In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, Furiously Happy, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”
“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”
Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things is exactly what it claims to be. It’s a book that takes Jenny Lawson’s unmistakable voice and helps to give words to the emotions and pain that she and so many others do on a regular basis, whether it’s from her depression or her other assorted illnesses.
I should note that I am not the most unbiased of reviewers on this book. I read her blog and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter almost religiously, because her content brings me such comfort and joy. I also pre-ordered a signed copy of Furiously Happy from my local indie bookstore because I was so sure that I was going to at least like it enough to buy it.
I was wrong about that.
I absolutely loved Furiously Happy.
It spoke to me in ways I never expected it to, and I think I’ve recommended it to everyone I’ve spoken to since I finished it. I also tweeted about it, posted about it on tumblr, shoved my copy into my mother’s hands, etc. I also actually debated highlighting things in my copy, before remembering that I don’t do that because it annoys me when I re-read, but I think you get the picture about how much I loved this book.
This book covers a period in Lawson’s life – I’m not exactly sure the length of time that it was, but she tells readers about everything from the way that her illnesses manifest to her experience getting a microdermabrasion treatment for the first time to her father taking some ringtail lemurs on vacation instead of his daughters one time. It’s told in what is basically a collection of silly stories about Lawson’s life. Very little crosses the line for Lawson to talk about, aside from stories that are not hers to tell or stories that will embarrass her daughter.
Lawson also talked about the Spoon theory, which I had heard about but never quite understood, and I feel like I can understand it now, at least enough to find out more information on it so that I can really understand and be able to talk about it. You can read more from the original author of the spoon theory here.
I think my favorite part about this book was the appendix, which you won’t find at the end, but smack in the middle of the story, in true Lawson fashion. From her slightly silly interview with her husband, to her on-the-point descriptions of what depression feels like, to her reminder that the worst thing about mental illnesses is that they lie. They tell you that they don’t exist, that there’s nothing wrong with you, that you’re just lazy and pathetic, but it’s not true. You are awesome, but sometimes you can’t do some things. And that’s okay.
There’s one passage in particular that really spoke to me in the appendix.
“Sometimes being crazy is a demon. And sometimes the demon is me.
And I visit quiet sidewalks and loud parties and dark movies, and a small demon looks out at the world with me. Sometimes it sleeps. Sometimes it plays. Sometimes it laughs with me. Sometimes it tries to kill me. But it’s always with me.
I suppose we’re all possessed in some way. Some of us with dependence on pills or wine. Others through sex or gambling. Some of us through self-destruction or anger or fear. And some of us just carry around our tiny demon as he wreaks havoc in our mind, tearing open old dusty trunks of bad memories and leaving the remnants spread everywhere. Wearing the skins of people we’ve hurt. Wearing the skins of people we’ve loved. And sometimes, when it’s worst, wearing our skins.
These times are the hardest. When you can see yourself confined to your bed because you have no strength or will to leave. When you find yourself yelling at someone you love because they want to help but can’t. When you wake up in a gutter after trying to drink or smoke or dance the ache away – or the lack thereof. Those times when you are more demon than you are you…
…There can’t be dark without light. There can’t be a devil without the God who created him. There can’t be good without bad.
And there can’t be me without my demon.
I think I’m okay with that.”
One of the other parts I really loved about this book was the artwork on the cover and throughout the book. Rory makes for a really entertaining part of the narrative and a great cover image. I’d also like to say that I totally would have loved the original cover idea, which you can see on the inside of the book. There are other great doodles like these on the insides of the cover.
As someone who has had a clinical diagnosis of depression and ADHD since middle school, Lawson’s struggles felt so real to me. Given that this book was on the New York Times Bestseller List six weeks in a row, so far!, I think that many others felt the same way that I did about Furiously Happy.
I honestly recommend this book to everyone: anyone who can take a serious subject and accept some jokes about it, or who has ever wondered if they’re the only ones who can’t manage to find the energy to shower every day or to go to the grocery store right this minute, or who has ever loved someone who deals with mental illness. I think this book is informative and can really help us find a way to talk about mental illness in a healthier way for everyone. I also think this book is hilarious and honest, and that is the best thing that it could be.
I read this book because audio books don’t really work for me, but Lawson read the audio for this audiobook, and I’m told that it’s absolutely amazing. If you’re concerned about not liking her voice, or how she works with things, read a few of her blog posts. If you like those, you will like this book. I guarantee it.
I think you can probably guess that I’m giving Furiously Happy five stars. I loved it literally from cover to cover. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me feel a little bit less alone. I cannot say enough how much this book means to me. I really hope you read it.
If you’ve read it, do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think I missed something important here? Talk to me about it in the comments!