Depression Book Club: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I was going to get this out there earlier in the week, but unfortunately a power outage screwed up my wireless card, so I’ve been having trouble connecting to the Internet. In any case, welcome to the second installment of my new weekly feature, the Depression Book Club, where I talk about books that are either about depression or that have helped me deal with depression in some way.  This week’s book is similar in some respects to last week’s as it is also a comedic memoir by someone with depression. Wishful Drinking, however, does something that makes it stand out in a unique and different way from the previous book: it shows us that even the people we admire and idolize can suffer from mental illness.

Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking is the memoir of the late Carrie Fisher, beloved by many for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. It was written following the electroshock therapy that she underwent to help control her severe Bipolar Depression. This is a fact she mentions in the introduction, as she is not shy about her mental illness. In fact, Fisher even mentions that part of the reason she wrote the book is to help fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Her main weapon in this fight is her dry, sarcastic sense of humor, which fills the book with a distinctive character and helps make even the worst of the stories within very entertaining.

It doesn’t hurt that Fisher lead a life that was far from typical. Born the child of two celebrities and later becoming a celebrity in her own right, Fisher had adventures that most of us can only dream, and several that we would never even think to imagine. And yet many of them are familiar, to: the bad break ups, the time your mother embarrassed you in front of your friends, and, of course, the struggle with that strange and horrible force that makes you doubt you own brain. For all the wild and outlandish tales of celebrity, the book never loses its sense of common humanity. That, I think, is it’s biggest strength: it shows us that even larger-than-life celebrities are still human.

Wishful Drinking is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and at your local independent bookstore. If you’ve read the book and want to share your thoughts, or if you’ve got a suggestion for a book to read, leave a comment below. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week.

Depression Book Club: Furiously Happy

It should be no surprise that, being someone who likes to write a lot, I also like to read a lot. In fact, it was my love of reading that got me to write in the first place. So, naturally,  one of the ways that I cope when I’m feeling depressed is by reading a book. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one like this, so I’d like to start up a new weekly feature on this blog: the Depression Book Club, where I talk about a book I’ve read that either talks about depression or has helped me deal with depression. I often find that those two categories tend to overlap somewhat, so what better way to start this off than to feature a book that belongs in both categories. This week’s Depression Book Club book is Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

I can’t tell if that raccoon wants a hug or a chance to rip my face off and eat it.

Furiously Happy is a memoir/collection of essays by Jenny Lawson, aka the Bloggess. It is her second book, and deals with her daily struggle with depression in a way that is equal parts disturbing and really freaking funny. From midnight dead raccoon cat rodeos to trips to Australia to her many fights with her husband, Lawson’s life is full of weird and off color moments that combine to form a bizarre yet hilarious picture of what living with depression and anxiety is like. Lawson doesn’t pull punches, either: even though the book is ninety percent humorous situations, there are also plenty of descriptions of what it’s like to live in a world that requires human interaction when you are too damn terrified to deal with people of even leave your house some days. But Lawson manages to use these somber moments in such a way that they just highlight the funny parts, making them all the more funny. Which, now that I think about it, is really the entire message of the book: do what you can to survive the horrible, dark days of your life so that you can love the good parts even more.

Overall, this book is hilarious and poignant and I heartily recommend it to anyone with depression or who knows someone who has depression or who really just enjoys laughing and horrible things. You can find this book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Books-a-Million. If you like Lawson’s writing style, be sure to check out her blog. If you have an opinion on this week’s book or a suggestion for what book I could pick next week, please leave a comment on this post to let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you all next week when we do this all over again.

A Not-So-Patriotic Fourth

The Fourth of July is making me feel particularly depressed this year. I try to summon up a little patriotic glee, some good old fashioned “‘Merica!” pride, but all I can think about is how the Republicans are tying to screw me out of healthcare. And then I get worried that I won’t be able to afford my anti-depressants. And then I start to think about what it would be like to to have to live through the Trump presidency without access to anti-depressants, and I get mad and angry and I want to call my Senator and yell at him even though he already said no to the bill. But then I remember that it’s the Fourth of July so he’s out of the office anyway, and then I feel sad and ineffectual.

This is the first fourth of July in my entire memory that I don’t feel like celebrating my country. Even during the last Republican administration, which happened around the time that I first started forming cohesive political opinions, I still wanted to go outside and wave sparklers around and go see fireworks displays. I didn’t like Bush or what he was doing to the country. At all. But he never made me feel depressed the way the current administration does.

I’m clearly in the minority, at least in my White suburban neighborhood, because I can hear people setting off the occasional firecracker outside my house and it’s not even dark out yet.  But I bet I’m not the only one feeling this way, because from what my psychologist tells me, anxiety about Trump and the current government is really, really common right now. So if you’re out there feeling alone,. like you’re the only one who can’t seem to muster up good feelings for a country that is continually letting you down, I have this to say: I’m here, too, and I’m just as scared as you. Let’s hide under the covers together.

