Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Funny Thing About Depression

[For the record, I bought this book myself and have never communicated with Danny Evans. I'm telling you about it simply because I loved it and think it would make a great Christmas gift.]

Since I started blogging, my book-reading has taken a back seat. These days, I'm lucky to get two books in per year. I just finished reading a terrific book (Rage Against the Meshugenah), and it only took me about three months. Really, while my job, social/volunteer activities and blogging interfered with my finishing the book, I couldn't not finish it (and not because I'm one of those people who can't start a book and not finish it, because I'm not. Case in point, The Shack. Sorry!!!)  I love that I could just keep picking the book up and enjoying it, no matter where I had left off. It's like when you're eating something you love so much that you only take little bites (and then hide it away) in order to make it last longer, I guess.

Rage Against the Meshugenah (loosely translated as "Fight Against the Crazy"), a Memoir by Danny Evans, is a treat. It's about a guy (actually, a blogger from Dad Gone Mad) who fell into a deep, life-altering depression after 9/11 (and losing his job) and how he got through it. Doesn't sound like entertaining reading material, I know, but I laughed hard (out loud) every single time I sat down with this book, and I am not exaggerating. Danny's writing style is "moving, funny, and relentlessly honest." He brings the subject of clinical depression into the light, yes, but also writes about being a father and husband in a way that everyone can relate to.

The writing style in this book is also sort of blog-like; it's kind of like a series of posts, which is maybe why it was so easy to pick up after weeks of not reading.  The "voice" in Danny's writing is delightful and disarming; I loved the way he often caught me by surprise and cracked me up. I laughed out loud regularly through this book.  (Reading it in public places often resulted in strangers looking at me funny and asking me what I was reading.)

There are serious parts to the book, of course...

What's hard about depression is the sad but incontrovertible reality that you won't be better tomorrow. Or the next day. When you lie down to sleep, you do so with the knowledge that you will still be depressed when you awaken, and that's a pretty miserable way to live. You forget how it feels to be the way you were before you were depressed. How it feels to be normal.

But there is also plenty of humor, too. For example, Danny often takes you back to his childhood....

One morning in ninth grade, Eugene Ellerbe stabbed me in the gut with a mechanical pencil. Pretty hard-core pugnacity for a meek towheaded little dweeb like Eugene, whose fiercest act of aggression theretofore had been wiping a booger on Burno Demattias's backpack after Bruno broke Eugene's high score on Donkey Kong.

...You never recover from something like that. Nerds start out with a severe street cred deficit as it is, but I learned that year that it's possible to retreat even further from coolness. Even the other members of the geek squad chose not to associate with me, and trust me: you haven't known sorrow until kids with dandruff, pocket protectors, and a tendency to snort when they laugh think you're beneath them. When ninth grade finally drew to an end and the school yearbook came out, I was voted "Most Likely to Die Without Ever Having Kissed a Girl That Wasn't His Mom."

Danny had a love hate relationship with his faith growing up, (well, really hate), and a strong love of baseball. Even though I'm not Jewish and pretty much have no clue about Judaism, I found Danny's suggested improvements for temple entertaining:

2. Concession stands would do wonders for the enjoyment of temple congregants. Jews love to eat, and there's just something about seeing the Torah that makes me want some nachos or a Slushie or a package of Red Vines. The concessions stand will need to sell $8 cups of watered-down Manischewitz wine instead of watered-down beer, but just like at the ballgame, people will probably sneak their own brew into services by hiding it in their purses.

With the help of medication, therapy, and his wife and kids, Danny made it through the darkest days of his life. If anything good can come of clinical depression, Rage Against the Meshugenah is it. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs, humor, and/or has been touched some way by depression in their lives.  It's a winner.

P.S. And if you're a book author looking for someone to write a book review, please do not take this as a suggestion to send me a copy of yours, because seriously, it would just be added to the ever-growing stack that began last year and is threatening to knock me out some night as I sleep. I love to read, but blogs are my favorite genre these days, and I don't get to enough of those, either. (exception: you, Melisa! Where's my advance copy?! I could have it read by August!:)

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