Y’all. My first round proofs from my next book just came in the mail.
If you read here you already know that I wasn’t able to focus on my next memoir because this illustrated book was blocking everything in my head and screaming to be born so I had no choice but to finish it, but it always seemed silly to say that I was spending 12 hours a day for months and months making what was essentially an irreverent coloring book about surviving life. But then today I scattered the pages all over the floor and saw how much I had accomplished. It made me realize that even though it’s felt like I was stalled in my head I was actually accomplishing something real that I’m proud of. And maybe you’ll love it or maybe you’ll hate it (GOD PLEASE LOVE IT) but no matter what, I did something, and sometimes you don’t realized what you’ve done until you’ve thrown it up on the floor. That was poor phrasing but you know what I mean.
And I stood there and said to myself, YOU ARE HERE, JENNY LAWSON.
AND I WAS. So it was fitting. Also, I was drunk when I wrote this. This post, I mean. Not the book. But I was drunk for some of that too.
Thanks for sticking with me through this strange, but much-needed detour. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.
PS. If you didn’t know I writing an illustrated book and this all seems confusing just click here for the back story.
PPS. It won’t be out for several more months but you can preorder here. Also, a giant thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered because that stuff sort of convinces other bookstores to carry it when it comes out and I’d really like it to see the light of day for people who might need it. But at least it saw the light of my floor after walking me through a depressive period that I was afraid would last longer than I would. And that’s something to celebrate. Sometimes the little things are the big things.
I’m having one of those nights where – against all logic – I find myself feeling small. Not a good small, like “Aren’t you adorable? I want to put you in my pocket” but that insignificant, unimportant sort of small. The kind that makes you feel like you’re just dust that could spin out into space, or that the night is so dark that you’ll never be found or remembered. The kind that makes every personal failing magnified to the point it’s physically painful. I don’t know where these nights come from but I suspect they come to us all…making us doubt that we exist, that we matter, that we will ever get our shit together.
Maybe some people don’t have nights like these. Maybe I just say to myself that it’s normal because if it’s not then that niggling sense of failure and fear that floods over me is based on reality. I know it’s not. Logically, I know it, but logic doesn’t work well on nights like this. I go through my mind and count the facts and try to discount the fear and panic. I fail. I am small. But I also succeed sometimes too. I am important. I am insignificant. I am a speck of dust. I am necessary. They’re all true.
But on nights like these I push back in the dark and tell myself that tomorrow the sun will shine and this night will be past. I will have beaten the darkness that seeps into my heart when things shift and rifts appear. I will have beaten it simply by existing long enough to find the sun again.
I am small. But if that’s true then so, too, are my fears and doubts. They seem so large, but they live in me so they can’t be bigger than I am. I will win. By sheer volume. And I’ll keep repeating that to myself until I finally believe it, or until the morning comes. Whichever comes first.
I’ve been a little missing lately. Not just here. I’ve been missing a bit inside my head, which in some ways is good because my head is not always fun to live in.
I don’t know if the depression I’ve been dealing with off and on for the last few months has just worn me down, or if it’s one of my auto-immune diseases flaring up, or if I’ve just been lucky enough to get mono AGAIN, but whatever it is feels ungood. And I know that “ungood” isn’t a real word, but my head is where I keep all my good words and it’s not working well right now. The rest of my body is following suit and so now I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do to feel better. I’m taking my meds and getting light therapy and eating
well better and taking vitamins and trying to be active and all the other bullshit that you have to do when you’re sick but you aren’t sure where or what the sickness is, so you have to do all the due diligence because otherwise the doctor is going to just wave me away because someone as broken as I am is sometimes expected to be miserable. But here’s the thing. I don’t want to be miserable. I would like to be happy. And sometimes I am. Today I feel better and I can concentrate enough to write this. This sounds small but it’s not. It’s big. And I’m taking it.
And I’m not alone. I’ve seen so many people lately reaching out for help and I’m not sure if I just think more people are struggling because I am too and I’m more sensitive to it, or if there’s something in the air or in the stars that has made this year more difficult in general. I’ve seen people I love doubt their own light and feel broken. And maybe they are, but broken doesn’t mean worthless. Broken hurts sometimes but it is also what makes us different.
