Who’s this girl, you might think, reading non-fiction? Well, I made it my mission to read (and talk about) mental health more this year and what better way to start than to read some funny books?
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
As a memoir, Furiously Happy is a concoction of anecdotes from Jenny’s life (think Hyperbole and a Half without the drawings). Jenny’s thoughts and stories about her experience of living with depression and anxiety were really interesting to read. I also found the chapters on how her husband copes with living with someone who is struggling with mental health incredibly insightful and sometimes really lovely – the quote below stayed with me long after putting the book down. Although the more random anecdotes about her life didn’t grab me as much (but you do find out the story behind the cover!), I did appreciate the advice she gives: say yes to more opportunities (even the most ridiculously absurd ones), self-sabotage is a no-no, pretend you’re good at it, and be furiously happy about the good moments as best you can.
“Last month, as Victor drove me home so I could rest, I told him that sometimes I felt like his life would be easier without me. He paused a moment in thought and then said, “It might be easier. But it wouldn’t be better.”
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
I sort of love Bryony Gordon. We couldn’t be more different, really, except for the small matter of our mental heath. That is to say, it’s a bit crap. Bryony has had OCD ever since she was a young girl and, as she got older, it caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. In her memoir, she explores the roots of her OCD and how it – and not treating it – affected her teen years and her 20s. She talks about how mental health doesn’t care about who you are (Bryony herself was a privileged child and now is a successful journalist) nor does it manifest itself in the same way in everyone – it’s a tricky thing to pin down.
Mad Girl is super accessible, just like reading a magazine article or having a chat with Bryony over coffee, which is how it should be, and it was really enjoyable and funny to read. 1 in 4 people suffer from poor mental health and Mad Girl does what I think we all should do: talk about mental health as if we were talking about the flu, honestly and without fear of judgement.
Bryony’s also started Mad World – a new podcast dedicated to talking about mental health – and I suggest you check it out (the first guest is Prince Harry!).
It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot
I’ve been following Ruby on Instagram for a little while. I love her hilarious yet totally relatable illustrations about mental health and the struggle of everyday life. As soon as I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine, I knew I had to have it. For many of us, it’s not absolutely fine and so yeah, it can be really comforting when someone else says “this is bullshit” about something others would not blink an eye at.
Ruby’s illustrations depict what it’s like to suffer from all kinds of mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar disorder, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression. Her drawings accompany her thoughts on mental illness and stories about what she’s gone through herself.
We all know that mental health needs to be talked about more, and I really do think that humour – visual humour especially – can be a great way to do it. A funny image that someone wants to share can reach more people than other kinds of media. Ruby herself has nearly 100,000 followers looking out for something that they’ll be able to see themselves in. It’s All Absolutely Fine is ideal for fans Hyberbole and a Half and illustrators like Veronica Dearly.
As all three of these books show, humour can be a powerful tool when talking about mental health. Even if you haven’t ‘officially’ (and I use this word loosely) been diagnosed with a mental illness, you’re sure you see or read something in these books and think “that’s me”. Because we all have mental health.