Most memoirs of mental illness can cause a reader to become highly emotional and deepen them with sadness. Well, not this one. Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom will make you smile and laugh at topics which you were brought up not to laugh at. Written by Sara Benincasa (a darling, witty, up-and-coming comedienne living in New York), Agorafabulous! humorously describes her life living and dealing with mental illness. She covers the topics of panic disorder, depression, eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts in ways that could sound insensitive, but insensitivity is not the case at all.
Struggling with agoraphobia -- a psychological disorder creating an intense anxiety and fear of the outside world -- Benincasa’s writing style emanates her 'Singing in the Rain' perspective. “I subscribe to the notion that if you can laugh at the shittiest moments in your life, you can transcend them,” states the author. Throughout the book, Benincasa cites references to the tragedies of September 11th (the day school was supposed to begin), the release of the Destiny’s Child hit, Survivor (which she thinks maybe delayed her “descent into madness”), and her Cuisinart (which she pronounced her hero).
Setting the tone for Agorafabulous! with, “After all, no one goes crazy on vacation,” Benincasa leads the reader into recalling her panic-ridden trip to Sicily. Her vacation was no vacation. Suffering from severe panic attacks, she ended up in a hospital, where the Italian doctors diagnosed her with being “homesick” and gave her sedatives. She walked out of the hospital realizing, “Everything was fine. The hospital was fine, the sky was fine, the sun was fine.” During her junior year at Emerson College in Boston, her self-deprecation became noticeable to her friends. She would sleep to derail her eating, lightly snacking on practically nothing throughout the day. She got in the habit of never wanting to leave her bedroom, becoming more and more frightened to leave the immediate area surrounding her bed, as even her bathroom reminded her of too many negative bouts of panic attacks. So she began to use her Le Creuset dinnerware bowls as her toilet. She had dinner with her friend Alexandra and explained to her how she had tried to slit her wrists with a butter knife, not even breaking the skin enough to bleed. “A fucking butter knife. What the hell kind of half-assed training-wheels shit is that?” she exclaims. Enter the intervention from her parents.
Benincasa’s hilarious storytelling of her life struggle with agoraphobia continues with her readapting to the world after moving back in with her mom and dad. She later ends up with a job offer in Ashville, Texas to become a high school teacher with no college degree. At the author’s reading of this chapter at Book Soup in Hollywood, Benincasa had the entire room laughing aloud. Listening to her recount memories of the day that inspired the chapter "Billy Has a Boner" gave great insight to her humor and how her comedic gift has made it possible for her to progress with her life (as well as her needed assistance from anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine). She supremely teaches the lesson to all -- from those who struggle with mental illness to those who simply have a bad day -- that we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, or things that happen can become much too serious.
'Agorafabulous' is available now via the author's website, major retailers, and local booksellers. Visit Sara Benincasa's site for a full stocklist.