I’m complicated so this post has two titles: “SO EXCITED TO BE SICK” and also “What to read in February”

You know how I’ve been feeling like shit lately and I’ve been that sort of exhausted that is either “definitely dying” or “clinically depressed” and I can’t make myself get up and my brain is a brick and I lay down on the floor and think, “if only I could stop breathing for a little bit maybe that would be helpful” and not in a “I want to die” way but in a “just breathing is fucking exhausted and I would cry about how frustrating this is but I don’t have the energy to”? So I went to the doctor and was like, “Please tell me I’m very sick because if not it means I need to start doing TMS or ketamine treatments again even though I don’t have the strength to do either” and the doctor did some tests and was like, “Looks like your Epstein-Barr reactivated” and I was like, “I don’t even know her” and he was like, “Bitch, you got mono again” and I have never been more relieved to be diseased. And then he was like, “I mean, looks like you’re over the worst of it now, so if you still feel shitty in a few weeks it might also be depression” but I just ignored that part because it is such a relief to be like, “Oh, this is ‘normal person sick’ that ‘normal people’ understand and I don’t have to feel bad saying ‘I have to cancel that meeting because my brain is sad'”. But also? I SHOULD TOTALLY BE ABLE TO CANCEL MEETINGS BECAUSE MY BRAIN IS SAD. Why is it after so many years of knowing that mental illness is JUST as disabling (if not more so) than physical illness I still feel like one is more valid to the outside world? So now I’m mad at myself for not being more understanding of myself and this is exactly why my brain is an asshole even when it’s not soaking in depression. Get it together, me.

In vaguely related news, I am opening the discussion for the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club several days late because I’m feeling human today and I am incredibly thankful to have an amazing community of people who totally understand and I am sending you all giant hugs (but no kisses with tongue, just in case my saliva is poison).

And if you missed it, this month’s Fantastic Strangeling Book Club pick is:

It’s MAAME by Jessica George and I think Celeste Ng put it best when she called it “ “An utterly charming and deeply moving portrait of the joys––and the guilt––of trying to find your own way in life.”

It’s a coming-of-age story dealing with familial duty, racism, grief and finding yourself.  Want more details?  Of course you do.

“Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.”

It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who has advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils––and rewards––of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

I think you’re going to love it.

Need more than one book to get you through the month.  SAME, MATE.  But luckily I read several new February books that I think you might really love:

The Spite House by Johnny Compton – This is my first pick for the Nightmares from Nowhere Book Club because I really loved it.  A terrifying gothic thriller about grief and death and the depths of a father’s love.  Also, possessions.  Gotta love a good possession.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones – Did you read My Heart is a Chainsaw?  Because I did and it was brilliant.  This book is the next in the trilogy.

Skull Water by Heinz Insu Fenkl – A haunting inter-generational novel set in South Korea in the 50s and 70s that is so bizarre but in a fascinating way.

Love Everlasting, vol. 1 by Tom King – A graphic novel that looks like a romance but reads like a horror.  I’m ready for volume 2.

Immortality: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz – The follow-up to Anatomy: A Love Story, which is a surprisingly romantic tale about grave-robbing.

Chrome Valley by Mahogany L. Browne – Complex and powerful poetry       

Microjoys by Cyndie Spiegel – Essays and prompts to help you find hope when life is not okay.

I’m opening up the discussion for Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries on the FS facebook page but if you don’t do facebook I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments.

Happy reading!  ~ Jenny

46 thoughts on “I’m complicated so this post has two titles: “SO EXCITED TO BE SICK” and also “What to read in February”

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    This was such a fun book to read and one that I could see in my head as a movie as I read it, which is always such a joy.

    All of the things I loved about this book:

    I adore fairy tales as they are the original horror stories and I loved that this book didn’t shy away from those dark themes and embraced them. Even Poe, who I ended up adoring, was terrifying with his knife-like fingers cutting into her leg and cloak and his wife who was wearing the skin of a flayed human. I mean…what.

    I loved that the curmudgeonly professor was a woman and I totally related to her awkward, introverted, neurodivergent weirdness. And I loved the banter between her and Wendell, which felt to me an almost sarcastic Jane Austen quality of dialogue.

    I loved that both characters were flawing in their selfishness and in their ability to love in some ways. With Emily it seemed like her biggest growth was in allowing people in, accepting a family, accepting help and letting down walls. With Wendell it was more about allowing people to love his for who he was rather than the glamour and magic he typically used to make people do what he wanted.

