An Interview with Writer and Comedian Sara Benincasa on Mental Health

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Sara Benincasa, a comedian and author, has written five books, a fascinating short film about body positivity, and numerous articles, including “I Am So Not Sorry About My Vagina, And Other Apologies We Should Retract” and “Why Am I So Fat?” I reached out to ask her a few questions about writing and speaking openly about mental health.

How do you practice self-care?

This is definitely something I am still learning. I find that I need to drink enough water and sleep enough at night and take enough alone time but balance it with going out into the world to see good people.

During the times in my life when I have been on medication, it has been important to take it as prescribed and to report immediately to my doctor when I had any issues. I have been saying for years that I want to incorporate exercise into my routine of self-care and this is very important to me. It is also very important to me to cook more for myself at home.

Has talking, such as on a podcast, and writing about your mental health been therapeutic for you?

It can at times be therapeutic but it never ever replaces real therapy with a good therapist. It can also be difficult and stressful to expose oneself to the world emotionally in such a fashion. It has largely been beneficial for me but I would caution careful consideration to anyone who chooses to talk about these things. Because the truth is that some people simply will never understand you or what you’ve been through or why you would ever want to talk about it. I’m still glad I tell my stories but it can get difficult at times. Mostly it is a beautiful thing. And I consider myself very lucky to be able to share such stories and to hear other stories as well.

Did something or someone, such as a book, article, or specific author, inspire you to write about your mental health?

No, I was inspired to write about my own mental health many years ago long before I published a book. It was just the truth of who I was and I wanted to share that because I felt it could help somebody. Of course I also wanted to entertain people with my humor. I felt less alone in the world when I read books by people who had experienced difficulty and gotten through it. I wanted to do the same for people. Now I have five books out in the world and I think that all of them touch on mental health in some way even in just a very slight subtle or indirect fashion

Do you have a favorite reaction to your writing regarding mental health? For example, have you heard from anyone who read your book, Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom, and was then motivated to seek treatment?

Yes, I’m very fortunate to hear many of those stories privately and I really appreciate them very much. I don’t disclose them publicly unless I have explicit permission.

Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on/are working on that is related to mental health?

I would say my first book would probably be that project. Also I speak about mental health issues at colleges and universities, which is really lovely.

Do you have any advice for emerging writers who want to write about mental health?

Proceed with caution and get yourself into a good therapeutic relationship before you attempt to write about it in public. You can write about it in private whenever you want to but it helps to have some distance from the worst of the darkness before you attempt to create a story from it. In addition, it helps to be in a stable place when you prepare to share your story with the world. Please remember that your own mental health is vastly more important than any acclaim or attention you may receive from your writing. You must take good care of yourself first or else there will be no one to do the writing.

Do you have any plans to come to Chicago to perform or read/sign books?

Not at the moment but I love Chicago and I would love to come back.

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