Claire Eastham’s (blog here) book We’re All Mad Here promises to be a complete, no-nonsense guide to living with social anxiety. And in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what this book is. And in a lot of other ways, it’s not. In short, I have a lot of feelings about this.
First, let’s talk about the good
Claire is a very personable, witty author. I admire her honesty and vulnerability when talking about her own mental health. She isn’t scared to share funny little anecdotes where she might have made a bit of a fool of herself, and I thought that was great. More than once, this book made me laugh out loud. It’s like you get to know Claire just a little bit better, and I really enjoyed that.
“At this point most people would probably accept that shit was about to go down, but not me. I like denial land – I’m all about denial land!”
I also though that most of the advice she gave was very actionable and clear. Claire never leaves you hanging with the question ‘What can I do about this problem?’ I particularly liked the advice she gave about the cognitive behavioural therapy exercises that she likes, as well as what she had to say about public speaking. In the book, Claire also reminds you that you’re never alone. That, for example, It’s normal to feel nervous when you get into an important meeting – plenty of people feel the same way. I really appreciated that.
But there were also some things I didn’t like..
Don’t get me wrong. I thought this book was okay, and some parts I even liked, I would probably rate it 2.5 out of five stars, but I didn’t love this book the same way as some people love this book. Even though I tried really hard. There were a couple of things in this book I took issue with.
First, it was the ratio between personal anecdotes from Claire and her advice. I actually liked reading about her personal experiences, but I thought the way the book was structured was a bit confusing. I really wish that she would’ve committed to writing a memoir about her issues with social anxiety, and include a chapter with all her favorite tips at the end – that would then be the ‘guide’, instead of this constant mixture of both. I expected more self-help and less rants about people at work and school who did Claire wrong, to be completely honest with you.
Then, there was the alcohol advice. A couple of times, the author stresses that you shouldn’t use alcohol as a crutch when you suffer from social anxiety, and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. But then, in chapter five, she writes this:
”Don’t carry negative feelings around with you all evening – it’s best to let them have centre stage for a short period of time and then brush them aside. If all else fails, then just have a few glasses of wine and put it down to experience!”
I mean, that sounds a lot like using alcohol as some sort of crutch. I really don’t mean to be nitpicky, that’s just how it comes off to me. I think it’s dangerous to treat alcohol as an option to feel better when you suffer from a mental condition. It promotes the unhealthy relationship that a lot of adolescents have with alcohol.
I thought this book was okay and I would maybe even recommend it to someone who is new to the concept of social anxiety disorder, but it was nothing groundbreaking for me.