An honest yet uplifting account of a woman's life affected (but not defined) by the suicide of her husband and the deadly paradox of modern-day masculinity.
Punk rocker, bird nerd and book lover Rob Bell had a full, happy life. He had a loving wife, a big-bottomed dog named Daisy and a career as a respected science journalist. But beneath the carefully cultivated air of machoism and the need to help other people, he struggled with mental health and a drug addiction that began as a means to self-medicate his illness. In 2015, he ended his life in New Zealand on a winter’s night.
But what happened? How did a middle-class Catholic boy from the suburbs, who had an ocean of people who loved him, and a brain the size of a planet, end up dying alone by his own hand? How did it get to this point?
In the search to find out about the man she loved, and how he arrived at that desperate, dark moment, Poorna Bell, Executive Editor of The Huffington Post UK, went on a journey spanning New Zealand, India and England to discover more about him.
A month after his death, she shared her personal tragedy in an open letter to Rob on the site, which went on to be read by hundreds of thousands of people across the world. This is Poorna’s story, not only of how she met the man of her dreams and fell in love, but also Rob’s story and how he suffered with depression since childhood and had secretly been battling addiction as a means to cope with the illness. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and a staggering 1 in 4 of us will experience mental illness disease at some point in our lives, but the stigma surrounding mental health means that millions still suffer in silence.
Chase the Rainbow is an affecting, poetic, and deeply personal journey which teaches to seek hope and happiness, even in the most tragic of circumstances. Shattering the stigma surrounding depression and suicide, Poorna Bell challenges us talk about what we most fear, and to better understand the personal struggles of those closest to us.
This very personal account of love, and love that has been lost, is undoubtedly incredible. Poorna Bell's honesty, rawness and most intimate thoughts and details about her life are contained in here. These being; before she met her husband(Rob), during the time they were together, and after his death. I feel very glad and privileged to have read this. When Poorna met Rob, she liked him, but it took a while to really like him. They dated for a while, and it was obvious to both, that they were meant to be together. It was uncovered by Rob, that he was suffering from depression and behind closed doors, he was battling a drug addiction too. Due to this going on, he resulted in self medicating. To sum this up, without spoiling any of this story, Rob couldn't see any other way out other than to put an end to his life by hanging, on a rather chilly, winters night, in a forest in New Zealand. It is natural to ask and want to know answers as to why a bright Catholic boy, who was well loved, and had lots of family and friends, would want to end his life. Why did this happen? Poorna, in order to attempt to find out more about the man she loved and adored, and why he desperately wanted to end things, she travels to New Zealand and England, and what she discovers is heart rendering, but also helps her begin to try and heal. Let's be honest here, there is still a solid stigma surrounding depression and suicide, and I for one know, that there is no where near enough services or help or even refuge for people suffering from this illness, especially in the UK. In fact, services are few and far between, and by the time help does come, the person is completely broken, whereas this could have definitely been prevented if help was available sooner. As being a sufferer of PMDD, I can certainly relate to the depression side of things. It is life debilitating. It really, really is. Tasks that you are so used to just doing, become such an effort to do, and you feel like the world is weighing down on your chest. It continues like that, every waking day.
Poorna is trying to force through the stigma that goes with depression, and especially with men. Depression does occur within a man. The problem is, some males, but not all, believe that they have a front to keep up. They are the strong ones, the leaders of the family. So, a mental illness like depression, unfortunately, some don't like to admit that they have it, and therefore, they don't get the help they need.
This is such a beautiful, deep and personal journey that Poorna has shared, and think it has took a lot of bravery and courage to do that. We learn here, that even in our very darkest of times, there is still happiness and hope. Thank you, Poorna Bell.
“Living is bloody hard, but making the choice to die is harder. And the one thing that keeps us all here alive is the presence of hope. It is also the one thing that is absent in those who have taken their own lives” - Poorna Bell.
My first read in May. I bought this book at @bookxcess and start reading right after. I was so captivated with the cover and synopsis. The story is about Poorna who has the depressed husband, Rob, who also has addiction and took his life.
