Anything can be funny

Review and spoiler alert for Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I have not read their other works and didn’t really know what these essays were about. I never expected to have so much in common with Samantha Irby! (I am obviously very flattered). I never thought I would find so much solace in finding a piece of me in this incredibly witty book. But I do and I did. This book is hilarious, I was straight up laughing – real laughing, not just a puff of air. The humor is unexpected and delightful. From the dedication to the acknowledgment, the jokes are non-stop. Some are subtle, just casually strewn in and some quiet elaborate.

This review is not humorous because I am just not a funny person. I like to think I have a good sense of humor but I can’t tell a joke to save my life. Below you will find some serious talk about underlying themes, topics and issues talked about in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the author did a great job with how they tackled chronic health issues, racism and poverty as funnily and poignantly as they did.

It was a very nice change of pace to read about some very serious issues in a dark-humor setting. I learned a lot, laughed even more and cried a little bit. If that doesn’t make a great book, I don’t know what does.

Here’s the thing, I did not grow up poor. Neither was I rich. I grew up in a very typically average middle class family in a third world country. I don’t claim to know the struggles of being an orphan or poor or black in America. That’s not what this is about. My childhood was traumatic, I am fat, I have a chronic illness and extreme anxiety. These are some overarching themes in the book that made me feel seen. This is what representation should look and feel like.

Maybe I am naïve to think everything in the essays is real, I am pretty sure it is – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, someone out there (someone as brilliant as Samantha Irby no less) has had these thoughts and feelings even if it is just a part of their imagination. I am not questioning their experiences or claiming they are untrue – I am just saying for me, it doesn’t matter. I am able to relate and appreciate either way.

Let’s talk about some of my favorite essays. If you are short on time but want to read some, these are the essays I would strongly recommend.

Hung up! – from casual straight people racism to gun-toting maga idiots. Honestly, I had not realized how much casual racism exists in American culture and have only recently been educating myself. From nonchalant talk of ‘ghettos’ to curly hair unprofessionalism; from being denied AirBnB reservations to white women marveling at the fact that you can read (in my case, people seem fascinated with how well I speak English. Do you know India was ruled by the British for over two centuries? Like we don’t go to school on elephants). Going from that to scary fascists who might shoot you just for existing.

I was going to say Love and Marriage but since I am picking my favorites, I am going to have to go with Are you familiar with my work? – This is one had me in splits. I am sure it is flattering to be confused with Roxane Gay but pretty sure that would get old real fast.

My absolute favorite is A guide to simple home repairs. I don’t own a home, never have and never will. I refuse to buy real estate for many reasons. Mainly, I would feel nailed down, caged sort of. I prefer being able to up and move to another country as easily as possible, if I wanted to. However, I didn’t even know half the things that goes into owning a home. I am going to print this essay out (credited of course) and give it to people who seem entitled to give me their constant advice about real estate.

Hello, 911? This essay is pretty much my anxiety in written form. There are some different ways that I particularly experience anxiety. Yes, I do the thing where I imagine the worst possible outcome for every situation – but I also continue to validate this when one of those outcomes is true. I mean, it is just simple probability. If I imagined everything that could go wrong, some of it will go wrong at some point. I am learning to unlearn this terrible habit. Most of my day is spent in a flight, fight or freeze state. I am not only constantly second guessing myself but when I do experience moments of self-confidence and do something, I end up obsessing over it for hours. This spike in adrenaline is associated with panic attacks and this is why I just can’t get on rollercoasters or watch scary movies or river rafting – it’s just not fun for me. I am conditioned to or rather, I have conditioned myself to this association. Second hand anxiety is a real thing. I do get anxious for the protagonists in movies or TV shows, for strangers on the road, for fictional characters in books. It definitely is exhausting.

Oh also, I did get this book from the library but I intend on gifting it to one of my friends! I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Have you read anything by Samantha Irby? Are you going to? Let me know!

Depression

Some days are good and some days are bad. You never know when a bad day is going turn into a horrible day, seep into the next and the next – all of a sudden you have had a bad week or a bad month. All of us experience our depression in various forms. We all have our telltale signs of the impending doom. I never seem to see it coming though, I always see the signs after the fact.

It starts with a disinterest in taking a shower, I go days without showering and after the first three days, I start to lose interest in everything – I watch my favorite show, do my favorite activities but I am disconnected. It is as if I am going through the motions like a dream, it’s a habit – wake up, go to work, talk to my loved ones and all the while I am disconnected. I don’t realize anything is wrong until this moment when I can’t get up off the couch or the bed. I realize I have been sitting or laying down for hours; without really engaging, without really thinking, just sitting there. The final, worst stage is a complete lack of interest in food.

It’s this huge gaping whole in the middle of my body. Every breath is like breathing black smoke that only adds fuel to the ever growing darkness inside of me. When I was single, I just stewed in my head, letting the feeling wash all over me. I had a job that allowed me to work from home. I slept with my laptop. I woke up, logged in, worked in bed, ate junk food trying to fill the hole, logged off work, watched TV and fell asleep watching TV. I stayed indoors for days, had food delivered, never even opened the windows or the blinds. It was an ordeal trying to get out of the funk. I forced myself to cook or take a shower. I talked to my therapist, made plans with my friends and the good days would return. Or it would be something mundane that kicked me out of it: it’s incredible that while my brain is buried deep under a cloud of sorrow, my body is still running through it’s functions. I get hungry, I get sleepy, I have to use the bathroom. I realize I am taking a lot for granted, being alive and healthy in my body is a gift.

It has been a few years, and I have learned to manage my depression, doctors found the root cause and things are a lot better for sure. There are still bad days but they are few and far between. The darkness and the chasm are all too familiar, so much so that sometimes when I am having a particularly bad day, I feel comforted. Relieved in some ways and the relief is immediately followed by guilt because what am I doing? Finding relief and comfort in my depression?

I am in a relationship now and it is both harder and easier dealing with the bad days. It is hard when my partner finds me vegging – I feel I am letting them down, it is hard when they ask me to talk to them – I don’t want to be vulnerable, it is hard to maintain self-esteem and to function. But now, I remind myself – I am not broken, I am not a failure. It is okay to be depressed, it is okay to have bad days, it is okay to feel bad. This will pass, I will feel better, I will function and there will be good days again. I practice the tips and tricks my therapist taught me, I keep myself engaged in constructive, creative activities and I remind myself that I am human. I try to stay healthy in body and mind and I know that a bad day is not something to dread.

P.S. This was a difficult post to write. Talking about mental health is not easy, sharing your story to strangers is not easy. I hope I can spread some awareness, some comradery and some love.