Category Archives: more than meets the eye

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.

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

“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.

What goes on tour stays on tour. Unless you have a blog in which case it’s all over the internet.

First week of the FURIOUSLY HAPPY Book Tour and it’s been so amazing.  Thank you!  I’m always shocked to see so many faces there, especially since so many of us deal with anxiety levels that keep us from attending the things we want.  And I totally get that.  If you came or plan to come to the tour I am incredibly thrilled and proud, but know that it’s okay if you can’t make yourself.  If you come you will not be alone and you will be surrounded by other people who understand completely.  Even if you just drive to the parking lot and make it no further you should be incredibly proud of yourself.  And if you know that you can’t do it and are practicing self-care by staying home know that that is a brave act in itself.  I’m so proud of every single person in this community and I want you to know that.

This week I met a woman who had only made it to the parking lot at my last book tour and then could go no further and cried in her car feeling like a failure for not having the courage to come in.  This time she made it inside and met lovely friends in line and made me so happy with her story.

I met a beautiful girl who missed my last book tour because her agoraphobia had her confined to her home for months.  She showed up in Houston and is now getting ready to start her new job…as a flight attendant traveling the world.

I met a lovely man who gave me jewelry his wife made out of broken things she finds who couldn’t make herself come to the signing line but watched from a distance as she saw me appreciate the beauty that comes from the broken pieces so many ignore.

I met a woman who told me that her beautiful transgender daughter struggles with depression but that this book is helping to convince her that although her life right now is now easy, every day she’s alive is a chance to find happiness.

I met a man who brought the book I’d signed for him years ago when he was battling leukemia in the hospital.  I’d written “KICK CANCERS ASS” in it.  Three years later I was able to finally hug him in person and write “YOU KICKED CANCERS ASS” in my new book.

I’ve met Whovians and psychiatrists and teenagers and people in red ball gown carrying taxidermied possums or giant metal chickens or fee tie pajamas.  I’ve met people who hand me a book to sign and say only, “I don’t have words” and I understand and appreciate what it means that they are there.  And it’s been amazing.  Today I’m hiding in my hotel room because that’s how I practice self-care.  And that’s okay.  And however you practice self-care is okay too.

Just, thank you.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for the feedback online or in person.  Thank you for keeping me going.  Thank you for finding friends in book-signing lines or online or (the hardest one for me) thank you for finding a friend in yourself.  I’m still working on that one too.  We can work on it together.

A few shots from the road so far…

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.07.19 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.02.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.02.25 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 3.56.24 PM


Next stop?  Atlanta, Nashville and Miami.  I hope you can come, but no matter what you’re here with us in spirit.  Click here for the whole tour list.


So this is eleven.

Happy birthday, Hailey.  


You are our sunshine.

I’m broken. I’m furiously happy. Both of these things are true.

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.

You are home.

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.

A love letter to libraries

I just found out that Furiously Happy was chosen as one of the 10 LibraryReads for September.  That means that librarians around the country nominated it as one of the top books they can’t wait to share with readers.  That nod is one of the most poignant honors I have ever received and I cried when I heard it, although not everyone would understand why.

When I was little my favorite places were libraries.  You weren’t expected to speak, which was heaven for a shy girl with an anxiety disorder.  Thousands of small secret stories were hidden in plain sight all around you, just waiting to be held in your hands and discovered.  As a small girl in rural Texas, I knew that the best chance I had of seeing worlds that would never be open to me, and meeting fantastic people I’d never be bold enough to speak to was through books.  I was able to see places that exist (or that had existed, and or that would never exist) through the words of the storytellers whose worlds had been bound up and shared and protected through generations of docent-guardians who called themselves “librarians”.

