A Review of “On Getting Out of Bed” by Alan Noble

“Why should we get out of bed?” This is the pressing question that compelled Alan Noble to write. If it seems like an odd question, or one not worth the ink, you do not understand the weight of mental suffering. In this profoundly insightful book, Dr. Noble provides readers with a direct answer to this question, and a surprising one. Here is a short and yet powerful book for all who experience mental suffering – which, of course, is all of us at some point. On Getting Out of Bed is a gentle and wise friend for sufferers.

This little book has been called a “personal essay.” I suppose there’s a logic to that description, but it’s actually not all that personal. Noble has not written an autobiographical account of mental suffering. He isn’t telling his story, but rather telling our story. He puts into words our collective experience of suffering, discouragement, despair, and the struggle to get out of bed. He certainly writes as a sufferer, but don’t think of this as a personal testimony. In On Getting Out of Bed, Noble helps us not to “overcome” mental suffering. Rather, he helps us learn to open ourselves up to the influence, assistance, and love of God and others as we face mental suffering. 

What I especially appreciate about the book is the author’s capacity to walk a fine line. For example, He never minimizes the weight of suffering. He is honest, brutally so in fact, about how heavy life can feel when we are suffering. Yet, he never allows suffering to become an excuse. So, he says, “if you wait until you are in a ‘good place’ mentally before you accept your responsibilities, you may never act” (66). It’s a hard word, to be sure, but a true word. He also walks the line between the value of professional help and the reality of its limits. 

[T]here are rarely clear answers to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. You can and should pursue professional help, but remember that there are limits. And at those limits we are thrown bak on ourselves, God, and our neighbor for the responsibility of living. (27)

Seek help, he says repeatedly, but have reasonable expectations about what that help can do. Ultimately, he holds the tension between feeling, honestly and fully, your feelings and deciding to simply “do the next thing.” He never calls for us to pretend, to suppress, or ignore our mental anguish. He invites us to feel what we feel. But he also invites us to take small steps, simple steps, to just “get out of bed”.

In one sense, Noble doesn’t offer us a lot of advice. This isn’t a counseling book. Yet, it is full of wisdom and the “advice” is straightforward and compassionate. It’s the kind of wisdom shared by a fellow sufferer who has learned a thing or two. It is the kind of advice you can follow even when you can’t do anything else. It’s the kind of advice that encourages, challenges, and empathizes. On Getting Out of Bed is a good friend, in that regard. It’s never trite, never simplistic, never offering platitudes. It never tells us that you just have to “suck it up,” nor does it over-spiritualize things. It’s a book that keeps God in the picture without making you feel like a bad Christian when you can’t see Him. It’s the kind of friend we need in depression and anxiety.

And, as a good friend, the book does challenge us where we need it. Ultimately, the book challenges us to see that we must get out of bed each day because, like it or not, we are responsible to God, to others, and to ourselves. We don’t get to choose that responsibility; it is a part of being human. “You need to know that your being in the world is a witness, and it ‘counts for something'” (33). When we choose to get out of bed we are testifying to the world that God is good, that His creation matters, that His creation has value. We are saying that about ourselves, surely, but we are saying it about everyone else too. We are encouraging them to get out of bed, to not give up. This is a challenging word, to be sure, and a hard one to hear when you are weighed down by life’s burdens. It is, however, a word that can breath life and hope into a desperate situation…if we let it. Noble repeats this idea over and over for our good. He does so gently and in a variety of ways that can impact us each differently. It’s a message we rarely talk about but which is so important for our souls.

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I got it in the morning and finished it in the evening. As a counselor it is a book I plan to stock and give away regularly. As a sufferer it is a book I plan to reread again and again. It’s a book for my soul and yours. You may not need this book today, but someday you will. I highly recommend On Getting Out of Bed.

1 Comment

  1. ~I’ll have to look at the book as a thought from 2 Sam 19 has been on my mind. So…

    “Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom. . . . “Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you …. have made it clear … that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. Now go out and encourage your men.
    ~ 2 Sam 19:1…7

    ~ Joab is not my go to guy for much of anything but . . . Sometimes getting out can in fact be the therapy rather than staying home and running the risk of mourning and even over-mourning. In any event when responsibility calls, you really do not have a choice before God.

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