A post not at all related to PF
Okay, I know I've been a tad sporadic lately. I'm preparing for the Carnival of Everything Money that will be up tomorrow on this site! (Submit by 10 p.m. EST!)
I wanted to take a moment, though, to say that there is a new must-read book on my list. (This list being non-existent and entirely in my head, when it bothers to be remembered.) It is non-fiction, which I don't often read. No, it's not about personal finance. It's about depression.
Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression by Sally Brampton
Ms. Brampton was the founding editor of Elle. She also struggled with severe, drug-resistant depression for four years. She not only recounts her experiences with the illness, she rallies against the stigma depression carries (often most acutely felt by those who suffer it) and gives tips for people who have depressives in their life.
As a journalist, Brampton is good at recounting her depression and the resultant three stays in psychiatric units. But this book is so much more. I wish I could describe it better than I feel I can. There is a certain amount of exquisite pain in her recollections, her observations about depression and how badly informed people are about depression. She talks about how the reluctance of most depressives to talk about their illness further stigmatizes this condition. She talks frankly about the pain she felt, the panic, the frustration -- both with herself and with an entire discipline that can only give best-guesses when it comes to treatment that will work -- and how she had to try to cope for the sake of her child. (The child who left heartbreaking notes to the angels, asking them to make her mummy better.)
Within the first 20 pages, tears were streaming down my face. It wasn't even sad crying, so much as amazement. I had never seen my own thoughts and feelings put so eloquently on paper. (At that point, she was in her bedroom, unable to leave. She flew all the time in the past. She went head to head with Rupert Murdoch on various occasions, and yet she couldn't bring herself to leave the bedroom, let alone the apartment.)
By page 35, I was actually weeping. Partially out of sadness -- this book did bring up some stuff that I'd been pushing against for awhile -- but also out of anger. In writing this, she was reminding me of all the BS that we depressives buy into.
Even when you're getting help, as I am, it's just so easy to feel all alone. Or to find yourself angry at your inability to do a simple task. Like making a phone call. Your logical brain tells you that it's a simple matter. But the depressive brain says nothing and keeps rocking back and forth in the fetal position. If it says anything, it probably bursts into tears and begs you not to make it do that. It's just too hard.
And so you fight against yourself. You feel guilty. You feel ashamed. You feel isolated. And you feel completely swallowed up by the despair.
One of the great things about this book, besides the poignant account of depression, is simply that Brampton reminds us that depression shouldn't be as isolating as it is. Really, we depressives are feeling the same things that everyone feels. We're just feeling them to the 1,000th degree. And simultaneously. We're raw and unshielded.
I found it completely by accident at the local library. I'm immensely grateful that I did. I've already decided that I'm going to buy myself a copy. That's big for me, who has sworn off buying books, since we have nowhere to put them and I rarely reread them. But this one just begs to be highlighted and earmarked and all sorts of other things I can't do to a library book.
People who are experiencing depression or have in the past, will find the book liberating. To see in such detail so many things that you thought -- and that you were convinced made you a freak and a wimp. To find out it's not that strange at all. For a depressive, it's probably even normal.
People who have depressives in their lives can get some help in coping. It will give them a peak inside a depressive's mind: the thought process, the reactions, the hiding, the isolation, the fear. It will even give you some very well-reasoned tips on how to help that loved one without saying something painfully cliche.
In short, I just think everyone should read this book. Because I don't know anyone without at least one depressive in his life. And because perhaps if more of us break the silence like Brampton, fewer of us will have to suffer as she did -- and as so many of us have in the past.