“I vowed to never take personal responsibility for other people’s spoons/attitudes/stupidity, because frankly, I have enough to worry about with my own shit”
I read that line in the middle of a hideous week and it felt scriptural.
I decided to start the challenge reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, an author with mental illness. I am a fan of Ms. Lawson (If you have not read anything by her, start here, you are welcome) but I was a bit hesitant to dig in since this book deals in essays of depression and mental illness.
Full disclosure: I have depression and PTSD. It is a weird thing to admit to at times, considering I am generally a very bubbly and social creature, but it is part of my daily life along with their symptoms- crying, anxiety attacks due to triggers (which include prison, and several things related to immigration), days where I couldn’t get up, nightmares and a bevy of other things.
You’d never suspect it by looking at me, but at the height of my depression (before I was diagnosed) I struggled to do basic things like feed myself or shower. My mother came to find me in a mess of a house with barely any semblance of order. It was scary but with her help- and the help of my friends and family- I started to crawl out of the hole.
I am slowly taking steps to reclaim myself. I’ve redecorated my room. My kitchen sink is regularly free of dirty dishes, and my clothes are all clean.
Ms. Lawson touches on things like these in various essays- there is a sense of repetitiveness and various themes that feel almost like the chorus of the book: depression lies (it does), there are so many others who are going through the same thing, you are not alone, your mind is playing tricks on you, your dark days are not forever. For those who may not experience any of the signs of depression it may sound like a bunch of messages you’d find scrawled across a poster of a kitten hanging on (those are THE BEST) which is basically my endorsement of the book. Everyone needs the literary equivalent of kitten motivational posters, especially if they include swearing.
The good parts of the book: Jenny Lawson is hilarious so, there is lots of comedic swearing, a dermatological equivalent of the whos of Whoville, an overjoyed taxidermied raccoon or two- lots of taxidermied animals actually- cats, various stories on side effects from medication, anxiety stories, spousal disagreements over things proper compliments, reminders that you are not alone, reminders that mental illness lies, reminders that we still need you around.
The not so good parts: It might seem repetitive in its message at parts- there were points where I went back because I wondered if I was re-reading a chapter. Please keep in mind that this is an essay collection by a humor writer with a mental illness who is open and honest about said illness and writes for other people with mental illnesses. Constant reminders of not being alone, and of the lies that mental illness will try to get you to believe are part of our very survival.
Things you need to know before proceeding: There is a lukewarm trigger warning at the beginning of her essay titled “The Fear” in regards to self-harm, so if this is is an issue for you, feel free to skip over that essay. I don’t struggle with self harm and it was still a difficult and heartbreaking read.
Furiously happy as a principle focuses on reclaiming your mental illness- Ms. Lawson posits that the depths of despair have made her path to happiness unconventional; sometimes through running through a cemetery in a red dress, buying a new taxidermied animal, wearing a realistic looking fake nipple, among other things.
I saw myself reflected in that and thought back to times when my fight for joy has looked unconventional- swimming naked with my two best friends, eating barefoot on cushions with another, random unexpected trips to small nowhere towns.
I too have been furiously happy- and you can be too.