Last night as I was going to bed I noticed that I’d let most of the lights burn out in the chandelier and I couldn’t replace them. Not just because I was too tired but also because I don’t own a ladder that tall. So the few remaining lights that still flickered on cast a strange shadow on the wall and in a way it was really beautiful. Like an unconscious mural that painted my house with invisible hands. And it was striking. And strange. And dark. And haunting in a way that is (literally) a little hard to see and also a little hard to ignore. And it seemed like a perfect analogy for how I was feeling. If my head was working better I would be able to wrap this up more succinctly, but if I wait until my head is less broken I might wait forever. And then you’d never see the strange, dark loveliness that comes out when things are little bit broken.
Broken can be beautiful. I’ll remind you of that if you remind me back.
I haven’t been quite myself for the last few weeks. I’ve told myself that it’s hormones or my arthritis acting up or allergies or an infection and it’s probably all of those a little, but the truth is that it’s a low level depression that I’ve been fighting off. And that’s harder to admit because even though I know I’ll always deal with depression it’s so much easier to pass it off as something that everyone can relate to and that doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable or nervous. I say that it’s low-level because I’m still able to leave the house and laugh and be functional, but the level of exhaustion (both mental and physical) is so utterly wearing on me. I have so many half-finished posts or stories I want to tell you but I don’t have the energy to finish them or the self-confidence to think that they’re as good as I know they can be when I get my head back. Instead I take my frustrated artistic energy and draw ridiculous things and make notes to myself of things will be fun to write about when I get that part of my head back again.
Depression is a lot of things, but sometimes for me it’s like having people in. In my head. The same way it is when you have people in your house to paint walls or replace a ceiling or rip out the plumbing. You can still go about your life but you always have your guard up. You know that there are parts of your home that you relied on that are now torn up and filled with strangers. You know that in the end it will be worth it and that having people in, or having parts of your home raised isn’t the end of the world but it stops you, over and over. You switch on a light and remember that the power doesn’t work in that part of the house for now. You know it’ll come back, even though you don’t have an exact date when. You move in the darkness, a bit more slowly than ever. You avoid the mess when you can. You switch on the light (again) and remember (again) that there’s no power in that room. You do it again and again and again because even when you feel helpless you know that one day the light will come back. And to not try is to give up. And I can never do that.
So I’ll be here, trying the lights, and hiding in the rooms that are still safe and reminding myself that even when I think you’ll give up on me, you probably won’t. And I won’t give up on you either. I’m still here, even if you can’t always see me.
I’m just looking for the light.
When I’m on tour I often stop in the airport bookstores during layovers to do rogue signings. I do them when I can and sometimes strangers stop to ask about the book. Sometimes they buy a copy or two. Mostly they don’t. But last week one older woman in particular looked at Furiously Happy and told me that she would never buy it. And I smiled and nodded as I assured her that was fine. “It’s not for everyone,” I said, because it’s not. I thought she’d walk away but instead she said, “I guess you can pander this to all those college kids who have been convinced that depression exists by some pharmacy company that just wants you addicted to drugs.” And then I explained that depression exists for a number of reasons, including chemical imbalances which are very, very real and that if not properly treated it can be fatal, and then she told me that mental illness was just “made up” and then I kicked her right in the lady junk. Or, at least that’s what I did in my mind. In real life I said that I hoped she would never have to learn how wrong she was and then I stared at her until she got uncomfortable enough to leave.
It’s not just ridiculous strangers in airports who feel comfortable publicly doubting an illness they’ve never fought, or sometimes couldn’t acknowledge they were currently fighting. It’s sometimes family members or friends, and sometimes even we manage to convince ourselves that it’s not a real problem – and that mental illness is just a weakness rather than a medical disorder that needs treatment just as much as heart disease or diabetes or those disorders which are more easily measurable or unquestionably visible on the surface.
That night I locked myself in my hotel room and drew this to remind myself of the truth:
“Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
Because sometimes I need a reminder. Pain is real, whether it’s from depression or anxiety or arthritis or one of the many invisible illnesses that don’t easily show themselves but still exist and have to be treated, and – more importantly – have to be believed in order to be treated. You need to know that your struggle is a real one. You need to know that your fight is real and your survival is something to be proud of. Remember that you are needed. Remember that the things you say can affect those of us who fight. Remember that not all things are visible and provable. Love, faith, pain, anxiety, depression, compassion…these aren’t always quantifiable. They aren’t always measurable. They are often invisible. But they are real.
