Louise O’Sullivan speaks to author and therapist, AlLyson Dinneen, about her new book which opens up a conversation for us all to acknowledge and accept how we feel at any given time and allow that to direct us as we move forward …
Each day we are all faced with the emotional challenges that occur in life. Trauma happens on various scales, relationships change, and we don’t always know how to process those experiences. Notes from Your Therapist, by Allyson Dinneen, is a wonderful collection of handwritten notes which offer insight, honesty, and bite sized chunks of clarity in navigating through some of our more emotionally challenging times. Dinneen channels both her professional wisdom as a therapist and her personal experience of trauma having lost her mother, age 4, in a plane crash and later in life, her husband shortly after the birth of their first child, into this visually stunning book.
The book came to fruition as a result of Allyson’s ever growing Instagram account @Notesfromyourtherapist where she first posted her handwritten notes. Quickly, they attracted quite a bit of attention and much to the surprise of Dinneen, her followers multiplied. The concept of the book evolved from this personal Instagram account into a smaller self-published collection of notes to the now fully published book. It includes 150 beautiful notes and a number of short essay segments covering themes surrounding relationships, emotions, grief, boundaries, and a multitude of other topics. The fact this book was born from an Instagram account promoting open dialogue around mental wellness and grief is something that I find quite powerful. It gives me hope that in the future perhaps social media can be shaped in a more positive direction.
Seeing someone’s handwriting over a generic typed font personalises the content in a way that not only grabs the eye of the reader but reminds us that although a therapist, she too, is another human who has experienced loss and is moving through her own emotional journey just as we all are.
There are too many beautiful notes to choose just one favourite but one that stood out for me was “There are people and experiences I will never be done grieving”. We are so often filled with a notion that we must move on and forget things in order to be happy when often those things that we grieve for were a huge part of our lives. Seeing this note simply put down on paper in black and white was transformative for me as it nurtures the idea that it is ok to co-exist with our experiences and to be happy alongside them as opposed to discarding them. Selecting one or two of her own stand out notes from her Instagram and the book was no easy task but Allyson chose “You haven’t failed if you haven’t made someone else happy. People are allowed to be not happy” and “No wonder you think your job is to cheer people up, calm them down, or stay out of their way if that’s exactly what you had to do as a kid to feel safe.”
As someone who journals regularly and finds handwriting deeply therapeutic the other appealing aspect of this book is the way that its done, through handwritten notes. Seeing someone’s handwriting over a generic typed font personalises the content in a way that not only grabs the eye of the reader but reminds us that although a therapist, she too, is another human who has experienced loss and is moving through her own emotional journey just as we all are. Throughout Notes from Your Therapist there are small scribbles or words crossed out or changed that give the book an endearing quality. Even a small detail such as that further enhances the appeal of this book and demonstrates that imperfection is part of being human.
Reading Notes from Your Therapist, whether that be in short snippets, or whether you indulge in it from cover to cover, is a true act of self-care in so many ways. From the visual beauty and content to the feelings it evokes, this book has quickly become one of my favourites. When asked about what she likes to do herself to promote her own self-care, Dinneen emphasised alone time as something which is integral for her, while also ensuring she connects with her close circle of friends. She summed it up quite nicely as “connection and solitude”. Thirdly, she credits writing and creating as further acts of self-care which are important to her. However, one of the most valuable things I took from our conversation was that you need to know how you feel to know what you need and knowing that is a massive act of self-care for all of us. This book opens up a conversation for us all to acknowledge and accept how we feel at any given time and allow that to direct us as we move forward.
It could not go unasked if Allyson’s surname, Dinneen, had an Irish connection and it transpired – it does. It was her great grandparents on her mother’s side who first went to America, and she hopes to come here one day to explore her roots further! Notes from your Therapist is an honest account of our complex human emotion moulded into concise parcels of wisdom and a book I truly recommend.
Notes from your Therapist by Allyson Dinneen, published by Bluebird/Pan Macmillan, €23.80, is in all good bookshops now.
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