Furiously Happy Creating Community Around Mental Illness

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Photo Courtesy of www.changinghands.com

I came across an article today that made me smile. As you’ll see, the article was nearly a month old. I’m not sure how this wasn’t on my radar before, probably because I live under a rock. The large majority of books I read are from a list of recommendations I keep on my phone from trusted sources. I rarely check bestseller lists for new titles. I am excited this story has come to my attention, though.

Jenny Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, has created quite a unique buzz. While I have seen the book around town over the past few months—How could I not have? It has spent three months atop New York Time’s bestseller list—I was unaware of just how much impact the book has been having in readers’ lives.

Ms. Lawson’s live-readings have been drawing crowds in droves throughout the country. From the article linked above (written by Hannah Karp):

On her book tour this fall, even her most anxious and agoraphobic fans have turned out in droves, confessing their secrets, connecting with kindred spirits and letting loose…A typical event feels like a raucous support-group meeting conducted by the funniest stand-up comedian in town.

This caught my attention. Now a book about mental illness, as the article points out, is not new. We have seen countless books, from novels to biographies to memoirs, that highlight struggles with mental illness. In fact, at the time the article was written, two other books on the NYT’s bestseller list also highlighted mental illness (Patrick Kennedy’s A Common Struggle and Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep). This isn’t a new concept that Jenny Lawson is touching on.

There seems to be something different with Furiously Happy, however.

Recommended readingAs someone who experiences mental illness—I say “experiences” rather than “suffers from” intentionally for anyone wondering—I have always thought that we as a society do a poor job both understanding and accepting mental illness. Diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder myself—a term for Yea there’s something going on there with this guy—and more accurately experiencing a healthy smattering of “disorders” on the list of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), about which I’ll write about another time, I find the incredible turn out of fans with all their insecurities on display to be inspiring.
Again, from the WSJ article:

“Every time when I go out on stage I think I’m going to have a panic attack, but I see so many people with the same deer-in-the-headlights look and think, ‘Those are my people!’” said Ms. Lawson, who opened her jammed reading in Pasadena, Calif., last weekend by promising her pills would kick in soon.

Maybe it’s because Furiously Happy isn’t a self-help book for people with mental illness. Maybe it’s because it is littered with hilarity throughout. Whatever it is, my curiosity has been adequately piqued.For the first time in a long time, I will be buying and reading a book that has not been recommended to me by a friend. In fact, my wonderful wife gave me a new Kindle for Christmas and I have yet to purchase my first book on it. I think I will make Jenny Lawson’s book my first on the new Kindle. Who knows, maybe I’ll be one of the crazed fans in hair curlers the next time she comes t Portland.

 

 

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