This book gave me a better understanding of depression, addiction, and suicide. It also makes me more understand about the people who close to the depressed person, their feeling and how they handle the situation. Poorna was really great in handling the crisis in their life. I was very adored with her strong attitude. She did not run away from the situation and did more than enough to help her husband.
Love is not always enough. Yes. It’s true! Not only love needed in a marriage. I was disappointed with Rob’s decision to take his life. But I also know from the book that depression is a real illness with real symptoms and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can ”snap out off” by ”pulling yourself together”. We could not able to fully understand the mind of depressed people. Like Rob, he didn’t want to die, but he just couldn’t see how he could continue with his life 😢
This book was really good, heartbreaking, beautifully written and so honest. It inspires us to talk openly and honestly about depression. Everyone should read this book 👍🏻👍🏻
This is an extraordinary true story, heartwarming and devastating, occasionally funny and powerful as hell. Poorna Bell holds no punches as she tells her deeply personal story of marrying the love of her life, Rob, totally unaware that he suffered not just from depression but heroin addiction. When Rob commits suicide, Poorna Bell decides to find out how Rob came to such a point, and how he became the man she loved. This is a love story as well as a loved ones survival story. It is a story of courage and fear, and life. Apparently the biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide, and this book helped me understand why. A vital and brave book that I wish everyone would read.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.....
Poorna is an executive editor of The Huffington Post UK whom is married to Rob, a native of New Zealand who is described as a punk rocker, a book lover and a bird nerd. They've a dog named Daisy and a career as a well respected science journalist. But beneath all this Rob struggled with his mental health and drug addiction which led him to self-medicate his illness. In 2015, Rob ended his life in New Zealand on a winter's night.
But what happened and why did this happen? How did a Catholic boy from the suburbs with brains to burn and who had loads of friends and family who loved him end up dying alone by his own hand? How did it get to this point? In a bid to understand the man she loved and how he arrived at this desperate and dark moment, Poorna goes on a journey that takes in both New Zealand and England to discover more about him.
Well, I read this a couple of weeks ago and it's taken me a little time to gather my thoughts on this book but I didn't just like it, I LOVED it. Coincidentally, I picked this book up to read the week of my friends 20th anniversary of her death so I think it was quite fitting to honour both losses. It was such a beautiful read, I even had tears in my eyes when I'd read the prologue alone, I knew that this was going to be quite a sad read.
When I read this quote I had to put it in this review as it sums up beautifully how I amongst others whom have lost someone feel about my friends death "When it comes to suicide, every pinprick of light that surrounded the darkness of their death is pounced upon; we hope against hope that our loved ones, while they died alone, didn't just die with despair."
Poorna has written a deep and personal journey that teaches us to seek hope and happiness, even in the most tragic of circumstances. Trying to shatter the stigma around depression and suicide, Poorna challenges us to talk to people and about our fears and to better understand the personal struggles of those we love. It is a story that is a brave, warm, at times raw and funny. I had tears streaming down my face by the end of it and everyone should read this, both men and women alike and no matter whether you've lost someone to suicide or not so make sure you've a box of tissues at hand. 😢😢😢
This was a painful read for two reasons, the story is tragic and the book is poorly written. If I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say that Poorna has not given this remarkable story justice. The narrative was unorganized, jumping from one thought/event to the other without a proper logical sequencing. The narration is peppered in cliche expressions, with an inconsistent narrative tense that suddenly bounces into the present while recounting past events. There is also an inconsistency in the narrative voice, the tone and diction throughout take on different forms which are distracting and disruptive to the engagement of the reader, as well as to the overall feel and theme of the book. Although the book has many golden parts, these are lost in the repetitiveness of the narrative, it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over but in different forms, as though the writer was trying to fill up word space. Overall, this is an important story with major potential, but in my opinion the writing has butchered it.
A beautiful love story. Unfortunately, in reality, "love is not always enough". This book gave me a better understanding of depression and addiction and I thank Poorna for the lesson. I am just sorry her lesson was so hard. I hope she is finding peace knowing she did more than enough for her beloved husband Rob.
