The Far End of Happy

*deep breath out*

It’s been awhile since a book has made me this emotional. If you are looking for a book that hits all of the feels–look no further than Kathryn Craft’s The Far End of Happy.

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Divorce, depression, and alcoholism combine into a Molotov cocktail ready to blow as soon as it hits the ground. This nightmare becomes reality one morning as Ronnie rushes to get her kids to school on the day her husband is supposed to move out. She had expected drama, but not the kind where he threatens her and the boys. The day becomes a roller coaster of agony as he holds himself and the community hostage.

As you can imagine from the description, The Far End of Happy is not an easy book to read–at least as far as content goes. The imagery is vivid and sucks you right into the action with the characters. I appreciate that Craft wrote the story from three different perspectives, and I like that there were memory flashbacks as well. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the unclear definitions between flashback and reality, but it made the narration purposefully unreliable and it worked in this very tense moment.

By the end, I could hardly set the book down because my nerves were stretched so thin, worrying what was going to happen with (or to) Jeff. It’s for that reason I am going to put a TRIGGER WARNING on this–this book is all about depression, alcoholism, and most importantly, suicide, so if any of those things are harmful to you, be aware that it is a very intense and anxiety-inducing book.

That said, Kathryn Craft has done a marvelous job with her novel. Ronnie is a fantastic character, someone who faces struggles head on, and does what she has to do to take care of her children, even if it’s not the easiest choice, and not what everyone else thinks is the right one. Add this to your TBR if it’s not there already, but make sure and bring some tissues!

 

Buy Here:

Hyperbole and a Half

Depression sucks.

Like literally sucks. It sucks the life out of you–feelings, desires, motivations, all of it. But the apathy is only the second part of depression. First comes the pain. Blinding, draining pain that does all the sucking.

For those of us who experience or have experienced the beast that this sickness is–because it is a real sickness–it can be really hard to put into words how depression feels. How it completely consumes everything. To anyone on the outside, those who have not experienced anything like this…it’s very hard to grasp what exactly is happening.

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Allie Brosh has found a way to bring her journey through the darkness to light not only through words but pictures. To say I related to her crude sarcastic sense of humor is an understatement, and I am pretty sure there are creases on the side of the book where I was grasping so tight at certain times because it just relates SO HARD.

Her book Hyperbole and a Half isn’t all about depression–there is quite a bit of comic relief about her dogs and her childhood. But the major chapters, which are taken from her blog (at least parts of them are…I know I’ve read pieces of them there), are very real and very poignant views into the mindset of someone suffering from clinical depression. The anxiety, the self-doubt, the rocky and sometimes nonsensical climb to recovery. It’s all there, in technicolor.

I will say that the book did not end as happily as I needed it to. There was no “YOU CAN DO IT!” mantra at the end. And maybe that’s fitting, because this isn’t exactly a self-help book. Still, the last chapter left me feeling a little…”But, I know I’m a shitty person. I FEEL SHITTY. TELL ME HOW TO MAKE MYSELF FEEL LESS SHITTY!” I dunno, I would have rather had another chapter about too much cake.

That’s my only criticism about the book. It’s a really really great book. It’s an important book–if you’ve ever suffered from depression, or know someone suffering from depression. If you are currently suffering…just be wary of that last chapter. It’s a little dangerous.

 

Because this post is all about depression…guys if you are suffering, please please please ask for help. It’s scary, TRUST ME I KNOW. But the other option leaves so many people without you in their life, and there will be a lot of people missing you, I promise.

If you need help, there are a lot of options, and a lot of people standing by waiting for you to ask:

 

Fulfills PopSugar #40:  A graphic novel

The Suicide Index

With a title like The Suicide Index, you know this isn’t going to be an easy review…

This isn’t a book I can just say, “Oh, I really liked this!” Because I didn’t really like reading it…although it was a very good, very well written book. It was a hard book to read, a very emotional book to read.

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First things first, this is nonfiction. Joan Wickersham is writing about the death of her father. More specifically, Joan Wickersham is writing about the suicide of her father. She calls herself a biographer many times during her story, but if anything, it’s more of a memoir about her own journey, than an actual biography of her father. The structure of The Suicide Index is unique–it is an actual index, with the chapter titles in alphabetical order. They all start with the word “suicide,” but then range on varying topics associated with the main.

It’s hard to say who the true audience of this book is. It is written out of the grief, anger, and healing of a surviving family member, so it is a very harsh reality of what it feels like to be left alive after a loved one kills themselves. It could be a rough read for those suffering from depression, but it could also be a big wake up call, for those who need one.

Joan says this:

“Did he know what it would do to us–my mother, my sister, and me?

If so, then he did something unforgiveable.

If not, then I wish he had known. But only if he really did have a choice, and only if knowing would have stopped him.”

 

I think this is a very important memoir. But tread carefully, if you do read it. There is a lot of pain here, so be prepared to open some wounds. Keep a journal nearby, or a friend if you need one.

