Josh Hanagarne: The World’s Strongest Librarian

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7″ when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

Show me a book with books on the cover and I’m probably going to read it. There’s nothing better than a book about books–bookception!

But make that bookception a memoir about a disabled person fighting tooth and nail to overcome his disorder by sheer force of will? Yes please. Josh Hanagarne has fought his entire life to beat Tourette’s. There’s no cure–he knows that–but that isn’t going to stop him from challenging his body and mind to an all out war.

You’d think such a battle would strip a person of their humanity, but this memoir is funny, loving, and sweet. Hanagarne also tackles some pretty deep religious skepticism in his pages, as well as other topics like infertility, adoption, and depression. This is all mixed in with anecdotes from his job at the Salt Lake Public Library.

I couldn’t put this book down. Everything about the story was involved and beautiful. This isn’t a “The world did me wrong, I hate everything” type memoir.” Hanagarne certainly could have felt that way, and been fully deserved of those feelings. But he wanted to find any possible way to find peace in his tormented body and he was going to keep going until he found it. He’s still going, still trying new things. To someone with my own (different) medical problems, it’s very inspiring.


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Replenish Your Spoons

Yesterday, I showed you just how dark it can be to live with chronic pain and mental illness. Life like that is exhausting. I often relate myself to a cell phone battery–especially when talking to my more extroverted friends–at some point, I just run out of juice and have to go home to recharge.

There’s also another common philosophy known as The Spoon Theory, invented by Christine Miserandino. It’s used often among those with disabilities and chronic illnesses, including mental disorders. There is a beautiful Spoonie community online that supports one another with love and information through breakdowns, hospitalizations, diagnosis, recovery.

You can and should read the whole Spoon Theory HERE. But the basic premise is that each person starts the day with an equal amount of spoons. However, each action, choice, energy takes a spoon away. Those with a disability or illness have to be very careful and choosy about what we spend our spoons on because our spoons are more costly.

You know the great thing about spoons, though? Spoons are replenishable. It may take a little time. Sometimes we get a pile of them in the sink, dirty, while we build enough energy to clean them. Or we have to wait for the dishwasher to run. Maybe our spoons get so bent up and tarnished that we have to save some money to buy new ones.

But there are more spoons.

This thought came to me while I was laying miserable on the couch with that migraine. The Hubs had come unexpectedly home from work to feed and exercise the puppy so I did not have to do it myself. He knew that would take too many spoons. (And if he’s reading this post, it’s the first time he’s ever heard of Spoon Theory).

I have a friend who will randomly send me pizza on a bad day, just because. A few others who will send me silly puppy gifs and check in notes on Telegram, Tumblr, and Text. And if all else fails, I just disappear into my books until I have more spoons to spend.

If you’re a Spoonie, you spend your spoons carefully, and you always have an emergency spoon. But, try your hardest to surround yourself with people who will give up one of their spoons to you, or at least maybe help you clean yours. It shouldn’t necessarily be what the relationships are built around, but that kind of love is everything to someone with chronic illness.

Take care of yourself, Spoonies. Spend your spoons wisely.


Update–Christine, the author of The Spoon Theory, needs our spoons. Please click HERE to donate to the GoFundMe site that has been set up for her. She has helped so many of us, if you can give back, please do. If you cannot donate, please share.