Top critical review
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A Disappointing Read with Few Good Suggestions and Examples.
on 28 June 2014
In How to be Sick Toni Bernhard tells of how she used her Buddhist faith and understanding to accept living with a chronic disability.
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a very long time (despite having it on my shelf for months before I got to it) as I really enjoy Bernhard’s column at Psychology Today in which she gives advice to those with chronic disabilities, and their carers, revolving around Buddhism. I was expecting more of the same with How to be Sick, only more in-depth. Unfortunately I instead found that most of the book was, in my opinion, fluff (ie. extra words that weren’t necessary just to make the chapters longer).
The book starts with Bernhard’s personal journey with becoming ill on a holiday in Paris, and never recovering. She then goes on to explain a few fundamentals of Buddhism and examples of how she uses them. However, I felt that it was simply repetition of saying ‘so I started to think like that and it helped’, which isn’t actually very useful to the reader. I was really looking for actionable steps, due to it being described as ‘a Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers’, and for me the book just didn’t deliver.
I did find some of the explanations of Buddhist ideas helpful, but I feel that I would just as easily be able to learn these online or using books dedicated to Buddhism. As so many of Bernhard’s examples simply explain what her mental and emotional state would be like without using Buddhism, I didn’t find many of them useful or explanatory.
Despite not finding the majority of the book up to my expectations, the final chapters did explain the difficulties people with chronic disabilities face, that most people may not be aware of, as well as giving suggestions on how to deal with specific problems (although, most of those suggestions involve nothing more than some positive statements to say to yourself).
Overall I was very disappointed with How to be Sick, and I personally didn’t find it worth my time, money or energy. However, for those with chronic disabilities and their carers, I still recommend reading Toni Bernhard’s column online if you are looking for a burst of inspiration, acceptance, and understanding.