Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jenny Lawson is "Furiously Happy"

The world of books is inundated with self-help books.  Losing weight, getting on the right track,
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being happy, successful, healthy, perky, etc... you get the point.  Most of these books are formulaic; if you just follow these steps, life will be shiny, happy, and you will literally glow with all the positive energy and contentedness in your life.  However, as we all know, this is never the case.  Life can be the pits and sometimes hiding under your blanket might seem like the only step to follow.  Blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Lawson, not only is very familiar with these feelings, she revels in them.  The Texas born author and journalist is happily "out" with her diagnoses with a slew of mental illnesses; she blogs about her struggles and published her second book about the subject in September 2015, Furiously Happy.  Furiously Happy is unlike any self-help book you will ever read.  It does not provide answers or give you a goal list to 'get better'; instead, Lawson provides humor and comfort, the entire time reiterating that you are not alone in your sadness, your eccentricities, and your life. Gracing the cover is a picture of her furiously happy, taxidermied raccoon, Rory, who serves as a reminder throughout the book to be furiously happy, a state where one is constantly doing things and having experiences that make them happy, despite impending and inevitable sadness or depression. Lawson's theory is that these experiences will prop you up during the dark times and will serve as reminders that life is worth living and worth experiencing the heck out of.  

Lawson is definitely a breath of fresh air in the area of self-help books.  She has decided to address and tackle an extremely hot button topic with ease and confidence; mental illness is still a taboo topic, one that many books address in either a clinical, matter-of-fact way, or in a 'this is a fight and you need to do this to win' manner.  Yet Lawson's book is more about having adventures and living life to the fullest, along with her mental illness, not despite it.  The book is structured in a series of chapters, consisting of a mixture of  conversations, short stories, anecdotes, lists, and musings.  Lawson captures events in her life, whether the events are fueled by her mental illness or just by the quirks of life that everyone experiences.  Despite the rumor, raunchiness, and eccentricities of life, there is the ever-present theme of the struggles with mental illness throughout.  Lawson does not shy away from the darkness and pervasiveness of her illness; she does not mince words when describing the feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair she experiences in her 'down' times.  Instead she uses them as inspiration to live life to the fullest during her 'up' times.  Lawson stresses that, despite being successful and appearing to have everything she could want, she cannot stop the creeping anxiety caused by her illness.  It is a startling realistic portrayal of personal suffering from mental illness, and an accurate depiction of how it can wreak havoc on your perspective and life.  

Author and The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson
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Nevertheless, Lawson maintains a sense of humor and strength throughout the book.  She embraces her 'crazy' side and stresses that mental illness does not take away from one's life, but enhances it in an unique way.  Lawson reminds readers that they are not alone throughout the book; she says that there is a 'tribe' of people with similar struggles and that those experiencing the problems that come with mental illness must remember that they are not alone.  This book is truly an uplifting and encouraging book for people who are struggling; this is not preachy, does not tell you what you should do or what you should have done to prevent problem.  Instead, Lawson is comfort.  She is the friend who makes you laugh, who brings you candy, who is there for you in the 'down' times.  This book is for anyone and everyone; those who struggles with mental illness and those who have experienced sadness or self-doubt.  It stresses that your dark times should be fuel to live furiously happy in the light times; furiously happy will also get you through the dark times. 

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