Sarah Wilson shows us how to cope with our beasts
Lauren Fitzgerald, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Sarah Wilson once encountered a Chinese proverb that said, “To conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful.” From then on, she decided that in order to overcome her own beast, her anxiety, she must make it beautiful. She recorded every step of this journey of hers so that those who struggle with their own beasts could make the same journey.
“First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” by Wilson is a memoir of her life starting from her early twenties. It is also a self-help book for those who struggle with one of the most common mental illnesses: anxiety. Wilson struggles with many more mental illnesses besides anxiety due to her autoimmune disease, but wanted to focus her memoir on just this one.
In the book, Wilson explores her experience with different coping methods for anxiety, such as meditations, therapies, diets and other healthy practices. She demonstrates different techniques to help people think positively and soothe panic attacks. She also reveals how her anxiety has affected her relationships, her job and her everyday world and how she moves on from it.
The strange thing about this memoir is its scrambled structure. There is no flow between many of her chapters and prose, almost as if it is simply a journal of her thoughts strung together. It constantly switches from personal stories to critiques, self-help advice and medical research and statistics. Some who read her book will find comfort in this chaos and others will most likely not.
This structure, or lack thereof, in her novel has its own purpose: to delve into the mind of someone who suffers with anxiety. It is a book on living with this illness. This unruliness is a part of Wilson’s journey to change both her life and mindset. Those fighting mental illness of their own, who the book is geared towards, can find her writing relatable.
You learn a lot about mental health from this book. Wilson provides facts about anxiety, for those who do not have a lot of information on it, and a variety of coping methods for those who have it themselves. While this is meant to be a self-help book, it is also written from her heart. Her goal is to have her readers to learn more about themselves and their mental illnesses, if they are coping with any, from her journey. It is almost as if we are walking her steps with her.
Is this book worth the read? Well, it depends on the type of person that you are. I, myself, enjoyed this memoir because I learned a lot about myself and gained a deeper understanding of anxiety through reading it. Others may not feel the same due to its lack of form and coordination. It is not easy to criticize Wilson’s style, though, because it is written from her heart and mind. It is a perfect depiction of the mindset of someone suffering with anxiety; and it is difficult to find that in a lot of memoirs. As Wilson said herself in an interview with “The Guardian Australia”, “There’s no sugarcoating mental illness.”
“First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” is a raw take on the real world and mental illness. Wilson’s story is almost fulfilling to herself and those who are on a similar journey as her. It is both frantic and engaging, a new look on those who live with anxiety on the daily. If you are like Wilson, you will find it relatable, inspiring and even comical at certain points. That is the beauty of it all, that sometimes we find humor in our flaws. Wilson’s memoir and self-help book was written with a purpose and she manages to show us through it that even the scariest beasts can be beautiful.