on March 15, 2016
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For four years, Melissa Broder has been tweeting funny but achingly sincere tidbits like, “I don’t feel at peace unless I’m torturing myself,” and, “the road to hell is you not texting me enough,” from the @sosadtoday Twitter account. Each tweet is an effort to connect, to entertain, and to score a tiny dopamine hit as the faves and retweets come rolling in — because her tweets are an effect of the very obsessions she is speaking about. In her book of essays, So Sad Today, Broder steps out from behind her Twitter handle to write about her struggles with anxiety, depression, and addiction in a deeply vulnerable way.
In “Honk If There’s a Committee in Your Head Trying to Kill You,” Broder writes about her attempts to shut out the internal voices incessantly reminding her how fucked she is. She tries alcohol and drugs, but she has to come down. She tries spiritual trinkets like Buddha statues and crystals before realizing, “In the temple it’s magic, but at home it just becomes more crap.” Finally, she finds meditation to be a useful way to find stillness and silence, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
“Google Hangout with My Higher Self” is exactly what it sounds like: an imaginary conversation between her anxiety and her rational mind. It’s so familiar to anyone who has tried to talk themselves out of their fears (“ok u need 2 chill the fuck out. u need 2 sit still”) only to realize that obsessing over small everyday bullshit is what keeps them from freaking out over existential doom.
In “Keep Your Friends Close But Your Anxiety Closer,” Broder writes about her fear of appearing vulnerable and the mask she wears in an attempt to control the way people perceive her.
She gets real about disordered eating, panic attacks, addiction to drugs and alcohol and the internet (she’s now sober), body image, fear of dying, her sexual fetish, and the tedium and tenderness of her open marriage to someone who has a chronic illness.
In a world where talking about mental illness is still taboo, books like So Sad Today are so important. I’m a firm believer in the power of books to build empathy, and Broder’s essays open a window into the life and mind of a woman whose brain chemistry makes getting through the day so much harder than it is for mentally healthy people. I related to some pieces and felt overwhelmed simply reading others.
Balancing out the mortal dread, fear, and insecurity is a darkly comic voice. As she writes of her Twitter account in the final essay, “I felt that in the reality of what I had experienced, it was a lot more helpful to just lie there and share experiences with others who understood. What worked for me was to maybe make myself laugh about my plight, and through the grace of the Internet, make other people laugh.” This book does that really well, using humor to build a bridge and encourage empathy.
I so highly recommend this book. It’s sad, it’s funny, and it will make you more human.