Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review / Boy Meets Depression

I talked very quickly about this book on my Instagram, so anyone who saw that knows that it had a real impact on me. I think every autobiography/memior I read does, but I could relate to this story a lot more than say my last review on Neil Patrick Harris. When I saw this book as an option for my next book review, I quickly read the intro and learned that this Kevin Breel guy became quite the internet sensation after his "Confessions Of A Depressed Comic" TED talk. So I googled his talk, pressed play and not even kidding paused it after one minute to click back and order the book. I just knew it was something that I wanted to read. A 21 year old (I'm trying not to say 'kid' but) kid who's willing to talk about depression and suicide? There's not a lot of people like Kevin out there. There is a ton of stigma attached to depression. No one wants to talk about it. It's awkward, it's scary, it's embarrassing. But Kevin's trying to change the conversation. He's a stand up comedian trying to use his experience and his platform to spread awareness and acceptance, and people are listening. I mean, just take a look at him...

So cute right? (Like in a little brother kind of way lol.) And what he says make sense. The absolute best part about this book was the way that he was able to explain depression. It's so, so hard to make sense of. Especially if you've never felt it. How do you explain that you're just sad? I think very few people could accurately describe that feeling of sadness the way that Kevin did. I always highlight in books that I read, and I found myself going, "YESS" and taking that yellow highlighter to so many passages in which he describes depression and suicide. So let me start there, to give a few examples:

"So what is depression? What is the fog? You sound like a crazy person just describing the thing that makes you feel crazy. Pitching people who have never personally experienced depression or loved anyone struggling with it is somewhere in the same ballpark as pitching people on fringe religions. You sound strange, almost detached from reason or rationale thought, like a small child shouting strings of syllables in a desperate attempt to be understood."

"Depression conflicts with society's lens. Pretty much everything you could ever see in an ad or a subway station billboard contradicts the idea of depression. I think maybe we expect the life that is pitched to us by car companies and clothing brands. Maybe we want everything to have a quick fix, a happy ending, a smiling child. I think we want to believe life should just be a dream. That is so simple. Work, buy some stuff, work some more, buy some more stuff, get a hot wife, get a shiny car, put the hot wife in the shiny car, and show your not-shiny-car-driving, not-hot-wife-having peers how well you did in life. That's the recipe. That's what we're sold on. But being depressed doesn't really fit anywhere in that narrative. So we seemingly develop different explanations for it." 

"Every day, the outside world tries to work its influence in a little bit more in forming our beliefs about happiness. It's subtle, small stuff mostly. The way when you ask people how they're doing, and they never actually take the time to think about the question, they just say, "I'm great, how about you?" 

"It's not that you want to die. No one really does, I don't think. I certainly never did. It's just that you have no more will to live. Life has become a pointless, futile affair of meaningless exchanges of energy and ideas that ultimately perpetuate your own solitary identity and confinement to your own angry, awful consciousness. And you want no part of it anymore. You're tired. This constant effort is exhausting. You just want to detach from the soul of this self-inflicted suffering and be free. And there seems to be only one way to do that: getting rid of your pulse."

Just recently I got word that a girl I cheerleaded with in high school killed herself. She was only 24 years old. And as if her age itself wasn't sad enough, she was also a young Mom. It saddened me for days. I went online to read her obituary and clicked over to the guest book and saw it only had about ten comments. It absolutely broke my heart. And this was a few weeks after her funeral because I found out about it really late (Facebook really does help in these situations) so the chance of anyone else coming to write a note now was unlikely. I imagined her family reading this guest book and wondering where everyone was? Had she died of a terminally ill disease I guarantee that people would be flooding over to share their condolences and memories and celebrate her life and commend the "fight" she went through. But instead it's a sad mystery that no one is going to talk about. The obituary didn't even mention how she died, only said that it was "unexpected." Only hints from her Facebook page showed that it was her who took her own life. And I think most people don't really know how to handle that. What do you say? What's the right thing to say? I don't know, but I still commented. I wanted her family to know that she was a beautiful person and that I was sorry this happened and told a quick memory about the last time I saw her, when she was still pregnant with her little boy and how happy she seemed. It wasn't that hard to say something. I couldn't believe that people were too scared to say something or didn't know what they were supposed to say, so they just didn't say anything at all.

I don't want to get into a whole discussion about suicide right now, but I can't help but wonder; had she not done it, would everything have seemed better the next day? Or even by the next week, the next month? I think so. That's the thing about depression, it gets better. And I think if more people like Kevin started speaking up about it, it might help others be able to deal with it more openly, with less judgment. If the conversation become less scary, maybe it wouldn't be so hard to ask for help, to learn the right tools and resources to live with it, maybe people wouldn't be killing themselves over it.

