Penny Terndrup reviews the important new book written by Richard Martin, a Meyler Campbell graduate, "This Too Will Pass: Anxiety in a Professional World"
I first met Richard several years ago. We arranged to meet after the introduction of a mutual friend, in a convenient, central hotel bar, early evening, mid-winter. The bar was buzzing, the lighting dim. I was nervous to meet someone that I’d heard wonderful things about but we chatted well for some time and left as friends. Until reading Richard’s book (This Too Will Pass: Anxiety in a Professional World), and despite thinking I had some insight into how it had been for him (and my own experience of some anxiety and personal deconstruction) I had no real understanding of how difficult that simple meeting may have been for him, or what mammoth efforts were needed for him to function even then.
"By all markers, Richard’s life was a success: he was happily married, a great father, and lived a fulfilling life, professionally and personally. But the pressures of a highflying legal career, his increasing social commitments, and family illness all took their toll. One evening, Richard stopped on his way home to use a cash point machine, and couldn’t remember how to use it. He sunk to the pavement, unable to hold back the tears, unable to carry on …”
This Too Will Pass is raw, exposing, comprehensive, hopeful, affirming, and helpful. It is important. Commenting on contemporaneous diary entries, Richard takes us through five years of his experience of anxiety and depression after a catastrophic breakdown, sharing in humbling detail his reality through the worst including time in the Priory and the long and hard recovery. He reminds us that life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain. Richard doesn’t pull any punches but don’t be surprised if you move through every emotion while reading – gut wrenching sadness, laugh out loud glee, anger at situations past and present and empathy for a fellow soul.
Our professional world talks a good game around mental well-being and although not there yet, it means well. While our reward systems, career progression and culture all recognise and affirm many of the behaviours that are fundamentally dangerous, we are at least now having the conversation. Many stay mentally well in spite of work, not because of it and while encouraged to self-care, that’s only half the story. Books like Richard’s (and the consultancy work he does) take us closer to fundamentally rethinking who and how we are.
Coach, Chair of the Board at the Psychosynthesis Trust and an advisor to Meyler Campbell
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