North Carolina writer Matthew Tessnear struggled through anxiety, depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for more than 30 years of his life before committing to fully understand his challenges and address them. Now, he has published a book, titled “Eating Me Alive: How Food, Faith and Family Helped me Fight Fear and Find Hope,” which explores his life with mental illnesses in hopes of helping others be more aware of and sensitive to their impacts. The book is available in paperback via Amazon.com.
“I am sure some people who’ve known me will be surprised to see my name associated with a book about mental illness, but I’ve journeyed through some very dark days in my life,” shares Tessnear, who served as a reporter and then city editor of the Sun Journal from 2007 to 2011. “I was teased often when I was a child and continued to be prodded and embarrassed when I was an adult, to the point that I was afraid to be vulnerable. I buried my fears so deep I didn’t even fully understand them myself. Finally, I reached a point when I was so battered by worry and dread that I couldn’t ignore it anymore if I wanted to keep living, and as I started to explore the mental illness community, I realized I was not alone. So, I started to take care of myself, and I developed a deep desire to share my story to let everyone else, especially men who think they have to be tough and soldier through all pain, know that it’s OK to need and seek help.”
Tessnear, a native of Gaston County in western North Carolina, spent almost two years studying his own life and working to improve his mental and physical health while also writing his story. During that time, he shed nearly 80 pounds, completely changed his approach to eating, committed himself to a simple yet persistent exercise regimen, started taking medicine for his anxiety, and taught himself how to bake pies from scratch, a process he found to be deeply therapeutic. Most of all, he learned how to enjoy life, something he admits he never fully grasped as a child as he navigated a constant haze of worry.
In “Eating Me Alive,” Tessnear shares how his Christian faith, his closest family members and his love for cooking have provided him with the strength to work through his challenges. The book even includes a baker’s dozen of his most favorite and meaningful recipes, many of them passed down through members of his family in Gaston, Cleveland and Rutherford counties of western North Carolina.
“Like me and my life, my book is the combination of many different things,” Tessnear explains. “It’s part mental health memoir. It’s part family and local history book. It’s also part cookbook. The book is full of unfiltered honesty about who I am. I believe that all of our stories as people are connected through our common interests and experiences, and I truly think everyone will find something to identify within this book.”
Matthew Tessnear is a writer, foodie and former newspaper journalist. This is his first full-length book. He is also the author and illustrator of the children’s book “The Monkey The Bear.” He lives in North Carolina with his wife Molly, with whom he publishes a collection of favorite American South recipes and restaurants at FoodieScore.Blog. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @MatthewTessnear.