Book review #4 Chase the Rainbow (Poorna Bell)

I haven’t done a book review for a while and was recently writing up a post on my favourite books of 2018. While doing this, it occurred to me that I’d written so much about one book that I could pretty much just review it, which I’ve now decided to do!

TW: before reading this book, be aware that it talks about suicide, depression and substance abuse, so please have caution if you are triggered by these issues.

I’ve mentioned this book a lot on my social media feeds (twitter and Instagram) and reading it has led me to follow Poorna on her social media, podcasting and articles, so this won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I have chosen to review this book and have it at the top of my favourite books of 2018 list.

I absolutely adore this book, no doubt about that, and am constantly recommending it whenever I get the chance. But just to reiterate my I love it, Chase the Rainbow is about Poorna’s late husband Rob and the grief that came from him killing himself.

This might not sound like an easy sell, but honestly I haven’t read a more beautifully written book in 2018. In fact not since Reasons to Stay Alive have I felt so teary and yet so hopeful when reading. Poorna relates beautifully what Rob was like, what his personality was like and how they met, fell in love and got married. This importantly shows Rob as more than his illness and as a full human being, which too often people neglect to talk about when someone suffers with a mental illness and/or takes their own life.

But of course Poorna doesn’t beat around the bush when discussing what he went through with depression and substance abuse, and what she herself went through before and after Rob died. Key sections of the book are dedicated to how Poorna approached talking about Rob and his death with her family and friends. The stigmatisation that exists around suicide, depression and substance abuse is so strong that Poorna often felt unable to talk to anyone about Rob, what he was going through and how he died. But to see how far she has come in challenging society’s views, as well as her own, is astounding and all I could think while reading this book was about how much we need to break down the stigma in society so that we don’t let people suffer in silence and leave loved ones thinking ‘what if?’

If you follow Poorna’s writing now, you will know she is a powerful advocate for awareness of mental illness, substance abuse and suicide and has written many beautiful and emotionally overwhelming articles about grief. No-one quite writes about grief like Poorna and having lost my dad 5 years ago, I know about grief not being a straight line and not being the same for everyone. Some days I will feel fine and not think about my dad’s death, but then other times something will trigger my thoughts (an anniversary, his birthday, a dream or even just a random sight) and I will have to think through my coping strategies and how important it is to give myself time to heal and be emotional if I need to be.

This is what Poorna gets at and she also gets the stigma around both mental illness and substance abuse. These are both so poorly understood in society, which leads to people being ashamed of how they are and too often taking their own life. This needs to change and we need to be more open and supportive for people to get help. With people like Poorna around, I can definitely see hope for society.

Read this book and read her work. She has written some truly wonderful articles about grief and mental illness as well as on issues around being from a black and ethnic minorities background and being a woman in a corporate environment. She currently runs a workshop called “fix my life” which I’ll link below, which aims to help support women from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds in succeeding in work.

Poorna has also been featured on several podcasts, which I recommend listening too (I’m a particular fan of her recent podcast on Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy’), where she eloquently talks about her work, her life with Rob, how she is advocating for all manner of awareness and support for people suffering or struggling; and how she intends to take a front seat in helping change the landscape of mental illness in society.

This book will no doubt change your life if you are anything like me. Yes, I was already quite an advocate for mental health awareness but I had never read such a beautiful book about depression, grief, masculinity and the stigma around mental illness and substance abuse.

Books like this are well worth investing time in and I guarantee Poorna’s next book ‘In Search of Silence’ being released this year will be another wonderful read. I for one can’t wait for it to be released.

Best Wishes,

Peter xx

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