Wednesday Book Review: Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Mentions rape once, give no details.

Regardless of how you feel about J.K. Rowling, which in my case varies daily, sometimes you can find nuggets of gold in her writing. While I don’t agree with her on a fundamental level, I will tend to still read her books if I can find them used or at the library. My thoughts are, she’s already made enough money to never need again, so if I can find something of use in her words I will. So when I found this short book at my local library I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I am so glad that I did.

Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling is another short read I’ve decided to review for you guys. (For those of who have ADHD short reads are sometimes the best.) This book is a speech Rowling delivered to a Harvard Graduating class, which was then published to help raise money for her charity Lumos. I love reading inspiring speeches and this one touched on a few amazing topics that I think everyone should hear.

First J.K. Rowling talks about the lesson of failure and how it can teach you about yourself. Seven years after her own graduation she was a jobless, single mother, doing the best she could to keep from being homeless. Her marriage had exploded and she was living a life of poverty that she had never understood before. 

“I was the biggest failure I knew.”

But from this failure, she found hope in herself. She realized just how strong-willed she was and how many friends she actually had. During this time, she also decided that she would finally become the famous author we know today.

The next lesson she teaches us is the importance of imagination. Not in the sense of creating a world of wizards, but of imagination that comes in the form of empathy. Before Harry Potter, she worked for a company called Amnesty International.

“Amnesty mobilizes thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have.”

During her time with Amnesty, she witnessed hundreds of cases of torture, kidnapping, and rape. She saw the darkest part of humanity, but she also saw the brightest. She realized that humans have this amazing gift, this power to imagine someone else’s pain, even though they had never been through the same pain themselves.

I love the passion in her speech and the power behind her words. I’m so glad that they decided to publish this and that I got the chance to read it! I found this book inspiring and plan to read it again the next time I feel like a failure.

Time for a Come Back

Sometime in March, right when all of this COVID 19 stuff started to really hit Arkansas I had minor melt down. I has a lease that was about to run out, friends and family who could die from this disease, and a job in the food industry. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be working or even able to have a stable roof over my head. That with a mixture of my therapy getting deeper and deeper into my PTSD caused me to be overwhelmed with everything.

The easy solution to this was to cut out “unnecessary” things to reduce my personal work load and ease my stress in any areas that I could. Which meant that I had to give up my beloved podcast for a short amount of time. On March 14th I made a tweet about what was going on and then just kind of disappeared while I tried to get my life back together. Luckily I was able to keep my job, find a new place to stay, and I have yet to lose any loved ones to this pandemic.

With the recent BLM marches, and a little bit of a push from friends and family, I have decided it’s time to get back to work! The Gift Of Dysfunction will have a new episode, all on the mental benefits of taking a break, coming out next Friday, July 3rd. In addition, Ive decided it’s time to bring back The Empathy Bug.

The Empathy Bug was my first podcast, and it was dedicated to bringing empathy into the world. The problem was I didn’t have a clear picture of how to do that and I kind of burnt myself out before I really even got started. With the current events going on in America I had an idea. Why not use that platform to educate those on past and current events that have caused suffering. In order to truly understand what a person is going through you have to know where they are coming from, learning their story is the easiest way to do that.

As a white woman who can’t go out to protests because of my mental illnesses, there are a few things I feel like it’s my duty to do in order to help give a voice to those who are begging to be heard. One, is to vote… But that’s obvious. The second, is to speak out in daily life. And the third, is to use what ever platforms I have to give a voice to the stories that are swept over and ignored. I’m going to try and do just that with The Empathy Bug, and if I can help just one person understand why we need a change in our system I will have done my job.

But, I know that’s not why you follow this blog. This podcast and blog is about mental health, and while the world around you does greatly affect that, it’s not something that everyone wants to think about when learning how to cope. So I promise that outside of this post explaining my actions I will not cross the topics again. Anyone who wants to hear me stand on my soap box and preach about basic human rights is more than welcome to tune in on July 10th when I relaunch my old podcast.

Thank you all so much for sticking with me while I was gone these past few months. This break has given me time to clear my head and really get a grasp on what I want to do with my podcasting career and my future. I love you all and I will see you next week.

