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I was honoured and very lucky to receive an advance free PDF copy of The Things We Don’t Say: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths, edited by Julie Morgenlender. In return I promised to write an honest review and share it on my blog.
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The Things We Don’t Say is a non-fiction book of approximately 240 pages, containing an introduction by Julie, and 50 personal essays by 42 authors.
I loved the honesty in this book. I learned so much about different chronic illnesses and how the different authors live with their daily struggles and various lifestyles. It hooked me in from the beginning and although at times it felt like a novel due to the different creative styles of writing, and often unbelievable heart-wrenching essays, it most certainly isn’t. It is the rarely told and factual lives of fellow chronic pain and chronic illness sufferers who speak to truth and share their stories and challenges, as well as their hopes and gratitude, with those willing to listen.
I won’t lie, at times it was a very tough read. I felt both sadness and guilt: sadness because of what people had been through in their chronic pain and illness journeys; guilty that I can do so more much than some of the people who I was reading about. I even questioned if I am justified in writing my blog when my story is not as difficult as some of the people in this book. But pain is pain and illness is illness, and I am one of the people who has a story to tell too so I shall continue to do so through my blog.
Although my sitting pain is not described by any of the authors in the book, some of what they talk about really resonated with me. They described certain things in ways I’ve never been able to before, and this made me feel valued and comforted. One particular line that stood out for me was in the chapter Good Morning by Kaitlyn M. Smith: “Pain does not give you time for fashion…you thank the powers above that you don’t have to do anything that requires dressing up today.”
Another chapter that I connected with and learned a lot from was The Monster Within by Annie Wittenberg. It explained some of the things that happen to me with my own anxiety and gave some really good tips on how to cope.
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Although it is an average book length, it has short chapters which makes it easy to read in small doses and ideal for anyone who is pacing their activities.
I like how each chapter concludes with a small introduction and photo of each author. It makes it human and more real by putting a face to the name.
This book should be on the reading list for every trainee doctor to fully appreciate and show empathy for those people with the health conditions they could potentially be treating. It’s an eye-opener and a must read to really appreciate what life with chronic pain and chronic illness is like.
The Things We Don’t Say is a book of struggles and heartbreaking stories, but out of it comes strength, courage and education. It increased my empathy and understanding for different chronic illnesses, and to whoever decides to read this book, I hope it does for you too.
A huge well done and big pat on the back to those who were brave enough to write an essay for this book. And to Julie for enabling the world to get to understand a little more about the things people with invisible disabilities and conditions are very often scared or reluctant to say. You all should be very proud of yourselves.
Where to buy the book