Book Review - Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

My first read of 2016 caused tears of joy, tears of sadness, and moments of reflection that I have never encountered while reading a book... ever. “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson caused a whole array of outward emotions, including two very embarrassing laugh-out-loud moments. One was whilst riding a busy train home during rush hour and the other woke an elderly woman as we used the laundromat. To me, those moments sum up this book. It makes you uncomfortable, but you just cannot help but laugh at the wit and writing of Jenny Lawson. 

This book is a reflective look at the battle the author has gone through, specifically her struggle with mental illness and how uses storytelling to provide clarity as she explains how she lives and functions day-to-day with the emotions, fears, and triumphs that come from her day-to-day. She makes statements that I wish people would take to heart about how much energy it takes just to get through a day sometimes. 

Every mental illness is different because every person is different...You have to figure out how to survive depression, which is really not easy because when you’re depressed you’re more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life and your brain is lying to you and you feel unworthy of the time and energy (which you often don’t even have) needed to get help.
— pg. 132

So often within the church, we assume that a quick prayer will cure all mental illness, but that is so far from the truth. She nailed it with the following quote.

It’s not your fault if the medication or therapy you’re given to treat your mental illness doesn’t work perfectly, or it worked for a while and then stopped working. You aren’t a math problem . You’re a person.
— pg. 132

As I read through the book, there were so many times that I felt as if this book fell into my lap to help me wrestle through so many questions that I have had over the last decade of my life that I have struggled to understand. God created me with ADHD, and that means that I process emotions and situations differently than others. It doesn’t make me less – it just makes me special.

I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.
— pg. 239

I cannot even tell you the amount of times that I fight to put a smile on my face even if I am having the best day. Something within me just does not want to do it. I should be able to smile or feel happy, but inside I feel empty and sad. I don't say that to make anyone feel sorry for me, but I just wish I could understand sometimes what is going on inside of my head. 

When I look at my life I see high-water marks of happiness and I see the lower places where I had to convince myself that suicide wasn’t an answer. And in between I see my life. I see that the sadness and tragedy in my life made the euphoria and delicious ecstasy that much more sweet. I see that stretching out my soul to feel every inch of horrific depression gave me more room to grow and enjoy the beauty of life that others might not ever appreciate. I see that there is dust in the air that will eventually settle onto the floor to be swept out the door as a nuisance, but before that, for one brilliant moment I see the dust motes catch sunlight and sparkle and dance like stardust. I see the beginning and the end of all things. I see my life. It is beautifully ugly and tarnished in just the right way. It sparkles with debris. There is wonder and joy in the simplest of things.
— pg. 265

Life is amazing and I see how the downtimes have shaped who  I am. This book does a wonderful job of allowing you to see your own downtimes not as a weight holding you back, but as a series of events and emotions that bring clarity to the present and direction to your future.  

Sometimes being crazy is a demon. And sometimes the demon is me. And I visit quiet sidewalks and loud parties and dark movies, and a small demon looks out at the world with me. Sometimes it sleeps. Sometimes it plays. Sometimes it laughs with me. Sometimes it tries to kill me. But it’s always with me. I suppose we’re all possessed in some way. Some of us with dependence on pills or wine. Others through sex or gambling. Some of us through self-destruction or anger or fear. And some of us just carry around our tiny demon as he wreaks havoc in our mind, tearing open old dusty trunks of bad memories and leaving the remnants spread everywhere. Wearing the skins of people we’ve hurt. Wearing the skins of people we’ve loved. And sometimes, when it’s worst, wearing our skins.
— pg. 130

I remember sharing this quote with Amy and having a great conversation with her about how I have had trouble in the past differentiating emotions and explaining how I feel to others. It is something that frustrates me deeply because I see when it frustrates others and that bothers me, too. It is a vicious circle through which Amy has been my rock. This book has been so helpful as I look at my past struggles and my own insecurities. I have told so many people to read this book whether or not they struggle with mental illness because it illuminates the everyday life of someone who does struggle. 

Rated 5/5