When they reach out to you for help…

Normally on Wednesday’s I do a book review, however something more important came up yesterday that I thought we should discuss instead.

Trigger warning: Suicide

Around 3pm yesterday I got a Facebook message that I pray I never get again. “I’m going to kill myself. You were awesome.” My heart stopped, I couldn’t breath, and all I wanted to do was save my friend.

I was at work when this happened, and I’m so grateful that my bosses understood what I was going though. They let me hide in the office until I could make sure he was safe and sound.

But I realized, as I was going through the steps to find my friend, that not everyone knows what to do when they get a text like that. So I thought I would give you a step by step guide on how to handle suicide attempts.

1. Breath! You are not responsible for another person’s life and you can’t help anyone if you’re in the middle of a crisis. This is a step I always forget to do, which was made very clear as I had a full blown panic attack in the middle of the restaurant.

2. Try to figure out where they are. If you can get them to answer you stay on the line with them as long as you can. Get them talking and figure out where they are. If you have to call other people and work together to find them.

3. Get help to them. Rather it’s you or an ambulance, get help to them ASAP. If you know for a fact you can talk them down and it’s safe for you to go, do so. But if there is any chance you won’t make it in time please call 911 first. In my case, my friend would not answer his phone. It took me a while to figure out where he was at, but as soon as I did I got police on the way.

4. Don’t worry about them being mad at you. I would rather you be mad than dead. They will get over it because they know that you just want them to be safe.

5. Breath! Once you’ve followed all of the above steps and you know they are safe please take time to take care of yourself. The thought of losing someone is traumatizing and you need to take care of yourself as soon as you can.

6. Follow up with them. Check in as soon as you can, make sure they are okay, and offer support. Recommend therapy options in a nonjudgmental way. Let them know that your still there for them and that you don’t think any less of them. This is a hard thing for everyone involved and everything said should be from a place of love.

I hope this helps you in the off chance you ever get that phone call or text. I pray that you don’t, but I understand that the world just doesn’t work like that sometimes.

If you’re feeling suicidal and you need help but don’t feel safe calling friends or family please call your local emergency services or suicide hotline. There is always someone who can help.

https://www.dosomething.org/us/about/hotline-list

Episode Five: What is PTSD?

Trigger Warning: This episode mentions suicide and rape.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been struggling with depression and mental illness. I honestly thought it was normal for everyone to want to die all the time, because it seemed to me like everyone in my life was unhappy. It wasn’t until I got out into the real world that I truly started to understand just how insane my life was.

Around the age of 23 I was diagnosed with PTSD, among other things. It was here that I started realizing how much of my daily life was being effected by trauma I had gone through. It was here that my healing journey began.

In this episode of The Gift of Dysfunction I’m going to explain a little bit more about the trauma I went through, as well as what exactly PTSD is. This was not an easy episode for me to record so I do apologize if I’m all over the place. Regardless, give it a listen and let me know what you think!

Wednesday Book Review: In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Triggers: None

In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It is a cute little read, and I mean little. This book is only 45 pages long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not holding a powerful message. This isn’t your normal self-help book. She’s not trying to teach you a million ways to make your life better or to tell you that you’re not trying hard enough. She’s just a woman who’s sharing her story in the hope that it makes yours just a little bit easier.

Lauren Graham, the actress from Gilmore Girls, shares with us a small bit of her life story to help us see that worrying about it doesn’t help anything. Lauren started her acting career in High School, getting a few minor roles, as well as the lead role in their performance of Hello, Dolly!. However, in her Senior year the worry monster took over and she started to lose her spark.

She became so worried about what role she had and what the crowd saw that she forgot to get lost in her acting and to enjoy the job she was doing. This monster followed her all the way onto Broadway, where she was played Miss Adelaide (my favorite character) in Guys and Dolls. Even here, living her dream, she felt out of place.

Because of this, her acting suffered. She wasn’t doing a bad job, but she wasn’t giving it her all either. She was so worried about every little detail that she wasn’t truly playing her role. Then one day she decided not to care anymore.

“Once I stopped worrying so much about pleasing others, once I decided to let myself off the hook, I realized I could fly.”

