Maria Bamford and Bad Ideas

WARNING: stop reading if you’re offended by mental illness (in which case, please never visit my blog again) or by stale raisin bread.

A few years ago, my husband and I went to see Maria Bamford at a comedy club in Toronto. For the uninitiated, Bamford is one of the best comedians in the history of the universe. You should watch everything she’s ever made and follow her on Twitter and on Facebook and on all those other platforms that social-media-savvy people use. Now.

Her comedy has more breadth than this, but much of it revolves around issues related to mental illness, something immediately relevant to me. At some point in the show we saw live, she talked about how she had come to the realization that her frequent thoughts of suicide could be put in the same category as other ill-advised ideas; buying bulk quantities of day-old raisin bread, for example.

This resonated with me. Not the suicide part, so much, and not the raisin bread, since I’m a pita and Cheez Whiz girl myself, but most definitely the creation and quashing of depression-fuelled dysfunctional schemes. I’m not going to end my life and have never come close to it. Still, in my more desperate moments, I go back to Maria Bamford’s proposition and remind myself that giving depression the upper hand is one of many bad ideas that I periodically dream up and shouldn’t follow through with, like building a LEGO replica of Obama, cooking, moving to the States, quitting my PhD, becoming a friendless recluse, and staying in bed 24/7 watching Full House while eating peanut butter toast. Maybe that’d make good material for a blog of its own, but I’m not sure that recapping episodes of a feel-good 1990s sitcom for an anonymous audience of ten would warrant such an existence.

A little over a week ago, I sent my first fan e-mail on a whim. I had woken up that morning feeling especially down, then looked at the Bamford-inspired “NOT A GOOD IDEA” Post-It note stuck to my bedside table. It was enough to get me to the computer, where I composed a foolishly effusive note to someone I’ll never meet but who’s made an enormous impact on how I think about mental illness.

She responded, and I was as thrilled as I would have been had Björk had stopped by my elementary school.

And now: I wonder where I can find a discount bin of old raisin bread?


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