I met Poorna a few weeks ago and knew I wanted to and should read her book, but was worried as I was grieving and at the time, waiting for my mom’s inevitable passing. There is so much in this book that a paragraph can’t describe- and most is about how we treat addiction and depression and men. But the parts that meant the most to me were about grief and honesty and being kind to yourself. About allowing the blanket of people that love you to be that blanket and being truthful about needing love- and not rejecting those offers. Beautifully written and profound.
Raw, honest, hard to read at times and at the same time hopeful and human. It is long time to change the narrative surrounding mental illness and addiction. For those who are dealing with a mental illness and/or addiction and their loved ones. Support, understanding, inclusion and education is needed instead of harsh criminal action. Society and government need to listen to the countless health professionals, researchers and people who have been dealing with this. Research shows again and again that it doesn't do anyone any good to double down on criminalization of addiction. Stop the stigma.
I was hugely moved by this book, especially the honesty about how brutal mental illness is and some of the things it makes us do. Also the complexity what is illness what is bad behaviour and does that matter? I am so glad Poorna and Rob had the chance and reality of love. When we are lost the presence of love can enrich our lives. It may not be the solution or the cure but to be in its presence is a blessing
A beautifully written book. The love Poorna has for Rob really shone through the trials and tribulations she faced. Never once criticising him. She sought to understand and make sense of the man she loved. In doing so she has helped me to better understand my own siblings battle with depression and addiction.
I did not realize this was a true story at the beginning. Was lovely written and proper truth and honest about what it like living with someone with depression and how is wife has had to deal with life after he ended his life. Raising awareness that men should be able to talk more openly about not feeling right all the time.
Quite possibly the most moving and beautifully written book I have read. A brave and honest account of heartache and tragedy, but one that gives us hope and helps us see beyond what’s in front of us - it helps us see that there is something even bigger.
Heartbreaking. Beautifully written, full of love, I cried real tears. This is a really important book; everybody should it. The author is hugely brave for managing to get all this down so eloquently. Exceptional.
You want to educate yourself about depression and suicide ? You want to know how the depressed person feels and the people close to him ? This is a very good book to start with. Written by a wife of a depressed husband.
An exceptionally honest poignant story. As someone who has struggle with depression and hospitalisation when I heard about this book I had to read it. The author is so honest and candid about all the highs and lows. Commentary so vital on depression, suicidal tendencies, addiction and toxic masculinity. Issues we need to address and change our culture to talk about more freely to address the problems they cause. With this tough situation there is no "happy ending" or answer. It's just a journey that many are on, but feel very alone. So addressing it and bringing it into the light is so important. Would recommend.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This really is, as the tagline says, a life-changing book! I was lucky enough to read this book with a friend so that we could discuss what we were reading and how we were feeling as the book went on, I would really recommend reading this book with a friend or as a group so that you can discuss your feelings because you are going to have a lot of them.
First of all, this book is beautifully written and I loved the structure of it. Obviously Poorna is a journalist and so the things she wanted to find out and the things she wanted to share dug really deep but also, were beautifully put. This is a book about someone who struggled with depression and ultimately takes their life, but no part of this book felt depressing or made me feel down and I think that this is down to the way the book is structured and the writing that went into it. The book features two parts, Poorna telling her story of her relationship with Rob and then parts where she is in New Zealand stepping along that path that he took, meeting his family and the feelings that she experiences there. Her own story, told in the first person almost feels like a novel rather than a memoir because of the beautiful writing.
As I have mentioned above, the issues dealt with in this book are obviously serious issues, but they are issues that a lot of people don't want to and don't talk about and so sometimes when we get a book like this, it can feel like these issues are being forced upon us and can be a little heavy to read but this book is not like that. This writer combines her own personal experiences with her own research and the accounts she has from speaking to others. She is honest with us but not graphic, she is frank but not overly so. I really loved the way the issues surrounding mental health were dealt with in this book and I would urge anyone wanting to know more about these issues from a first/second hand point of view to read this book now.
And finally this book truly was uplifting. Obviously what these people in this book went through, all of them is hear breaking and life destroying but this book is more than that. This book is about facing those issues and how to deal with them during and after the event because this is not something that can just go away. The way this writer has been brave enough to share her experience is truly insporational and I would urge all of you to pick this book up now. You won't be able to put it down and I am sure that you will feel as positive about life afterwards as I did.
