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Book Review: Coming Undone by Terri White

Dear Terri,

I’ve just finished your heart-breaking memoir, a book so brutal and shocking, I’m not sure where to start with my thoughts.

Life dealt you a shitty hand from the beginning, a childhood of poverty, sexual and physical abuse at the hands of your mother’s partners, an early unhealthy relationship with alcohol, mental health problems and self-harm.

It was a childhood and life tinged with sadness and trauma, a childhood you were desperate to escape. University and London followed, there was a glittering career in journalism but still the past haunted you.

You were desperate to show the world you had it together, the perfect make-up and beehive, ready to take on the office at least. It struck me that this is often a woman’s first line of defence; flawless face, not a hair out of place, putting on a mask to hide what is really going on, the mask only holds up for so long.

To the world it seemed you had it all, dream job in New York, the life you’d been pushing for, the life that you thought would signal the real you, the best you and an escape from the past, only it didn’t work out that way.

The awards and the glory came, you threw yourself into work, probably the only place you felt in control. The nights were a haze of bars and alcohol, I could feel your loneliness in an unforgiving city, thousands of miles from home. Dark thoughts crept in, there were mood stabilisers anti-depressants – granted you weren’t taking them.

Then came rock bottom, waking up to find two empty pill bottles, heading to hospital and ending up on psychiatric ward. Scared at being held against your will, desperate to get back to the office and be your best self, adjusting your beehive, fixing your make-up, putting on your mask to prove you were well enough to go home.

I can’t imagine that fear and loneliness, I was relieved to find you had the love and support of good friends. I was desperate for you to realise you were loved and cared for.

The strength it took to realise that staying in New York wasn’t an option, that the perceived dream life was doing more harm than good, the need to get away from the city that was swallowing you hole, the need to get firm grasp on your sanity, the need to address and deal with your past. The realisation that it didn’t matter if people thought you were giving up on the city to strived to be in and the huge job you’d worked hard to get.

In world obsessed with social media, where we all spend hours cultivating the perfect existence, there’s perhaps a lesson for us all to take away from your book in varying degrees:

I want more than an envied life; I want somewhere to live, something to love, and I want it to be real. I want to feel sorry for the person I left behind. Terri White

I saw an interview you’d done with the I where you said:

“I worry people will think I’m a mess, that I drank too much, took drugs, but I didn’t want my fears to silence me”.

You’ve nothing to worry about, anyone who reads this, won’t come away thinking any less of you, I was left with nothing but respect for you.

You’ve shown many women that it’s okay to come undone, sometimes it’s where our strength comes from, sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to get the life we’ve been yearning for.

Thank you for your honesty,


P.S I’d love to know what happened next 

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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