Happy Never After by Jill Stark
Five years after publishing High Sobriety, Jill Stark returns with Happy Never After, somewhere between a follow-up memoir and investigative journalism.
Where High Sobriety explored Stark’s and the general community’s relationship with alcohol, here she turns her sights to her battle with mental health. She recounts in great detail her experience with panic attacks, bursts of depression, and being inside a psychotherapist’s room, while researching the physiological and cultural factors that play a part in the concerning rise of mental health issues in developed nations.
With the same keen eye evident in her previous book, Happy Never After is full of far-reaching and astoundingly thorough research. Stark addresses the affirmation trends in the 80s and how they evolved into contemporary bestsellers such as Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck and Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life, while drawing on Russ Harris’s research into happiness as a cultural enterprise and the discovery of neuroplasticity, as spearheaded by Norman Doidge (author of The Brain That Changes Itself). While the title and the cover look set to appeal to a fairly specific audience, Happy Never After is far broader in scope than an attempt to dismantle the illusion of the fairytale wedding.
Stark walks us through her psychotherapy sessions, revealing the long and exhausting process of facing the root of her anxiety and finding new ways to work through it without letting it become destructive. At times the candidness with which she opens up to the reader made me feel uncomfortable, but that just makes it all the more important in breaking down the stigma.
With public awareness of these issues gaining momentum, this is a must-read for anyone who has either struggled with mental health themselves or knows someone who has – and according to Stark, that’s most of us.