25 September 2020

Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler



I've never read any of Chelsea Handler's books before but I'm pretty sure the ones that came before this were mostly smut. I really don't know why I wanted to read this but I added it to my list after listening to her talk about it on Armchair Expert as part of her press circuit for its release. She's become more of an activist since Donald Trump was elected in 2016 and I was eager to hear about some of the new work she's been doing. I also loved the drug episode of her Netflix show so maybe that had something to do with it too...

I expected this to be like most of the celebrity memoirs I read- essay format, discussing their life, etc., but instead it journaled her experience seeing a therapist and then recounting moments in her life that led to breakthroughs in therapy and how she's moving forward now. It's unlike anything I've ever read and I am very interested in reading more of these therapy-journal type of books so if anyone knows of any others please let me know. I loved this format, mostly because I'm sure I'd love therapy myself but am too scared to go.

Chelsea Handler


Handler goes to therapy after the election because she finds herself feeling so ignorant to her own surroundings, the injustices happening in her own country, etc. and I have to give her credit for recognizing this. She could have continued along as she was and starred alongside Kendall Jenner in the next Pepsi commercial. 

Did I ever care? The answer is yes. There was a time when being famous and having this kind of success and money and having a TV show was what drove me to want more and more and more, and now I found myself exhausted and ashamed by the meaningless of it all."

Her therapist helps her to understand a lot of her behaviours, which include a struggle with intimacy, narcissism, and a lack of empathy, stem from the sudden death of her brother Chet when she was a kid. Her brother fell while hiking when she was young and her whole family sort of fell apart while dealing with the grief. 

You don't believe these moments when they happen. You believe they have the wrong guy- that it was his friend, it wasn't him. Your brain is moving so fast thinking of all the things that have changed in just the blink of an eye- what it all means. It means we are five. Not six anymore. It meant our family was broken."

From there he helps her with a technique called Identification Awareness Modification which is where you recognize how a particular situation is making you want to behave and then intentionally modifyi your behaviour. I personally learned a lot through Handler's therapy sessions and again, would love to read more books in this format. 

Handler recognizes that part of working past her ignorance for larger, global issues will involve her working past the more minute ignorances of her personal life. I found this really funny: 

I needed someone to reteach me how to accomplish simple tasks and combat the domestic amnesia that I couldn't seem to shake. For example, I would love to know where the toaster is hidden in my kitchen, but after living in the house for seven years, it's become one of those questions that is just too embarrassing to ask my housekeeper."

You always assume celebs have people to do things for them but Handler admits to taking it to another level. She has a team on call if she can't get her TV on, to take her dogs out, etc. The honesty is refreshing but her lack of independence is staggering. 

Handler with two of her dogs... she famously rescues any Chow mix she comes across


Even though the book is mostly about Handler's experience with therapy, it's not all serious. Her comedy still comes through and there are lots of funny stories peppered throughout. One of my favourite jokes is when she's telling her therapist all the reasons she's ended relationships with men. They're the dumbest reasons because she's super picky but one example is that a guy she had just hooked up with drove her to the airport and on the way there asked her to name her top 10 favourite bands. She thought that was the lamest question, as would I, and never hung out with him again.

Time speeds up as it goes by. Someone explained to me that there is a mathematical reason for this: as you age, each year becomes a smaller percentage of the life you have already lived. I'm forty-two as I write this. One year now represents a small percentage of my forty-two years (about 2.38 percent). But when I was eight, one year was a really long time; it was an eighth of my life. (This is why summer lasted about four years when you were a kid.)"

I don't know anything about Handler's first few books but I was really happily surprised by this one. It's not like your traditional celebrity memoir if that's what you're into but I think it's better. I want to read about all celebrities experiences with therapy.

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