Subscribe to HAPPINESS IS A SKILL, a bi-weekly newsletter devoted to helping people heal from depression.

menu

After a marathon few months, I’m headed into a much needed hiatus from all things work. Until then, I wanted to leave you with a selection of books to help you mentally settle into these unsettling times. I ingest the wise words of others during troubled times always helps me re-center.

Here are 10 Books for a Happier You


I recommend this book all the time, including in recent issues of HIAS. If you are depressed or have a depressed family member, this is the one book I’d recommend over all others.

“There was a mystery haunting award-winning investigative journalist Johann Hari. He was thirty-nine years old, and almost every year he had been alive, depression and anxiety had increased in Britain and across the Western world. Why?

He had a very personal reason to ask this question. When he was a teenager, he had gone to his doctor and explained that he felt like pain was leaking out of him, and he couldn’t control it or understand it. Some of the solutions his doctor offered had given him some relief-but he remained in deep pain.

So, as an adult, he went on a forty-thousand-mile journey across the world to interview the leading experts about what causes depression and anxiety, and what solves them. He learned there is scientific evidence for nine different causes of depression and anxiety-and that this knowledge leads to a very different set of solutions: ones that offer real hope.”


Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, PhD.

Biology of Belief was one of the first books to bring the world of epigenetics and the power of thought to the mainstream.

“The implications of this research radically change our understanding of life, showing that genes and DNA do not control our biology; instead, DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our positive and negative thoughts.

This profoundly hopeful synthesis of the latest and best research in cell biology and quantum physics has been hailed as a major breakthrough, showing that our bodies can be changed as we retrain our thinking.”


The Emperor’s New Drugs by Irving Kirsh, Ph.D

“Do antidepressants work? Of course — everyone knows it. Like his colleagues, Irving Kirsch, a researcher and clinical psychologist, for years referred patients to psychiatrists to have their depression treated with drugs before deciding to investigate for himself just how effective the drugs actually were. Over the course of the past fifteen years, however, Kirsch’s research — a thorough analysis of decades of Food and Drug Administration data — has demonstrated that what everyone knew about antidepressants was wrong. Instead of treating depression with drugs, we’ve been treating it with suggestion.

The Emperor’s New Drugs makes an overwhelming case that what had seemed a cornerstone of psychiatric treatment is little more than a faulty consensus. But Kirsch does more than just criticize: he offers a path society can follow so that we stop popping pills and start proper treatment for depression.”


Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker

“In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades?

Interwoven with Whitaker’s groundbreaking analysis of the merits of psychiatric medications are the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. As Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, other societies have begun to alter their use of psychiatric medications and are now reporting much improved outcomes . . . so why can’t such change happen here in the United States? Why have the results from these long-term studies—all of which point to the same startling conclusion—been kept from the public?”


This book has changed the way I approach decision making and helped understand what is truly essential, as opposed to a shiny distraction.

“Essentialism is more than a time-management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy—instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.”


A more practical application of epigenetics (whereas Biology of Belief focuses on the science), It Didn’t Start With You explores how the traumas suffered by your family have a direct affect on you.

“The latest scientific research, now making headlines, supports what many have long intuited—that traumatic experience can be passed down through generations. It Didn’t Start with You builds on the work of leading experts in post-traumatic stress, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine neuroscientist Rachel Yehuda and psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score.”


The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle

The Power of Now was the final piece in my puzzle of healing. I read it when I was in Prague, in January of 2017, and felt the shift occur as I read the book. It is one of those books that will be over the head of those who aren’t ready, but for those who are, it is transformational.


The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger

I believe this book should be required reading. It is astounding—for those who are ready to receive its message.

“At the age of sixteen, Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Hours after her parents were killed, Nazi officer Dr. Josef Mengele, forced Edie to dance for his amusement and her survival. Edie was pulled from a pile of corpses when the American troops liberated the camps in 1945.

Edie spent decades struggling with flashbacks and survivor’s guilt, determined to stay silent and hide from the past. Thirty-five years after the war ended, she returned to Auschwitz and was finally able to fully heal and forgive the one person she’d been unable to forgive—herself.”


Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

“‘Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,’ says Tara Brach at the start of this illuminating book. This suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork—all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled. Radical Acceptance offers a path to freedom, including the day-to-day practical guidance developed over Dr. Brach’s twenty years of work with therapy clients and Buddhist students.”


Money is one of the great causes of mental anguish, and yet few people are willing to pick up a book and learn how to get out of debt, invest, and change the invisible scripts that run your monetary life. Whether you don’t think you have the income to save an extra $50/month or you don’t know what to do with your riches, I Will Teach You To Be Rich is as educational as it is entertaining.

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

The Root of the Problem

Over the past few months, I’ve been undergoing a series of extensive and thorough medical tests to get to the bottom of some physical issues I’ve been struggling with for years. Since well before these tests began, I’ve intuitively known two things to be true: something is inside me isn’t right but that whatever it is, it is treatable.

And yet, all my interactions with the American medical system thus far have led me to dead ends. Despite my history of extended international travel, few tests were run, with doctors dismissing my hunches because by most metrics, I’m a functioning individual. Instead, they assumed inconclusive diagnoses like IBS, lupus, stress, age. The solution was to relax! Drink more water! Eat more fiber! One doctor even suggested an antidepressant to help with gut issues, to which I smirked, raised an eyebrow, and resisted the urge to hand over a draft of my book along with my absurd $100 copay.

In September, after five years of this song and dance, the right professionals appeared at the right time. Instead of looking at each one of my issues in a vacuum, as if each symptom existed independently from the rest, my team analyzed my lab results and lifestyle from the perspective of an interconnected organism.

A saliva test, for example, indicated high cortisol (stress) levels but nonexistent estrogen and progesterone (sex hormone) levels. Looked at independently, the answer is hormone therapy that lowers cortisol and raises estrogen and progesterone. Simple, right?

Nope. A urine analysis revealed nearly nonexistent levels of metabolized cortisol, and a blood test showed signs of kidney dysfunction. Therefore, it’s not that my body produces too much cortisol, it’s that it can’t process it, which is a totally different problem that would not be fixed by lowering cortisol through drugs.

Still, this wasn’t the root of my complicaitons. My poor cortisol production was a symptom of a greater issue we discovered: a raging bacterial infection and parasitic presence, likely picked up while I was traipsing around the globe back in 2016. The constant stress of the infection increases cortisol production (and therefore lowers sex hormones because evolutionarily, it was unadvisable for our ancestors to focus on baby-making during stressors like famine or tribal war.) But because my gut is renting out space to unwelcome squatters, it’s not absorbing nutrients or electrolytes. Thus, I’m dehydrated no matter what I drink, which explains the kidney dysfunction, and the kidney dysfunction leads us right back to….poor cortisol processing! Hallelujah! Answers!

Why am I telling you this?

Two reasons. First, my gut bug story is a reminder to follow your intuition when it comes to your health. Half a dozen doctors dismissed my complaints, for years. I get it. They’re trained to look for extremes and to fit people into boxes of symptoms because that’s how we bill insurance companies. But the only person who knows you, is you. If you’re not a hypochondriac and you think something is off, follow that thread. Either you don’t find anything and you can breathe easy, or you turn out to be right.

Second, in going through this process, I was struck by how a whole-body approach to physical health is so similar to successful treatment of mental health. In both cases, few professionals actually look at comprehensive systems. An internist analyzes the gut and an endocrinologist analyzes the hormones, but at no point does either specialist talk to the other. The same is true for our approach to mental health. If you meet the criteria for depression, a psychiatrist gives you a diagnosis and a prescription slip. If you’re lucky, you work with someone who lets you talk a little bit about your wounds and your stressors for forty-five minutes, once a month.

While a series of lab tests were able to diagnose my root physical issues (the rent’s about to skyrocket, gut bugs), it’s rare to find people who are willing to dig around for root issues in their psyche. This work requires radical acceptance, ferocious commitment, and an unrelenting belief that it is possible to heal. It will ask someone to face their deepest shame, make extreme changes to their life, and to prioritize this work above all else. It requires financial commitment. It often gets worse before it gets better. It is hard. But it is also how we heal, how we build the strength to support a beautiful life.

