With 114 pages of some of the most beautifully written insight, information, and advice that I have ever read in regard to navigating the labyrinth that is depression and its various treatments, Dr. Deborah Serani’s Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter along the Path to Hope and Healing aims to guide those living with the disorder to making wise decisions about their treatment, as well as to provide a platform for bringing an end to the stigma of mental illness. Living with Depression takes the reader on a journey through what depression really is.
Serani explains the different types of depression (as well as other mood disorders, such as bipolar), the different treatments available for depression, and even provides information and resources for navigating the hoops, roadblocks, and all-around time wasters that comprise the American healthcare and insurance systems. The remaining 84 pages are filled with lists of famous people who suffer or have suffered from mental illness, resources for finding and getting treatment, references for cited materials, and a glossary and index for important terms used throughout the book.
“Dad’s gun is in the left-hand drawer of his dresser.” From the get-go, this book slaps the reader across the face. Serani goes on to tell of her lifelong struggle with depression. She details her attempts at treatment. She notes her suicidal impulses. Most important, I think, is that she offers a sense of hope. After giving the reader a brief introduction into the life of a person with depression, Serani turns away from memoir mode and begins writing in a more technical yet still straightforward manner.
It is nearly impossible to talk about mental illness knowledgeably without using big words that not everyone can figure out how to pronounce—“cholecystokinin,” for example—but Serani manages well enough. She details the different types of mood disorders, gives a breakdown of several treatment options (both traditional and alternative) for depression, and then gives her insider information on how to most effectively get treatment when the rest of the world seems to be against you.
Next, Serani explains why it is important to understand that your depression is not your neighbor’s depression. She also gives some lifestyle advice for avoiding depressive episodes. Says Serani, “Becoming familiar with what pushes your buttons, sets you off, or presses heavily on you can help minimize relapse or recurrence of depression.” Then, Serani details what she calls “The 5 R’s.” These are: Response, Remission, Recovery, Relapse, and Recurrence. She also gives pointers on how to prevent relapse and recurrence.
Serani dedicates an entire chapter to understanding and preventing suicide. She gives lists of risk factors, as well as signs of improvement. Most important, she outlines a plan that someone experiencing suicidal thoughts can implement in his or her own life to get away from the thoughts of suicide.
The closing chapters outline how to deal with the stigma that surrounds mental illness and how to effectively live with depression. Serani notes that stigma can be anywhere. It can be in one’s mind, it can be in the workplace. Even loved ones may demonstrate some kind of fear or irrationality toward someone with mental illness because of their illness.
One thing is very clear: depression is a very real, very dangerous illness. Having experienced lifelong depression myself, I find it highly encouraging to see that one of my own is fighting to save the lives of others. Living with Depression really is an amazing book. It is a quick read, and the advice is practical. I’ll be keeping this book handy for when I need a reality check. Perhaps, one day, I’ll even have the courage to seek treatment for my depression. This book will definitely be a great tool to have when that time comes. Until then, I’ll be using Serani’s guide to help discover what sparks my depression. Realistically, I should be implementing her personal suicide prevention plan as well.
Living with Depression is an amazing book authored by an amazing woman. It captures the essence of depression and lays it all on the line for the sake of bringing light into the lives of the depressed. I know my attitudes about my depression changed in the few hours it took me to read this book. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about depression and its treatment, or to anyone who wants to but doesn’t feel they are ready to take that important step toward getting treated. You may even learn something fun along the way. Who knew that such great minds as F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of The Great Gatsby), Dr. Stephen Hawking (a physicist), and even pop-culture icon Lady Gaga all suffered from depression? Knowing that gives me reason to believe that anything—even overcoming mental illness and leaving behind a legacy worth remembering—is possible.
Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter along the Path to Hope and Healing
By Deborah Serani
Hardcover: 199 pages
Rowan and Littlefield, July 2011: $29.95