Wednesday, January 27, 2016

DARK DOG DAYS


Mental illness impacts all most, if not all of us, in some way. The afflicted, and those that support them, have the most intimate knowledge of the depth of the illness.

While I hope there will be a day where mental illness will not define your potential or hold back opportunities and career advancements, it is reassuring to witness the increasing awareness of the impacts. The eye-opening honesty of those brave people that come forward publicly is making it easier for those suffering in silence to seek assistance. They are not weak, broken or alone. 

There are plenty of self-help books and websites out there but I suggest reading the memoirs of people who know the darkness the best, those that live with it day in and day out. They have a unique, court side view that comes with experience in treating, managing, and living with their illness.

Here are a half dozen books I have read that were written by resilient, strong people that have learned to live despite the afflictions. They provide great insight for anyone interested in the hell that is mental illness. They also provide solace for those who suffer. Proof you are not alone.


My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel

As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guides us across the terrain of an affliction that is pervasive yet too often misunderstood.

Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel presents an astonishing history, at once intimate and authoritative, of the efforts to understand the condition from medical, cultural, philosophical, and experiential perspectives. He ranges from the earliest medical reports of Galen and Hippocrates, through later observations by Robert Burton and Søren Kierkegaard, to the investigations by great nineteenth-century scientists, such as Charles Darwin, William James, and Sigmund Freud, as they began to explore its sources and causes, to the latest research by neuroscientists and geneticists. Stossel reports on famous individuals who struggled with anxiety, as well as on the afflicted generations of his own family. His portrait of anxiety reveals not only the emotion’s myriad manifestations and the anguish anxiety produces but also the countless psychotherapies, medications, and other (often outlandish) treatments that have been developed to counteract it. Stossel vividly depicts anxiety’s human toll—its crippling impact, its devastating power to paralyze—while at the same time exploring how those who suffer from it find ways to manage and control it. 

My Age of Anxiety is learned and empathetic, humorous and inspirational, offering the reader great insight into the biological, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to the affliction.


Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression by Sally Brampton
A searing, raw memoir of depression that is ultimately uplifting and inspiring. A successful magazine editor and prize-winning journalist, Sally Brampton launched Elle magazine in the UK in 1985. But behind the successful, glamorous career was a story that many of her friends and colleagues knew nothing about--her ongoing struggle with severe depression and alcoholism. Brampton's is a candid, tremendously honest telling of how she was finally able to address the elephant in the room, and of a culture that sends the overriding message that people who suffer from depression are somehow responsible for their own illness. She offers readers a unique perspective of depression from the inside that is at times wrenching, but ultimately inspirational, as it charts her own coming back to life. Beyond her personal story, Brampton offers practical advice to all those affected by this illness. This book will resonate with any person whose life has been haunted by depression, at the same time offering help and understanding to those whose loved ones suffer from this debilitating condition.

Hurry Down Sunshine by Micheal Greenberg
Hurry Down Sunshine is an extraordinary family story and a memoir of exceptional power. In it, Michael Greenberg recounts in vivid detail the remarkable summer when, at the age of fifteen, his daughter was struck mad. It begins with Sally's sudden visionary crack-up on the streets of Greenwich Village, and continues, among other places, in the out-of-time world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city's most sweltering months. It is a tale of a family broken open, then painstakingly, movingly stitched together again.

Among Greenberg's unforgettable cast of characters are an unconventional psychiatrist, an Orthodox Jewish patient, a manic Classics professor, a movie producer, and a landlord with literary aspirations. Unsentimental, nuanced, and deeply humane, Hurry Down Sunshine is essential reading in the literature of affliction alongside classics such as Girl, Interrupted and An Unquiet Mind.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Dr. Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness; she has also experienced it firsthand. For even while she was pursuing her career in academic medicine, Jamison found herself succumbing to the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic depressions that afflicted many of her patients, as her disorder launched her into ruinous spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempted suicide.

Here Jamison examines bipolar illness from the dual perspectives of the healer and the healed, revealing both its terrors and the cruel allure that at times prompted her to resist taking medication. An Unquiet Mind is a memoir of enormous candor, vividness, and wisdom—a deeply powerful book that has both transformed and saved lives.

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Like nearly one in five people, Matt Haig suffers from depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt’s inspiring account of how, minute by minute and day by day, he overcame the disease with the help of reading, writing, and the love of his parents and his girlfriend (and now-wife), Andrea. And eventually, he learned to appreciate life all the more for it.
 
Everyone’s lives are touched by mental illness: if we do not suffer from it ourselves, then we have a friend or loved one who does. Matt’s frankness about his experiences is both inspiring to those who feel daunted by depression and illuminating to those who are mystified by it. Above all, his humor and encouragement never let us lose sight of hope. Speaking as his present self to his former self in the depths of depression, Matt is adamant that the oldest cliché is the truest—there is light at the end of the tunnel. He teaches us to celebrate the small joys and moments of peace that life brings, and reminds us that there are always reasons to stay alive.



Blue Genes by Christopher Lukas
Christopher (Kit) Lukas’s mother committed suicide when he was a boy. He and his brother, Tony, were not told how she died. No one spoke of the family’s history of depression and bipolar disorder. The brothers grew up to achieve remarkable success; Tony as a gifted journalist (and author of the classic book,Common Ground), Kit as an accomplished television producer and director. After suffering bouts of depression, Kit was able to confront his family’s troubled past, but Tony never seemed to find the contentment Kit had attained–he killed himself in 1997. Written with heartrending honesty, Blue Genes captures the devastation of this family legacy of depression and details the strength and hope that can provide a way of escaping its grasp.

 **** I  clipped and pasted the descriptions from Amazon.com

No comments: