Reviewed by Ranga Iyer
Memoirs are about sharing deep and very personal feelings and experiences, and putting it out there for others to gain insights, and perhaps learn a lesson or two.
John Z Pigeon’s memoir Self Help Trash Pigeons offers the premise that life is the same for most human beings, i.e. birth followed by growing up and experimenting a bit while trying to find oneself. John’s hardworking parents nurture big dreams for him, and he lives a typical life: school, university and becoming the cool dude. After graduation, he lands a job as a forest engineer working at a park, inspecting and surveying the health of trees. Marriage follows soon after, and John enjoys fatherhood and family gatherings.
However, beyond this outwardly average life, there is a glimpse into the underbelly of society, another world where thousands of ‘associates’ are involved in internet scams for the ‘Company,’ smuggling immigrants and many other criminal ventures. All this is for the sake of turning a buck, surviving, and finding a sliver of life where one can indulge in a bit of luxury.
While Self Help Trash Pigeons covers a gamut of things, at its core, it is about the struggle of being depressed. Taking on the pressures of life and living is not meant for everybody. People like John try very hard to function as normal and sometimes require drugs simply because the mind does not understand why it is not normal and okay like others.
The cry for help by depressed people is missed by most of us. That happens to John too. His family and friends wonder why he behaves in a certain manner, why he cannot function and aspire for better like so-called normal people. This leads to his botched suicide attempt.
Although, throughout his depression, John takes part in all that one normally does in life: working at his job, being there for the family, meeting friends, etc., there is a disconnect and a vacuum that refuses to go away. That is the crux, the heart of his book.
John writes that ‘the darkness did not go away and he cried every night secretly’. He began to feel like a ‘tired warrior trapped in a body of a pigeon performing routine activities.’
Series of therapies revealed hidden layers of personality and mental fragility to John. His doctors played a huge role in bringing John back from the dark alleys of depression, but the takeaway of this book is where John says that the final answer lies in strengthening oneself and not depending so much on external help. It is all too easy to become dependent and weaker by always leaning on others. The key is to learn to strike a balance between accepting the support of therapists and doctors, and helping yourself to reshape and start anew.
Self Help Trash Pigeons is independently published.