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I'm Telling the Truth but I'm Lying by Bassey Ikpi

Through deeply personal essays about her life, Bassey Ikpi explores the lies we often tell ourselves to mask the pain of unhealed emotional wounds. Bassey’s unrelenting honesty about her mental health diagnosis takes readers on a journey that is both deeply personal and revealing.

I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying is a raw account of the consequences of living a life that disregards our truths--a life that can lead to self-destruction. However, we also learn the beauty and power that rest in our truths once we face them.

As a Nigerian-born American woman, Bassey offers a unique perspective on mental health in her essays. During her childhood, Bassey experienced the discomfort of assimilating to American life. Early on, she understood what it meant to be ‘normal’ and that this was not something she was. Bassey also recalls the roller coaster of emotions experienced on any giving day. As a child, she would have periods of high excitement, followed by deep depressive episodes.

This pressure point in her childhood would have its stamp on the emotional well being of her adulthood. In essays about her early twenties, Bassey describes the moments she tried to suppress her anxiety and depression. As a traveling poet with HBO Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, Bassey recounts the facade under which she lived.

She includes more essays throughout the book about how she remained unaware of how she truly felt to avoid the mental and emotional pain. I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying takes readers along Bassey’s darkest days where she feels hopelessly stuck. Bassey writes about how she denied the pain she felt for years by replacing the truth with lies.

I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying captures the essence of how complicated life can be when we avoid the truth. Bassey’s experience of navigating life with a Bipolar II diagnosis has inspired her life of mental health advocacy. Through her pitfalls, Bassey uniquely transforms into someone who values the truth of who she is and encourages readers to reach the same conclusion.

Bassey offers readers many lessons in I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying. Her narration, so raw and authentic, moves us to consider the fallacies we make ourselves believe in denying the uncomfortable truths of our lives. Bassey’s essays join the discussion around black women’s desire to be okay and have others believe that they are okay.

As Bassey’s essays reveal, the truth can be a dark place that we are not used to traveling into, but there is power in the honesty that we must tell ourselves. I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying is a world shifting narrative that shows us how volatile our lies can be, yet how transformative our truths can be if we express them.


Mental health; dealing with emotional pain; personal growth; development; self-help; shame; coping; trauma

Memorable Quotes:

“Because I know how that dog-eared page persists and insists you return to it. I know how the brain and the heart, and the spirit fight daily to stay in the book and not write themselves out of the story. I know. I know. I know.”

“Anxiety is its own creature. Anxiety asks me to focus on the terrible things I’ve done. The people I’ve hurt. The promises I’ve broken. Anxiety tells me to make a list. Mistakes. Regrets. Lies. A litany of shortcomings, a coil tightened, ready to spring.”

its sydney jones rating: 10/10

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