First, We Make the Beast Beautiful – Sarah Wilson

I found out about First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson by one of my dear friends, it also happens to be one of the friends that is currently sitting to the left of me and she opened up to having anxiety, a term that I knew about but never really delved into because I never fully understood exactly what I needed to come to terms with for me to be okay with the word.

And to be honest, I didn’t even think that I was going to get the book. Anxiety is scary to me, mostly because I’m a self-diagnosed anxious person, but I think that’s also part of what I found so challenging about reading this book.

It’s not one of those books that you can just get into and keep going. I thought I could get through it but with the demands of getting another job and getting deep into my course work for my Masters degree I fell off the wagon with my reading.

Wilson’s unique journey and struggle with anxiety opened my eyes to so many things. As a kid, I was bullied beyond belief and sometimes I amaze myself with just how much I’m also to keep myself afloat. Kids are cruel and there’s no denying that, but as I read the beginning of the book and found that I had a lot of symptoms that were very similar, I started to put together some of the pieces that I never was able to get put together when I did go and see doctors as a child.

The tone of the book and the commentary littered in the sides of the novel allowed readers both anxious and not anxious a chance to get into the mind of an erratic anxious person who is in the mainstream media. Anxiety doesn’t differentiate or discriminate. The first part of the book is going through some of her research, she had contacted professors and doctors who knew the intimate details of anxiety (and how it seemingly worked up to now) but there is still so much that is left out, because it’s something that you need to actively be suffering from to really understand.

Reading between the lines and understanding Wilson’s journey and the length it took to complete this amazing narrative about anxiety is nothing short of brave, and I applaud her. She has pulled back the curtain on her own inner turmoil and now it’s in the homes of many to see and experience.

This book brought up to much for me and I’m about to bare it all because I’m uncovering and unwinding my own journey so I can get the words down, so it’s more cathartic for me than it is for you. If you take nothing else from me talking about this book, then just know that you need to sit down and read it and just be ready for the journey that comes with it.

As a child I was bullied to the point where one day, I woke up unable to get myself out of bed, I felt ill to the stomach and I couldn’t fathom eating anything. It was the second day of my final year at primary school and I was on the come down from losing friends and being tormented all day long from pay phone hangs ups and calls that didn’t allow us to call out. It was tough.

I blamed my anxious spiral on the fact that I had a netball training that resulted in going to bed with wet hair (ha! Greek myths unfolding right then and there) and possibly a bad batch of bbq meat that I’d eaten. I spent a week at home, going back and forth to the doctors because I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t vomit, I felt physically ill and didn’t know how to fix it.

Eventually, I worked my way up to eating ice cream from the ice cream van and it slowly became my haven. I binged on daytime television and tried to read as much I possibly could, but I was trying to escape being put in a room with people that I didn’t know liked me and had seemingly pushed me back. I was continuously bullied until I got to university where I learned to harness who I was as a person and meet friends who would have my back and adored me for the person I was.

Every night after I would complain of a headache, down Tylenol, walk up and down the hallway, check something in the bathroom, go to the toilet and finally lie in bed with my music on and my tongue on the roof of my mouth. Like it would stop the bile that threatened to come up my throat.

Being able to know that this attack wasn’t just in my head made reading Wilson’s book a bit harder to stomach. It was the ability to understand that I wasn’t crazy and that my stress eczema in my teens and my ability to cope wasn’t me going crazy.

It also made the decision to stop reading the book when I was in the middle of my assignments and all of my work life balance crap a little more feasible. It’s a tough book.

Finding the research that she went through and the ability to really get more to the point than anything else I had come across, scared me. It scared me to know that I was possibly anxious and that I needed to figure out how to live with that.

Once I was done with my assignments and running away from the thoughts I was a peace. I could get through the book knowing that I was ready to learn more about it and how to make it work in my life.

Yes, I’m self-diagnosed but the signs are there, my ability to cope is strengthened knowing that I’m making a schedule and really getting on top of my health so I can go and find a doctor that I can trust and a psychologist that allows me to talk to them about the things I overthink. Because I overthink everything, right now I’m overthinking about a guy and what had been said and what hadn’t been said in the words between the empty spaces, it’s a spiral that I dull by reading or distracting myself or even listening to music to get through the pains that it brings me.

I know this isn’t the standard book review again, but Wilson’s book has allowed me to understand myself better and understand that anxious people are dealing with a lot of shit but can look completely and utterly fine on the outside.

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  • Kylie Aloi

    The anxious mind is both a blessing and a curse but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Once you start to process it all, I promise it gets less scary. Information is always power to me xx

    • Mandi Kontos

      Yeah I’m definitely seeing that and I love that there is so much information out there to help educate me and anyone else. Slowly I’m going to get there, but this book and you have definitely helped me so much. xx

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