📃 An open letter to TTFA

My thoughts and feelings for my new one-way friend, Nora McInerny, after listening to every episode of Terrible, Thanks For Asking.


Dear Nora,

This is an odd letter to write. I feel like I’m writing to a close friend who doesn’t yet know that we are friends. Maybe I will start by explaining how our friendship began.

I had a mental breakdown that started last summer and culminated in a night at the hospital in January and nine weeks off work through March. It turns out that I have OCD, and I found a treatment center which has made a huge difference. During that journey, I found The Hilarious World of Depression which was a lifeline. From their website, I browsed other podcasts by APM and discovered yours. I first listened to Episode 65: Sad and Lucky, and was hooked. I downloaded all past episodes and made my way through them over the past couple months.

One interesting effect of listening to you so much over a short time is being gifted a new relationship. You and I are close in age, which has always been a bit sensitive for me. I have always felt too old for my age, and with six kids and one on the way, when people ask how old I am, I have to math it. It was helpful and freeing for me to hear you own your age so matter-of-factly. I recognize that I only see what you have chosen to share publicly, but it seems that you have been authentic and vulnerable in sharing your true self. You are the kind of funny that I always wished I could be—seemingly effortless and natural.

Thank you for normalizing and harboring strong emotions. It would have been easy to focus only on grief, but you have welcomed all sorts of experiences into the show and given permission for all sorts of people to feel their feelings. This has helped me in my own journey toward self-compassion and mindfulness. I added your podcast to my “Funny” playlist in Overcast along with THWoD, but there were some days when I wondered if it was healthy for me to be listening to TTFA. It wasn’t always funny—it was often extremely heavy. But I found that as I opened my heart to feel some of the terrible things other people have felt, it was more open to feel what I was feeling.

I imagine there are days when you question whether being so open and vulnerable and honest is worth it. You have taken parts of yourself that we typically hold in reserve and put them out for all to see. I want you to know what a difference that has made in my life. I see how you have taken a defining, transformative experience and turned it into a catalyst to touch other people. The more I heal and the further I progress in my own mental health journey, the more I feel a burning desire to help other people who have suffered like I have. I don’t know what my future holds, but I draw strength and inspiration from your example and I am filled with hope and excitement.

Hopefully one day I can meet you, give you a hug, and thank you in person for how you have affected me. Until then, I will continue to participate in our one-way friendship.

Your new (but unknown) friend,

Ben Norris signature