On vacation last May, I was walking on the beach listening to an audiobook of Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. Jenny narrated her own story and as I looked out over the ocean, I heard her say, “I’m f*#king done with sadness, and I don’t know what’s up the ass of the universe lately, but I’VE HAD IT. I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY, OUT OF SHEER SPITE. Can you hear that? That’s me smiling, y’all. I’m smiling so loud you can f*#king hear it.” This statement resonated with me in a way that had never happened with a book before. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years and found Jenny’s witty humor and frankness about her struggle with mental illness to be refreshing.
If the pandemic (endemic?) has taught us anything, it is that mental health is important. But there are still so many misconceptions about mental health and being able to have an open discussion about mental health struggles. Jenny Lawson easily pulls the reader in to her quirky, vivacious, sometimes downright graphic depictions of living with mental illness. She does not pull any punches in this book. I have never laughed so hard and in the next chapter cried because her portrayals of mental illness were so on point. She wrote, “I can’t think of another type of illness where the sufferer is made to feel guilty and question their self-care when their medications need to be changed.” How many of us have felt that way? I know I have.
Even if you have never dealt with mental illness, I urge you to pick up (or listen) to Jenny’s book. Is this a book that will change you and your professional life? Probably not. Is this a book that will give you a deeper insight into mental illness and how those who have it deal with it in unique ways? Then the answer is yes.
Jenny’s writing is, irreverent, raw, and downright hysterical. She leaves you hanging on her every word to see what eccentric antic or thought she has next. I think this book should be mandatory reading for everyone, whether they deal with mental illness or not. If for nothing else, I promise you will have a few good laugh out loud moments when reading her book.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from Jenny’s book, “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 are perfect.” And let’s face it, nothing has been perfect these last few years.
A Conversation with Jenny Lawson is part of the Unbound Book Festival this year. Come see her on Saturday, April 23 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Ragtag Cinema. It is a free event and open to the public.