By Holly L.
When faced with a personal problem, some people will talk about it. Find a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear to fill. Others of us have a tendency to downplay it, to deny it, to avoid talking about it. This isn’t the healthiest coping method, bottling it all up inside and burying that bottle in the backyard behind the garden that really needs watering and….what was that? A problem? There’s no problem. It’s all….just…. FINE.
Even though I sometimes — okay, often — have trouble talking about my problems, when I do let down my guard and confide to someone, I almost always feel miraculously better. The truth is that talking helps, and I find the same sort of comfort reading about the personal struggles of others and learning about how they’ve navigated their own difficult moments. Two recent nonfiction books recall this power of a good talk to bring peace to a troubled mind.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed is a fascinating and highly readable memoir by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb. In this 2019 book, she shares her experience as a therapist going to therapy following a devastating personal crisis. We are introduced to the character of Wendell, her quirky therapist with a shabby office and a straightforward but compassionate demeanor. During the author’s sessions with Wendell, we are allowed glimpses of the kinds of thoughts that run through a therapist’s mind when she herself is in therapy: Does he think my problems are trivial? Will he ever replace this old couch? Does he like me? Weaving the story of her own journey with those of her patients, Gottlieb offers up a humor-laced but empathetic glimpse into her own and her patients’ sessions, giving the reader a behind-the-scenes look at therapy from both sides of the therapist’s couch. As I followed Gottlieb and her patients’ struggles and successes, I saw parts of myself reflected in the characters and was prompted to examine my own relationship to therapy and the benefits of talking through problems. Also available as an eBook.
I have been a fan of Anna Sale’s podcast Death, Sex, and Money for a few years and had been eagerly anticipating the release of Let’s Talk About Hard Things when it landed on our library shelves in May (also available as an eBook). This moving book continues the kinds of discussions that make her podcast so compelling, focusing on, “the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.” Subjects ranging from, yes, death, sex, and money, but also family and identity. Sale opens the book by sharing some hard things from her own past, specifically the unraveling of her first marriage. Feeling utterly lost after her divorce, she began to find strength and clarity by talking to others about their own dark times and hearing how they found, or didn’t find, peace. Realizing how therapeutic these hard conversations can be, she was inspired to launch her podcast in 2014 on WNYC, New York City’s public radio station. Let’s Talk About Hard Things serves as a companion piece to Death, Sex, and Money, and it contains some of the most crucial conversations and valuable lessons from Sale’s life. Fans of the podcast will be reassured to know that, although the book may include a few references to the podcast, the majority of the material comes from fresh interviews conducted for this project. Sale’s written tone is as warm and personal as the voice she brings to her podcast (for this reason, I highly recommend the eAudiobook). After finishing this book, I was left with a feeling of comfort, as if I had just had a conversation with a close friend. The kind of conversation that doesn’t always find answers but that deepens connections and speaks to the power of just talking. And being heard.
If you need someone to talk to, please visit this HCLS page for local mental health resources.
Holly L. is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.