Just reading the very first sentence of Tanya Byron’s new book The Skeleton Cupboard made me gasp in shock. By the first chapter, I’m laughing – albeit a little uncomfortably – with Edith, who believes she’s Maria from the Sound of Music. Byron is singing along. ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria?’ Lulled into a false sense of security, I’m then gasping again as the brutal Ray, who first sobs in Byron’s office holds a knife to her left eye and threatens to gouge it out. By the time I read about Imogen with a secret so dark it’s unbearable, I’m the one who is sobbing.
This is a book that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions that allows you to sit on the couch with both patient and therapist. Inspired by Professor Tanya Byron’s years of training as clinical psychologist, it’s not only a full frontal view of ordinary people struggling to cope with the challenges of life but it also charts the journey of a new and naïve therapist with a raw honesty that is refreshing.
Perhaps, she says, we will never solve ‘a problem like Maria’ and so what then do we do – personally and as a society? Byron encourages us to have compassion versus judgement for those who so often can be discarded, judged and ridiculed. A starting place, Byron suggests, is that we bear witness and have compassion to the little bit of madness that exists in all of us. A compelling book that will challenge and comfort all who have strived to make the journey from chaos to clarity.