“Am I really mentally ill? Disordered? Defective?
Or am I just weak of character and just not trying hard enough?” ― Sarah Wilson, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety

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First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety (2017) is a memoir/self-help book by Sarah Wilson. She’s author and entrepreneur and has inspired people worldwide to quit sugar. She has also been an anxiety sufferer her whole life.

The title of the book comes from a Chinese proverb that goes somewhat like this: before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful. And in this case, the beast is anxiety. Author starts by telling a story of how she was tasked to ask His Holiness, Dalai Lama, one question. She thought about this for longest two weeks and eventually asked “How do I get my mind to shut up?” From this, the author jumps to her childhood and teenage experiences and how anxiety affected her and her thoughts. For example, she’d lie wide awake at sleepovers and think: “Wow, Penny’s mum doesn’t wear a bra, what does that mean? Apricot chicken from a can…is that allowed? What do people think about when they’re falling asleep?” To her early twenties, when she couldn’t study or hold a full-time job. And also being first diagnosed with manic depression, or bipolar. Through her various jobs at different magazines and touching on her journey on bestseller author and most importantly telling her researching more what she is feeling and what is anxiety and writing about it and describing it.

“You know how dogs do that thing where they circle and circle, unable to find the spot where they feel comfortable enough to settle? That’s us. Most of the time. We wander about, filling up our weekends, creating never-ending to-do lists.” ― Sarah Wilson, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety

I adored and loved this book. It felt like it was written for me. It’s sort of a messy read, jumping from one place to another but there was a bunch of wisdom inside these pages. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything, but I know very well what my issues are and anxiety is definitely one of my beasts. I drive myself mad worrying over tiniest things. And so for me this really was a feel-good read. I loved all the descriptions people had for their beast: “To everyone I’m just the girl who talks too much and tries too hard. When really, I’m just trying to quiet this battle in my mid for the hour.”

Then there were the cruel ironies about anxiety which I loved. Cruel irony #2 The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more or Cruel irony #14 We’re always thinking about everyone (and everything) but we’re so damn selfish. Number #14 especially seemed to describe me well. I care so much that then I don’t care at all about birthdays and they might be ones of people who are most closest to me.

First, we make the beast beautiful also normalizes anxiety and it provides help. Adele apparently has extreme panics and stage frights and has many times used fire exit to get away from her fans. Or Emma Stone who says acting is one of the few things that gives her something to what she can focus on with her whole being. And it’s not only telling you’re not alone, the book also tells what are the strengths of anxiety. It’s like being a superhuman sometimes: “They can sport a dickhead Their heightened thread radar means they’re selective about who they befriend. If you’re one of their mates, you can rest easy knowing you’re not a dickhead.” or how we’ll map all the possible escape routes if we’re being mugged or yes we will take 3 years to buy a couch but trust me, it will be most functional, most toxin-free, most environmentally sound couch on the planet… And finally, the book offers very practical solutions to anxiety such as quitting sugar, eating real food, doing things at wrong time and the wrong way, sleeping on the other side of the bed and sometimes it’s just sitting through the pain.

Sometimes it’s not any trauma you might have experienced, sometimes it’s just in your bones.
5/5 stars

How To Read first, we make the beast beautiful:
1. This book is not for everyone, it’s not your typical self-help book with clearest advice about things. It’s more like if you find yourself having trouble sleeping and you know you’re worrying over smallest things, then this will probably be of help. If you’re not anxious, I’m not really sure if you’ll find this useful. Move on, you confident person.
2. Sometimes, I got a feeling that I was reading an anxiety horoscope. Like you know those sites that always go like you’re courageous because you’re Sagittarius. But. It made me feel better as do the horoscopes so…
3. It’s sort of a messy book. Author’s experiences sown together with other people’s experiences on anxiety and bunch of tables…I find it fitting but the style is not for everyone.
4. Further reading (that I found good and that were also mentioned in book): The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“You go into pain. How? You sit in it. You stay. You simply be uncomfortable. You get raw. You don’t change hotel rooms. Then you open.” ― Sarah Wilson, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety

Thoughts? Have you ever been anxious? Let’s talk.