This book is a great read and I couldn’t put it down from the minute I read the first page. You know from the beginning it’s not a book with a happy ending but the harsh reality of a great love story ruined by depression and addiction. It gave a whole new perspective on what’s going on in the lives of people living with addiction and I was let into a world I really didn’t know much about. Very moving.
This is a funny, unclassifiable kind of book. In part, it’s a biography of Rob, an ordinary sort on the face of things, and his relationship with the author, Poorna Bell. In other ways, the book is a investigation into masculinity, men’s mental health, addiction and male suicide.
I found it endlessly fascinating and some aspects of Rob’s story resonated with my own experiences of poor mental health, particularly the loneliness that low mood can bring about and the difficulties of communicating your feelings to others, not least male friends and family.
The last few chapters were especially interesting in terms of the attempt to make connections between Rob’s childhood experiences and his ultimate fate. This arrested development theory is framed and backed up by a range of research findings such as how 50 per cent of adult mental illness could have been prevented if people had been given the right support and treatment when they were a child. Living as we are in a post-Covid world, it’s difficult to read this without considering the impact the pandemic will have on children and young people’s mental health and what can be done in response.
And yet there’s a further, more enduring issue at play, related to how we raise, and what we expect from, boys. Mark Williams writes that with boys ‘conversation is much more instrumental than emotional. It’s problem-solving rather than speaking about emotions. It may well be there are basic differences but, in a sense, children don’t have a chance if even the way we relate to them is using different vocabularies. If men are better at being instrumental, they won’t be talking about emotions. They will then be spared some of the more mild mental health issues [that young women have]. But given that they will have the same pressures as other people do, when they do break down, it will be a more catastrophic breakdown.’
I’m not sure what the answer is beyond treating all children one and the same, but I loved that this book poses the question, which I hadn’t previously considered as much as thinking about the pressures of male adulthood and its relationship to mental health.
‘Chase the Rainbow’ by Poorna Bell is a beautiful, heartbreaking and raw ode to the love her life, her beloved Rob, who sadly took his own life following a long battle with depression and addiction. Poorna’s candid tale details how they met and fell in love and experienced that really rare, pure love that most of us dream about. And how Rob keeps his addiction a secret for a long time, and how they try to work together to help Rob beat his addiction and his mental health struggles. Poorna also provides informative discourse into the state of affairs with society’s perceptions, assumptions and prejudices with the male concept of masculinity, how addiction of hard drugs is more stigmatised than the legal drugs of nicotine and alcohol, yet these legal drugs result in more financial strain on the NHS. How those suffering with mental ill health are treated and their difficulties in accessing services. The problem of dual diagnosis (now called co-existing conditions). She consults with expertises in the field, those who have been suicidal themselves, and those who support the suicidal. The thing that really struck a cord for me was the desperation of men who, whilst battling that desperation to be the perfect man, are so incredibly lonely. This is not an easy read, in the slightest. Poorna regularly had me in tears, but anyone who is able to read this book should. It will challenge your perceptions and the stigma you hold against addicts, the homeless, and the mentally ill. And then there’s those who are left behind after losing a loved one to suicide, with that unique grief, with no answers, and a bucket load of guilt.
We should all be kind to one another. We should all look out for one another. We should encourage our children that boys/men don’t have to be the breadwinner, the perfect man, and that it’s most definitely ok to cry and ask for help. To reach out when you’re lonely.
"He looks the darkness in the eye. They both nod, because they knew it would always end this way but, man, did he put up a good fight. He takes the love everyone has given him and leaves it at his feet. There is only the door, and he steps through with relief in his heart."
