Korean writer Baek Se Hee lives her whole life ahead of her. She works as a successful social media manager at a publishing house where her boss seems to genuinely care about her. However, despite her loving friends and kind family, she finds herself at a loss. She is depressed, constantly getting down, feeling anxious, and self-conscious. On the outside, she cultivates a perfect, porcelain mask for her loved ones, who are not at all aware of the suffering she endures. To find answers, I decided to consult a psychiatrist. what’s wrong with her? This disorder can’t be normal, right?
I want to die but I want to eat tteokbokki (2022) is Baek-Sehee’s stunning blend of memoir and self-help book that quickly became a bestseller in Korea, even by a BTS member. Korea is known for its gentle attitude towards the importance of mental health and its highly stressful work and social environments, which is a known factor in youth suicide. Baek-Sehee’s latest book wants to throw back the curtain on the mental health issues that have stigmatized this ongoing pandemic. seamlessly woven into English by translator Anton Hore, I want to die but I want to eat tteokbokki It inspires and opens our eyes when we step into the mind of a tormented person we can’t help but relate to.
Living and working in Korea myself, perhaps the most comforting Korean snack one can indulge in at any hour of the day is savory rice cakes, sometimes called spicy. tteokbokki. In her darkest moment, Pike reaches for a plate full of these familiar comforts which in turn envelop her belly in a warm, nostalgic embrace, tempting her to stay on this earth just a little longer.
Pike is quickly diagnosed with a persistent depressive episode, also referred to as depression, by her psychiatrist. Pike describes her condition as feeling “empty”, a world in a permanent state of blue hour where she feels “obsessive anxiety” about how her actions and appearance will be perceived by others. Pike records her twelve-week sessions with her psychiatrist to combat her “memory block”, which can occur during times of extreme stress and distress. Afterwards, Pike continues a decade of therapy to deal with her mental health. In her time of reflection, she decided to put together recordings of her book in an effort to reach an audience that might need it.
Food brings Beck a great deal of joy – and that’s something we can all relate to. However, as a young South Korean woman entrenched in a highly gender-sensitive society, she feels guilty about her coping mechanism. Pike recounts her struggles with binge eating disorder. Her thoughts spiraled out of control, and she collapsed into a dark, twisted mess in front of her psychiatrist: “They hate me. I am ugly. ”
Pike is, in a sense, aware of how social media and modern society play into her already fragile self-image, pressing on the cracks and fissures that already exist. Pike explains, “I want to love my own face, but I love other faces so much that I can’t look pretty in my own face.” Perhaps one of the most egregious symptoms of the widespread use of social media is human simplification. We are not simply ugly or beautiful – it is never that simple. Subtly, the psychiatrist touches on this illusion when he explains that “the faces of people whose faces you like can probably be beautiful, and the faces that you don’t like can also be beautiful.”
Pike’s valuable writings help normalize anxiety and stress. This powerful book is a catharsis for Bayek, spilling her heart and mind into pages that remind the reader that we are not damaged or mortal. defective at all. Feelings of inadequacy and depression are part of the complex tapestry of the human experience.
Bayek’s story does not end with a “cure”. She did not end this story by claiming that it erased her depression and anxiety. She discovers that there is no “cure”, no divine pills, and no skilled mind psychiatrist to “fix” her. Ultimately, simply continue on an ever-evolving journey of self-love and personal growth. Perhaps the greatest message in this book is to look out for others in our time of need, to reflect on our own pain and suffering, and to find comfort in the simplest of pleasures like fried sticky rice cakes.
Major graduate of LMU in English Ella Kelleher He is the editor-in-chief of AMI Books Review and a contributing writer for Asia Media International. She majored in English with an emphasis in Interethnic Literature.