are a lot like one-night stands: Most of us have had one
or two, but few people actually turn them into something
substantial. For Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, writing
musings on the Internet is a full-time job and has
spawned two books, "Let’s Pretend This Never
Happened" and now "Furiously Happy: A Funny
Book About Horrible Things."
Texas native has been blogging for a decade, writing
about her wild childhood, her father’s taxidermy
practice, her menagerie of crazy pets. Readers flock to
catch up on her latest silly row with her husband,
Victor, to laugh at Lawson’s parenting missteps, to
check out the latest animal she has forever preserved
and mounted on her wall. Side note: she only has animals
stuffed if she is certain that they died of natural
causes, as is the case with the excited raccoon on the
book cover; it was hit by a car.
few years into blogging, Lawson revealed to her readers
that she suffered from mental health issues. In
"Furiously Happy" (Flatiron, $26.99) she
explains her diagnosis: "high-functioning
depressive with severe anxiety disorder, moderate
clinical depression, and mild self-harm issues that stem
from an impulse control disorder." Throw in
avoidant personality disorder, depersonalization
disorder, a little rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune
issues and "sprinkled in like paprika over a
mentally unbalanced deviled egg, are things like mild
OCD and trichotillomania — the urge to pull one’s
hair out — which is always nice to end on because
whenever people hear the word ‘mania’ they
automatically back off and give you more room on crowded
ability to balance hilarity with vulnerability, to
mediate between being the comic heroine of her stories
and offering an honest portrait of living with mental
illness, has elevated her to a literary force that
Hollywood would like to lure.
Did you always write about mental health issues on your
It wasn’t until several years into blogging that I
came out with the fact that I was struggling with mental
health issues. At the time whenever I would go into a
depression, which typically lasts a week or two weeks, I
can’t do anything. My only goal is to survive. During
those times — I would never know when they were going
to come, it’s just a chemical imbalance — I would
have drafts written of things that were funny that I
could use on those weeks when things were completely
awful and I would think, "I’m going to die."
So I’d post these things and everyone would be like
"You’re so funny! You’re hilarious." It
felt like I was living this horrible lie.
How hard is it for you to go on a book tour or promote
your work with your condition?
It’s really difficult and really rewarding. I learned
a lot about what my limitations are with the last tour.
I have an amazing editor and agent, and they are so
understanding so they are going to come with me and
chaperone me. For a long time I felt like a failure
because there were some things I couldn’t do that
normal people do, but then I realized that there are
things I can do that normal people can’t do.
had the medical TED people approach me about doing a
talk. I was like, "Do you know what I do?" It
was funny too, I won last year a big award for breaking
stigma for mental health, the NoStigmas Hero Award, and
they wanted me to come to a gala with a red carpet and
celebrities. And I was like "What? No! That sounds
awful!" I asked if I could just Skype in and accept
the award in my house, and I can talk about the fact
that finding out what your limitations are can be a
really good thing. So that’s what I did, and it worked
really well for everyone.
Have you been approached to do other things with your
I’ve had a lot of offers to turn it into a movie or TV
shows and this and that. And every time, I take the
call, I take the meeting, every time I do it because I
think this could be really funny to write about. So like
when NBC offered to do a pilot I said, "I will only
do it if you bring ‘Rags to Riches’ back because I
need to see what happened to those orphans." Don
Cheadle’s company reached out and said they were
interested in talking, and I said, "Well, only if
Don Cheadle plays me because I think he has range."
ABC Family came, and my book is filled with profanity.
There’s absolutely no way. They enjoyed the weirdness
and the irreverence, and they got the character, and so
they got closest. They were like, "So you can come
down and be one of our writers, and we’ll get you a
studio apartment." I was like "Oh no, I don’t
ever want to go to California."
The blessing and curse of having a blog is direct
contact with readers. What is the ratio of love to hate
that you get?
I am so extraordinarily lucky that I get almost no
negative comments. When I do, they’re really, really
bad. I do occasionally get people who are like "I
want to rape you to death." And what I do with
those people, and I feel bad about it, in my blog your
first comment goes to moderation and people who leave
those comments want to come back and see you get really
mad. I’ll take the comment, and I’ll change it to
"I want to be more like you. You are what I aspire
to be!" Then they’ll come back and write "I
never wrote that!" Then I’ll change that comment
to "I wish I could wear your skin like a jacket. My
God, you’re amazing." I’ve never had to do it
more than three times, and they get lost.