**I should add here that I have NO license to say these things, I am only speaking from what I think. This is all from my own opinion.**

So yes Kevin was depressed. Is depressed. And honestly, I chose this book because I "get" depressed. (I'm already being careful what I say/how I say it, it is hard to admit.) I wouldn't say that I am now, but I have been before. I'm very susceptible to becoming depressed if I'm not careful. It's been a learning process and I don't want to make this about me, but I think a lot of being able to live with it, is being able to talk about it. And that's kind of what I loved so much about this book. That even though he admits 100 times that he shouldn't have been depressed, that his life wasn't that bad, that he knows it sounds ridiculous, he's willing to be honest and say that he was. And I'm not a doctor, so I don't know where depression stems from, if it's genetic or circumstantial, but I think it's probably a little bit of both. I think it can happen to anyone.

So getting into the book, the #1 thing I really loved was his honesty. His story. As someone who writes about my own life (here, duh) I can appreciate how hard that is to do. Especially when you're not sure that anyone else will understand it. It was a somewhat simple story, and from an entertainment standpoint some might say it's quite boring actually. I mean, it's the story of a 19 year old normal kid. (Now 21.) He had somewhat of a dysfunctional family life, a friend passed at an early age, he had some bullying issues at school, but other than that it probably wasn't much different than the average teenage years we've all experienced. There weren't any big crazy dramatic moments or anything, so let's just say this book won't be made into a movie by any means, but it was really more focused on the words. The second thing I loved so much about this book was the way Kevin was able to explain things. I am not the best at descriptive writing, so I always appreciate it when I see it. Every emotion he went through, he explained it in a way that I could see it, if that makes any sense. For example when he describes being at his friends funeral he says, "The hurt I felt was horrible and heavy, like a weight lodged in the center of my chest; impossible to move or make sense of." So I think especially for someone who maybe can't personally relate to the kind of sadness that depression brings, he tells the story in a way that you can either visualize or physically feel it. I was really impressed with his story telling abilities.

I will say though that there were some parts that I thought may be fabricated, as I'm SURE there always are in these sort of books. He begins telling his story at a young age, before Kindergarten even, and the details he remembers just can't possibly be real. Again, I'm sure it's pretty standard to "fill in the blanks," or to add to the background story, but I just have to say that bothered me somewhat. I know it was partially to build his character and paint a picture of his family life, but I personally (again, personally) would have thought it much cooler to just start where he remembered.

One of the first things I noticed about the book was the spine (or maybe not the spine, but the side where the pages flip, whatever that side's called) was colored gray to black then to gray again. So I assumed when the book hit the black pages, that was where the story got really dark. And I was right. And not to be a horrible person, but that was my favorite part. It probably took me about equal time to get through the first 3/4 of the book as the last 1/4. I just flew through the last few chapters. And *SPOILER ALERT* he doesn't actually attempt suicide, although he wants to and even makes a plans to. So there wasn't this like huge moment, but the way he described how he felt when he couldn't take it anymore, was again, just amazing. The buildup to it, and then how after he decided not to the energy just drained from his body and he knew he couldn't live this way anymore. I could feel everything he was feeling. And from there the story just goes back up. He gets help. He learns how to be okay. And then he goes onto my favorite chapter in the entire book, the very last chapter titled - "thinking better thoughts." There's a reason he's becoming this "motivational" type speaker, and it's because he's good at it. I was reading through that last chapter highlighting e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Even for someone who doesn't have depression, he could get you pumped up about just living.

So while, I don't think his story is particularly going to go global, the conversation he's starting is. He's one of the first younger people to step up and talk about it, and I have to give a lot of credit to him for that. It's not easy to tell this sort of story...

"Almost killing yourself and then not doing so is a hard-to-define experience. On one hand, nothing really happened that night. I sat alone in my room, I wrote some stuff down on a piece of paper, and I thought about ending my life. Thought about it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. But I didn't do it. The whole thing felt surreal, as if it truly didn't happen. Truthfully, I think I was still in shock. It took me a long time to tell anyone at all about that night. Mainly because I realized it made me sound at best insane and at worst a liar in need of attention."

So there's not much bad I can say about a book that tells such honesty and talks about such a sensitive  and really needing subject. I give Kevin all the props for having the courage to stand up and tell his story. But again, I'd probably only recommend it to someone who is interested in the topic of mental health. But, I would recommend everyone follow him on social media, because not only is he super motivating, did I also mention he's a comedian? 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, obviously.

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