Trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. Allie Brosh
My last post about 28-year-old comic blog writer Allie Brosh was about widely appreciated pieces on her blog Hyperbole and a Half about her depression. Now her first book has been published, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, and it contains some all-new stuff in addition to some old.
The following is Brosh’s own book description:
This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative— like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.
So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*
*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!
One thing that’s been so important to many of her fans has been Brosh’s openness regarding her emotional struggles. Amy Goldschlager, Kirkus Reviews, reports:
…(H)er vivid depiction of her struggle with depression is extraordinarily frank, describing a deadening descent into apathy, the frustration engendered by torrents of unhelpful advice and a bout of hysterical laughter inspired by discovering a piece of dried-up corn underneath her refrigerator. It was very important to Brosh to communicate what being clinically depressed really feels like. ‘I was really pushing myself,’ she says. ‘I had a two-part motivation: to shine a light on the serious thing that’s really scary and bring out the more absurd aspects of it.’ Her intention was to ‘walk the line between levity and respect for the subject,’ she says. ‘I wanted to make it easier to talk about.’
And she has for many.
According to Zosia Bielski, The Globe and Mail, Brosh’s own climb out of depression has been assisted by such things as her relationship with her two dogs, swimming, running, and Wellbutrin. However, she claims to be only at “about 40 percent capacity.”
(So you won’t be surprised if you read the article, a heads up that Bielski also interviewed me as part of her research.)
What about other content in the new book? States Zaineb Mohammed, Mother Jones: “…(I)t chronicles her problem-child days (she once ate an entire cake intended for her grandfather’s birthday party), adventures with her dogs (one of which she suspects is mentally impaired), and musings on her character flaws. Procrastination, for instance—she actually started the blog as a way to avoid studying for a college physics final.”
Wired‘s Laura Hudson has the following exchange with Brosh about the way she’s able to write about certain thoughts and feelings that speak to and for others:
WIRED: There’s another story in the book where you really delve into your own irrational thoughts, like feeling resentful when someone takes a chair you weren’t even using, or feeling oddly cheated when you find out the wind wasn’t blowing as hard as you thought it was. They really captured the sort of feelings that I think a lot of people have but never articulate.
Brosh: …It was probably my favorite one in the book and I was really worried it wasn’t going to be something that other people liked. So I’m really happy you mentioned that one. A lot of the stuff I write is a result of me observing myself. Catching myself doing these things that are inconsistent with the way that I think am, being sneaky or lying to myself. It’s funny to me, so it translates pretty naturally into a post. They say you write what you know, so that’s something I think a lot about. It’s fun being able to make fun of it. It helps me cope with the fact that I’m like that.
If you’ve ever ordered an item from someone’s web page, it’s fairly standard stuff—thus, it’s likely you’ve never been given the particular options Brosh provides on her delightful book page.