The To – Do List and other debacles by Amy Jones – an honest account on the edge

These are hard won “lessons in life, love and losing my mind”, all seen through the eyes of Amy Jones, contemporary woman and entirely honest narrator of a fictional version of mental health issues. This is not really a self help book, though it does include a section of “Useful Links” for help with mental health issues. It is perhaps difficult to sort fact from fiction in this book, but ultimately that does not matter as it is such a strong testament to the real everyday problems of living with body image problems, depression and even suicidal impulses. It would appeal to anyone who looks on social media or just around themselves at friends and others who seem to be winning at life, especially in terms of jobs, clothing, confidence and so much more. It is about those familiar questions of whether certain foods are healthy or provoke feelings of guilt, if the present job is the only option, why clothes and other things always fail, why even changing energy supplier seems like a bridge too far. Featuring events in the life of a woman who seems to have so much, apart from mental wellbeing, this is a fascinating study of what it can feel like to live in the  twenty first century. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual and timely book.

 

The book opens with Amy rather mournfully going through her latest to do list, a list of things she has assembled that seem rather obvious, but such is her mental state that she proposes to do “mindful baking” as well as “put the washing on”. She realises that her coping strategy of writing lots of lists can make sure that she remembers what she must achieve, as well as give as give a sense of completion when she does manage to tick things off. As she struggles to think through what she can do before going out, it is obvious that she is struggling with every task. When she meets her friends, we discover that they care deeply about her , and do their best to support her.  She analyses what she finds scary; talking to a large group of people or appearing on camera does not worry her, but simple pieces of life administration makes her anxious. Her relationship with her husband is strong, despite his shift work which means he often sleeps when she is at a loose end, or works at the weekend. Thus she has a lot of time alone, and looks at social media to see her friends and others enjoying photogenic moments. At specific times she really struggles; she becomes so upset at a hen weekend that she comes to the realisation that she must seek professional help. This is a terrifically honest book, as Amy talks about swimming and looking at other people, her family and their quarrels, her work and reactions to everyday situations.

 

There is a lot of humour in this book which eases the difficult subject matter. The members of her family are frequently very funny, especially the argumentative grandmothers. This is a book which is often painfully honest, which makes it a good read, sometimes uncomfortably so, as Amy plunges into despair. I found it a fascinating read, giving new insights into another person’s mindset, and finding some recognisable elements of discomfort with some everyday situations. This is an immensely powerful book, with some humour, some hope, but a lot of genuine friendship and love. It can affect the way we look at the world, and reassure us that we are not alone.  

I went to see the film “Yesterday” , in which only one person in the world remembers The Beatles. Very entertaining, funny and of course, wonderful music. If you are a fan of British comedy (think Four Weddings and a Funeral), the music of the Beatles and just generally gentle, clever humour, this is definitely one to look out for soon!

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