I will be spending the next six months on a strict diet & supplementation schedule to evict the unwanted tenants living in my belly. What if you also spent the next six months committed to your physical and/or mental health? What if you went all in and committed to addressing the issues you know, intuitively, are bubbling inside your mind or body? What if you trusted that the work would pay off? What might your new life be like?


image of Fuckit Bucket™ products

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

Look, we know that life is a special sort of disaster right now. Your closet is your office, the kids are still at home, and still your mother-law is calling you fat again. Let this little charm be a reminder that sometimes you have to chuck it in the Fuckit Bucket™ and move on!

Get your own Fuckit Bucket™

Coming September 6, 2022

May Cause Side Effects

Brooke’s memoir is now available for preorder wherever books are sold.

This is a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have. It’s moving and important.

Johann Hari, author of New York Times bestseller Chasing the Scream and international bestseller 
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

Thank you everyone for your support over the past few months. I’ve spent the time in monk-mode, putting the last serious edits into my memoir, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS (Central Recovery Press, June 2022).

The work paid off. Johann Hari, award-winning journalist and author of the international bestseller Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and Unexpected Solutionssaid my book is “a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have.” Lost Connections is arguably the best book on depression and depression recovery in the world, and I am honored to have Johann endorse my work.

MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS is available for preorder. If you can, please consider ordering from your local independent bookstore. Not only does it support local business, but bestseller lists rank orders from independent bookstores higher than orders from Amazon.

Barnes & Nobles | Amazon | Indiebound | The Writer’s Block

Ask Brooke: Lessons on Grief

Because so many people reach out to me with questions about depression, antidepressants, and recovery, I decided to make those questions part of my blog repertoire.

If you would like to Ask Brooke a question, you can do so here.

Today’s question is from a reporter at HerCampus who asked:

What advice would you give to a young person about grief?

My father died when I was in high school, so I spent much of my college experience “grieving” his death. I say “grieving” because at that point, I was medicated up to my eyeballs on psychiatric drugs given to me to inhibit the grieving process. The decision to medicate me as a response to grief has had long term consequences on my life (it’s what my book is about), so this is a topic that sits deep in my heart.

There are two key aspects to processing grief, especially as a young person whose mind isn’t fully developed. The first, and arguably most important, is to understand that the response to grief is not necessarily aligned or timed with the trauma itself. 

Hours after my father died, I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show and laughed with my friends. The adults around me were perplexed, and I remember feeling like I “shouldn’t” be happy (cue the shame) even though I was happy to be there.

Now, as a 35-year old, I understand their confusion. But as a teenager, I didn’t get what it meant to lose a parent. It was kind of like the first day of calculus. I had a vague notion that it was going to be hard, but because I didn’t understand any of it on the first day of school, the looming difficulty didn’t mean anything to me. It took time for me to understand enough about calculus to even have the vocabulary to describe how difficult it was, just like it took months for me to show any sort of outward grief from losing my father. But by then, I’d been sent to a psychiatrist because I wasn’t “grieving properly.”

What actually happened was that I was in shock from the trauma and slow to release emotion. I wasn’t aware that trauma and emotion can be separated by weeks, months, or years, so everyone (including me) thought I was “doing okay.” When the emotion finally did come out, I blamed it on the circumstance at the time, thinking that because I’d been “doing okay” so far, my emotions were unrelated to grief.

This is tricky because grief is often mistaken for a psychiatric illness, which leads to misdiagnosis and overmedication. Over the years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has changed its criteria for distinguishing between major depressive disorder and grief. The third edition of the DSM, which governed the psychiatric industry from 1980 to 1994, gave patients one year of bereavement leeway before they could officially be diagnosed with a mental disorder. The fourth edition of the DSM slashed the timeframe down to two months. And the DSM-V, published in 2013, eliminated it entirely. Rather, if you’re not “over” a in a few weeks, you can be officially diagnosed with a mental illness—an unconscionable change, in my opinion.

It’s also important for young people to understand that grieving includes joy. Grief is not necessarily a blanket of blurry darkness in which no levity can get through. It comes in waves, which means there are pockets of time to feel joy. Fully feeling that joy or happiness is just as important as feeling the loss. Joy reminds us that we are alive and that we have something to live for. It honors the person or experience that’s been lost.

Had I known that back when I went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I may not have stepped into the shame of experiencing joy during grief. I may not have learned to view the world through a nihilist, depressed lens. I may never have been medicated for a mental illness I don’t know if I ever really had.

What I know for sure is that when I got off all the antidepressants, after 15 years, the grief I’d medicated away for so long was still there. I had to process it, a decade and a half later, which was much more destructive than it would have been had I let it unfold naturally.

Grief will always wait for you. It can be delayed but not avoided. Embrace it when it comes. Process it. Know that by feeling it you are transforming it into light and love.


image of Fuckit Bucket™ products

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

Look, we know that life is a special sort of disaster right now. Your closet is your office, the kids are still at home, and still your mother-law is calling you fat again. Let this little charm be a reminder that sometimes you have to chuck it in the Fuckit Bucket™ and move on!

Get your own Fuckit Bucket™

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on May 10, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

One of the most underrated and useful techniques in creating a steady life is to understand the purpose of priority. And yet, like most things in our hustle harder society, “priority” is a word that only comes up around work. We instinctively know that when it comes to our job, there are certain things that are more important than others. We’re okay with letting busy work fall to the wayside when a deadline is looming, but when it comes to our personal life, prioritization is often replaced with the phrase, “I don’t have time.”

As in, “I don’t have time to work out” or “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t have time to write that novel.”

white puzzle and text overlay image for pinterest

This is, to be frank, bullshit. You do have time to work out. You do have time to cook. You do have time to write that novel. It’s just that none of this is your priority. You are not choosing to build these activities into your day, and therefore it doesn’t get done.

Whenever I point this out to people who complain about not getting around to one thing or another, I’m always shocked by how defensive they become. When it comes to things we “should” be doing, we have a nasty habit of defending our own choices in order to rationalize our lack of action. We let the excuses fly, as if not working out or not cooking is somehow an attack on our character.

But if we shift our mindset from “I don’t have time” to “it’s not my priority,” we relieve ourselves of the guilt that comes with not accomplishing a task. Working out simply isn’t a priority. Cooking is not a priority. Writing a novel is not a priority.

And it’s okay.

As long as you’re being honest with yourself about why you choose to spend your time the way you do, it doesn’t matter if you never step foot in a gym or put pen to paper.

This blog is my priority every Monday morning. Objectively, the few hours of dedicated writing are probably better spent on paid work, pitching editors, or trying to build a better following so my book gets bought. But, even though it won’t be winning a Pulitzer and I’m not influencing millions of people with my words, I like starting my week with a low-stakes task that keeps me writing and reflecting. And I know that if I don’t do it on Monday morning before I get bogged down with other jobs, it won’t get done. So I prioritize it first.

What frustration would melt away if you acknowledge that all the things you “don’t have time to do” are simply not your priority right now? How might your life be more enjoyable if you stop beating yourself up for everything you’re not doing? And what might happen if you shift your priorities toward what you really want?


image of Fuckit Bucket™ products

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

Look, we know that life is a special sort of disaster right now. Your closet is your office, the kids are still at home, and still your mother-law is calling you fat again. Let this little charm be a reminder that sometimes you have to chuck it in the Fuckit Bucket™ and move on!

Get your own Fuckit Bucket™

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on May 10, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.


Coming September 6, 2022

May Cause Side Effects

Brooke’s memoir is now available for preorder wherever books are sold.

This is a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have. It’s moving and important.

Johann Hari, author of New York Times bestseller Chasing the Scream and international bestseller 
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl

In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, author and business strategist Greg McKeown talked about a concept he called, “The Lighter Path.”

The Lighter Path, in essence, is the ability to cultivate a spirit of hope and ease even in the most difficult of times. Its antithesis is not the darker path, but the heavier path; the path that creates more chaos, more hurt, more work.

scale and text overlay image for pinterest

McKeown developed this idea after his bubbly, chatty 14-year-old daughter, Eve, began to turn morose and awkward. Her personality change was originally written off as typical teenage behavior, but after Eve failed a basic physical therapy test, she was taken to a neurologist. Despite a battery of inconclusive tests, her condition worsened to the point where Eve could no longer talk or write her own name.

brooke siem in the tulip field image with text overlay for pinterest

“Everything came back negative, sort of good news, but bad news because you’d have no idea what’s going on,” McKeown said. “And she is fully on the way to becoming comatose and then dying in a coma…this is the stuff that agony is made of, right?”

McKeown realized that despite his daughter’s grim condition, he had two choices: he could take the lighter path and make this already awful situation easier on himself and his family, or, he could take the heavier path and make it more even more difficult.

In a crisis or as a response to trauma, the heavier path is tempting and easy to fall into. It starts with complaining or trying to solve the problem through sheer effort. Focusing all that energy on one person or problem can take the air out of the room for everyone else, leading to destroyed marriages and families.

“All of these things weren’t just hypothetical,” McKeown said. “They were right there. There was that opportunity.”

The lighter path, though, creates a space of trust and hope. While it “doesn’t feel super light,” it is lighter than the heavier path. And in times of crisis, we need all the help we can get.

McKeown said, “We would get around the piano and we would sing. We would read together at night. We would do the small and simple and even enjoyable things. And so, what was at times agonizing, but could have been seriously worse, even, was actually punctuated with joy.”

Despite never getting a formal diagnosis, Eve McKeown fully recovered. Though her story creates a poignant container to explore the idea behind light and heavy paths, it’s important to note that we don’t need a crisis to choose the lighter path.

Take a moment and think about the topography of your life. Are there any burdens, grudges, or transgressions you haven’t forgiven? Are you in a constant state of anger and defensiveness over the injustices of the world? Is there clutter, literal or figurative, that simply makes life harder?

All of this leads to a life lived on the heavier path. To become aware of the heaviness and to consciously choose to rewrite the stories around this heaviness—that is the work. That is your job. And it isn’t all or nothing. Removing even 20% of your psychic drag could have a huge impact on your life.

Start small. Maybe it’s saying “no” to a draining project, smoothing things out with an old friend who voted for the other guy, or pausing before you write a knee-jerk text message that’s sure to cause more chaos.

Simply ask yourself, before you make a choice, “Does this have to be difficult?”


image of Fuckit Bucket™ products

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

Look, we know that life is a special sort of disaster right now. Your closet is your office, the kids are still at home, and still your mother-law is calling you fat again. Let this little charm be a reminder that sometimes you have to chuck it in the Fuckit Bucket™ and move on!

Get your own Fuckit Bucket™

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on May 10, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.


Coming September 6, 2022

May Cause Side Effects

Brooke’s memoir is now available for preorder wherever books are sold.

This is a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have. It’s moving and important.

Johann Hari, author of New York Times bestseller Chasing the Scream and international bestseller 
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

During my decade and a half of deep depression, my mother often said to me, “Honey, you can choose not to be depressed.”

To which I responded, seething, “Depression isn’t a choice. Why would I choose this? I can’t just turn it on and off.”

And then I’d huff out of the room and stew in twisted satisfaction, my depression a badge of honor. I didn’t believe that depression was a choice, but I did believe that enduring my depression made me stronger than everyone who wasn’t persisting through darkness.

blue orange image with full text overlay

Today, I cringe at my own response. Here was a woman who, after being widowed at 47, survived breast cancer, underwent open-heart surgery, kept a business with 40 employees afloat during the recession, and did it all while raising an only child who spent those years huffing out of the room. My mother had every reason to fall into a hole of depression, and yet she never succumbed. That’s real strength. Some people might look at the difference between my mother and me as a difference in “brain chemistry.” Rather, one of us was “wired” to go off the depression deep end while the other was not.

I don’t buy it. Not only because the chemical imbalance theory has been debunked over and over and over and over and over again, but because in looking at how my mother and I processed the traumas of our individual lives, she chose to exercise the muscle of it-can-happen-to-anyone resilience while I exercised the muscle of moral elitism. Rather, I repeatedly chose to feed my inherent belief that I was special and therefore, tragic.

Part of this was age. I was 15 when my father died, arguably the most self-involved age in existence. And while I’d love to say that my lugubrious swim in the seas of melancholy was unconscious, the reality is that I knew exactly what I was doing. I liked the pity. I liked the attention. I liked the freedom of loss. No one expects much of the grieving, and I was happy to be left alone.

Had I shed this narrative once I graduated high school, perhaps I could have started to build the muscle of resilience. Instead, I doubled down on moral elitism, working that muscle from all angles until I was left with nothing but suicidal thoughts. It was never a choice to To Be or Not To Be Depressed, but the culmination of fifteen years of small choices that atrophied my resilience.

That is the choice my mother was talking about all those years ago. Depression is a beast that rips the reigns from your hands and drags you along for the ride. But it ebbs and flows, leaving pockets of opportunity where it’s up to you to find the strength to pick up those reigns and right yourself back on course.

No, there isn’t an on-off switch. But there is the single choice to commit to making thousands of little choices, building more and more resilience and awareness. Like a muscle, it gets stronger over time. And just like building muscle, it starts slow. One little choice. One little change. One little life.


image of Fuckit Bucket™ products

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

Look, we know that life is a special sort of disaster right now. Your closet is your office, the kids are still at home, and still your mother-law is calling you fat again. Let this little charm be a reminder that sometimes you have to chuck it in the Fuckit Bucket™ and move on!

Get your own Fuckit Bucket™

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on May 10, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.


Coming September 6, 2022

May Cause Side Effects

Brooke’s memoir is now available for preorder wherever books are sold.

This is a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have. It’s moving and important.

Johann Hari, author of New York Times bestseller Chasing the Scream and international bestseller 
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

I find myself writing to you today from a rather odd place. There is pressure surrounding a particular issue in my personal life, and I can feel my inner world preparing for the earth to crack open. This isn’t unexpected, and the details don’t matter. But it renders a newsletter about happiness as a skill rather paradoxical, or so I first thought.

When I woke up this morning, I wondered what I could say to you when there is a distinct layer of fear and anxiety draped over my own life. I thought about sharing a TED talk, or a poem, or an excerpt from one of the many books I’ve read over the years. I wanted to default to the wisdom of someone else in hopes that they could offer guidance. For both of us.

pinteres blue orange image with text overlay

But as I forced myself into a short meditation this morning, for no reason other than when I want to meditate the least is exactly when I need it most, it occurred to me that although there is a blanket of tension pulled over my heart, underneath it all still beats the pulse of overwhelming gratitude. I get to feel all of this, the good and the bad and the scary and the magnificent.

This has happened, in this capacity, once before. Back in February, I rescued a six-year-old mutt, Bella, from a not-so-great situation in Sacramento. That first bitter cold night, I took her out for a quick walk before bed. She was skiddish and insecure, her little tail like Velcro against her soft belly. Just fifty feet from my front door, a male neighbor came out of his house, clearly drunk and/or high. Bella barked, and the neighbor came toward me. There was another bark, a pull at the leash, then slack. When I looked down, all that was left of Bella was an empty collar. I searched for her until my hands went numb, but she was part of the darkness.

She had only been with me for four hours.

When I got into bed that night, I thought about how my house is surrounded by the Nevada desert. In all likelihood, she was somewhere in those hills. If a coyote didn’t get her, the cold sure would.

The pain and guilt of it all left me in a state of shock, and still, I wrapped the covers around me and thought if something like this had to happen, I’m so grateful I at least have a warm bed to feel it in. Whenever my mind circled back to the thought of my scared little dog, alone in a strange place, I forced myself back to a place of gratitude. A soft bed. A house I love. A mom who drove across town, at midnight, to help me look for Bella.

I awoke at 3am, a faint sound of barking rousing me from sleep. Dumbfounded, I went to the front door. A winter wind pushed the door open and a flash of white and tan scurried past my feet. Somehow, despite being lost for hours in a place she’d never been, Bella found her way back home.

And now here I am again. The waves of life crashing in, steady gratitude providing the foundation underneath.

This, to me, is why we do the work. It’s why we practice happiness as a skill, every day in a million little ways. But the catch-22 is that in the midst of preparation, you can’t know what you’re preparing for. You have to trust that because you’ve put in the emotional work, that because you practice happiness when the seas are calm, you will be able to handle tsunamis. Because the waves of life will always come.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll realize what a gift it is to get to experience it all.

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

three images of the fuckit bucket collection



After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on September 6, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.

may cause side effects a memoir book picture and author brooke siem

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

One of the pitfalls of depression is that because it tends to come in waves, the habits we gather while we’re feeling okay often fall by the wayside when we’re feeling rough. And while I’m a huge advocate of forcing yourself to maintain those habits during times of darkness, I know that sometimes, it’s just not possible.

Luckily, we live in a time where technology is literally at our fingertips. There’s a lot of junk in that app store, but there are also a handful of stellar apps that can help hold your hand through the waves. Here are a few of my favorites.

Created by game designer Jane McGonigal, SuperBetter is an app that builds resilience. Born after a traumatic brain injury left McGonigal suicidal, SuperBetter brings the concepts of gaming into real life. For McGonigal, this meant accomplishing Power-Ups like putting on socks and establishing Allies with friends and family to help her achieve her Quest of returning to a normal life.

The game is fully customizable. If you are battling Depression as your Bad Guy, accomplishing little tasks like drinking a glass of water, walking the dog, or getting up off the chair and moving around all generate points that count toward your win. Over time, these accomplishments create change on a neural level, leading to an overall more positive state.

screen shot of superbetter application home screen

MoodMeter is an aesthetically pleasing, data-driven app designed to help you track and shift your day-to-day mood. This can be especially helpful for those suffering from depression because depression is the great manipulator. One dark day can feel like it erases ten days of progress, but if you have visual data that proves you are ultimately on the upswing, it can be easier to manage those dark days.

screen shot of mood meterapplication home screen

Drawing on 40+ years of research and clinical experience by psychiatrist Dr. David Spiegel, Reveri is a digital hypnosis app designed to create immediate relief from pain, stress, anxiety, sleep problems, and more.

Hypnosis is a tricky word often associated with quack therapists or stage shows. But in this context, it’s more of an imagination tool that helps kick the mind and body into a state of active rest. It is a state of highly focused attention, where distracting thoughts are decreased and the mind becomes more open to new ideas and perspectives.

Each exercise takes about 10 minutes and can be treated like a daily meditation. The one caveat is that because the app is new, it can be a little buggy. But given the team of people behind it, including neuroscientist Andrew Huberman and technologist Ariel Poler, it’s likely these issues will sort out over time.

screen shot of reveri application home screen

Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

gold the fuckit bucket charm

may cause side effects a memoir book picture and author brooke siem

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on September 6, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article

Healing Depression through Factual Optimism

How do we find happiness when we are still depressed or in antidepressant withdrawal? We don’t. At least, we don’t aim for big changes. Instead, we go for getting it right 51% of the time. If we quantify happiness onto a scale that ranges from 0% happy to 100% happy, every decision we make alters our position on the scale. If we can get our life to a 51% Lifetime Happiness Average, our choices are validated by default.

The goal isn’t to reach 100%. On some days, 80% can seem like a stretch. Fifty-one percent, though, is almost always doable. And at 51%, we’re winning.

Little Changes Bring Big Results

Quantifying emotions helps us remain grounded and make decisions rooted in reality, as opposed to the reality created by the chatter in our heads.

If we have one “good” day a week, we are at 14% happiness. By making small changes to bring us to two good days, our happiness average rises to 28%. To hit 51%, we need to have average 3.6 “good” days per week.

