I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays – Review

Thank you to the publisher, Harper Perennial, for gifting this book.

“The rocket of pain was already exploding in my head.  I couldn’t be responsible for creating new worries.  I was the oldest, it was my responsibility to be easy.  I couldn’t tell them anything else.  I was told not to write on my tests anymore.  I agreed and vowed to myself to keep the chaos I carried to myself.”

I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays is one of the BEST nonfiction books I’ve read this year.  What book have you read recently that MEANS so much, you just WANT EVERYONE to read it?  This has been one of those books for me.  So much so, I’ve struggled to summarize WHY this book is unlike others, even after reading it several months ago.  This book didn’t feel clinical, it didn’t feel like science, it felt like a living breathing person.  Ikipi’s stream of consciousness approach felt like she allowed me access to something I can never fully understand.  Ikipi invites me into moments in her life, the early glimmers of what feels like something is wrong but she can’t tell, so I can’t either because, she’s not sure how to articulate what’s going on.

These essays open our minds and hearts to what it was like growing up with a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows.  When Bassey realizes her grandmother didn’t die *just* from old age. When a young Bassey is comforted by her mother with understanding after an emotional outburst she’s trying process.  The moments when she understands, when we understand, there is a silent family history no one talks about.  When we are all TELLING THE TRUTH BUT WE’RE LYING.  We feel it would be shameful, it’s family business and we don’t talk about family business, even in the family.  These essays felt like flesh and blood; the constant pretense that’s everythings fine, but it’s not.

I forced myself to live with each essay for a while before moving on to the next one, although I wanted to DEVOUR this collection without coming up for air.  But I would have done myself a disservice if I had done so.  Waiting, pausing, processing, feeling the angst, frustration, anxiety, stress, fatigue, desires.  A gambit of feelings and emotions in Ikpi’s life seem to gain a momentum of their own with each essay.  The structure gave me access to her personal experience in a way that felt like I was just beyond her grasp.  But at the same time enveloping me into her thoughts, feelings and emotions.

There were times I wanted to say, “No, Bassey your sick and it’s because your using the medium (writing) to allow me inside of the brain you said is broken.  But you don’t want anyone to be worried.  You don’t want to further disappointment your family.  But you can’t keep going like this.  Something is going to happen, you haven’t slept in days.” Now I’m crying because I feel exasperated and exhausted because I don’t know how to help.

As much as I could say, I HAVE to say, READ this book.  Read this book to understand what Ikpi calls the “fog and the hurricane” of living with bipolar II and anxiety everyday.  Read this book to heighten your sensitivity, increase your awareness, and to open the eyes of your heart.

In my opinion, exceptional reading, one of the most important and best books I’ve read this year.

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