Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, You Are Here) is important to me for several reasons. Firstly, she coins words and phrases that I instantly add to my vocabulary. Like,
“Stop judging yourself against shiny people. Avoid the shiny people. The shiny people are a lie.”
Secondly, she is unique and has decided not to hide it. And thirdly, she has added a “Wil Wheaton Collating” tab to her site that takes you straight to, that’s right, an image of Wil Wheaton collating paper.
Lawson’s blog The Blogess has garnered quite a bit of attention amongst readers trying to make sense of mental illness, depression, and chronic pain. She is known for her candor and her off-beat sense of humor. In an interview with NPR late last year, Jenny commented, “I've always written about the stuff that really you're not supposed to write about. When it comes to mental illness, on a very selfish level, it is so reassuring to me to have other people say, ‘You're not alone’."
And she’s not. According to the Kim Foundation, roughly one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. It’s Lawson’s mission to find these socially anxious outliers and unite them, as she says, “But separately. And at their own houses.”
The title of her book grabbed me straight away; Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. There is an illustration on the front cover of a maniacally happy raccoon, which I would later learn is based on Jenny’s real-life taxidermied pet raccoon Rory. In just a few pages, Jenny had me giggling, then misting over, then giggling again.
The content matter is significant to me because I have experience with chronic pain, depression, and self-injury. There is a new wave of rising awareness regarding mental illness, especially on social media, but sufferers still have their issues discounted or ignored on occasion. Luckily, we have Jenny Lawson bravely fighting ignorance and dismissal on our behalf.
Another thing I liked about the book was Jenny’s insistence that people with chronic mental and/or physical problems are not alone. She is loving and encouraging and accepting and helpful. She understands depression can only win if it succeeds in isolating us from one another.
And she is keen on celebrating the good moments. She writes about the title,
“I am furiously happy. It’s not a cure for mental illness … it’s a weapon, designed to counter it. It’s a way to take back some of the joy that’s robbed from you when you’re crazy.”
Be prepared to weep a bit if you fall into this category.
Lawson’s callouts pack an emotional punch and land two ways. You may be one of the walking wounded, or you may be one of the helpers in the trenches; the husbands, the parents, the best friends. The ones who save the day over and over again.
Furiously Happy is an absolute love-song to the broken. But not a love song like Unchained Melody. It’s not luxuriant or tragic. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s more like something by They Might Be Giants. Or Owl City. Truth served with a side of quirk and a shot of fragrant gin on rocks. A must-read game-changer. Pick it up.