I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki Book Review

If You’re Thinking About Getting Therapy, Read This

It might be like this

All of us struggle with our mental health at one point or another. This book invites you to take a glimpse at what therapy and seeking professional help could do for you. 

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“Am I depressed? Or did I just forget to eat?” This common train of thought is what is captured, and probably what captures your attention, when you first encounter the title I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki. Half-memoir, half-self-help book, author Baek Sehee recounts her therapy sessions and shares lessons she’s learned from them in this brave baring of her innermost thoughts. 

Mentions of food (let alone tteokbokki) may be fewer than one might expect from the title. However, this book is full of vulnerable truths and confessions, as well as advices, that provide a banquet of thought to consider for its readers. 

Facing Your Ugly

Leland Val Van De Wall is credited with the quote “The degree to which a person can grow is directly proportional to the amount of truth he can accept about himself without running away.” When you make the conscious decision to start going to therapy, you are actively choosing to confront the worst parts of yourself at the mercy of a stranger, and that can be a terrifying thought. 

Baek Sehee shows us what it was like for her to admit all the negative thoughts and feelings she’s held about herself and those around her, and what the process of untangling and decoding them were like in therapy. It can be brutal. But though the journey may be fraught with emotional peril, the friends we make along the way – better self-awareness, new perspectives, tools to manage our emotions – make the trouble worth considering. 

The author benefitted from having a space in which she could lay out the contents of her mind that were bothering her. Sometimes articulating your own inner ugliness can be a source of relief in and of itself.

Making Your Mind a Safe Space

One of the more memorable and impactful ideas explored in these conversations is the idea of too much self-surveillance: the discomfort that you experience from even simply thinking things that you could get canceled for in 2 seconds flat if spoken aloud. 

A strong sense of justice can be wonderful, especially when we fight for our friends and neighbors’ rights and happiness. Gen Z doesn’t get its reputation for being politically active and socially progressive for nothing. But when your moral compass is so strong that you feel a deep self-loathing anytime you yourself fail to meet these standards of goodness you’ve put out into the world, it may be time to change or adapt your mindset. 

“Someone told me there’s no such thing as bad thoughts – only your actions talk,” as Taylor Swift puts it. Baek Sehee’s therapist reminds her (and us) that the safety and privacy of our minds can be something we keep for ourselves. While emotions and thoughts can be so intense that they demand to be felt immediately, the ability to defer or change action is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. Sometimes we have nasty thoughts, and that’s okay. No one has 100% control over what goes on inside their mind, and no one deserves to be punished for that.

In this era of social media where the exposition of one’s personal life is considered the norm, we can occasionally be misled into believing that all our thoughts need to be heard. While one should be brave in speaking their truth, there is also value in reclaiming one’s privacy by holding onto some thoughts as for yourself and no one else. In this way, we create healthy boundaries between our mental, physical, and digital spaces. 

Should you read it?

Number of times I thought my own thoughts were being quoted: [redacted]

Ugly cry counter: 3

Did I start going to therapy: No, but actively looking for a good program.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can contact Hopeline PH through the following means:

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