I don’t remember my mother ever playing with my sister or me, but she read during any spare second she had.  She read to us.  She read to herself.  She had us read to each other.  A few times a month we’d get dressed up to drive into town to visit the nearest library.   I still remember the reverent hush as we walked through the doors – the quiet hum of the air conditioner…the feeling of reverence that others may have experienced in churches but which I found in the quiet awe that was the library.  I remember breathing in the welcoming smell of the dust of the books.  The soft sounds of the drawers of wooden card-catalogs that had slid open and closed so many times that they became a velvety hush.  The clean white slips of paper and tiny pencils waiting there (for free!) so that you might look up something wonderful and write down the secret code that would lead you to treasure.  I remember the hunt for the book.  For adventure.  For magic.

And sometimes you’d get lucky and there would be a special librarian there.  Of course, all librarians were special when you were little.  They were the guards and they were larger than life.  They knew the secret codex of books.  They were good witches and wizards who kept small keys around their necks, keys to special, sacred artifacts you had to know the secret password to see.

The librarians were all magical in their own way, but some had a special gift, as if they could see behind your eyes.  They could look at you, measuring you in their heads, and say:

“Let me see your hands.  Ah.  Yes.  Today is a day for adventure.  Would you like to see Mars?  Let me introduce you to Ray Bradbury.”

“Today you look like you need magic.  I think a dose of Ruth Chew will fix you right up.”

“I know you may feel lonely sometimes but I have friends I think you’d love to meet.  This is Francie Nolan and Celie Harris and Laura Ingalls-Wilder.  They will never, ever leave you.”

They knew the secret spider-web path from one book to the next.  They knew when it was too early for Melville.  They knew when to turn a blind eye as you furiously devoured the Stephen King books your mother didn’t think you were old enough for.  They knew when to pull out the special key and gloves and let you see their first edition of Alice in Wonderland, or the hidden-from-light, brittle, handwritten histories of the bordello that had done booming business next door to the library until the Texas Rangers shut it down.  They knew all the secrets that had ever been whispered and you hoped – in time – they would share them with you.

Librarians are how libraries speak.  Theirs are the small faces behind a million stories and facts.  Theirs are the simple hands that introduce you to the people who will shape you, and the ghosts that will haunt you, and the ideas that will drive you, and the friends that will never leave you.  They know the science of knowledge and beauty and laughter, and – though you can’t quite imagine it – they’ve cried over the same books that have broken and rebuilt your heart.  They’ve ridden in the same sleigh with the snow queen.  They’ve flown over London and sailed on pirate ships and visited Shangri-La and watched the world be destroyed and created and destroyed again.  And what they want more than anything else is to share those impossible journeys with you.

Librarians are magic – In every sense of the word.  And that’s why this particular recognition is one of the greatest things I could possibly imagine.  Because it feels like – in some small way – I’m giving back.  That I’m becoming  part of the tapestry of writers who reach out through time with their words to say, “Let me tell you a story.  Let me tell you about us.  You are not alone.”

One of the greatest gifts I will ever get is to imagine that one day soon, in a faraway town, a librarian may look down at searching eyes and say, “Yes.  You look like you need something special today.  Let me introduce you to my friend – Jenny Lawson.  She’s slightly profane and highly irreverent and I believe she may have exactly what you need.  I think you’ll be great friends.”

“Honored” doesn’t quite seem like a strong enough word for what I feel.  I need a better word.  I suspect a real writer would probably know that word immediately, but I’ll give it time until it comes to me.  And if it doesn’t come, I’ll do what I always do.  I’ll ask a magician.   I’ll ask a librarian.



The small things are the big things.

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.

You’ll get through this.

It might just be me but it seems like the last few weeks have been more hellish than usual regarding mental imbalances.  Friends and family who struggle occasionally are in deeper holes than normal.  Friends who almost never seem to struggle are suddenly feeling emotions they don’t understand.  I don’t know why this is.  Is it just a coincidence, or is it that my small world of people are affected by each other?  Is it that the planets are aligning in ways that make us all raw and exhausted?  Is it that we’ve seen such hard things in the news lately?  Is it that facebooks algorithms decides to send me mainly statuses of people who are angry or in pain or desperate or scared?  Or maybe it’s just me.  Maybe this circle of joy and angst is always here for all of us and I just notice it more when I’m in a deeper hole than usual.

