A woman examines the trauma of her past in order to offer advice to others in this self-help work.
As readers go through life, they are writing their own users’ manuals via a process of trial and error. “When do our manuals start?” writes Wheeler (Be Your Own Best Friend, 2015). “I think they start as soon as we realize that certain feelings resonated with certain awarenesses. For example, the first time I saw violence, I was aware that it wasn’t right and that it hurt me.” Violence was, unfortunately, a mainstay in the author’s life from early childhood to adulthood. According to Wheeler, her father was physically abusive to her and her siblings, and her stepfather was sexually abusive to her during her teen years. A lack of role models and poor decisions led to a series of abusive relationships with boyfriends, culminating in the tragic and vicious end of her first marriage. Despite the violence, drug use, emotional abuse, suicidal thoughts, and morally difficult decisions, the author managed to turn her life around by seeking help and discovering her inner strength. She discusses the impact of medication, therapy, spirituality, and family on her healing process, offering readers one possible manual they might follow to make their own lives better. Wheeler writes in a simple but honest prose that presents the difficulties she has faced in a frank, almost journalistic manner: “I started thinking of ways to kill myself. I would take a lot of Tylenol with the alcohol I stole from my mom. I would try to cut my wrists, but I wouldn’t follow through because it hurt to push through my skin.” Despite her deep well of traumatic experiences, the author never writes from a place of presumed expertise. While she discusses the importance of faith in her life, she does not frame it in a way that makes it seem as though readers must also adopt it. She simply recounts her experiences and what she has learned from them, and, for readers, seeing this evolution will likely be more affecting than the checklists and posed questions of more polished works in the genre.
A stark and honest investigation into the author’s personal ordeals.