Not a book review, but an experience review
This Diwali break my brother handed me a book to read, “Maybe you should talk to someone” by Lori Gottlieb. He said, that it is a book about loss, grief, death, and ways to understand ourselves better through therapy. While in first listen, it may seem like a book that could become like one of those self help books that have theories around how to deal with all of it in an almost preachy manner, but my brother said the author narrates her own experiences and shares meaningful stories of her own patients with disguised identities in a funny narrative style. I read the first few chapters and I couldn’t put the book down. Most of my thoughts on the blog have been around either economics, history or architecture. I have stayed away from writing things that demand self introspection, as it might feel a bit too personal. Though , sometimes the most personal experiences end up connecting the most with people. So, this is my tiny but meaningful attempt at that.
While I elaborate a bit on why this book was one of the most profound books I have come across, I also want to set stage for why I connected with it. And like me, most of us would, if they read this. For those who don’t know me personally , I have had some tough experiences in the recent years(like most people do) that made me wish how helpful it would be if I could communicate it to someone without any judgement and push through the tough parts and create certain meaning out of it. In 2019, I had just graduated with an Architecture degree and a lot of optimism , but working as a junior Architect , I soon realized it was going to be a tough ride being an architect to support oneself financially in a city as costly as Mumbai.
Like most privileged adults, I could get all the support I wanted from home, but I wanted to be able to provide for myself entirely. Something about my value and potential being limited by one of the best Architecture firms in Mumbai also pushed me to think outside of my comfort zone and consider that maybe there could be a different path for me. Though having no clue, I shifted to a short term opportunity in writing with a better pay , and promised myself that I would figure it out through the job. Though 4 months into the new job, I ended a 3.5 years old relationship, because of how toxic it had all come to be and the lies and deceit was something that I could not make sense of anymore. While it was for the right reasons that the relationship ended, my present felt distorted. And when present falls apart, so does the future associated with it. I was not just grieving the past, but the future too, which is so beautifully articulated by the author in the book.
And when present falls apart, so does the future associated with it. I was not just grieving the past, but the future too, which is so beautifully articulated by the author in the book.
In the middle of all this we were hit by a pandemic which led me to move back home and I also left the job at the time to figure out what next. I felt alone even when I was living with my family. While my mother knew I was going through a tough time, personally and professionally, but Indian households do not particularly handle emotions that are nuanced and require more conversations than only the ones that happen at the dinner table.
In all this internal turmoil, I started preparing for MBA, and cleared the entrance exams, and got into a good B-School. Though the process of it was all filled with doubt about whether I am making the right choice by letting go of things that I am good at. Also, what if I didn’t clear the exams in first attempt, would that mean I would have to start Architecture job from scratch. Each day of 2020, felt uncertain. The pandemic magnified it even further. I didn’t necessarily get the best outlet for what I had lost, and what I was trying to rebuild as a part of this new professional journey. All I knew at the time was maybe focusing on a new goal would help me come out of this and if something good came at the end of it would have been okay. Eventually I would be able to move on peacefully. Though there were days that I felt lost, alone and devoid of all hope. The pandemic added to the worries and the losses. As the book mentions, losses tend to be multilayered. While the actual loss was evident to me and my family and friends, it was the underlying loss that I didn’t know how to process. The pain of a breakup, letting go of an identity as an Architect which I so passionately worked towards for 5 years, both brought in underlying changes that represented betrayal and failure of a relationship for the former and unknown and uncertainty for the latter. These changes were creating a different life story than I had expected and I was trying hard to navigate my way through it.
While on the surface it feels that our traumas are driven by single catastrophic events, but as the book revealed, most people who come in for therapy posing one problem/event, soon realize that problems are deeper than what they seem. They reflect patterns, behavior styles, issues that we were not aware of and we may continue to do the same if we are not aware of it. Like I had my whole life ahead of me, so why was grieving a loss of a partner that freed me to make better choices for myself, and what about reshaping my professional identity was emotionally challenging when people do end up changing streams as and when then move forward in life. While in hindsight it feels like these were not necessarily tough changes when you compare it to other people’s losses and difficulties. Though, as the author so beautifully puts, there is no hierarchy of pain. Suffering should not be ranked, because pain is not a contest.
While on the surface it feels that our traumas are driven by single catastrophic events, but as the book revealed, most people who come in for therapy posing one problem/event, soon realize that problems are deeper than what they seem.
In that one year while preparing for MBA, I slowly started with certain self-introspection and realised certain patterns that were not healthy for me. It would have been better to have it worked through therapy, but I did not have access to it. Though evening walks, time with my cats, solving puzzles , reading new things , along with the exam prep slowly made things better. It made me calmer than I have ever been in my life. The aim of therapy as per the book, is for the person to be less reactive or critical, more open and letting go of the limiting stories we tell ourselves. Talking to friends and my family helped me in getting there. I guess it built resilience in me and it is required in life. It has helped me in MBA which is a tough course to get through (especially for a creative professional) in a fruitful manner. While I still have 5 months to go for graduation, I feel like if I wouldn’t have been able to compete , if I wasn’t more open about my learnings and experiences. After all its one thing to get through exams and get into the college, it’s an entirely different ballgame to land up a good job amidst all the pressure. It’s not a level-playing field inside and it does not become more apparent while sitting for job interviews.Though I have been always quiet about my wins, It helps to celebrate victories along the way just as a reminder of how I have been able to pull myself up. As the author’s therapist puts it in aptly in the book, the nature of life is change and the nature of man is to resist it. Though all things beautiful come through embracing that. While I still have a long way to go in building my life , though I feel more confident about it now than I have felt in a long time.
The book, even though it talks about vulnerabilities, insecurities, traumas through the patients that the author has encountered in her life as a therapist, it still feels like the author is talking to you and addressing your narrative. If you or the people you know have ever felt depressed, confused, lost, or any of the tough emotions which you/they couldn’t navigate through , this might be one of the most supportive books to read through as part of your/their healing journey.