I don’t know the answer.

But I do know this.  A week ago I was at one of the lowest points I’ve been all year.  I was at that point where you start to wonder if you’ll ever get better.  And you tell yourself that depression lies (because it does) and you remind yourself that it has always gotten better so it’s utterly irrational to believe otherwise and you keep breathing until it passes, but always with that little doubt in the back of your mind.  And the doubt becomes larger each day and you get more tired and you have to rely on others to watch over you and keep you going.  And yet you breathe.  And yet you live.  If not for yourself, for the thought that it will get better.  And if not for the thought that it will get better, for the people who need you even when you are at your most broken.

And then something happens.

It gets better.

For me, my depression comes with a physical sign…I lose my peripheral vision.  It quite literally becomes darker and I feel more alone.  And each day I wake up and look around and hope that the shadows surrounding me have passed.  Often it’s just for a few days.  Occasionally it’s a few weeks or longer.  And then – suddenly and without reason – my vision starts to clear.  The light comes back.  I laugh without having to force myself to.  I see such beauty and joy and I wonder how I could have ever doubted that this was worth living for.

A few days ago my darkness started to fade.  Slowly, but it’s fading.  I never know how long I’ll be in the hole or out of the hole but I know that I feel stronger today than I have in weeks.  I wish I could go back to the me of a week ago who was struggling and tell her it’s getting better.  Tell her that the drugs kicked in or my chemistry went back to normal or that bastard moon stopped fucking with me or whatever it was that caused this dip to be darker than usual.  But I can’t.

But I can tell you that if you are struggling right now you are not alone, and that you will be better.  It might take meds or therapy or time or possibly for us to destroy the moon with lasers, but it will happen.  I promise.  I promise you now and I also promise the me that will read this post again one day when she’s back in that hole.

There is sunlight.  There is joy.  There is a world of laughter you haven’t used up. There are people you haven’t even met waiting for you to make their life complete.  Keep going.  Keep breathing.  You’ll get through this.

PS. Sharing pain helps, but strangely enough sharing joy helps even more, so if you like, please share something that brings you joy in the comments.  Maybe it’s something you’re proud of or something you’ve accomplished or maybe it’s a quote that helps you through or maybe it’s a video of a screaming goats:

The one at 1:08 is pretty much exactly how I fight with Victor when I know he’s right.

Keep breathing, y’all.  The light is there.

This is me freaking out. I realize it’s hard to tell the difference from normal.

So yesterday I spent a great deal of the day in a vaguely weepy fetal position trying to distract myself by binge-watching bad horror flicks on Netflix.  (Sidenote: I recommend HouseBound because it’s awesome.  And Zombeavers because it’s awful.)  This isn’t an unusual position for me to be in every so often, but yesterday I had an actual reason (other than just my mind being broken) because yesterday Hailey left for sleep-away camp for 2 weeks and it sent me into a panic which only increased as the news told me about how suddenly babies were drifting off to sea and children were exploding.  Then Victor said that the news didn’t say that at all and I was letting my anxiety disorder take over.  Then I told Victor that we should maybe call the camp to make sure they haven’t accidentally replaced the horses with bears and he told me to go lay down and then I might have screamed, “WHAT IF SHE GETS LICE AND LOSES ALL HER SHOES?   WHAT IF SHE’S BAREFOOT RIGHT NOW AND THE FLOOR IS MADE OF LAVA?  TETANUS FLAVORED LAVA” and then I took some medication and had a lot of nightmares about that fact that I haven’t taught Hailey enough about how to prepare for knife fights and to not eat razor blades.  Then I consoled myself by remembering that I had at least told her not to go off with strangers but then I reminded myself that basically all the people at the camp we’d just abandoned her at were strangers and so I was sending mixed messages at best.  In fact, she’d probably already forgotten the millions of safety warnings I’d tried to instill in her.  And Victor agreed but he said that was probably a good thing.