Her story continues on, but the message stays the same. If you’re to busy worrying about how you’re living your life, you won’t actually get to live it! And I love how openly and honestly she talks about her journey to this nugget of truth.

The only problem I had with this book was that her writing style and humor confused me a little. There were a few times where I didn’t quite understand what she was trying to say and I had to reread it. This didn’t take away from the story at all, just made it a little harder for me to read.

Regardless, I loved this book! Lauren writes with an upbeat, whimsical tone that truly sends the message home. I recommend this book for anyone who worries just a little too much.

Wednesday Book Review: Unfu*k Yourself By Gary John Bishop

Hey guys, I’m back with Wednesday Book Reviews! I took a little bit of time off because I was still getting used to this new medication and I wanted to give myself some time to adjust. I’m finally stable enough that I can actually get some writing done and I’m so excited! So here we go, my review of Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Book Triggers: None

Unfu*k Yourself is a self-help book that is made to help you “Get out of your head and into your life.” Warning, this book is not for every. Gary himself even warns that “If you’re easily offended, stop reading now”. He very brutally and honestly tells you to accept the fact that you are not a victim of circumstance, but your mindset. As much as my past wants me to argue with this, he may be right. My sister and I had the same childhood, deal with some same issues, and have the same problems with our parents. I can’t talk to my mom without having a breakdown and she calls her almost weekly. The only difference between us is the mindset we had growing up.

My first impression of this book was that I wasn’t going to like it. That it was going to sound like everyone else in my life that doesn’t understand mental illness. That he was gonna say “Just be happy” and move on. I was wrong. While this book is about getting over yourself Gary knows that it’s not always the easiest thing to do. He often says that sometimes his advice is easier said than done and that you have to start small at first. “try breaking the task down into smaller declarations of willingness to ‘stand up,’ ‘get out of bed,’ ‘open my email,’ etc.” 

The first question Gary asks you is, are you willing? Are you willing to change your life? Are you willing to be stuck at this same dead-end job? Are you willing to be in this toxic relationship? According to this book, our life is the way it is because we are willing to live with it, and that’s okay. I love that while he’s trying to push you to change, he also understands that sometimes you just aren’t willing to. He knows that our mental illness and outside influences get in the way of us living the life we want. All he expects of you in this book is to admit what control of your life you do have and do your best to grab the wheel.

Next, he reminds us that our life is the way it is because of our mindset. We are made to win, but we don’t always win the prize we want. If we think we are bad at relationships and we are unworthy of love, our mind will cause us to act in ways to prove that to be true. The same can be said for our careers, our finances, our health, etc. We can change the prize by changing the way we think.

Unf*ck Yourself has to be one of the most honest self-help books I’ve read in a long time. It made me uncomfortable, angry and motivated all at once. Many times throughout this book I wanted to argue with him. I wanted to tell him he was wrong and I can’t help the way that I am, but I realized he was right. “By defending your circumstances as they are right now, you are actually making a case for being where you are. Give it up.”

Gary doesn’t expect you to get past your issues overnight. He just tells you that if you don’t try it will never change, and he’s not wrong. The progress I’ve made in my healing is purely because I decided I didn’t like the way I was acting, where my life was, and who I was around. The only way you can get better is by deciding you’re ready to take the steps to get better. This book is a brutal reminder of that.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is in the middle of their healing journey. This is not a book for those who are still in denial or just not really ready for change. This book is not about being positive every day, it’s about accepting that life sucks and doing what you need to do regardless. So buy this book, read it until you throw it across the room, then pick it up and read it again.

Episode 4: What are the 5 Love Languages?

I know, Valentine’s day is all about couples, right? For those single people out there it’s got to get annoying quickly! So even though this episode is coming out on Valentine’s Day I didn’t want today’s episode to be only about couples, though I do touch on the subject a little bit. I know that I don’t just have couples listening to my podcast and I want to make sure that everyone can relate to every episode, at least in some way.

So what subject did I pick to unite us all together? The 5 Love languages! I know, that sounds like a couples only topic, but it’s really not. You may not realize it but use your love language every day to communicate self love, your friends, co-workers, family, and even strangers. In today’s episode I’m going to explain how knowing your love language will help you show love to yourself in a deeper way.

