Life + Love, Life Stories

I healed my pain through the stories of other women

Jessi Klein's book about her own fears and insecurities made me realize that I could overcome the obstacles in my life.

Recently, I went through a hard time. I am usually a fairly happy (though admittedly high-strung) person, but as my domestic partnership floundered, I became consumed with feelings of regret and shame. For the first time in my life, I found myself feeling constantly anxious, and seriously depressed.

I was prescribed medication, but all I got from it was migraines, occasional stomach issues, and various unpleasant thoughts. In need of relief, and finding pharmaceuticals unable to help me, the healing I found was from books.

Hope has become something of a buzzword where I forgot its meaning. Click To Tweet

I advocate therapy and a strong relationship with one’s doctor. Everything I did, I did with the blessing of my primary care physician, my therapist, and my loved ones. What I discovered, however, is that for me, my depressed thoughts were linked to a lack of hope.

Hope has become something of a buzzword to the point where I for one forgot its meaning. I saw hope as a hollow word that belonged to platitudes, stitched on pillows by well-meaning people who could not appreciate the complexity of my unsolvable problems. My despair had made me cynical, arrogant, convinced my obstacles were wholly unique and completely insurmountable, and then one day I picked up a book, and everything changed.

The book was “You’ll Grow Out Of It,” a memoir by comedian Jessi Klein. I had long found Klein funny. I loved her story on “The Moth” about trying to hook up with a Disney character at her sister’s wedding, so I was fairly certain that a whole memoir’s worth of stories would be a nice diversion.

My depressed thoughts were linked to a lack of hope. Click To Tweet

What I wasn’t anticipating was how frankly and poignantly her story would address issues such as struggling with infertility, feelings of low self-worth, and anxiety. In fact, Klein has an entire heartwarming chapter on the therapist who helped her overcome her insecurities, and pursue a career in comedy.

As I read Klein’s book, I realized that her issues were similar to mine. When she was 30 (the age I am now), she was avoiding taking risks, afraid to become the person she wanted to be. She was taking the safe path her family had socialized her to be on, and I could relate. I could relate to her inhibitions, the crippling fear that made her take a conventional path she knew was killing her. This had been my approach to life for a decade.

The most remarkable thing, however, was not that I could relate to Klein’s problem, but that I found hope in her healing. She conquered her fears and is now an Emmy-winning comedy writer, author, and new mother. She is flourishing, and her success gives me hope.

No, I do not presume I will have the same sort of astronomical success Klein had, but her example gave me faith that my life could get better, which was the best and most healing strategy I have ever found. Her story has restored my optimism, the youthful faith in the world I thought I’d lost.

I have found strength in the stories of other women. Click To Tweet

Since reading Klein’s memoir, I have revisited other works of life writing by women who overcame periods of despair. I devoured Emma Forrest’s memoir about the healing power of therapy, “Your Voice in My Head.” I then savored every minute of Margaret Cho’s sublime “I’m The One That I Want,” a memoir about self-acceptance and working through trauma.

At the end of the day, memoirs are a special genre. They allow the reader into someone else’s life, their struggles, and their triumphs. By reading about women who worked through their problems, who fought for joy and healing, my own spirit has begun to want and hope again.

I have found strength in the stories of other women. While books cannot substitute counseling or a medical professional’s care, they have their own special magic that cannot be replicated.

In the end, these are the book I recommend for people who wish to feel a little less alone.

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Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a professional feminist based in Toronto. She is currently a PhD candidate in gender, feminist and women's studies at York University, where she is completing her dissertation on the mothering of inter-ethnic children. Sarah's writing has been featured in such publications as She Does The City, Bitch Media, The Huffington Post, xoJane, and the satirical newspaper, The Beaverton. When she's not writing, Sarah mostly reads thrillers, watches Netflix, and sleeps.

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