The True Story of a Young Man and Anxiety

This insightful memoir of a young man’s life is eloquent and insightful as it deals with the affects of anxiety on his life. The Fear Talking is well written, intelligent and very accessible; it almost has the page turning quality of a thriller. Readers will soon find themselves engrossed in Chris’s struggle to identify and cope with his condition before fully understanding his mental health issues. Surely people facing anxiety issues will find much to identify with here. From the outside-in there’s a difference between compassion towards someone because of an abstract understanding of their problems and actually empathising and feeling their pain which can only come with listening, (reading). This book takes the reader closer to Chris’s feelings, the mental anguish the illness causes – this is a view of what it’s like to be on the inside of the condition. Chris leads the reader towards a picture of mental ill health.

As Chris tells his story it’s like any young person’s diary of growing up, a rites of passage, but this shadow hangs over every day, over every decision, and readers soon begin to see how anxiety factors into everything in his life. The anxiety makes everything more foreboding, more difficult, even terrifying, the things most people without anxiety take for granted are potentially debilitating. The upshot of his condition is that there is no cure for Westoby, he has to live with anxiety for the rest of his life. But he has identified it, learned to cope and get on with his life, become a successful person. It’s a positive story drawn from personal strength achieved in the face of misunderstanding and ignorance of anxiety in those around him, as in this father/son exchange:

‘You “don’t feel well”. You’re fine to go to the gym and drink that protein shit and go out with your mates and your girlfriend whenever it pleases you, but when it’s something important, here we are.’

‘It’s not like that.’

‘Then let’s go!’ And when I don’t move, he says, ‘You know what? I’ve had it. Do as you like.’

Free periods are a problem, lessons are a problem. Problems girlfriend she’s sick of it.

Chris overcomes adversity and this is ultimately an uplifting read that will make any reader more aware of anxiety but also reaffirm the remarkable resilience Chris has shown in facing up to his condition and making so much of his life. Chris Westoby has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Hull and is Programme Director for the Hull online creative writing MA. He guest lectures in mental health.

Review by Paul Burke

Barbican Press, paperback, ISBN 9781909954441, out now