Monday, April 6

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.



Blogger Ginger said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this... I think I'm going to look it up.

So few people really understand.

April 6, 2009 at 5:44 PM

Blogger Alane said...

I can't stop crying. Why? Because I have suffered from depression my whole life. When my dad walked out on my 7th birthday my mom told me she needed to lean on me. My younger sisters have always turned to me when they need help. I became a mom at 18, a wife at 19 and had my second and last child at 20. I have always had depression in my life. It is almost a friend. I don't trust people. I ended my last friendship in February 2008. I have had no one to talk to since. The depression I am in now is so much stronger and deeper than I have had before I have no words to describe. I wish I could read a book and feel better, but I know it would only hurt more. But, thank you for posting about something so many are afraid to post about.

April 6, 2009 at 6:46 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Alane and Ginger:

Depression is so isolating. And so painful. And so frustrating.

I too have struggled with depression far longer than I had a name to pin to it.

I wish things were easier for us all.

Alane, you are always welcome to send me an email whenever you need to vent. There should be an "Email this author" tag between the end of the post and the comments section.

Sometimes it's good to be listened to. I agree that perhaps this book is too painful for you to read right now. Perhaps it would help, perhaps not. But know that there are so many of us secretly afraid, secretly gulping air whenever we manage to pull our heads above water (knowing we'll inevitably end up back under soon enough), so many of us unable to express anything... Sometimes knowing that you are not alone is a strange comfort. Not exactly misery loves company, but knowing that you're not just able to get over it. That others aren't able to make that phone call. (The author of the book had a hot water tap broken for months. She couldn't call the plumber. Whenever she wanted to to dishes, she boiled water in a kettle. She said her friends would look at her strangely. She didn't know what to say. So she would say nothing.)

Sometimes half of getting through depression is simply knowing that you're not just being weak. You're ill. You're very, very ill. And just as you would never demand that you instantly get better from appendicitis, you cannot demand or even pretend that you can get instantly get better from depression.

April 6, 2009 at 8:15 PM

Blogger Shevy said...

It sounds like a really good book. I might try to get it from the library although I have this problem with actually returning library books unless I don't like them. It's usually cheaper in the end just to buy them.

As someone with Post Traumatic Stress, I know just how hard it can be to take action, any action. And people who haven't experienced depression don't understand at all. They go all Nike on you and tell you to Just Do It. Yeah, right. If it was that easy I'd have done it.

April 6, 2009 at 9:23 PM

Blogger Abby said...


Read the last quote from my latest post. I couldn't have explained it better myself.

April 6, 2009 at 9:46 PM


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