A few months ago I picked up a book to read called You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost), a memoir by Felicia Day. I’ve always been a passive fan of hers as she has been involved in quite a few nerdy/geeky subcultures that I tend to follow (i.e. Whedonverse). The title alone seemed relatable. I didn’t realize how inspiring it was going to be for me, particularly as she goes into some mental health issues that she dealt with along her path of success. So I decided I would share the aspects of the book that I found most helpful and inspiring to me with all of you. So here it goes:
1. She embraces her “weird.”
Throughout the book Felicia describes herself as being “weird,” “awkward,” “kooky,” and an assortment of other synonyms that basically describe someone as being different from normal. This is a huge theme right from the start -- her first chapter is called “Why I’m Weird.” In it, she talks about being homeschooled as a child and how her unusual upbringing is what makes her weird. She became “super-hyper-educated in many odd areas” and feels most school situations “would have shamed all those oddball enthusiasms out of [her] REALLY quick” (Day, pg. 31). She talks about how it was difficult socially to interact with peers, and how she was often a lonely person during this period of her life.
But throughout the book she comes to embrace her unique qualities and eccentric interests: “My weirdness turned into my greatest strength in life. It’s why I’m who I am today and have the career I have” (pg. 31). I really loved this about her book because I feel there are many people out there who feel strange, weird, and different. These feelings can make you feel really lonely and isolated. Hearing someone who is prominent in the geek community say these are her greatest strengths is so encouraging and inspiring to me. Throughout the book, she comes off very relatable, honest, and genuine. I appreciated her ability to put herself out there because she lets other people know that it’s okay to be weird or different. It’s part of my mission as a therapist too. I want to help others reframe what may be considered to be negative qualities, and find ways to use them as their strengths.
2. She got support from her peers
One important thing Felicia mentions in her book is that she joined a support group. It was an informal group a friend of hers invited her to join and they would meet every week to talk about their goals and what they were doing to work on them. During this time, she was in the height of her gaming addiction, and she found herself lying to the group about her progress on her goals due to shame and embarrassment. When she finally came clean about it, her friends were very supportive and she regretted hiding what she was going through from them. She gives some wonderful advice from this experience: “Find a group to support you, to encourage you, to guilt you into DOING. If you can’t find one, start one yourself…Make a goal. Then strike down things that are distracting you from that goal, especially video games…Scare yourself good. You have a finite number of toothpaste tubes you will ever consume while on this planet. Make the most of that clean tooth time. For yourself” (pg. 143).
Basically, you need support from other humans – whether it is in person, online, or wherever else you find it. Everyone needs to feel encouraged, and sometimes you need a reminder from a caring friend to get things moving for yourself.
3. She was not afraid to ask for help.
If you don’t already know who Felicia Day is, she created a web series called “The Guild,” which helped pave the way for other mainstream web series to evolve. This came about because no one she attempted to pitch the show to understood the premise. So she decided to do it herself and stream it online. It sounds easy enough, but in the book she talks about all the work she put in to find resources. She went to friends who had various skill sets and asked for help. She posted on craigslist to find aspiring actors to work for free. She scavenged her neighborhood to find props. She used her own home for most of the filming.
What I found so inspiring about this was that she was not afraid to ask for help. And when she did ask for help, she got a lot of positive responses, support and resources. If you are working on a goal of yours, look around at your friends and colleagues, and ask for help. Sometimes you can get some wonderful feedback or ideas from another creative person. Sometimes you can exchange resources with a friend who has a skillset you are looking for (i.e. a lovely friend offered to take my headshots in exchange for food! Which…I still owe him…oops). Whatever you’re doing, don’t let fear or shame get in the way and ask for help!
4. She described gaming addiction in a way that helps people understand it is a legitimate issue
For one thing, Felicia is probably not who you stereotypically picture when you think of someone with a gaming addiction. You usually think of either a young teen, or the World of Warcraft guy from that one episode of South Park. I love that she completely puts herself out there and admits to her experience with gaming addiction because again, she is helping other people feel like they are not alone. Through her story, it becomes clear that it could happen to anyone.
She also described the concept of an addiction so well. Sometimes I think people are overly judgmental about people with a gaming addiction. I guess because it’s a game, they consider it silly? But the way she describes it shows how gaming can take over your life:
“We all have periods of our life where we’re trapped, doing something we hate, and we develop habits that have nothing to do with our long-term goals to fill the downtime. Right? I hope you identify with that idea; it’s the only way I can explain becoming so emotionally invested in a video game that I would get in my car and drive around town sobbing if my internet went out…I’m not blaming the game; I’m blaming my lack of perspective about why I wanted to fill my days with that beautiful, repetitive world. My life was unhappy, and I covered the hurt with a subscription-based Band-Aid. I just couldn’t find a good reason NOT to play so much” (pg., 123).
You can become addicted to anything. An addiction is something that takes your focus away from something you’re trying to avoid, like feelings and emotions. People get addicted to alcohol, pornography, gambling, food, and, yes, gaming. I hope people are able to have more empathy on this topic when it is put into this perspective.
5. She brings up the important topic of mental health
Throughout the book she alludes to the fact that she should have probably been going to therapy during her various bouts of depression. But instead, she pushed on, and avoided it for some time. Towards the end of the book she talks about how she basically started to fall apart. Her anxiety and stress from working too hard became overwhelming. The pressure of her prior success began to get to her.
She talks about feeling like an impostor and wondering why people want to meet her or talk to her. She talks about how her moods fluctuated from hour to hour. She began to have memory issues, and felt like she could not trust her own mind anymore. “In my warped state of mind, I had nothing new to offer my fans and I probably wouldn’t ever again. I deserved to be hated, not loved. These were the worst days of my life” (pg. 225). At her lowest point she began experiencing suicidal ideation in which she thought about “disappearing entirely” and “scenarios of how [she] could end [herself]” (pg. 226). But even then, she did not seek help. Finally, when her physical health was affecting her, she called the doctor and discovered she had a few physical ailments that could have been contributing to her depression. “And THAT is when I decided to get control of my life back. Because for some reason, I didn’t merit it worthy enough to take extreme action when my mind got sick. But my body? Emergency timez!” (pg. 228).
I think this really speaks to the fact that there is still so much stigma and shame related to mental health. People are more comfortable telling someone they are sick physically, than when they are not feeling well mentally or emotionally. This automatically creates a barrier between yourself and others. You’re too afraid or ashamed to talk about how you’re feeling, so you keep it to yourself, which makes you feel worse and alone. It becomes a cycle of sadness and shame.
Felicia talks about how she eventually went to a psychologist to help her work through her depression and anxiety. She says “We’re all a garbage dump of dysfunction, but if you get in there and churn the problems, they turn to mulch faster so new things can grow out of them” (pg. 231). I think this is a great analogy to describe the process of therapy. She also goes on to say that recovery can be a slow process. Don’t expect things to change overnight. And it’s important to give yourself praise for the steps you make toward progress, even if they seem small.
So all in all, I would say this is a great book to read for someone who feels like they are struggling to push themselves towards their goals. Felicia is a relatable person and she is very authentic and honest with the process that she went through. She offers a lot of simple but helpful tips of how she got things moving. And, she was not afraid to talk about her emotional and mental struggles along the way. I appreciate when a celebrity can bring up the topic of mental health because each person makes a difference in erasing the stigma of mental and emotional problems and brings forth more awareness and support from mental health.