    I loved the terrifying wight brownie changeling haunting the house. Reminded me a little of the Bell Witch. And how even though it was a terrible creature you still felt for it.

    I loved that the idea that a loophole has to be baked into all fairytales as a rule, that there has to be a way for good to win even if it seems almost impossible and I loved how many little alusions to old fairy tales popped up…like how Emily’s wedding shoes were fur slippers, like what Cinderella wore in the original stories or the Goblin Market (the poem by Christina Rossetti) and how it sort of played with the fairy market they visited.

    I adored Shadow and was very much wanting to know more about Wendell’s terrible cat(?) and last night we did a zoom with Heather (the author) who told us that the next book did still have Shadow and that maybe we’d be learning more about the cat. WHOOP.

    Overall, it reminded a fair bit of Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men sort of feeling and I found myself giggling at the dialogue and at the horror and delight of Wendell rewinding time so that he could decapitate someone several times until he realized that is was making one of his friends throw up.

    I don’t normally love an epistolary novel because it often feels like you miss so much but with this one I often forget it was a journal until the beginning and end of the chapter, so it totally worked for me after I got a few chapters in.

    Overall, I thought it was a lovely little romp and a perfect escape.

  2. I’m so happy about your mono! I’m so sad about your depression. It so hard for one to feel validated when one can’t move or speak due to crushing mental illness. You are strong, though and although this is weird, your discussions bring hope to us. Thank you.

  3. I felt all of this so personally! Similar to you, I have Crohn’s disease so I take an immunosuppressant and also have some times where my anxiety tells me that I am can’t go somewhere. When I cancel anything for either reason, I feel that horrible guilt. But I would never feel badly if I had to cancel for the flu or Covid. But we need to remind ourselves to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Give ourselves the grace everyone deserves.

  4. Glad you are starting to feel a little better. I know the struggle of just wanting to stop breathing because it’s just too much damn work. Hope your mind and body get the rest they need. You are amazing! Never forget that.

  5. I hope you feel better soon. Depression is a giant asshole. Like, for real. You sharing your stories helps me do much. Your books are what I listen to when I’m having a bad brain day. They help me snap back. They are medicine. You are my Xanax. Thank you for being wonderful Xanax.

  6. Delighted to hear you are sick (?) and that you have a doctor that listens to you!
    Knowledge is power.
    I spent over 20 years with random crippling belly pain. When tests all came back normal, doctors said I was lying/exaggerating/attention-seeking/goldbricking. There was nothing wrong with me. Of course there was, but no one could bring themselves to admit they didn’t know. I put up with the pain, stopped complaining, and toughed it out when it happened.
    Fast-forward to surgery for something unrelated – the surgeon noticed a (congenital) cyst on one of my fallopian tubes. It shouldn’t have been a problem, but every other month, when I was ovulating on that side, the cyst would twist the tube into torsion – the cause of the pain. The surgeon removed the cyst and I haven’t had any such pain since.
    I don’t fault the docs for not diagnosing such a bizarre condition, but I do resent them not taking my pain seriously, and dismissing/blaming me. To this day, I hesitate to visit a doctor in case it’s nothing and I’ll annoy them by wasting their time.
    I’m 74 and will probably continue to ignore symptoms until I drop dead so as not to bother anyone.
    Fortunately, I’m not bitter about it 😉

  7. I am glad you found out what the actual cause was. Mono is not fun, neither is depression. The two together would be debilitating i would think. Sending healing energy for a quick recovery from the mono and hopefully the depression takes a hike as well!

  8. Jenny, I’m so glad and so sorry you’re sick! Please just take care of yourself. Love you. ❤️

  9. I loved this book so much. The dialogue between Emily and Wendell made me laugh out loud on a few occasions, once in the dentist’s waiting room! Their relationship was funny and sweet (or maybe sweet’s not the right word given Wendell’s nature); I can hardly wait to see it develop further. It seems there’s a link between Emily’s neurodivergence and her ability to perceive and communicate with non-human intelligence, and I love that the ‘language’ needed to relate with these ‘others’ is the language of story. Anyway, wonderful book!

  10. Well, I feel SEEN.
    It’s a sign of how truly miserable chronic illness really is when you find yourself DIAGNOSED with some NEW crappy virus and it’s not just a continuation of your usual misery.
    Yay, I’m sick…on top of my everyday being sick!

