The title of this book is perfect, and it got my attention with the obvious incongruity that turn the depressed mindset on its head. It turns out that John Moe had podcast through Minnesota Public Radio of the same name. All of the episodes are still available, but ironically the show was cancelled due to budget cuts right about the same time that this book came out.
John Moe has dealt with depression both in his own life and with his family, and he is frank and generous with his stories. He compensated for his depression by turning to humor, and many of his idols growing up were in the comedy field.
Moe divides the world up into "normies" and "saddies" based on their experience with "clinny D" as he calls it. Listeners to his show call themselves "THWODballs" in honor of the abbreviation for the show.
This book is Moe's autobiography, telling the story of how he coped with depression as a child by watching Carol Burnett and other comedians. His father was an alcoholic and his childhood was a sad one. He details his employment at Amazon during its early days, where he suffered from "imposter syndrome", afraid that he'd be found out as a fraud at any time.
And even though Moe gets married and things look promising, the book gets very dark as his depression worsened and he began thinking about suicide, specifically detailing his idea to jump off a bridge near his home. Luckily this prodded him to go into therapy for the first real time, (he had briefly spoken with therapists before.) He started on Zoloft and was on the mend when the book and his life takes a dark turn.
Moe's older brother Rick, who had been in and out of rehab for years, kills himself, throwing the family into chaos. Even worse, Rick shot himself at a shooting range, having gotten the idea from his brother John, who had told him about others who had done just that. With this guilt hanging over his head, John lapses into the biggest crisis of his life, trying to reconcile his feelings of guilt, anger, and extreme sadness.
Moe speaks honestly about how he deals with his guilt, depression, and PTSD from this tragedy, detailing visits to therapists and group therapies. The event inspired him to move across the country from Washington state to Minnesota and start going into radio. Pain doesn't go away, Moe states, it evolves.
The one therapy that seemed help him the most was eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, also known as EMDR. This fairly new therapy uses eye movements to lessen the impact of traumatic events and has shown promise, especially with PTSD symptoms.
The last part of the book is devoted to his podcast and how he created it. I love the idea of a comedic look at depression, walking the fine line between laughter and sadness with every episode. Moe found famous comedians to go on his show and talk about their own struggles with mental illnesses of all types. Interviewees included Patton Oswalt, Jameela Jamil, Chris Gethard, Mike Birbiglia, Whitney Cummings, Pete Holmes, Margaret Cho, Wil Wheaton, and many others I had never heard of. This was a side of celebrity I had never heard from on the nightly talk shows and made all these people more human and relatable. Moe is an excellent interviewer and gets people to open up to the real and relatable difficulties of their lives.
In addition, Moe engages with his audience, most of whom are dealing with issues themselves, and many of them appear on the podcast in various episodes. I had to check out the podcast for myself as I had never heard of it before, and the episodes were powerful and engaging.
I can't really do this book and podcast justice with a simple review. It's one of the best and most honest descriptions of mental illness I've ever come across. The book mostly covers Moe's bouts with depression and PTSD, but the podcast delves into a variety of mental illnesses that the various guests had to confront.
It saddens me that the podcast was cancelled so suddenly, but I'm grateful there are four years worth of podcast episodes still available to listen to, and no shortage of networks for mentally ill people to engage with each other on.
Moe now has a new podcast named Depresh Mode that's available on most podcast platforms, and he picks up with the same types of deep dives into mental health. From his new blog- "Honest, humane conversations with top artists, entertainers, and experts about what it’s like to live with an interesting mind. No shame, no stigma, and more laughs than you might expect from a mental health podcast."
Moe ends his book with a list of nine things he's learned. Here they are.
1- People want to talk, and we need to be open to it.
2- Everyone is a fraud in some way, they are putting on a face to hide it.
3- Don't devalue those with mental illness. (Mary is experiencing depression, not Mary is a depressed person.)
4- Privilege is real. Be aware of your own privileges and more empathetic of other's struggles.
5- It's not your fault- no one chooses to be depressed.
6- You can't achieve your way out of mental illness.
7- The past matters.
8- There are no tidy endings.
9- Say "yes" to the world.
If you want to see him go over these on You Tube, click below.