all of the otherwise vital forces that make us human, leaving instead a bleak, despairing, desperate, and deadened state. . . Life is bloodless, pulseless, and yet present enough to allow a suffocating horror and pain. All bearings are lost; all things are dark and drained of feeling. The slippage into futility is first gradual, then utter. Thought, which is as pervasively affected by depression as mood, is morbid, confused, and stuporous. It is also vacillating, ruminative, indecisive, and self-castigating. The body is bone-weary; there is no will; nothing is that is not an effort, and nothing at all seems worth it. Sleep is fragmented, elusive, or all-consuming. Like an unstable, gas, an irritable exhaustion seeps into every crevice of thought and action.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison
Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Kay, who is a psychiatrist, wrote about her experience with bipolar disorder. It’s a fascinating account of someone in the profession who also had to come to terms with the stigma of mental illness. She was quite wary of disclosing to colleagues, and when she did it was often with mixed results.
It’s sometimes a comfort to sit down and read about others’ experience with depression. If you are depressed yourself, this can help reduce that feeling that you are so alone.
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Cover looks a little cheesy, but I’ve heard a couple of people swear by it, including graphic novelist Ellen Forney.
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. A harrowing ride, made all the more inspiring by the author’s level of success.
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams and John Teasdale. Solid, practical, useful stuff. This is not a fluffy book.
- The Mindful Way Workbook. An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress by John D. Teasdale and Mark G. Williams. Not familiar with this book, but the authors’ previous work is very solid. Not just people hopping on the mindfulness bandwagon — they have been both researchers and clinicians.
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. Helpful to accept the premise of this book.
- The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression by Dr. William J Knaus EdD and Albert Ellis PhD. Ellis is one of the founders of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- The Wounded Heart by Dan B. Allender. Well reviewed on Amazon.
- The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi. If only it were so easy. Well reviewed, though.
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. Atlas is the word. Comprehensive and brilliant.
- Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron. By all accounts a moving, tour de force. An inside look at suicidal depression.