This extraordinarily moving, shocking and eye-opening work is set to become the classic text on the subject of depression, mental illness and the way we live now, for the literary market - the book that knocks even William Styron's Darkness Visible out of the water. Like Kay Jamison's An Unquiet Mind it digs deep and painfully into personal ...
This extraordinarily moving, shocking and eye-opening work is set to become the classic text on the subject of depression, mental illness and the way we live now, for the literary market - the book that knocks even William Styron's Darkness Visible out of the water. Like Kay Jamison's An Unquiet Mind it digs deep and painfully into personal experience, but it also looks at the much wider picture - the historical, social, biological, chemical, pharmaceutical and medical aspects and implications of the disease - broadening the scope immeasurably. What is crucial is that Solomon has not only experienced what he is writing about firsthand, and describes the experience from the inside terrifyingly and brilliantly, but also that he has researched every aspect of depression, from the historical treatment and study of 'melancholy' as far back as the Greeks and Romans (who believed that cauliflower was good for depression), right through to the side effects of the pharmaceutical cocktails of the present day, case histories of people in & out of mental hospitals, faith healers, the power of suggestion, as well as the implications for the future of Western society. He also writes like a dream.
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If you or anyone close to you has ever suffered from depression ? real, total shut-down depression not the ?blues? ? then you know how devastating it can be for the individual and their loved ones. It diminishes productivity, ruins relationships, sucks the life out of life, brings careers to a halt ? it can be, in essence, a living death.
The Noonday Demon is an excellent memoir in which Andrew Solomon discusses in depth his experience with depression and all he has learned about it through his recovery. In many ways, he speaks to the heart of anyone who has experienced depression, in any capacity ? he doesn?t just tell his story ? he is telling the story of a depressed person. The events and circumstances differ ? but the feelings, the pain, the misery and the struggle are universal.
Mental illness ? in American culture ? is the loony uncle we keep locked in the basement ? unwilling to acknowledge for fear of what the neighbors will think. It cannot be discussed; it scares people because it is, in so many ways, wrapped up in people?s own preconceived notions and the subjective nature of its diagnosis and treatment. We can all rally around the guy who was diagnosed with Leukemia ? we can sympathize and categorize the illness so we do not feel discomfort personally. Not so much with mental illness.
Of course, there is an additional wrinkle with mental illness ? a lot of it is self-imposed, it is a result of beliefs, habits and circumstances and is not medical. That being the case, it is easy for us to dismiss a diagnosis of depression as a sign of individual weakness ? and sometimes it is ? rather than an actual disability. A medical establishment that is ready and willing to provide a label, hand you a prescription and send you on your way compounds this. Mental health professionals are often focused on managing behavior, not changing the behavior (because it is REALLY hard!). This is compounded by the critical importance of individual desire and effort in their own health. Mental illness is not a tumor; it cannot be diagnosed and extracted by a third party. No one can do it but the individual himself or herself (with a lot of help and support) ? the individual who is depressed (or anxious, or self-injures, etc.), who are not the best decision makers.
I appreciated the transparency and depth with which Andrew Solomon shared his story. If I have a disagreement with the book, it is with his total and complete surrender to his ?disease.? I am still suspect about mental illness in many ways and believe that much of its impact on an individual can be mitigated through cognitive and behavioral modifications. I believe mental illness is real and is devastating for many families and individuals. However, I also believe that a small percentage are truly biologically or physiologically so. I think, a great percentage are a result of thoughts and behaviors, and that they can be helped through love, support, encouragement, treatment and personal effort. This does not necessarily mean that all can be ?cured?, but they can retain control of their lives and thrive. Labels often become shackles, the very thing that limits our ability to thrive ? there are many people who profit from these shackles, so ? buyer beware. Labels become our identifiers, which have a huge impact on our overall opinion of ourselves ? so if we call ourselves ?depressed? or ?anxious? we will be. You can feel depressed, or anxious ? it is a feeling that can come AND go.
Of course, the real challenge is in figuring out, honestly, which is the case for you or the one you love. Is you brain wired this way, permanently, or can you get better. This cannot be accomplished alone ? this is critical! This determination can come only after working closely with professionals, undergoing therapeutic treatments and working really hard ? little by little your reality will reveal itself. What is really important, once you know, is to accept that as your reality ? accept to stigma or feeling of inferiority ? commit yourself to thriving with the diagnosis ? adapt and move forward.
My recommendation is to read this book, along with Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins and Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy, both of which are classics about personal success that deal with mental habits and how they effect our behaviors.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-05-14 H"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who despair," begins Solomon's expansive and astutely observed examination of the experience, origins and cultural manifestations of depression. While placing his study in a broad social context according to recent research, some 19 million Americans suffer from chronic depression he also chronicles his own battle with the disease. Beginning just after his senior year in college, Solomon began experiencing crippling episodes of depression. They became so bad that after losing his mother to cancer and his therapist to retirement he attempted (unsuccessfully) to contract HIV so that he would have a reason to kill himself. Attempting to put depression and its treatments in a cross-cultural context, he draws effectively and skillfully on medical studies, historical and sociological literature, and anecdotal evidence, analyzing studies of depression in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Inuit life in Greenland, the use of electroshock therapy and the connections between depression and suicide in the U.S. and other cultures. In examining depression as a cultural phenomenon, he cites many literary melancholics Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, John Milton, Shakespeare, John Keats and George Eliot as well as such thinkers as Freud and Hegel, to map out his "atlas" of the condition. Smart, empathetic and exhibiting a wide and resonant knowledge of the topic, Solomon has provided an enlightening and sobering window onto both the medical and imaginative worlds of depression. (June) Forecast: Excerpted last year in the New Yorker, this pathbreaking work is bound to attract major review attention and media, boosted by a seven-city tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2002-04-01 Calling depression the "flaw of love," 2001 National Book Award-winner Solomon (A Stone Boat) brings a stunning breadth of research to this widely misunderstood and often stigmatized illness. At least 19 million Americans suffer from chronic depression, and Solomon concedes its diagnosis and treatment are as complex as the illness. The eloquent, cerebral prose distinguishing his book (the writing of which, he says, consumed his life for five years), is mirrored in Solomon's equally articulate and refined reading style, marked by traces of a crisp British accent and a consistent, soothing tone. While outlining the major treatments, Solomon's discussion covers brain chemistry, the classes of antidepressants and their possible effects and efficacy rates, as well as the successful resurgence of electroshock therapy, talk therapy, surgical options and alternative therapies (e.g., herbal, homeopathic and hypnosis). Some laypersons may find the audio format ill-adapted for this technical portion. However, Solomon's unequivocal candor about his own at times incapacitating struggle with depression, and the compassionate, hopeful perspective he conveys more than makes up for this. Loaded with personal anecdotes, snippets of letters, interviews and recalled conversations with fellow sufferers, this audio creates a sense of intimacy many listeners may find therapeutic. Based on the Scribner hardcover (Forecasts, May 14, 2001). (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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