Baek Se-hee is a successful young social media director at a publishing house when she begins seeing a psychiatrist about her–what to call it?–depression? She feels persistently low, anxious, endlessly self-doubting, but also highly judgemental of others. She hides her feelings well at work and with friends, adept at performing the calmness, even ease, her lifestyle demands. The effort is exhausting and overwhelming and keeps her from forming deep relationships. This can’t be normal. But if she’s so hopeless, why can she always summon a yen for her favourite street food, the hot, spicy rice cake, tteokbokki? Is this just what life is like? Recording her dialogues with her psychiatrist over a 12-week period, Baek begins to disentangle the feedback loops, knee-jerk reactions, and harmful behaviours that keep her locked in a cycle of self-abuse.
This book had been appearing on my feeds as the book to read on the subject of mental health and relationships. I bought it sometime around Diwali last year and finally got around to reading it now, when I felt ready to understand and absorb what the author might have to say.
It is written as a transcript of the conversations between the author and her psychiatrist where she poses leading questions to the author and asks her to reflect on them. At the end of each session, she gives her a small task to accomplish and report back her observations.
After each chapter is a sort of diary entry with the author’s learning from the session, her revelations, and the next step she intends to take.
The conversations are about things that prevent us from building meaningful relationships, not only with strangers but also with people we’ve known for the longest time. It aims to ask you what holds you back and pushes you to subject yourself to an unhealthy standard.
The book is uncomplicated and easy to read. One can simply follow the chain of thought presented to reflect on your own life, comb through the mess inside and sort into a system that works in your favour.
We are all struggling with something at some point in life and a little push in the right direction can be of invaluable assistance: Focus less on how you look to other people and more on fulfilling your desires, achieving your dreams, and seeing everything that comes after as a bonus. I think this book can provide that – push you to see yourself as a real, living, breathing person who invites joy for themself.
I found this book to be deeply relatable, perhaps not on the larger scale, but in addressing specific aspects of my life. That is really the USP of this book and can hold immense meaning for someone looking for answers to questions they are unable to frame.
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee. Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur. Published in June 2022 by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Book 10 of 2023.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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