P.S.: I think I know who to blame for everything that’s going on in politics right now. You see, I was going back over my Facebook time-line and I happened to find this post from a particularly cheeky asshole on the day of the election:

I fucked it up

Can you believe this guy? He actually had the nerve to wear a First Order T-Shirt on the day of the election because lol irony lol and now our democracy’s backsliding into a dictatorship. Hey asshole: maybe if you had worn a Resistance T-Shirt, Clinton would have won, yeah? Way to jinx the entire country, jerk. Honestly, the nerve of some people.

Getting Political

I haven’t posted on this blog in months. That’s because nearly every time I sit and write something, I have to fight of depression. Rare is the day when I finish anything.

There are two major causes of this. The first is that I continue to be unemployed. I’m not in any danger of being homeless or on the street. My parents are giving me a place to stay as long as I continue to look for work. But the lack of financial independence has contributed to my anxiety. Worse, the more my unemployment drags on, the more it feels like searching for a job is a futile effort. But I press on because there’s nothing else I can do.

Secondly, politics. I will not sugarcoat this in an attempt to be apolitical. If I did , I would be being dishonest, both to myself and to you, my readers, however many of you are left. The election of Donald Trump and his subsequent executive orders have me worried about the future. I worry about my friends who are people of color and LGBT+. I worry about healthcare and whether I’ll be able to afford the psychiatric medication that helps keep my depression in check. And I worry that we may be on the verge of autocracy, as crazy and hyperbolic as that may sound.


Photo from the Donald J Trump resistance

So I’m going to get political, and so is my writing. In fact, two weeks ago I wrote a story and finished it. It takes places in what is either a possible future or an alternate present. In this story, an autocratic America is fighting against a rebellion. This is not the story of the resistance, however. Nor is it a story of soldiers. There are no heroes in this story. It is a story about the general public. It is about political apathy and its consequences. And more than that, it is my new mission statement as a writer. From now on, expect to see more overt political messages in my writing. Not every story of mine will be an allegory or specifically anti-Trump, but my politics will be reflected in what I write. If that bothers you, read something else.

I’m going to do everything I can to publish this story. If I can’t sell it to a magazine, I will publish it here. And then I will keep writing, because this is not just about one story, but the entirety of my art. It’s about using art as a platform to make a change. It’s about not letting my anxieties stop me from writing. And most importantly, it’s about being honest about what I believe.

Time to make science fiction great again.

A Poem About Anxieties

Conversations made of words I’ve never said,
lifetimes made of paths I’ve never walked,
thoughts that form a churning maelstrom in my head,

painful moments that I’ve spent with loved ones dead,
quotes from all the ghosts and wisps with whom I’ve talked,
conversations made of words I’ve never said,

fearful nightmare things that fill my heart with dread,
all the open doors upon which I have knocked,
thoughts that form a churning maelstrom in my head,

pissed off members of the groups that I have lead,
retribution from the people I have mocked,
conversations made of words I’ve never said,

razors, knives, and scissors dipped in bloody red,
blows and blows and blows, but none that I have blocked,
thoughts that form a churning maelstrom in my head,

worlds that I have thought up, lying in my bed,
all the doors I’ve passed by, thinking they were locked,
conversations made of words I’ve never said,
thoughts that form a churning maelstrom in my head…

Screw Politics

I hate elections. I really do.

I get really emotionally invested in the political process here in the United States. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing at first. After all, the whole point of democracy is that people get to participate in running the country. Theoretically, being invested in politics is a good thing. And it can be! When people are excited about politics, great things can happen. Real change can be achieved.

But when I get engaged in politics, I tend to get angry. I get angry at politicians I don’t like. I get angry with the people who support them. I get angry at laws that happen three states away that technically don’t effect me, nor anyone I know. I get angry at hypothetical wars and imaginary injustices. And I get really, really angry at poll numbers I don’t like.

Then, when I’m done being angry, I just get stressed out. I worry about the politicians I like losing. I worry about the politicians I don’t like winning. I worry about what might happen in a country where someone I particularly dislike, like, say, a certain orange-faced billionaire, became the president. The thing is, I am prone to bouts of depression and anxiety. Politics tends to exacerbate these things for me.

Usually, I can brush this off and go about my daily life, knowing that outside of voting, there’s not that much I can realistically do. I have a full-time job to think about and student loans to pay off. Politics can wait until election day.

Except, in an election year, it really can’t. The long stretch of debates and primary elections means that politics is on all the airwaves constantly. It dominates my Facebook feed. It conquers my twitter feed. It’s on every newspaper, magazine, TV show and blog. It’s practically in the air we breathe.

It can be hard to find a place to take a break from politics in an election year, so I’m going to carve one out for myself. I’m going to try my damnedest each day to find an hour to put aside all the politics and news and just relax and enjoy a book, or maybe get some writing done. I’m setting aside a daily “Screw politics” hour so that I can keep my sanity. If nothing else, let that be the one thing that politics can never take away from me.