Sources:

https://www.5lovelanguages.com/

Episode Three: What are antidepressants?

So you may or may not have noticed but I haven’t really posted anything on here in almost three weeks… That’s because I’ve been allowing myself to adjust to this new medication my doctor has put me on. Going from no medication at all to trying one or two new ones can knock you on your butt for a few weeks, but it’s worth it in the long run! Last week’s episode of The Gift of Dysfunction goes into why that is and what exactly antidepressants are.

Episode Two: What is Autophobia?

On today’s episode of The Gift of Dysfunction I talk about a phobia that I’ve struggled with for a long time, autophobia, the fear of being alone. This anxiety disorder is the irrational fear of being alone, unloved, and or unwanted.

I started showing symptoms of this phobia as a teenager, never wanting to fully be alone and clinging to my boyfriend as much as possible. As I got older this lead me into abusive relationships, bad situations, and someone being a workaholic. Through a lot of hard work I’ve gotten a hundred times better than I used to be, but I still have a ways to go before I’m done with this phobia for good.

If you think you might, or know someone who might, have autophobia please encourage them or yourself to speak to a therapist and get help today!

Wednesday Book Review On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Book Triggers: None

Honestly, this is not the type of book I ever planned on reviewing for this blog, but it was too amazing to pass up. I picked up this book, On Bullshit, while looking through one of the self-help sections in the library near my house. I thought it was funny that someone wrote a book that was just about the word bullshit. I figured it would be a short read that would tickle my odd sense of humor and I was right, what I did not expect was to actually learn a lot about myself from this book.

On Bullshit was an essay written by Hank G. Frankfurt in 1986, which was later published as a book in 2005. Frankfurt’s goal was to define what bullshit actually was and why it seemed like there was more of it going on in 1986 than in the past. This essay holds up well today, where it feels like everyone is always trying to sell us something we may or may not want.

The first thing I learned in this book was that the word humbug is an actual word and has nothing to do with Christmas. I always thought it was just something Scrooge said, as a child, I never actually wondered what the meaning was. According to the Oxford dictionary, it means “deceptive or false talk or behavior.” Who knew?

Anyway, Frankfurt goes on to recant Max Black’s essay, The Prevalence of Humbug. In this essay Black describes“a Fourth of July orator, who goes on bombastically about ‘our great and blessed country, whose Founding Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind.’ This is surely humbug.” I don’t know why, but the thought of someone calling this humbug made me laugh so hard. He explains that it is only humbug because the man does not care rather or not what he says is true, just that you think this is his core belief. Frankfurt goes on to explain that while humbug and bullshit are similar, they are not the same thing.

There are more examples like this throughout this book that just tickle me to the bone. He goes on to explain the meanings of bull, bull session, and even excrement it’s self. There is a very serious part where he compares excrement to speaking hot air” and I almost died. This book is not meant to be funny in any way and is very educational, but I can not get over the fact that someone wrote a whole essay on the meaning of bullshit.

What really made me want to review this book is how he explains the difference between an honest person, a liar, and a bullshitter. “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth.” An honest person knows the truth and speaks it, a liar knows the truth and tries to make you believe something else. While a bullshitter does not care if what they say is true or not, just how they are perceived. He goes way deeper in the book, but reading his comparisons made me think about how many times I’ve bullshitted my way through things that I didn’t have to. I do it as a defense mechanism, to protect myself from judgment. But is that something I really have to do?

Frankfurt goes on to explain why it feels like there is so much bullshit in the world today. While this was written in 1986 it still holds true for one very important reason. “Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.” He goes on to say that we live in a world where you are expected to have an opinion on everything, even more so with politics. There may also be times in your career and life where you may be expected to speak on things you know nothing about, so you have to bullshit your way through it.

Overall, this is a very dry read. It was an essay written for Princeton University, after all. With that being said, it’s a great little book. It may seem odd to look for answers about yourself in a book that’s only exists to define the word bullshit, but we have to remember that anything can spark a moment of self-reflection. I highly recommend this book, not just for the educational bits, but also for the philosophy behind it. Who knows, maybe you’ll realize you’ve been a bullshitter all along.