“Depression is formless, colorless, and odorless, and doesn’t show up on medical imaging.”
See all of those bookmarks? The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe was a delight to read. He makes a point early on to say that he hopes that this book helps people, that they highlight or bookmark and I certainly did that. 4.5/5 stars for me. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy to review. For those of you who are into podcasts, the author is actually a host of a podcast under the same name, which discusses depression with a bit of a comedic take.
First let me say, as someone who most certainly deals with depression, but has been too embarrassed to ever get screened for it… this book was extremely relatable. I felt as if John Moe plucked thoughts from my head. The more I read this book, the more I am convinced that there will come a point where I have to deal with it. He talks about how people with depression often think that if you are able to stop from getting worse, that you’ll be fine. No need for treatment, therapy, but also no improvement mentally. You become a standstill of numbness. He says often, we think the next big achievement in our life will make our depressive thoughts go away and then it follows us, and we think, “if I could only get to THIS POINT, I would be so much happier.” Then you get to that point and you’re not happier. That isn’t your fault, you’re not just pessimistic or an overachiever. You’re probably depressed or at least suffering mentally.
With such clarity and honesty, Moe talks about his journey of dealing with the idea of death. It started out as not wanting to be alive, but not actually wanting to kill himself. As his mental state worsens, he talks about contemplating killings himself and how he would do it. It might have been half serious, he might not have ever gone through with it, but that act itself is a cry for help in your own mind. If you think of how you would kill yourself in the most efficient way, that’s not a normal thing people think about when mentally stable. He even talks about his anger and guilt when his brother actually does kill himself in a manner that Moe felt like his previous writings may have influenced. People that commit suicide are people that have fallen to their illness. If someone dies from cancer, we say that their cancer killed them. When people kill themselves, others are angry or confused, like how could they have done that? How selfish? We don’t say, “their depression killed them” or “they fell prey to their illness” when it IS an illness. Moe drives this point home.
“Trauma is a wolf and your mind is a house and it’s like, “Oh, I’m safe from that wild because I trapped it in my house before it could hurt me.” But then a while later, it’s “Oh no! What happened to my house? My furniture is shredded and there’s wolf poop everywhere! How did that happen? Oh hey, I’m being mauled.”
What I love about this book is that it is so quotable. Moe talks in metaphors and through his experiences, because when it comes to depression, that’s what we’ve got. He teaches us through his traumas, through his reaction to them. He doesn’t paint himself better than he was or is, he talks about mistakes, moments of rage, moments of hilarity. He relates his comedic streak and self-deprecation to his depression, which is something not talked about enough. A lot of people hide mental insecurities and instability through humor. This is obviously a mask, a way to keep people from seeing the turmoil that lies underneath, but it made me really ponder… if we screened every comedian for depression, I wonder how high the statistics would favor positive for depression? Moe prods at this topic throughout his book and brought that question forth in my mind.
There was a part in this book that really stood out to me. I think we all know teachers have enough on their plates, we unfairly expect them to teach our kids EVERYTHING. So, I’m not pinning this on them and I don’t think THEY failed us, especially since they are following the curriculum that higher ups provide for them. Anyway, Moe talks about during his health classes, how depression or mental health was never brought up. I can relate to that, our health class was no more than a week block in a classroom near our PE class, and lightly covered STDs and the food pyramid. Now, it is definitely a parent’s job to teach all of this stuff. Sex Ed, proper nutrition, healthy ways to deal with mental health issues but if we are going to include health into the curriculum, it should include mental AND physical, as they’re equally important to our wellbeing. As a society, we do not prioritize mental health. We all fail each other when we view depression as taboo to speak about. My earlier mention of being embarrassed to be screened for depression is proof of that. Why am I embarrassed? Probably because I’ve been conditioned to think that way. It isn’t acceptable to succumb to your mental health even during tragedies, it seems. In college, there’s professors that don’t even view family death as an excuse to be late on an assignment. We are just taught throughout our lives that we need to be strong at all times, we live through war and watching death on the television. We saw people DIE on a live broadcast during 9/11 and we are all just supposed to be okay. We are supposed to happy all the time even though for generations now, we have lived with the threat of nuclear warfare hanging over our heads, which is something I never thought about until John Moe mentioned. I look around and I can say that there’s a pretty equal amount of mentally distressed and mentally healthy people in my life. Thankfully due to books and podcasts like this, our conversation is starting to turn to more acceptance and honesty in relation to mental instability even though we have a long way to go.
I get that this review has turned more into a think piece, but that’s what a good book should make you do. Honestly, I probably covered about 4 out of 20 highlights in a book that’s under 300 pages. I can’t quote every relatable thing he said. Well, I could but then I’d just be relaying the entire book to you when you should just read it for yourself. So here’s a long story short: John Moe takes a topic that is… well, depressing (because yes, talking about depression IS often as depressing and draining as it is therapeutic) and he makes it not seem like a chore. He brings laughter and moments of camaraderie to his writing. He makes you feel seen because of his own experiences and vocalization of those experiences and the thoughts that stem from them. Pick up this book if you suffer from depression or if you have a loved one that does, it is amazingly easy to read. It comes out May 5th!