I have been contemplating seeing a therapist for some time now. Several friends have been telling me a lot about therapy recently and how it’s helped them in small and big ways. One friend, in particular, had explained to me that it’s just like seeing a doctor for a check-up every year—our physical bodies need professional care and attention, so all the more should we seek out the same for our minds. I’ve been trying to book an appointment for the past few months (but always miss the cut-off), so it was a surprise to have this particular book land on my proverbial lap for the month’s First Look Club review.
I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki is a deceptively cute-looking book with an interesting title. Wrapped in calming pastel colors and a bubbly font, the cover makes it seem like it would be a light read that you’d breeze through. The book, however, is about the actual experiences of the author Baek Sehee as she sees a psychiatrist for a span of twelve weeks. Each chapter contains snippets of dialogue between Baek and her psychiatrist, and it is written out very straightforwardly, like a play with the name of the speaker, a colon, and what they’d said. Part memoir and part self-help book, I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki invites readers into the very intimate space of Baek Sehee’s journey through therapy as she digs deeper into her own mental health.
“I wonder about others like me, who seem totally fine on the outside but are rotting on the inside, where the rot is this vague state of being not-fine and not-devastated at the same time.”
The book is essentially a compilation of conversations. This to me was particularly interesting—I thought it would be more like a typical memoir that narrated experiences and shared insights on these in something like a long-form essay. Instead, it reminded me of plays and chat messages. The dialogue was at the forefront and it felt as though I was listening in on the conversations the two had over those twelve weeks.
For some, the intimacy of the dialogue may seem a bit too intrusive as readers. The back and forth between the author and her psychiatrist could probably seem to drag for others as well (although the entire book is not a very long read at all). Personally, however, I found this different format rather interesting. I liked the feeling of sitting there in the room with them as I read through their exchanges, and I was interested to hear what her psychiatrist had to say about the stories she was sharing.
What it means when we say...
Mental health—I think we sometimes forget that it’s not a straightforward kind of thing. I noticed that a gripe many had with the book was that the conversations seemed repetitive and became boring as the chapters went on. As mentioned, it is essentially a transcript of the author’s dialogue with her psychiatrist. She was diagnosed with dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder (a state of constant, light depression), and was seeking help to disentangle herself from the complicated web she had learned to live in.
Baek Sehee unpacks boxes that have to do with family, romantic relationships, work, her appearance, and the process of organizing all these isn’t clear cut—they get jumbled, misplaced, and brought out again and again even after being placed in the right spot. This can understandably seem messy and unenjoyable for many, but it shows us very humbly and honestly what the struggle of trying to work through dysthymia is like. I guess this is also what makes it rather difficult for me to write this review: who am I to judge the personal journey of someone?
So instead, I’ll say that it has given me a peek into what therapy could look like. To be honest, there are parts of me that are still hesitant and somewhat afraid to see a therapist, but I very much appreciate books like these that exist in the world to make the idea of therapy and professional help more accessible. Hopefully down the line, we’ll all be plotting mental health check-ups on our calendars too.
Jody is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. When she’s not drowning in readings for class, she drowns herself in music, books, and the wonders of the Internet. You can find her on Instagram @ohfishness.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]