Being sad is yucky. Being happy is way much better! But that’s not how Life works, especially for people who struggle with mental illness. It is usually surprising for us to realize that notable funny people are struggling with private demons (think Robin Williams.) This is how I felt when I picked up my copy of Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, and found the pages filled with some of my favorite humor bloggers. These are hilarious people, who keep me laughing every day, and I had no idea that they struggle with their own obstacles from having a mental illness diagnosis.
I just had to find out more about the creators of this incredible book!
The Malleable Mom: Jessica Azar and Alyson Herzig, thank you so much for sitting down with me to answer some of my burning questions! I know how busy you both are managing your families and your writing careers. First of all, how do you know each other, and how did you decide to collaborate?
Jessica Azar: I had seen Alyson’s writing for a while, and loved her humor pieces. When she wrote her piece “The Moment the Panic Began,” I felt a kinship with her, having battled my own mental illness for a long time. I sent her a private Facebook message to say I appreciated her honesty and willingness to be open about this matter, and that I would love to chat if she ever needed to vent to someone who understands. And then we got married.
Alyson Herzig: Yes, she is one of my blog harem now.
MM: Ooh, can I be a sister wife? OK, next question: was humor a coping skill of yours before you were diagnosed with a mental illness, or did you have to consciously choose it?
AH: I’d say I consciously choose it. For the longest time I was caught up in the negative things in life. The things that constantly went wrong, seemed to only happen to me, or left me shaking my head and saying aloud, “You can’t make this shit up!” I realized I could laugh about the many disastrous things, or mope. I choose to laugh, and it has been liberating. And that’s how my blog The Shitastrophy was born.
JA: I have always used humor in a myriad of ways: as a coping mechanism when I was bullied, and as a way to defend myself against others who didn’t appreciate me for who I am. I learned that humor keeps everything from turning gray and black, and can breathe the life back into nearly every situation, so it became like a tank of oxygen for me in confronting my mental illness.
MM: What is the best thing about having your diagnosis?
JA: It was freeing to be able to put a label of sorts on it, and to be validated that I wasn’t just “weak” or imagining things.
AH: I have met a lot of people online I would most likely never have met if it wasn’t for my illness. Also, I think it has helped me understand those in my life who also have mental illness. I have more compassion for their journey then I did initially.
MM: So, what is the hardest thing?
AH: Moving forward. I know what triggers my attacks, however I refuse to allow them to dictate my life so I push through the panic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I am a control freak so it is frustrating to know that even if I do everything in my power to stop an attack I still may lose the battle.
JA: The hardest thing is knowing that this is a life sentence…. there is no “cure” and that there is no one treatment that will continue to work for me throughout my entire life. And knowing that it’s genetic, and that my kids will have likely inherited some of these traits.
MM: Thank you so much for your honesty – but you are both so good about that in the book. You are wonderful mental health advocates. Now for some fun, personal trivia! Guilty pleasure?
JA: That’s easy. Anyone who reads my blog Herd Management knows it’s neat, single malt scotch…but I don’t feel guilty about it…
AH: Beer. I love Sierra Nevada. I have two a night and thoroughly enjoy them both. I started drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in college, and haven’t stopped.
MM: How do you know that you are loved? And, how do you love on people?
AH: My kids and husband tell me everyday I am loved. I tell them too. We hug and hang out often. Both my children know they can ask me anything and I will tell them, that I will support them in everything they do. I show them by being there for them, teaching them, and laughing with (sometimes at) them.
JA: I know that I am loved every time my kids climb up on my lap, and when my husband holds me at night. I do my best to love on other by supporting them, believing in them and defending them…and I’m a badass snuggler.
MM: OK, last question: tell us something that we wouldn’t know about you that has nothing to do with blogging, motherhood or mental illness.
JA: My first job was working for an Oldies radio station at age 15. I worked with college age girls at Radio promotions… we were called the Coolettes. We roller-skated, danced by the side of the road (yes, seriously) and played with hula-hoops (I learned to do damn near anything with a hula hoop (ohhhh yeah) for $15 an hour (in 1998.) One reason I was hired had to do with me having an insane knowledge of Oldies trivia. I still impress people with that, LOL!
AH: Uh, Wow. I don’t know that I can follow that, but I will try. I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day from when I was 15 till I was 23. Now I detest the smell of smoke and can’t stand to be around anyone whose clothes smell like it. I am horrified I ever started in the first place.
MM: Ladies, Thank you so very much for opening your trench coats for us today!
Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor is available now. Buy it for yourself or someone you love.
Jessica Azar writes while raising four stair-step kids, known affectionately as The Herd, with her husband and college sweetheart in her Alabama hometown. She blogs at Herd Management and humorously details the adventures and mishaps of being a homeschooling, work-at-home-mom. She also happens to like running and Single Malt Scotch a whole lot. Jessica co-edited a mental health anthology entitled Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, and has had essays published in humor anthologies like Clash of the Couples. Jessica is a POPSUGAR Select Blogger, a NickMom Ambassador, and does marketing work for various prominent brands. Her published work can be read on POPSUGAR, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, NickMom.Com, and more.
Originally from NJ, Alyson now lives in the Midwest but has kept her sarcastic cynical Jersey attitude. You can find her blogging about the many disasters and observations of her life at TheShitastrophy.com. Alyson has had essays published in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends as well as the anthology Not Your Mother’s Book: On Working for a Living. She also publishes pieces at Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, What The Flicka, Mamapedia, and other online venues. She is the editor and co-creator of Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor anthology.