THB BOOK REVIEW: FURIOUSLY HAPPY
Hey guys, happy Tuesday and welcome to my second ever book review on The Hungarian Brunette. Phew! This month, I'm talking about Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson. It's kind of on-theme, because last month, I reviewed Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. If you haven't read it yet (which you can do here), that book was about how to find happiness again after a tragic event. Basically, how to be happy with your option B.
I say it's on-brand, because this month's read, Furiously Happy, is about living with mental illness, most specifically depression.
Happiness is definitely a theme here, and there's a reason for that. Before I dive right into the book, I feel like I need to tell a little back-story here. Explain why happiness is such a fascinating topic to me.
When I was younger (think teenager up to my early twenties) I thought being unhappy was ridiculous. I considered depression as a "fake" disease and I thought people who said they were depressed just lacked the strength to bootstrap themselves and solve the shit in their lives that made them unhappy. After all, I had been through so many hard things in my (short) life, but I still didn't let them put me down. I had a warrior-like attitude and got out of bed in the morning thinking about how the ways I could make this day my bitch. I didn't consider myself particularly strong, I think I just viewed depressed people as weak.
Judgmental? Maybe a little. Uninformed? Definitely.
Then, I guess I grew up. But most importantly, I was exposed to people I had immense respect and admiration for, and learned that they had fought depression. I got to see some people very close to me, people I always looked up to, fall into the gutter of depression, and I thought "Oh, shit, this is actually real". I also got to experience real adulthood and the fair share of aches (heartaches, headaches, you name it) it brings. And I learned that high school break-ups are tough, yes, but they're nothing compared to gut-wrenching adult relationships, especially when they involve mortgages, high-profile jobs, family life and the full realm of emotions and analysis teenagers just don't even think about.
There's also full-time work, a heavy load of responsibilities that sometimes hit you before you're ready for it, taxes, money issues, stress... It's like the list never stops. As I got closer to my mid-twenties, I could feel happiness escaping me like air flowing out of a flat tire. I also started being much more interested in wellness. Which means I learned about hormones, brain chemistry and human behaviour.
And then, it hit me. If I had such a hard time being happy, with no chemical imbalance and no mental illness, how terrible must it be to be constantly depressed because your own brain is trying to kill you? (in Jenny Lawson's words). How crippling must it be to feel sad and hopeless, when you don't even know why. At least, when there's a reason behind something, you can fix it.
So I started reading books about happiness. To understand more, but also to find solutions. That's another thing: I'm BIG on solutions. And I like finding my own. Sure, a little help from the people you love is always welcome and feels good, but I like being the captain of my own ship.
I'll stop here on the whole life story, but suffice to say this brought me to Furiously Happy. To be TOTALLY honest and transparent, I also bought it because there's a racoon on the cover. It took me a while after I bought it to start reading it, because, well, depression isn't exactly the sexiest subject around. Let's face it. But as soon as I started reading it, I was laughing so hard I had stomach cramps. I was litteraly folded in half, holding my stomach, on page 3 or something.
And that's the main thing about Furiously Happy. Yes, it's a book about depression, but it's mostly a book about happiness. And it's funny as fuck. Off the top of my head, it's probably in the top 3 funniest books I've ever read. Trust me, the tagline "A funny book about horrible things" is totally justified. And that's the thing I love the most about this book. How Jenny Lawson is able to take (probably) the most tragic thing in her life and make jokes about it. I'm ALL ABOUT using humour to deflect life's tragedies and sad situations. I really didn't feel like reading another sob-story on depression, because I feel like life is hard enough at times, I don't need to spend time on something that'll make it harder. That's also why I will always choose a comedy over a drama movie, but that's another story.
Another great thing is that Jenny Lawson makes it SO easy to identify to her. Even if you don't share her name (like I do) or her mental illness, you're absolutely bound to recognize some of your own behaviour in her. Wether it's being unable to get out of bed because life is too hard. Or comparing yourself to the other parents at your kid's school. And feeling like a total failure sometimes. Or arguing with your husband because he doesn't understand your love of taxidermy. OK, that last one might be a bit of a stretch, but it's an excellent segue into my next point:
The book is full of little snippets of Jenny's arguments with her husband, Victor. These are probably the funniest part of the book. Seriously, I had to read some of them to Sasha, they were so funny.
Also, because it's not a continuous story, but each chapter is like a short essay, it really breaks it down into short bits of laughter. It's the type of book that you can read in one sitting, or read one chapter every day (or every week) and still follow. You won't feel like you have to get back into it even if you take a longer break between two reading sessions.
The most important thing about Furiously Happy though, it how it shows that there's no excuse not to be happy. And not just happy, but furiously happy. If someone who's not even genetically programmed to be happy can be happy between two depressive episodes, so can you. There's is no excuse to wallow in bed, or use bad mood as an excuse. There's no excuse to not spend time with the people you love. Even if it means just watching TV with your daughter because you're too depressed to do anything else. And there's no excuse not to get help when you feel like you can't get out of it. Life is about knowing who you are, owning it, and making the best of it.
I have to say, after reading this book, I feel kind of embarrassed for all the times I let something small put me down. Furiously Happy is great if you want to understand mental illness and help out loved ones struggling with it. But it's also a great book if you just need a reminder that you owe it to yourself to be happy. After reading it, I definitely felt invigorated, and began to be able to see the world from a different perspective. I found my warrior-like attitude again. And even though I now understand that depression is not a choice or a weakness, but an unfortunate circumstance, I still refuse to be a victim and fall into it. I want to fight to be happy. Actually, scratch that... I want to be furiously happy.
I hope you guys will enjoy this book if you ever decide to read it, and I hope it helps anyone who needs it. Even if it sounds cliché, if writing this post can inspire one person to turn their life around or get help, I'll be happy. I love hearing from you, so please let me know if you read it. Also, feel free to share your stories on happiness, I love to connect with you all. You can reach me in the comments below, or DM me on Instagram. And one last thing... Please remember there's no shame in being sad or depressed. But there's definitely pride to be taken in doing everything you can to get better. Life's too short.
Love you guys, Jenny xx