Before I begin this review, I’d like to say that this is part of my plan to do more book reviews. My friend behind Canada’s Bookworm plans to read 100 Books by the end of 2017.
I can’t say whether or not I’ll do the same, but I want to post more about the books I’m reading. I figure it only makes sense to post about what I’m reading, as a writer, and the posts will probably explain a lot about why my creative writing projects are the way they are.
For my first book of these reviews, I’m talking about Jenny Lawson’s “Furiously Happy”, a book that came into my life at the right time.
I saw this book often in bookstores, but I never picked it up to know more about it. I received it as a Christmas gift from my mom because she thought it might make me laugh.
I read the description, and I remarked that it was supposed to look at crippling anxiety and depression in a humourous way. My mom apologized and said she got it for me because she thought it would be like the “Horrible History” show and books my sister likes, or as I like to call them, the history books and the history show my sister likes.
“No! Don’t apologize!” I reassured my mom, “This is perfect!”
The name of the author was so familiar to me, and I couldn’t believe it when I realized it took me far too long to clue in that it’s the same Jenny Lawson whose “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” gave me a good laugh and made me feel better during a time I was really stressed out. I felt thankful that I never had a father with a kick for taxidermized animals or my arm stuck up a cow.
In this book, Lawson writes about her struggles with mental health. There are chapters ranging from a variety of topics such as her late night thoughts to the time when she saw a pharmacist eat dog treats from a box when she was picking up her meds.
The chapter names are a bit off-putting, but it pulls you in. I mean, if there’s something called “How many carbs are in a foot?”, you read it because you’re confused and a little bit frightened, but ultimately want to satisfy your curiousity.
Then you read it and realize there was no other better way to describe a time where she and her husband argue about risotto and she said she’d rather eat her own foot covered in cheese and butter than risotto.
Much like her last book, there are many hilarious moments. I laughed so hard I had to take a break from reading the chapter about her dog treat-eating pharmacist out loud to my family.
Unlike her last book, however, I haven’t thought “Thank God this is not me!” Instead, I feel grateful that I’m not alone in the quest to be, as she puts it, “Furiously Happy”.
One relatable instance was when she recalled a time she met with her psychiatrist, who gave her this piece of advice:
“‘If you were crazy you wouldn’t realize how crazy this sounds,’ she said gently but inistetly. ‘You’re recognizing a problem and you’re getting help for it, the same way any sane person with a medical problem would.'”
That line is important for everyone struggling with mental illness, or is otherwise feeling down, to read.
Lawson also speaks the truth about how it can be tough to put on a happy mask just because everyone else thinks your life is going O.K.
“I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things get perfect.
The really scary thing is that sometimes that makes it worse. You’re supposed to be sad when things are shitty, but if you’re sad when you have everything you’re ever supposed to want? That’s utterly terrifying.”
That above quote really hit home for me. Most people see me as a bubbly and smiley person, and while I also see myself in that light, I don’t always feel that way. The truth is, you can “have it all,” so to speak, and still let one thing, no matter how big or small, weigh you down.
As with her “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, some of her descriptions can get graphic. She does put a trigger warning in her chapter “The Fear”, which is about self-harming, but then says her whole book could technically be a trigger warning. I gasped when I read about her experience with it, but that’s just it. Sometimes, episodes of mental breakdowns can be shocking.
I could handle reading it, but I know not everyone can for various reasons.
I always thought Lawson’s work is great to read if you feel frustrated with the way your life is going, and this book exemplifies that.
Congrats, mom. Your gift served its purpose and made me laugh.