I first heard of Nick Duerden through an article he wrote in the Guardian about health memoirs. A few weeks later, I spotted his book, Get Well Soon, in a very small bookshop that I go into once every few years. The coincidence seemed too big: I decided I really needed to get this book. This was confirmed when I found I could borrow it from my library service!
In the book, Nick takes us through his journey with chronic fatigue syndrome: how he was diagnosed – or not; how part of him just gave up initially; how anxiety stopped him going out; how he overcame his scepticism of alternative therapies and how he started to ‘undergo some kind of transformation’.
It is very definitely a memoir rather than a self-help book but there are plenty of nuggets in there to give encouragement and some help. I liked where he talked about ‘having steely determination’, having been very passive initially. I enjoyed when he interviewed Susie Orbach, a well known psychoanalyst in the UK,and also where he talks about his chat with John C Parkin, the creator of the F**k It books and courses.
Nick has a pretty down to earth style and I find he talks about quite a few of the therapies in a way that fits well with me – sceptical but open. And this is perhaps the most useful part of the book if you are looking for CFS treatments. He tries the best known of the organisations that offer help to people with CFS – well, the ones in the UK: the Optimum Health Clinic, the Gupta Programme and the Lightning Process and he talks about his experiences with each one. Very useful indeed. Nick doesn’t really mention pacing but he does talk about the planning he now needs to do for even small trips though such detailed planning isn’t his style.
So should you buy – or borrow – the book? I think that depends completely on how easy you find reading. Is reading a book something that gives you energy or is it something that depletes you? If it depletes you, you’re probably better of looking for short, sharp articles or, if you particularly want recovery stories, my Pinterest board – CFS recovery stories – has quite a few.
But if you are happy to read slowly and steadily, in Nick’s book you will find a story – and stories can be very powerful indeed – a story that is intriguing, real and encouraging. You may find yourself remembering different experiences Nick writes about – a week, a month later – and find you have the courage or confidence to try something new, or give you support when you feel isolated and struggling. Words such as this: ‘…..tune out all the competing voices, …avoid Google, and instead allow the confidence you have mustered to lead you through’. Wise words.
But sometimes a book like this isn’t just for the person who has a chronic illness; it may be of even more valuable as a gift to a family member, a way that they start to understand more about what anybody with CFS is going through. And anything that can help with that is worth a lot!
Get Well Soon is available in paperback (published by Green Tree) and on Kindle.
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