Reading about loss, grief, and love in Harrow: The Ninth while grieving the loss of my dog was perhaps not the best choice. After reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for Cannonball Book Club, it seemed best to keep the comedy going and The Bloggess’s Broken (in the best possible way) was sitting on the shelf waiting. I thought I knew what I would be getting in a Jenny Lawson book. Raw openness about her mental and physical health, along with side splittingly funny stories. Lawson delivered on both but the book felt heavier on struggles than hilarity. I will not share the funny bits, as they are best discovered on one’s own, but rest assured I did nearly come to tears laughing during this book.
Perhaps my view is colored with how I’m doing mentally, which to be honest is not great due to my depression. Some of her accounts hit really close to home in this book. My darkest days can look like this. Fortunately, these types of days aren’t common, but when they come and stay it can feel pretty bleak in the hole of depression.
Usually I struggle with simple things. I make strange choices. The strength it takes to shower or the energy it takes to eat? You don’t get to do both, so choose wisely. Every action takes such work…as if living with mental illness is like waking to a different disability each day. Someone else could quickly do the simple tasks of the day, but I am hobbled. It can hours for me to what could be done on a good day in minutes.
Sometimes you need someone else to say something to help enforce for one’s self that it’s true. Everything she says here feels like it could have been written about me and is a good reminder that sucky as my brain might be, I am lucky for many of the reasons Lawson states.
It’s hard to live with a brain that wants to kill you. It’s not my fault. It’s not my family’s fault. It’s not even real to the outside world. Except that it is. Invisible things can be real. And they’re the most insidious because they often convince you that they aren’t. So I fight against an invisible monster that lives inside of me. And I am winning, so far. The stigma of mental illness is shifting, I have support, I have medication and treatments and a community and privileges that so many others don’t have. I am lucky.
Her writing about working to find treatments for depression that work particularly resonated. In 2019 I underwent rTMS (repetitive transmagnetic cranial stimulation), similar to Lawson’s TMS but with a slightly different treatment protocol, to help treat my depression. I’m on a mood stabilizing drug but sometimes it’s not enough. I have serotonin syndrome, which will cause me to vomit if I have too much serotonin in my system (there are serotonin receptors in the intestinal wall of your digestive tract). Ironic, as serotonin is one of the feel good hormones that normally you try to boost to treat depression. The rTMS worked. I came out of my hole, still needing my mood stabilizer but the depression was significantly better. Then the pandemic came in 2020 and it seemed as though all the good of rTMS was wiped out. In the Fall of 2020, I underwent the treatment again but did not nearly have the same results. On her virtual book tour, I asked Lawson about her experience with TMS. She shared about her similar challenges and reminded of the statistics of success with TMS and that it’s not a guarantee but would be worth trying again. Then encouraged me/everyone to keep looking to find the right treatment because there are more options now than ever. It was an incredible moment of connection and feeling seen.
If you liked Lawson’s other books, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy you’ll enjoy this book too. If you’ve never read Lawson’s books before or aren’t familiar with her website The Bloggess , I’m not certain this is the best place to start. However, if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or ADD you may find this book resonates with you the way it did me.
We are broken. We are healing. It never ends.
And if you look at it in just the right light, it is beautiful.