Reading this book left me feeling conflicted. As the synopsis has it, the author is a wife of a suicide victim. The book retold their journey, from the very beginning of their meeting to the aftermath of her husband's death. In this book, the author stated how it was love that made her stay, it was love that helped her heal, etc etc. While reading this book, I am incredibly aware of how people with depression sometimes have these episodes when they just seem unproductive, lazy even. I also understand on how people with mental health issues tend to feel reluctant to be honest, to reach out, to seek help, because they don't want to bother others. There are parts in this book where I relate to Rob, and several other parts where I could relate to Poorna herself. It is hard, indeed, to deal with people with mental health issues, especially if the said people were your loved ones, without making them feeling worse and at the same time not losing yourself in the process. But I can't help but to think that, man, I sense a toxic relationship right here. You can't wish your partner to be able to heal you, nor you can't wish to heal your partner. A relationship is not meant to be a rehabilitation center. Poorna is sweet, yes, to be willing to stand by her husband, to encourage him to seek help, to get better. But it nearly costed Poorna her own well-being. She loved him, yes, and he loved her. But that shouldn't make the whole 'help-to-heal' thing an obligation.
Kept me up late reading this on Mental health awareness day - It’s so raw, honest and relatable and I think it gave me so much, making me re-think what the main goal of suicide is and what it means for someone to get to that point. It’s so scary to think about how much of your childhood makes a person who they are, and the lengths we go to to protect ourselves from getting hurt, and finally I learnt a lot about what addiction actually is, and how difficult it can be to understand and forgive the lies and manipulation that comes as part of an addiction - the secrecy and guilt that comes with it. How much of a person do we love if we don’t know everything about them? It’s so hard to go through all these alone and I really respect Poorna for her bravery, love and kindness, and I think it has made a huge difference in my understanding and awareness of addiction and suicide, and hopefully for others too - and one day maybe we can all help make society a better and more supportive place ☀️
I follow Poorna on InstaGram, where she talks about powerlifting, feminism, race issues and other day to day things. I knew she had a husband who died by suicide, so I was interested to hear their full story. And this is a good book. Interesting and honest. My main issue with it is that throughout the book Poorna describes their love as a "big love" as if that separates it from everyday love. She was married to a heroin addict and didn't know he was an addict. He spends all his time in bed, spends all their money on drugs and isn't there for her. The only nice things she mentions about him is that he bought her flowers. The "big love" thing seems like an excuse for putting up with unacceptable things, much as women in abusive relationships stay because "he loves me". Or maybe I'm just cynical.
A vital read if you want to deepen your understanding of addiction and depression particularly in young men, and the damage that ideas of masculinity have caused in our society. It is unflinchingly honest and brave. I’d read previous articles about what had happened to Rob, but was not aware of the full story.
I love Poorna’s writing and posts about a lot of topics, she is hugely inspiring in what she’s doing for women strength training and I particularly admire what she has done for men’s mental health awareness. So I chose this for the ‘a book about a woman who inspires you’ prompt for the RWC 2020. I’ll definitely be reading In Search of Silence next and look forward to Stronger when it is released.
Really enjoyed this book & helped my awareness of mental health
I heard about poorna's story on ferne cottons podcast and decided to buy this book. I really enjoyed it. I was sad when I finished it and could have read more. Alot of people have posted reviews that state she plays the victim too much and too much emphasis is on her sadness etc but I didn't get this at all... She was so understanding of Rob and his mental health and so reflective on how she could have helped more had she have known & how mental health stands in society today that I gained alot of awareness from it. I felt sadness for both poorna and Rob. Such an inspiring story about moving forward from loss and grief.
𝘊𝘩𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘣𝘰𝘸 shatters the stigma around depression, suicide and addiction. In this deeply personal book Poorna Bell plays with her beautiful prose and verse trying to challenge us to better understand the personal struggles of those closest to us. It seems to me that Poorna had a sheltered upbringing where she didn’t acquire any knowledge about mental health and therefore wasn’t aware of any warning signs of someone on the verge of suicide. Sadly, this girl could be a lot of us and I implore you to educate yourself on the topic. This is a good book to start with. However, I would recommend you read it along with a friend or as part of a book club as a lot of emotional thoughts will emerge and you will want to talk to someone about them.
‘This is the kind of loneliness that kills - especially men, who cannot tap into their social networks in the same way that women can. This is the kind of loneliness that comes about as a result of experiences that make you feel small and worthless, that you cannot articulate to anyone.’ This book is brave and open and will stay with me. There is so much that we don’t know about addiction and poor mental health and how the two go hand in hand. Poorna does an amazing job provoking thought on this and challenging some deeply ingrained biases with the raw compassion of her experience.