And so are you.
Stay real. Stay alive. Stay vigilant against assholes who make you question yourself. We already get enough of that from the doubting voices in our heads and the lies depression tells us. Listen to my voice, now. You are real. You are worthwhile. You are so important both in ways you will discover, and in ways you’ll never see. You send out needed ripples of greatness and kindness in unexpected and accidental ways.
You won’t always see wonderful ways in which you shift the world. They may be invisible to you. But I promise you they are real.
I wanted to announce this last night but I couldn’t find the words. Last night I found out that this strange little book I wrote (one I was sure would scare people away – one that I struggled with for years) made it on the NYT bestseller list its first week out. I screamed and laughed and threw up and brushed my teeth and cried and then screamed again. This was a shock, not just because I thought the subject matter might be too scary for a humor book, but also because we published this book in the fall even though that’s when all the big, important celebrity books come out and so I went in knowing that I’d almost certainly not be able to compete. But last night I found out that Furiously Happy made it to #3 on the NYT list on its debut week! And this in spite of the fact that so many of you weren’t able to buy it because it sold out so quickly some places. In fact, it’s #2 in ebooks and was beaten only by Bill O’Reilly, which figures because that motherfucker ruins everything. But I’m too happy to even let Bill O’Reilly get me down because the fact that so many of you supported this book means that now other stores will take notice and it can make it’s way to smaller towns and libraries and to people who might really need to read those words and to remember that depression lies and that there is joy in life and that there is an amazing tribe of intellectual misfits out here waiting for them. That they aren’t alone.
That I’m not alone.
That none of us are.
I’m so honored and proud and I don’t have the words to say thank you for making this happen but I’ll have to just stick with “thank you”. This book was written by all of us and I consider it an invitation reaching out across the world to people like us…strange, wonderful, broken in beautiful ways, haunted, and so much more important than they suspect.
Thank you. Thank you for listening and helping. Thank you for buying the book or reading here or putting it on your wish list or passing it on to others. Thank you for making me believe that I’m worthy even when my brain tries to convince me I’m not.
I don’t have a good picture to share here because I’m on the road still (next stop, Miami!) but this photo I took during yesterday’s signing feels right…
Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for convincing me that mine is equally important.
If you’ve been reading here you know that my next book comes out in a few days. It’s subtitled “A funny book about horrible things” because Furiously Happy is all about looking for the light in spite of the dark parts of life that weigh us down. It’s easy to lose yourself in the fog so when you find your way out it’s important to celebrate that victory with joy so that you can remember it and carry that hope and that memory with you the next time you go back into battle.
I have clinical depression, severe anxiety disorder, chronic pain, and a host of other disorders. My broken, dark times are terrible…but the bright, furiously happy moments are blinding. I wanted to find a way to share that but I couldn’t do it alone, so I reached out on the internet and asked for volunteers brave enough to share with me. And thousands of you responded and the responses broke my heart and then made it stronger again. I wish I had 100 videos because there were so many amazing stories I wanted to share, but I only have one video and I hope (and believe) it’s strong enough to inspire us all a little.
(Click here if you don’t see the video, or want to make it bigger.)
So now what? That’s up to you. You can watch the video and if it speaks to you you can share it. If you are moved to then you can share your own words in the comments. If you want to share your own images of why you are broken but still furiously happy to inspire others that would be amazing. (And if you tag it with #furiouslyhappy others will be able to see it and share.) Or if you simply watch it once and it makes you smile then it’s done its job.
PS. An enormous thank you to everyone who shared their words, to the brave people who sent in video – both to the people you recognize and already love, and to the people you don’t recognize but love now. Thank you to the people who were on board until it was time to film and then realized they just couldn’t do it, because your strength in saying, “No, I’m not quite ready to share this yet” is inspiring and a reminder that self-care comes in many forms. Thank you to my niece Gabi who wrote and played the song on the video, and thank you to the creative team who made this a reality. And thank you for watching. And sharing. And supporting. And for saving me and so many others. Thank you for everything that you are.
