Each issue, London Runway’s very own Book Club discusses their favourite book of the month. With 2020 coming to an end, Darcey Sergison reviews the inspirational collection of stories curated by Scarlett Curtis in It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue and other lies.
While 2020 has not been the ideal start to our Roaring 20s, it has certainly taught us a lot. A process of realignment has occurred around the world as many have escaped their bustling lives to a quetter pace and realised the importance of the slower life. Unlike The Great Gatsby’s big parties reflecting the 1920s, a century later the parties could not look more different – because they are not even here.
In place of all the parties and going out, we have been isolated at home taking time to reflect on the ‘lost year’ of 2020. One thing for sure is that health has been the word on everyone’s lips. While in the middle of a pandemic, psychical health has been the prime focus, but mental health has also risen in the ranks of everyone’s priorities.
Isolated and distanced, many people have felt the effects of 2020 long before it even happened. Although 2020 has been a year of staying away from one another we have also come together as a community. Reaching out to friends through phone calls and small gifts or letters sent in the post, everyone’s wellbeing has come to be noticed now more than ever.
Scarlett Curtis addressed the question of “How I can help?”, expressing perfectly the divide between what people say and what they wish they had said to a friend or stranger struggling with their mental health.
Discussing “one of the hardest things in the world,” Curtis’s tips to making someone feel less alone can be applied to everyone this year. Curtis explains that as “human beings, when faced with a crisis, our first instincts are usually to try to help, fix or provide context” but sometimes there is no one easy solution. Reminding everyone that they are heard and valued should be something we take forward to 2021 as the struggles presented and heightened this year have always been there. Curtis also curated a wide range of authors within this collection, allowing all of them to open up about their own mental health, providing a sense of guidance and camaraderie with their reader.
A chapter that exercises the idea of guidance is Fearne Cotton’s “Silver Lining”. As the title suggests, Cotton discusses the “unexpected good bit” that always comes after the bad bit. For Cotton, it was sharing her story that made the “harsh shackles” lighten. She highlights the happiness that cannot be conceived in the depths of depression and that “it doesn’t mean there is no light at all; we just can’t see it.” This reminder comes when applied to most situations. Despite 2020 being stuck indoors, just imagine how great it will be when we can hug again – and with the rollout of vaccines, this silver lining is not too far out of reach now, either.
Adam Kay, writer and former doctor, grapples with one of the most quintessentially British phenomena, the “stiff upper lip”, head on. A trait that is common in our nation, as much as it eludes to a sense of strength, can also be our downfall. A quote that looks as though it was meant to perfectly sum up this year is that “even though the mask rarely slips, the job is often brutal.”
With care workers persistently being celebrated as superheroes, we must remember they are only human and the toll the pandemic will have on them may not be seen but will inevitably arise.
However, the idea of a mask can apply to everyone, both metaphorically and literally. We all project the image we want others to see, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much, but while we always may want the image of perfection to override, it is crucial to express the downs and worries we have. Kay reminds us all that: “It’s not a sign of weakness to feel overwhelmed or underappreciated.”
Whether you are looking to wrap up and knuckle down for a long read or just want to devote a short amount of time, Curtis has it all for you in It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue and other lies. The vast collection of essays will be sure to have something for you with guidance and hope interwoven throughout.
You do not have to be a movie star or doctor to understand the emotions written in these personal essays, the only requirement is to be you.
Looking forward to 2021, let’s not forget the time that we put our mental health first.