Danny Evans’ book Rage against the Meshugenah is a harrowing adventure through one man’s struggles with depression and mental illness. Evans isn’t afraid to go anywhere for the sake of the story, detailing certain experiences that may be considered embarrassing, but really make the book stronger because it adds a personal element that makes it truly relatable. This book is one man’s journey, but along the way it’ll be hard for the reader not to take steps with him as he makes his way to recovery.
Could you please start off by explaining the meaning of the title of your book, Rage against the Meshugenah?
The word "meshugenah" is Yiddish for "crazy". When I was coming to terms with the fact that I had an actual mental illness, it struck me that I used the word "crazy" so frequently in my life without ever recognizing how truly inaccurate it is in describing people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other common mental illnesses. So that's the "meshugenah" part of the title. The "rage against" part is derived from the fact that I used to listen to Rage Against The Machine a lot when I was trying to recover. Their music is often angry and defiant (and beautifully profane), which put me in touch with my own angry feelings for the first time in my life. They helped me release a part of myself that had previously been silent, so the play on their name is kind of a twisted homage.
You started off with your blog DadGoneMad. How did the book come about?
I spent seven years writing Dad Gone Mad, and it's truly what helped me build an audience. Having that site was instrumental in being able to convince my publisher that I was worth the risk.
The voice of your book has a very humorous and witty feel to it, which is an odd thing to read when dealing with such a heavy topic. Do you feel as though writing it in a way that will make people grin will make it easier to divulge into the subject of depression?
The primary audience for the book is men, and knowing what I do about guys (I happen to be one, so I know a lot), I knew the only ways a book about depression was going to be attractive to them was if it was funny and if it spoke to them in everyday guy language. It's not always pretty or eloquent, but it's real.
Why do you feel as though there is a stigma regarding mental health? And what can be done to remove it?
The stigma is based in people's ignorance of mental illness. I don't mean that in a bitter way; it's just true. People who have had no exposure to mental illness--either in their own lives or in the life of someone they know--means most of their understanding of it comes from movies, books, and television. That's certainly how I understood it before I experienced it myself. I thought mental illness necessarily looked like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." I think the only way that stigma can be combated is for those of us who know better to speak up, to identify ourselves as the faces of mental illness, and to show the world at large that we're normal people, just like them. You wouldn't give a second though to telling another person that you suffer from a heart problem or diabetes, so why should depression or anxiety be any different?
What are some things that you do to relax and relieve any sort of stress in your life?
I love to write. I love to watch and play hockey. But my favorite sort of stress relief is lazy Sunday mornings, watching cartoons with my kids, wrestling with them, and blaming my farts on the dog. Related: we don't have a dog.
When reading through most of the reviews, each one took the time to mention that people often see a bit of themselves in your writing, in the voice of your book. Is that something that you did consciously to make it more relatable? Or does it just come about naturally?
I wish I could say that was intentional, but it isn't. I wrote what was in my head, and the fact that people can relate to it that way really makes me feel good. That's the way I feel when I read books by my favorite authors--Jonathan Tropper, Jen Lancaster, AJ Jacobs--and to know that I have somehow managed to reach my readers the same way they have reached me is one of the best parts of being a writer.
What is the one thing you would want someone to take away from reading this book?
As I mentioned above, it's time we take the power away from mental illness. By that I mean that the lack of understanding about depression, anxiety, bipolar, and so forth causes people to suffer in silence. Many of us are afraid to reveal our illnesses because we are afraid of what people will think of us. My hope in standing up and saying, "Hi, I'm Danny and I have depression" is that I can put a face and a name and a life story to this mystery and, in some small way, make it OK for others to say the same. We have to disarm the disease of its power to push people into the shadows where treatment and recovery dare not go.