Book Review: Secrets for the Mad by Dodie Clark
If you're struggling with self-doubt in any way, this is a required read
Dodie Clark is one of, if not my favorite musician and songwriter of all time. Her lyrics are always brilliant, putting words to feelings and experiences that are difficult to communicate but relatable to pretty much everyone. With her debut book Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions, and Life Lessons, Dodie continues to demonstrate that her insightful style is not exclusive to her music. Her narrative writing is just as powerful and universally relatable as her music, and it feels just as inviting and cathartic. However, it's not just a book meant for her fans -- it's a book that is accessible to anyone and one that I personally feel is the most important exploration of mental health issues available right now.
The book consists of various anecdotes about her life and her own anxieties as a person -- being diagnosed with depersonalization, struggling with alcoholism, coming to terms with her sexuality, struggling to find connections with other people. The stories she tells feel so familiar to anyone who has struggled with their own mental health and feels that they're the only person in the world who has experienced the worries that they've experienced and potentially found "ridiculous." Dodie's writing feels like the most personalized counseling session ever put into a book, convincing anyone who reads it that whatever they're going through right now, everything will be okay even if it doesn't seem like it will be. Life always keeps moving forward, and sometimes it's important to let go of the things we can't change.
However, that doesn't mean that Dodie is erroneously claiming that she's fixed these problems herself. She is still fully aware that she has a lot to work on as a person, that there are a lot of burdens that she will never be able to lift from her shoulders, and she's still learning to embrace that. The book's message, while reassuring, also allows the reader to understand that often, there is no simple solution to overanalyzing your actions, terrifying yourself over small things, or feeling like no one understands you the way you do. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is try your best, and in the areas where she feels she can, she gives the advice she feels is important to help her readers achieve this goal.
Of course, since Dodie's also a musician, she has also transcribed a small selection of her songs and scattered them throughout this book. Newcomers to Dodie's work can familiarize themselves with some of her official releases at the time such as "6/10," "When," and (of course) "Secret for the Mad," and songs that she would officially release after the book's publication, like "She" and "Human." Occasional listeners to her material can appreciate the songs they recognize, but even hardcore fans such as myself can discover new songs that she's only ever released on her YouTube profiles, including "Down," "I Knew You Once," "Adored by Him," and "Dear Happy." Readers can choose to listen to the songs as they read or simply take in the lyrics as if they were a selected collection of original poetry. Also scattered throughout are journal entries and letters that Dodie wrote in her youth and extra passages written by some of her friends, which are simply a joy to read.
Dodie's exploration of her personal life and even into the taboos that most people seem to be afraid to talk about with others allows anyone struggling with self-doubt to feel like they're not alone. Dodie's empathetic and inquisitive writing describes the loneliness and anxiety that one can feel from certain interactions -- social, individual, sexual, etc. -- in a way that allows the readers to finally put to words the explanation they've been searching to find. It's why I've adored Dodie's music consistently over the years, especially recently dealing with my transition into college and struggling to find my footing, and it's why her writing is just as profound here. Anyone struggling with any form of anxiety, depression, or confusion about themselves needs to read this book. It's timeless, it's reassuring, it's beautifully assembled, it's simply incredible.