And, if you do need real help, ask for it. I’ve posted helplines on the blog before, they can be found HERE.

 

(I’m not doing a separate Teaser Tuesday post today. Any quote I could have taken from this book would have been too raw without the context of the review.)

You Can’t Just “Shake Off” Depression

A link was shared with me today that raised my blood to full boiling point. You can check out the article by clicking HERE. (Oh, and the IUPUI’s Press Release, because it is being endorsed by the school:  HERE). Trust me, it’s not pretty.

A freshman at IUPUI decided it would be a fantastic project to pop a video camera in the schoolyard, play Taylor Swift’s peppy new song “Shake it Off,” and let people dance with clown hair and other props. All with the tag for suicide prevention.

Because people with depression can absolutely SHAKE OFF their sadness, emotions, and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

 

 

My initial reaction when I saw who made the project was the typical excuse. “Oh, he’s a freshman, he has no maturity. He’s just some dumb kid with a video camera.” But you know what, no. That’s not an excuse. I have had brilliant conversations with 15 year olds who know exactly what depression is. They feel it. Every single day they battle with it. They know what it is like, to sit in a dark room, hiding under blankets, afraid to talk to anyone, not really caring even to open a book or turn on the TV, because nothing feels. Not even feels right, just nothing feels like…anything. They go to school because they have to, and no one understands why their work is “half-assed,” when they are really intelligent kids. It’s not because they aren’t trying on purpose, it’s because their brains just have no energy left. They have essentially run out of gas.

So all those excited, happy people dancing on the video? What we aren’t seeing are the depressed people sneaking by behind the camera. “Please don’t see me, I can’t dance today.” And that’s just those who are even walking on campus, trying to make it to class in the sunshine.

Sunshine. What a curse it is sometimes. Like dancing, it is a sign of happiness, joy, life. And for some, it’s the devil, nosing in the window to see if you’re ready to come out yet. Why can’t the world just leave well enough alone?

 

My depression was situational, not clinical, thankfully. There was a period of about 2 years where the darkness closed in and I really just didn’t know what to do. My life was broken, and so I felt erased, worthless, and so completely emotionally damaged that most of my strength was just gone. I didn’t ask for help, I was too proud, too ashamed. I was never suicidal, thankfully my world never got that black. But the monster that attacked was a very real thing.

That’s over now, and looking back, it’s so frightening to see the pit I had dug for myself. Sometimes you don’t realize how far down you have gone until you’re out of it. And mine was only one long moment. One chunk of life. My heart crushes at the thought of my friends who suffer from clinical depression–those that feel this way on a periodic or cyclical basis. I’ve had people close to me snuffed out too soon, and while their pain ends, it’s devastating to the family and friends who cared for them. We never really know the depth of the pain people are in.

Depression is a beast.  Sometimes, it grabs you all at once and sucks you under. Other times, it takes you like that frog in the slowly heating pot of water, warming you until you boil. And what is really, truly scary about it, is the entire time it’s taking you….you stop caring. It steals your feelings, it steals your ability to choose what happens to you. It becomes this big dark blanket that wraps around you, at first it is comfortable, soft, warm. Ok, it’s nice to be alone and quiet for a bit. And slowly, slowly, slowly…you suffocate. And by that point, you’ve isolate yourself so well, that no one recognizes that you’re drowning. And that is why everyone is always so surprised when someone commits suicide.

 

This is why the video and the article upset me so much. You can’t just “shake off” depression. It’s not just a bad day or an attitude that you can dance away. Even if there are depressed people in that video, and there might very well be–I don’t know their story–chances are…it’s a mask. We are really good at masks (another reason people get surprised).

I am sure Harris’s point was to raise awareness. I see that at it’s base, and I am sure that is why IUPUI is endorsing it. These things go viral so quickly. We saw what happened with the Ice Bucket Challenge. And while a lot of great awareness and money raising came out of that…I just don’t see a real benefit to this specific video. All I see is a really terrible catch phrase, and a whole bunch of hurting people being pushed further into the dark. I hope I am wrong. Or, that someone comes up with a twist to this that actually promotes suicide awareness in a different, more helpful light. It is so needed.

 


 

A Disclaimer, and some information:

  • I am clearly not an expert on depression and mental illness but it is something that interests me and is near to my heart, so I spend a lot of focus on it personally. I experienced it myself, and I’ve had a lot of discussions with my friends who have seen and experienced this. I’ve also done a lot of reading on the subject…because that’s what I do when I’m passionate about something.

If you need help, please please please, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed or scared to ask for help. There are SOOOOO many people out there who have gone through what you have gone through, or have been trained to help you. Tumblr now will even pop up and check on you if you type Suicide in the search box. Reach out to your people. Even online people. We are here. And there are more of us who love you than you think. Don’t let that monster take you under. We will notice. You will be missed, I promise you that.