Before book club, I want to spend a little time talking about mental illness. I drive ALOT. Almost constantly in the evenings. I was sick of listening to the radio, and then I discovered podcasts. I did the popular ones, including and particularly Serial, and then I found The Hilarious World of Depression. This podcast has completely changed my life. The premise is that the host, John Moe, interviews comedians mainly and finds out how they deal with depression in their life. While the podcast focuses primarily on depression, anyone can find humor, truth, belonging while listening. The comedians are funny at times, yet poignant and sad during the same interview. I have loved it. When we can laugh at depression, we can take away some of its power. We when realize we aren’t alone, we take away some of its power. Most of all, we must remove the stigma of mental illness.
There is this comparison, made quite often: If someone broke their arm (or leg, or whatever), you would say, “If you didn’t think about it, it would be fixed by now.” Or, “Toughen up. It isn’t that bad. All your other limbs are working perfectly.” You would encourage them to see a doctor and get the problem fixed. I don’t love this analogy. It insinuates that mental illness can be cured quickly and permanently by seeking help.
I see mental illness more as a cancer. I have had many family members and friend have this disease and make successful recoveries, and some pass away from it. Here is why I like the analogy better: Once you have cancer you always have cancer. It may go into remission, you may become cancer-free, but there is a higher chance that the cancer will return. When you have cancer, you do everything you can to control the disease. Medication, invasive procedures, anything really, is part of your treatment plan. Same with mental illness. You see a therapist, take medication (sometimes for the rest of your life), and you may need other options to fix the problem.
With cancer, once you go into remission, you still need to check in with your doctor regularly to make sure everything is still okay. Same with mental illness. Changes may be made in your treatment. All is done to make sure you are as healthy as you can be. It is a life-long struggle.
I love The Hilarious World of Depression. If you listen to podcasts, please start listening to it. You will be surprised at who you hear from and their story. You are not alone.
Please also visit makeitok.org to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. If you don’t suffer from it, I promise you you know someone who does.
All right. On to this week’s book. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent is honestly a work of art. I couldn’t put it down. Turtle (the main character) is such a complex young woman; and you will fall in love with her. I’ll be honest–there are some pretty heavy topics and many of them are difficult to read. But the paradox of her relationship with her abusive, incredibly flawed father who professes to love her, and her innocent relationship with the local town boy, Jacob, who helps her grow and find her true self, is nothing short of beautiful.
Turtle is stronger than she thinks she is. Her life is horrible, her father is horrible (yet she loves him dearly), but she gets a taste of normalcy and thrives. The end of the book will have you at that end of your seat (or up until three am, which is what happened to me), but terrifying and stunning end.
I was thrilled to discover that Mr. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City–I hope our paths cross one day so we can discuss his masterpiece.
Again, please note that there is some truly horrifying child abuse depicted in the novel, so if that bothers you, perhaps this isn’t the book for you. But if you are able to look at the overall story; the way Turtle grows, develops, and finds herself all the while still loving and hating her father, learns to protect herself and others, and become her own person, please, please, pick it up. Amazing.
Next week’s book: Today Will be Different by Maria Semple.