by Beatrice Ballarin
This book was part of a very long Christmas wish list which, as you can imagine, mainly consisted of the latest hot releases of book titles. I can’t exactly remember why I wanted to read this one so badly. I didn’t know the author beforehand, nor the publishing house. To tell you the truth, I could not find it in Canada at the time, and had to order it through the American amazon- just to give an idea of how badly I wanted this book. Maybe I had been influenced by one of the book-lovers Instagram accounts that I follow. Or perhaps it was the title: Maybe you should talk to someone. That phrase sounded familiar in my ears. It remined me of a suggestion given to me by a friend in a moment of struggle. Indeed, I think I can rely and best describe the year 2019 as my own annus horribilis—and when I saw that title, it felt like perfect timing.
This is not your typical non-fiction book. It’s more of a memoir by author and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb about psychotherapy from the perspective of both the therapist and patients. It’s the true story of a single mother with a young son, who is madly in love with the man that was supposed to marry her. Except that one day, without any warnings, this man just decided to break up with her because he “didn’t want to live with a 10-year-old after all”. And so, this is where this book starts at. If things would have been different, Gottlieb may have ended up writing “the happiness book”, but everything happens for a reason- or so I believe.
Unable to cope with the pain of this unexpected break-up, Gottlieb decided to seek therapy herself. In a funny way she describes all her main disappointments from her lost love story, to then realize that the “break-up” was only the tip of the iceberg, with many deep unsolved issues hiding underneath. Gottlieb’s own patients are passengers carried along with her on her inner voyage to happiness. These patients are all very diverse and with incredible life stories, There’s the young professor diagnosed with terminal cancer (famous for her t-shirt “namaste in bed”, which I relate). The older lady who is searching for a meaning to her life; and intending to commit suicide in one year if nothing changes. The adventures of a young twenty-something stuck between a bad relationship and alcohol abuse. And an egocentric Hollywood producer – my personal favourite sub-story in the memoir. While Gottlieb analyzes these stories and helps her patients with their own lives, it’s Wendell, her own psychotherapist (with nice paired socks), helping her put herself back together.
Often therapy focuses a lot on the past and its regrets. And some therapists emphasize the power of the past and how it informs of the present. But what about the future? What does the past have to say for that lost future? This story starts “when the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists.”
Gottlieb is very authentic and human, even confessing to stalking her ex-boyfriend on social media. She confides that she gets bored at times with her patients, especially when they don’t take the next step and go on and on for sessions about the same issue. And then she ends up doing the same to her own therapist, Wendell. The spontaneity of these events made it feel more real. It made is okay to be human and have defects. In a way it made me accept my own behaviors more and be more forgiving with myself.
I think “Maybe you should talk to someone” is a perfect read for living in this pandemic. Getting a different perspective on one-self, even if indirectly through the characters in Gottleib’s story, could help you turn the page on your own issues. And instead of focusing on how to re-do the past, maybe this time we should focus on how to improve the future that we have left.