Well this is a first for me, no I won’t be skydiving for charity or attempting a bush tucker trial. I’m going to review another writer’s work! I get sent things quite often, which is unbelievably flattering. I certainly don’t claim to be a mental health expert, so to be contacted by other (actual) experts is an honour. On the other hand, now and again I feel a real pang of jealousy for those pesky beauty bloggers… All those make up freebies… so much envy!
Anyway, back to reality. Whilst I’m flattered to receive material from other mental health sources, I have never liked something enough to discuss/plug it in my blog.
About one hundred years ago poor Neil Hughes was kind enough to send me a copy of his book; Walking on Custard and the Meaning of Life – A Guide for Anxious Humans. Unfortunately I was prevented from reading it due to various life events such as, weddings, work and saving the local village people from Dragons (the usual.) This weekend I finally found the time dive in… and I burned through the whole thing in a day!
To merely call it a self help book would be a complete disservice to the author. Part biography, part guide and part brother’s grimm, fairy tales of the strange, Neil’s book is an honest account of his experiences with anxiety and how he learnt to deal with it.
Hopefully Neil won’t be angry with me for sharing excerpts from the book:
“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen.”
“My arm feels a bit numb! That’s weird.. Am I having a heart attack? I think that’s a heart attack. Oh dear.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve been worried.
Occasionally, this seemed like a strength. My obsession with avoiding risk helped me to dodge perils of all kinds. I rarely forgot my homework. My holidays were compulsively well planned.
Worrying was simply my way of dealing with the world; through a haze of apprehension and imaginary worst-case scenarios. And thanks to years of honing my worrying skills, if I’m ever in a building collapsing under the weight of a vicious zombie army I’ll have a contingency plan ready to go.
Finally! Somebody who shares my passion for zombie apocalypse contingency plans.
As I read on I regressed into my teenage self and at times felt quite emotional. If only I had read this growing up then i might not have felt so alone.
It highlights many of the standard anxiety concerns such as; The doctors had found nothing. I had found nothing – During the initial stages of anxiety everyone almost wishes that a physical cause can be found. Anything will do, just to finally have an explanation.
Neil uses a brilliant analogy for anxiety, likening it to “walking on custard” – it’s similar to the quick-sand theory, but much more amusing. In particular, I liked his panic attacks metaphor;
Because walking on custard requires constant effort, we are eventually so drained of energy that we lose our steady walking rhythm. The ground melts beneath our feet and we stumble, momentarily slipping under. Our instincts kick in: We fear drowning. We kick, splash and lurch in an adrenalin fuelled alarm.
I also greatly enjoyed the appearance of the inner critic; “this whole rant is even more pointless than your usual drivel!” We all have one and Neil’s is like the evil villain in a panto.
What I liked most about the book (apart from the excellent comedy) was the basic and more importantly human explanation of what anxiety is and the exercises that Neil used to combat it. I’ve had countless experiences with self help guides and textbooks that made me want to pull my hair out. Would it really be so difficult to use plain English? Yes I realise that you’re a genius with a ten psychology degrees, but I’m on the edge here! This is in no way to discredit the research, as Neil clearly knows his stuff. However, it reads more as though a friend is guiding you, which creates a feeling of safety.
At £9.99 it’s a very fair price in contrast to other anxiety books currently in the market and I think the ebook is cheaper still. You can find more information on his website: http://www.walkingoncustard.com/
So to Neil, I salute you and your excellent book! Now excuse me while I attempt to combat my own custard. (You’re right that does sound dodgy.)
Disclaimer: I do not know Neil and I have not been paid to review this book, (although I am open to bribes.) This is a genuine review from the heart.