To Jenny Lawson, Whose Book Saved My Life as I Struggled With Mental Illness
Dear Jenny Lawson,
Since second grade, I have wrestled with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In 10th grade, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By 12th grade, I was prescribed antidepressants and was going to therapy every week. My world morphed from a beautiful, breathtaking place to one I no longer wanted to live in. However, in the midst of my pain, your book, “Furiously Happy,” was recommended to me.
I finished it in one day. Your stories of hope and humor through your battle with mental illness challenge me every day to find joy through my struggles and my pain.
One of my English teachers and I both struggle with mental illness. She and I stand beside each other, comforting each other in times of pain. She knew I was battling anxiety more than ever before during my sophomore year. I was unable to sit still in class, so I left the classroom often. I woke up before 5 a.m. most days, doubled over in pain, powerless. I missed school for weeks at a time. My teacher knew all these things, so she searched for a book I could read while at home. She came across “Furiously Happy” in a list of books for people struggling with mental illness. After reading it herself, she handed it to me.
You caught my attention on page one.
I relate deeply to many of your vignettes; they show me I am not alone. I am a part of an amazing bunch of people who carry burdens with them every day that no one can see. But you show me there is value in my struggling. By hurting, I can empathize with others who are, too. I can band together with people who are in pain and give them a glimpse of hope. Your writing teaches me to embrace the things that make me who I am — both the lovely and the flawed — and to use those things to seek joy in remarkable and peculiar ways. As your mother says, “Maybe ‘crazy’ isn’t so bad after all.” You teach me, sometimes,” crazy” is just right.
You gave me valuable advice when I was sinking in an ocean of pain. You surviving mental illness is a testament to your saying: “Because quitting might be easier, but it wouldn’t be better.” You teach me not to quit, even when it seems like the best way out.
You conclude with the most meaningful quote to me in the entire book: “We live in the negatives so often that we begin to understand that life when the sun shines should be lived full throttle, soaring. The invisible tether that binds normal people on their steady course doesn’t hold us in the same way. Sometimes we walk in sunlight with everyone else. Sometimes we live underwater and fight and grow. And sometimes … sometimes we fly.”
“Furiously Happy” gave me my wings to soar.
Your vulnerability in sharing every detail about your struggles with mental illness inspires me to share mine. You give me pride in my successes, both big and small. You prove to me I am a survivor. You help me laugh at the wild moments in my life rather than numb them. Your words spoke directly to me when I needed to hear them most.
Because of “Furiously Happy,” I am challenged to seek out joy in my life, even through the horrendous moments. Thank you for teaching me I am not alone in my struggles and “crazy” makes me who I am. “Normal” is boring, anyways.
Unsplash image by Eliabe Costa