To set ourselves up for more good days in a week, we apply the 51% theory to individual decisions.

pinteret graphic for blog post the fifty one percent, or, factual optimism

As long as each singular decision falls at 51% or higher, it puts us closer to our overall 51% Lifetime Happiness Average.

Decisions are based not on logic, but on how they make us feel. When we are faced with a situation, take a moment and simply ask, “Where does this decision fall on the scale? How do I feel when I think about it?

If the decision feels like it will bring 51% Happiness, go with it, even in the absence of logic or practicality. If we don’t know the answer, wait and gather more information. Patience is often the difference between 49% and 51%.

The beauty of the 51% Theory is that all decisions become easy decisions. Even difficult decisions are easy decisions. They may still carry immense consequence, but once the 51% threshold is crossed, nothing else matters. At 51%, we are already ahead. Make the decision and go.

It only takes a 1% shift to create momentum that can change your life. At 49%, we’re still struggling against the current. At 51%, we’re moving with the river.

When in doubt, make a graph!

The 51% Theory is not finite. If, over too many days, a particular decision that started off at 51% or higher begins to fall, something needs to change. If a situation falls to 40% or so, that’s the time to get curious. Is the drop tied to your emotions or external logistics? Did the situation change or did you change? Is the effort involved in getting it back to 51% worth your time?

When you don’t know the answer, focus on a situation’s effect on the overall average. Since the goal is to hit 51% over the course of your life, a situation that sits around 45% for a few weeks only incrementally lowers your overall average, whereas a situation that sits at 5% for a few days can be intense enough to bring the whole average down. The lower the situation on the Happiness Scale, the higher its priority. If I have you nail in your foot, don’t focus your energy on the splinter in your finger. Even if you have 10 splinters in your finger, it’s the single nail is causing the bigger issue. But over and over again, people focus on the splinters while ignoring the giant, rusted nail in between their metatarsals.

In years of implementing factual optimism, my life has changed dramatically. I wanted to see a visual representation, so I made a graph:

chart presenting happines average in 2016

This isn’t a true lifetime representation, of course. My father died in July 2001, when I was 15. Anything before that seems arbitrary since my childhood definition of “happiness” was whether or not my mom packed an Oreo in my lunchbox.

I was a typical teenager until my father passed, so I give 2001 a 35%. The “peak” in 2008 was thanks to a debauchery filled final semester of college that was quickly squashed with the reality and uncertainty of moving to Manhattan on my own. Overall, I estimated around 2.75 good days per week in 2008. I opened my bakery in 2011 but by 2013, I was lucky to get one good day per week. I implemented the 51% Theory in 2014, and by 2015, my day to day massively improved.

The Lifetime Happiness Average only tells a broad story. It’s more interesting to break down by year:

chart presenting lifetime happiness average

As you can see, 2016 was an emotional mess. In February, I made a decision based on the 51% Theory to leave my life in New York City travel around the world. Because one life altering decision apparently wasn’t enough, I also decided to get off the cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills that I’d been taking since my father passed away. Both of these decisions barely squeaked in at 51%, and I ended up creating a perfect storm of logistical and emotional hell that was extremely painful and even more expensive.

Even though the immediate consequences of these two 51% decisions created five of the worst months of my entire life, the after effects are proving to be worth as high as 86%. That’s six good days per week — the highest I’ve ever averaged.

In the depths of those five months, I reminded myself (and was reminded by others) that I made those decisions because of that 1%. Even though 49% and 51% feels similar in the moment, that 1% is the tipping point that creates momentum for positive change. At 49%, you’re still struggling against the current. At 51%, you’re moving with the river. And at the end of our life, however many days away, we can look back and say to ourselves, “It was all worth it. Fifty-one percent of the time, everything was beautiful.”


Need a little giggle? Order one of my Fuckit Buckets™.

three images of the fuckit bcket collection

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on September 6, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.

may cause side effects a memoir book picture and author brooke siem

More articles from the blog

see all articles

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article

October 7, 2022

The Core of Ego

read the article