And he’s probably right.

If you’ve been here long enough you already know I have severe anxiety disorder and the feeling of dread (which I hid from Hailey until the second she was out of sight) was the same one I had when I was a child and never made it through a sleepover because I’d panic that I’d never see my mom again and she’d have to drive over at midnight to get a teary me.

I used to worry that I’d pass on this dread and fear to Hailey but she’s honestly almost too unafraid.  To the point that if there are accidentally bears in the horse pens Hailey will probably ride them.  But it’s a lovely relief to know that she’s strong enough to be her own person and to do all of the amazing  things that I’d never (want to) do.  So today I’m going to do what my therapist suggests.  She told me I need to “channel my inner warrior” and remember that things are going to be fine.

Except that I don’t really have an inner warrior.  She says I can just pick one I like and try to embody the strong traits of them.  Joan of Arc or Sun Tzu or She-Hulk.  Except that I don’t entirely relate to any of them so instead I’m choosing someone a little closer to home.

I’m channeling my inner-Hailey.

Hailey one minute before leaving for camp.

Hailey one minute before leaving for camp.

Someone send me a bear.  And tell me everything will be fine.  And remind me that camp is a good thing and an excellent opportunity to grow up and mature.  (For me, I mean.  I suspect Hailey has already passed me in that area.)

1000 ferris wheels

I once read that about people who make and fold 1000 origami paper cranes.  Some do it for luck or longevity or luck or wishes or hope.  Some do it for love.  Some do it for peace.  I assume some do it for the same reason I make ferris wheels.

I make them over and over again, from tiny kits that arrive in small envelopes whenever things get difficult.


I turn the small metal tabs in.  I fit the speck-like tabs into the delicate, almost invisible slots.  I place 100 tiny metal pieces -like forgotten shavings- together to make each car, each strut.  It’s comforting to me when I need comfort most.  When life gets too large.  When the world is too loud.  When my skin is to raw and sensitive to be touched.  It’s then that I go into this tiny world I have perfect control over.

The work is both challenging and mindless.  I close a tiny door.  I add a hanging car.  I straighten a spindle.  I imagine myself in this little world, an invisible guest on this fragile and exquisitely imperfect wheel.  It does not spin exactly but the cars gently sway.  One car breaks loose and plummets to the floor.  I find it, a minute later, hidden in the seam of the tile and I rescue it and return it to it’s place, giving the metal tab an extra twist with my tweezers and holding my mouth just so as if I am casting a spell.

Stay put, I command in my head.  You are where you belong.  To everything there is a place.

And I line the pieces up into their places.  I make them right.  I make them fit.  I put things the way they are meant to be, even if only in a tiny world that rests in the palm of my hand.

In the morning I show my daughter the shiny metal ferris wheel.  She oohs and ahs and rocks the small cars, probably imagining real ferris wheels she will ride one day when she is grown.

I lay the tiny wheel down, my invisible anxieties and worries sitting calmly on each seat.  I say a prayer to keep each worry in its place.  To glue it there.  One for “fear of going under water.”  One for “one day she’ll leave me”.  One for “I’ve forgotten something important that I can’t remember”.  One for “paralyzed with doubts”.  One for “broken”.  And those small passengers all sit in silence, quieted at last, as I place the wheel with all the others.  And there it will stay while I take up life again.  Until, that is, the next week when I can’t think for all the worries and anxieties and angry voices screaming in my head.  And then I will place last week’s empty ferris wheel on a sidewalk  or tree branch for a small child to find, and I will open the thin envelope in my desk drawer and slip out the new metal sheets waiting to be cut and folded and pinned and pressed into life.  Into fear.  Into both.

And the wheel comes around again.

ferris bloggess

Note: I know many of you have noticed I’m not quite myself this month.  I’m fine…just crawling out of a depression that has taken more out of me than usual.  I’m coming back, but slowly.  Thank you for being patient.  Thank you for being you.