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Our Reading Lives

Books That Aren’t About Anxiety but Helped Me Anyway

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Beth O'Brien

Staff Writer

Beth is an east coast Canadian, born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is (unsurprisingly) obsessed with books and is a public library assistant and book blogger. When she’s not convincing all her friends to be friends with each other, she’s trying to convince them to read YA. She likes poetry and coffee and the ocean, but her true love is her cat Edith.

I have social anxiety disorder and it causes my brain to tell me all sorts of terrible things. It’s not that I have low self-esteem—I don’t. I can recognize positive things about myself and even celebrate them. But when my anxiety is getting to me, it makes me question myself constantly.

My anxiety makes me assume that everyone dislikes me, even when there is evidence to the contrary (like, say, we’ve been best friends for YEARS). It makes me question everything I do and say, and then spend hours going over those things in my mind. It makes me unable to make decisions for fear of all the possible negative outcomes. It makes me full of worry, feeling constantly on edge and rejected.

When I’m feeling low, I throw myself into books. I read the following books when I was overwhelmed and fearful. Not only did they help me get out of my head, but they comforted me, made me feel better about myself, and reminded me that I am not alone—no matter how alone I might feel.

You don't have to like me by alida nugent cover coverYou Don’t Have To Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent

I just recently read this book. It’s smart, funny, and honest in a way that I really needed. Through essays, Nugent discusses her experiences growing up and finding herself. She talks about falling in love with a shade of lipstick that makes her feel like herself, even if other people think she might “look better” in another colour. She reminded me that you don’t have to like me. I just have to like myself. And you know what? I do. So anxiety, you can suck it!

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed coverBrave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

Brave Enough is a short, beautiful book of quotes from Cheryl Strayed’s writing. I love quotes. I love exquisite, bite sized bits of beauty and wisdom. Brave Enough got me through a really tough time in my life that included a combination of anxiety, depression, and circumstance. Each quote is filled with sage advice, tough love, and comfort. My copy is completely technicolour with tabs. It’s an inspiring little book that should be on coffee tables everywhere.

Uninvited by lysa terkeurst coverUninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst

A work of Christian non-fiction, Uninvited is a book about the effects of rejection and how to counter them. TerKeurst’s solution is to live life knowing you are loved. Completely, totally, and unconditionally—no matter what you’ve done, no matter what has been done to you, no matter what your circumstances. This is much easier said than done. But through Bible verses and stories from TerKeurst’s own life, she shows us the lies that we let ourselves believe and the truth that exposes those lies. When I read this book, I really needed it. I needed the reminder that my worth comes from within and from God—not from circumstances or from other people.

i crawl through it by as king coverI Crawl Through It by A.S. King

A.S. King is my favourite young adult author.  This particular book is a bit different than her other novels. It’s surreal rather than her usual magical realism. This book is weird, confusing, and extremely beautiful. Each one of the four main characters is struggling with some sort of trauma. Each one is dealing with it in their own way. When King pulls together all the loose threads in the end, she completely blew me away. It felt like she was speaking directly to me—“Somewhere in every mind is an opening to crawl through.” And I will crawl through it. We each have a right to exist, to take up space, to feel, to deal with pain in the best way we know how. I am here, I will use my voice, and I will not let my anxiety, or anything else, speak for me.

WHY NOT ME by Mindy KalingWhy Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is a goddess. She is my dream best friend. She is smart, funny, and a badass boss lady. In her second book, she shows that she’s more than that, too. She is a regular human like the rest of us. We might look at her and see all her amazing successes, but she’s worked hard to get there and faces adversity all the time. Even though she seems just about perfect to me, she tells us she is not immune to pressure, society’s beauty standards, feeling awkward, or the stresses of daily life. She just doesn’t let it keep her down. Why Not Me? took me out of my head, got me laughing, and reminded me that I’m not the only one who questions myself.