After graduating from college, Jen Gotch was living with her parents, heartbroken and lost, when she became convinced that her skin had turned green. Hallucinating that she looked like Shrek was terrifying, but it led to her first diagnosis and the start of a journey towards self-awareness, acceptance, success, and ultimately, joy.
With humor and candor, Gotch shares the empowering story of her unlikely path to becoming the creator and CCO of a multimillion-dollar brand. From her childhood in Florida where her early struggles with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, and ADD were misdiagnosed, to her winding career path as a waitress, photographer, food stylist, and finally, accidental entrepreneur, she illuminates how embracing her flaws and understanding the influence of mental illness on her creativity actually led to her greatest successes in business and life.
Hilarious, hyper-relatable, and filled with fascinating insights and hard-won wisdom on everything from why it’s okay to cry at work to the myth of busyness and perfection to the emotional rating system she uses every day, Gotch’s inspirational memoir dares readers to live each day with hope, optimism, kindness, and humor.
Wow. Wow wow wow. This book was a revelation. I started reading this book when we all went into quarantine, and I am so glad I read this book when I did. At a time when our collective mental health might be teetering on the edge, The Upside of Being Down appears to ensure us that it is completely normal and that WE WILL BE OK. For many of us, the stigma that clouds mental illness can make us feel ashamed of our mental health, and that it should be hidden away and never discussed. Jen, refreshingly, chooses to wear hers as a badge of honor, letting be a part of her life but not *the* defining aspect of her life. She is unafraid to show her experience, and most important for me, she is unashamed of all parts of herself.
One of the biggest things I loved about this book is how much I could see my own experiences reflected. Jen does a great job of showing the winding road of identifying a problem, getting an accurate diagnosis, and the trial-and-error of getting the correct medication. The book does a good job of showing that it is a process and that it will take time. Most importantly, she isn’t magically cured by a single therapy session of a single dosage of the first thing prescribed. There are ups and downs and growth and regressions that are all a crucial part of the journey that shaped her and led her to where she is now, being the CCO of a very successful retail company. I also really like that she acknowledges the importance of self-care and other holistic approaches to mental health, while still emphasizing the importance of traditional medication and therapy.
Reading this book felt like a conversation with an old friend. Jen’s tone is relaxed, handling heavy topics in a way that is light without discounting it’s seriousness. Mental illness can be grim, but it can also be weird and, in its own way, funny. Jen’s story is unapologetically relatable because she lovingly includes all aspects – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I understand that not everyone will get the same level of fulfillment from Jen’s story as I did. But I can definitely say that if you have ever lived with a mental illness, this book is a must-read for you. If you have ever loved someone who has suffered from mental illness, this book will be immensely helpful for you as well. And if you like reading memoirs of fascinating people, this book is for you. So run out and grab yourself a copy. But first, go wash your hands!