  11. I 100% get your conflicting feelings about being sick! I too have been dragging my sorry ass around and falling over sideways with exhaustion for WEEKS. This is a thing that has happened to me episodically for a couple of decades, and I’ve been to every kind of doctor over and over going, “Please tell me this can’t be normal because I’m fucked if it is,” and they run more tests on me and shrug.

    This last time, the PA (I have decided I like PAs better than MDs, generally) ordered ALL THE TESTS, eight huge tubes of blood’s worth… and I found out Wed. that I have cytomegalovirus, which is like the chicken pox virus or Epstein-Barr in that it never goes away, just lies dormant, and which can be reactivated by stress. (What? Stress? Me?) So we are both reactivated, Jenny, which is paradoxically causing us to be deactivated. And I’m SO HAPPY that there is an actual, physical thing I can point to that isn’t just my brain fucking me over, I don’t even mind taking these terrifyingly huge antiviral pills.

  12. When did you first get mono, Jenny? My teenage nephew got it a few months ago and has been having relapses on and off since. I am sorry to hear you are still struggling…it sounds like an exhausting illness to have to deal with.

    (I had it in my early 30s. Totally knocked me out. I feel like I was unconscious for a month. This bout is exhausting but I’m not having to sleep 15-20 hours a day. ~ Jenny)

  13. Congrats on having a “real” disease. I get it. I was so happy when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I was actually hoping for it because just anxiety and work burnout and generally feeling like sh*t all of the time don’t count to too many people. But now I have a medical reason (because we all know anxiety doesn’t count as a medical illness 🙄)!

    But of course I was always the girl who did the extra credit and got A+. My thyroid probs are the result of Hashimoto’s disease. And people (outside of understanding readers here) are as uncomfortable with autoimmune diseases as they are with mental health disorders.

    Thank you, Jenny, for giving us a safe place to exist. You help so many people even when your brain and body are effed up.

    Get well soon.

  14. Isn’t it funny how you can almost plough through an illness because you are so used to feeling ill all the time that you almost don’t even notice? I have covid right now and I am actually feeling better than I normally do because my autoimmune is in a state of confusion and so it has laid off it’s attack for a hot minute and wow I forgot how good that can feel! Then Doc is all “look out for the Paxlovid side effects” and I’m like “those same symptoms I have every fricken day from my other meds?” Well used to those so ain’t no thang and ultimately I feel both extremely badass and also rather sad. Hang in there baby you are killin it

  15. You are some sort of weird hero to us who struggle with just-too-damn-tired-to- do-that-next-thing-itis. Glad it’s just the mono and hopefully you’ve gotten over it by now. Hang in! Your humor and bravery inspire me

  16. I have fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome, and some other autoimmune as yet undiagnosed condition that keeps making my doctors ask if I’ve been tested for MS, and multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies, and asthma, and life long anxiety, and to top it off I have depression right now because my sucky husband decided he doesn’t want to be married anymore, especially to someone with chronic conditions, because it makes him feel old.
    Stress and anxiety and depression make our medical conditions worsen and flare up, which in turn makes us more stressed, anxious and depressed.
    People who don’t suffer from those conditions and some doctors, just don’t understand it, and think it’s all in your head, and their eyes glaze over if you try to explain why it is impossible for you to function when those conditions go into high gear.
    So thank you for providing a forum for us who struggle with this, and for those suffering among us to feel understood and not alone.
    Yesterday I could barely move with pain and fatigue, today you and your commenters made me feel less alone, and it helped.

  17. To be fair, your prioritizing of physical illness over mental illness is not entirely your fault: society doesn’t embrace the idea that mental illness is debilitating/real and can be just as valid of an excuse as, say, the flu for missing work or canceling a meeting. Mostly just saying, don’t beat yourself up about it too much.

  18. To be fair, your prioritizing of physical illness over mental illness is not entirely your fault: society doesn’t embrace the idea that mental illness is debilitating/real and can be just as valid of an excuse as, say, the flu for missing work or canceling a meeting. Mostly just saying, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. Or be too mad at yourself.

  19. I had something like that (got weaker and weaker over the course of several months and stopped being able to eat towards the end and also had the depression stuff–actually for years/most of my life) and it turns out I have Addison’s Disease, which is rare (and fatal eventually if untreated) and doctors don’t know to look for it because it’s so rare, so if you don’t get better soon you might do a quick Google and make sure that isn’t it!!

