separate times after reminding myself of it. We all have those moments and that leaves aside how love and desperation can create it’s own mix of idiotic. All of this is to say, I left this book feeling kinder towards everyone and I hope that happens for you too.
You are enough
I can’t emphasize this enough because it’s something I don’t think anybody in our world hears often enough, you are enough. We live in a world where there is always something to be done, always something to be optimized or learnt or to be improved upon. And while that is true, there is something to be said for embracing that you don’t have to. That you, all by yourself, without any life hacks or documentaries or exercise plans, are simple enough for both yourself and for those who love you. During the course of the book, the author does a beautiful job of showing how each person is unique and messed up and annoying but also how each is loving and generous and enough. Please take a look at yourself and realize that you are beautiful too, no matter how chaotic and messy and alone you might feel in this moment.
Finally, the part that is both sad and kind in my eyes. In my job we talk about death and dying and sadness and suicide a lot. And I have assessments and scales and no harm contracts I use. But in the end, if someone truly wants to die, there is nothing I nor you can do. The hope is that we all intervene in time for the person who isn’t sure, or doesn’t really, or just wants the pain to stop. And what gave me hope in this book is that it talked about both. The person that didn’t want to be stopped and the person who did. How taking the time to stop and try to help can make a difference even if it didn’t last time. And finally, how all those left behind are in some ways touched by the abrupt end too. Being the one left behind hurts. It is confusing and there is a feeling of guilt and sorrow and shame. And no one talks about it. Yes, where characters admit to their feelings of despair were the parts where I cried but the hope I felt when the reached out to each other and helped each other gave me so much hope. Because if someone could write about the connection, the continuing onwards, and with such wit and humor that I laughed after I cried, then there is hope for all of us.
Finally, that leaves connection. Which is what I think this book is really about. The connection each of the characters feels for each other and finds with the people they are forced into contact with. In embracing our feelings and vulnerability, we open ourselves up to help and support and understanding. Because all it really takes is a moment of feeling seen and heard, of feeling like one person understands what is happening to us in that moment, and the future doesn’t look so scary and bleak. So if you are feeling and alone and scared and not enough, please reach out to someone and don’t ever hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 if you don’t feel like you can call anyone in your life. And if you’ve lost someone to suicide, please talk with someone because as much as it feels like it, it isn’t your fault. The only way to believe that is to remind yourself how hard life can be sometimes for all of us.