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Longview native hosts stand up and book party centered around her struggles with depression

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Comedian Coree Spencer

Comedian Coree Spencer poses with her new book "I'm Not Ok, You're Not OK" at Vault Books & Brew on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Castle Rock. Spencer, who is originally from Longview, will be having a comedy show to promote her book on Saturday at the book store.

CASTLE ROCK — Longview native Coree Spencer grew up making her friends and family laugh, so when the stand-up comedian decided to write a book about her struggles with depression and ADHD, she made a self-help guide the only way she knew how.

"I'm not OK, you're not OK," is 144 pages of sarcastic activities — like a punch card for canceled plans — that a person struggling with mental health issues may relate to and laugh.

"It's the only self-help book guaranteed not to help," said Spencer, who co-wrote the 2020 piece with Emily Niland. 

Spencer and four other Pacific Northwest comedians are taking the stage Saturday at Vault Books & Brew in Castle Rock to share their sets and work on book activities — like coloring the bridges you've burned — together, with the audience.

The book's tongue-and-check templates aren't meant to solve readers' individualized mental health issues, she added, but to let them know they aren't alone.

"You know what, no one is OK, and that just has to be OK," Spencer said.

It was 14 years ago when Spencer decided to try stand-up comedy at an open mic night at Suki's Bar in Portland. She was heckled, she said, but held her own on stage.

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Her avid following of Saturday Night Live parlayed into her entrance into area sketch comedy groups, a cable access TV show, and her eventual best-film win at the Portland's 48 Hour Film Project with a group she led in 2009. 

She's performed at comedy festivals like SF Sketchfest in San Francisco, and created her own event in Brooklyn called the Cinder Block Comedy Festival, which was featured in The New York Times.

But despite the success and the laughs, the current Winlock resident said she was struggling with undiagnosed ADHD and hypothyroidism throughout most of those years. The pain behind the smile is a common trait among those with mental health struggles, she added.

"Some of the most talented people I've ever met in my life are suicidal," she said.

During her first in-person book sale at the Castle Rock farmers market, Spencer said she met a man who shared his own suicidal thoughts while looking over her work. They hugged over their similar struggles.

Her struggles, Spencer said, left her with low energy and self-esteem, as well as heightened guilt for canceling plans. She used the experience as inspiration. Her book includes a page to list reasons why readers can't go to a birthday party and a decision tree on whether to leave the house, with no actual option that can lead to leaving the house. 

Now, with medication and therapy, Spencer said she feels better, but added "this will never be cured." What's different now is, she said she is "less hard on myself," for all the times she couldn't get out of bed, or even read because her brain was in a fog.

"No one is OK," she said, "and you have to give the grace to yourself you would give your best friend."

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