  20. “I would cry about how frustrating this is but I don’t have the energy to” This quote is me far too often. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired and dealing with my anxiety sends it all into a spiral on repeat. Ugh. I had chicken pox as a kid, Mono in HS and hate to think what other issues might be laying in wait among my body. My sis has MS and I’m hesitant to be tested. Being a responsible adult and not hypochondriac is exhausting.
    I am feeling sluggish during Sloth February. Yes I think I’m going to name each month this year. Gentle January wasn’t so bad as the first half was vacation.
    We will get through this.

  21. Lawd, Jenny. I get you. I really, really get you. I’ve been try to read a book for two weeks but tripped over my orthopedic boot and hit me head, sprained my back, and got a concussion. All I can do is stare at the wall and swear. Because my no filter mouth is even less filtered.

  22. I loved the Emily Wilde book too. I could so identify with her. And I loved her interactions with Wendell. And I agree that fairy is rather creepy and even scary in this book. i look forward to seeing Shadow again. It really was an awesome book.

  23. yay! I’m not the only one who gets repeated visits of mono! Lies, all lies, I was told that I was ‘once and done’ at the age of 14. That fucker never leaves. NEVER.

    Also, can we talk about this truth? “Oh, this is ‘normal person sick’ that ‘normal people’ understand and I don’t have to feel bad saying ‘I have to cancel that meeting because my brain is sad’”.

    That was my week: On Tuesday, I had an anaphylactic reaction after 4-1/2 years of zero issues with a biologic IV infusion for my IBD and MY BODY TRIED TO KILL ME. But it didn’t succeed, thanks to the RNs doing the infusion and an IV of Benadryl. Then I was just drunk with a swelling throat/larynx that slowly stopped swelling and trying to kill me. Then they pumped in the rest of the $2K dose because, hey, who wants to waste that?

    Suffice to say, I took the rest of the day off from work because I physically felt like shit. And for the last three days, I’ve felt both physically and mentally shit, more mentally because I have clinical depression that isn’t generally try to kill me but does make me exhausted and grey. There is nothing for the psyche like wondering if the drug that has worked pretty well and kept me in remission (more or less) for nearly five years is no longer a choice. Or if it is, is it going to try to kill me again in 8 weeks at my next infusion where I will be required to pre-dose with Benadryl? And if my specialist decides to switch me to something new, is it going to be as effective? Am I going back to regularly having bloody, painful flare-ups as we “experiment” once again, after having this stupid disease for 27 years now?


    Thank you for the book suggestions. I won’t read the spoilers.

    Also thank you for being vulnerable here so we can be vulnerable together. Love you, Jenny!

  24. Not your normal kind of book, but one that I pick up whenever I need to counteract the assfuckery of the world: Humankind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time. It’s a book of essays, each one about a person who did an act of kindness that grew into massive acts of kindness. P.S. I had a pre-op physical last week (knee replacement this week) and learned that I am mildly anemic. Good news! I’m not just lazy!

  25. I can’t get it together. I’m so depressed and nothing is working (therapy, meds, sad attempts at self-care) and I’m so sick of living in this stupid body and my stupid life and I don’t even have any chronic disease to blame it on that I know of– I’ve got type 2 diabetes and maybe rosacea and that’s all– but I just hate everything and anyway I just had to get that out, thank you.

  26. Jenny, you make me laugh, cry and cry/laugh (a real thing). You can’t stop breathing, we need you. I had a second round of shingles this year (evidently, no one gets them twice). No one except me. I had viral meningitis along with it, I think I nearly died, but I was so sick I have no memory, so maybe it just felt that way. Evidently when my husband Rich was counting out my meds, I got in my head he was stealing them and called the police. I had no memory of doing this. THEY CAME! My poor husband. He was not even upset with me. I am getting my energy back slowly. I am hoping you feel better physically soon, and remember, your mentally AND physically challenged fans are rooting for you (and I am rooting for all the people rooting for you)❤️. We love you Jenny!

  27. I feel the same way…and “migraine” is considered a legit disease/condition, but my boss and others act like I have some control over it, that I purposely pretend to have migraines to get out of doing things, and that it’s somehow “all in my mind” and not a physical condition. It wears me out to deal with all that along with the crippling pain and misery.

  28. I had mono in my 20s and it got to the point I prayed to either turn a corner or die, and I didn’t care which. 104 fever for 5 days, throat felt like fire, utterly exhausted. It took weeks to recover but my fever broke that last night. REST!!!!

  29. Jenny, I so get you! There is some relief in knowing what the Hell is actually wrong with you, even if there isn’t a definitive cure for whatever ails you.