This is my song for you today:
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and it’s truly wonderful to have voices speak out about something so many of us struggle with. It’s not an easy subject or even one that people understand. Even the people most vulnerable to suicide have a hard time understanding it.
There are many things I could say here but there’s one thing that I hope you hear completely if you are one of us…one of the strange people who feels things too strongly…one of the people who battle with a brain that tries to kill you…one of the people who has to remind yourself that depression lies. It does. But I’ve said that before. This, however, is new:
One of the things that always saves me when I feel the deep isolation that comes with depression is the thought that I’m not alone – that so many amazing people are in this same dark place. And they feel alone but they aren’t. I’m with them. Sometimes you’re with us too. You might not be able to feel us here because your brain has robbed you of the ability to feel (or to not feel) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You are here. You are needed.
You are home.
I mean that in two ways. You are home with us, the strange ones feeling the same doubt and pain, who understand and who would be the first to tell you that you are needed and necessary and that if we are going to keep fighting you have to as well. That’s just basic fairness. We rely on each other because no one else understands totally this terrible halfway-gone waiting place we have to survive until life comes back to us.
And I mean it in another way. You are home. You are home for the wonderful things that you still have to offer the world. You are home to unique thoughts that will help and inspire others. You are home to people who love you. And you are home to people who will one day meet you and tuck themselves into your heart for shelter.
You are home. You are real. You are needed. You are loved. You. Even if we’ve never met, know that I mean you. The you doubting yourself. The you who doesn’t let on how tough it is. The you who doesn’t know if you’ll make it through. You will. You’re gonna get through this. Even if you don’t feel it yet, trust me, you are already home.
PS. I know a lot of people who don’t touch this subject because it’s complicated, or maybe isn’t something they feel they understand enough to write about and I completely get that. There are all sorts of ways to help, from sharing suicide hotline numbers, or asking someone who seems down if they’re okay, or leaving an encouraging post-it note on a bathroom mirror, or just reaching out to say something kind to a friend. The small act of telling someone how important they are to you can be a limb to cling to when everything else in the world seems to be telling you otherwise. Spread kindness. Pick a few people and tell them the world is better with them in it. You make such a difference. Every single one of you. Thank you for answering the door when we ask for help. Thank you for being home.
I had a post for today but I couldn’t finish it because my head isn’t working properly right now. Some of this is because my head is always broken. Some is from how bleak the news has been lately and I tend to fixate on that stuff. Some is because we’re supposed to be at a family reunion right now but we’re not because we’re all sick with what I assume is the plague. I was going to post something simple and just go back to bed but I know that the only way I’m coming out of this is to do it the hard way, and that means refocusing on the good.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to do that sometimes. When good things happen we tend to weigh them in a smaller way or compare them to others or to feel guilt for having good things happen because others in the world are suffering. But the good things are what make the world go around. The good things are what give us strength to go on. The good things are what we wish for everyone we love, and for strangers, and for strangers who will one day be people we’ll love. The good things and good people are what make you realize that things are so much better than we think, and that life is both dark and disturbing but also brilliant and amazing. The tiny things add up. We carry the tiny bad things with us because they stick to our skin in painful ways but often we forget the tiny good things. And the giant good things. So today I’m refocusing from the negative and celebrating the things that bring me joy. You do it too. Tell me what you’re proud of today. Tell me what brought you joy recently. Tell me of someone who inspires you. I need that. I think we all do.
I’ll go first:
Hailey snuggled up to me last night while we were watching tv and said that she sort of liked it when we were all sick at the same time because it’s nice to have a reason to watch cartoons together.
Yesterday I got a text from a friend saying “Check your porch” and she’d dropped off chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I cried a little.
FURIOUSLY HAPPY is being translated into Italian. I am taking over the world.
This is real, y’all. It’s called a sea bunny and it’s really more of a sea slug but I love it so much. There are tiny bunnies hiding in the sea, you guys.
And if there are sea bunnies out there then God knows what else is around the corner. Kittens that never grow up? Puppies that don’t have buttholes? A brownie that makes the plague go away?
The world is full of possibilities.
Your turn. Tell me sometime good.
PS. This is Angel. She’s 18 and is a foster mother to baby kittens. She’s not the person grooming the monkey. She is the monkey.
PPS. Is it weird that I’m a little jealous of this monkey? Someone come brush my hair and bring me kittens too.