    At least you know that the (extreme level) of exhaustion will end! That is definitely something to celebrate-that you will feel better eventually! Hopefully you give yourself the chance to rest fully. Mono is seriously no joke. When I had it in my 20s, it was scary. My pee was super bright orange (liver was enlarged and impeded on my spleen according to my docs at the time), and the nausea was unbearable. Anytime I ate even very small meals I felt stuffed, like I had Thanksgiving dinner times 5!

    4streegrrl, shout out to you, I’m so very sorry for your suffering, and I understand. My body has tried to kill me too (thanks to the drug macrobid). I don’t want to pile on, but I wanted to give you a heads up about Benadryl. I took Benadryl regularly at one point to manage my ongoing allergic reaction for a few weeks, and it landed me in the hospital (I had neurological episodes, I thought I was going to die). The negative effects of the Benadryl lasted quite a while.

    I was told by my doctors that Allegra is a better drug option (for me anyway) to manage my allergic reaction (Reaction is hives, itching, swelling) because Allegra does not surpass the blood brain barrier unlike Benadryl, which is a 1st generation drug that has a plethora of possible side effects.

    I’m no doctor obviously, so don’t take my word as gospel, but you may want to talk to your doctor about their opinion about taking Allegra instead of Benadryl.

    Hope this helps, and hope you feel better soon!!

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  31. So, I’m sitting here, getting an IV fluids infusion, hearering Broken, and I think to myself, “Self, you should check and see how Jenny is doing.” Because obviously the most logical thing to do when unwell is check on others, right? Right. So I come here, and, because of my adhd, I have to pause you (so sorry, I promise I’ll be right back to you. Other you? Audio book you? Yeah, let’s go with that one.) And, upon reading this post, I’m suddenly, and I suppose unsurprisingly, validated (unsurprisingly because I’m pretty sure you’re the most validating person in the best way). Not only have I been feeling the exact same way, as in I’m sleeping or working, and I had to convince my therapist it’s definitely because I’ve been feeling sickly, but I’ve been questioning if my EBV has reactictivated. Those around me who’ve gotten this cold thing are bouncing back. Me? I’ve been up for an hour and a half and I’m ready to go back to bed. I myself have wondered where this falls on the spectrum of normal person sick. So thanks, Jenny, for giving me the spoons needed to talk to my Dr this afternoon about running blood work. Here’s hoping things clear up for you soon! Off to do some more hearering, and then obviously take a nap.

  32. Many blessings of healing coming your way. Hope you recover from BOTH soon. I know depression, it sux.

  33. You know the second time you get mono it’s called “stereo”!

    (Maybe you are too young?)

  34. Yup yup yup yup yup. “I have a migraine and I can’t see, also if I move too much I’ll vomit” feels so much more legitimate than “I’m afraid of the telephone and of your love and those two things make it imperative that I not attend your dinner party.” But they’re both real things.

  35. I’m about to go into my pre-assessment for TMS and I’m a little bit terrified. I told my therapist yesterday that I’ve decided that if you, the amazing, hilarious, awesome, Jenny Lawson struggle with crippling depression and you gave TMS a shot, and it didn’t 100% work (my biggest fear) and you’re still here being hilarious and awesome and amazing, then I can do it too. You are my hero. Thank you.
    Also, I found this on FaceBook and wanted to share it with you and the folks that read your blog. “If you have depression and you’re still alive today, then you’re not struggling with depression. Depression is struggling with you.” I remind myself often that my brain is a big fat liar, and that I AM wanted, and worth it, and that people DO love me and WILL miss me. I have you to thank for that (along with the people that love me and would miss me).

  36. Hugs to you! I grant you permission to cancel plans for any reason.
    So does my writing group. I called out for this week because “My schedule is changing and need some time to adjust” and one of the members responded with “Self-care is so important!” and I hadn’t even thought that taking time to let my mind and routine adjust was self-care, but she was exactly right! That’s what it is! and…
    You can’t pour from an empty cup!
    Take care of yourself first.

  37. When I said (say?) in your next post’s comments, “Check your EB titres,” I didn’t know you already had. Good, good…
    Keep an eye on ’em. Mine are stuck–Chronic Active Epstein Barr. Permanent Mono, yay.

  38. Excellent piece, and the insights you’ve shared are both fascinating and helpful to me. Your post has provided me with a wealth of information. I really hope that you will be publishing more fresh posts in the not too distant future!

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