Depression is not a tidy ailment, but a spectrum of difficulty, from fairly mild levels of distress and disconnection through to the desire to die, sometimes acted on. For non-sufferers, depression is often equated with melancholy, angst, feeling a bit sorry for yourself and other ideas that are way off the mark, often culminating in an impression that you ought to be able to pull yourself together. Depression is a complex illness, and furthermore it is an illness that kills people.
New Age books tends to go in for a lot of warm, fuzzy affirmation. Like attracts like, we are told. Think positive thoughts. For the depressed person, this has already ceased to be a realistic option. Often as a consequence, ostensibly spiritually uplifting material can, for a depressed person, just add to that sense of failure and alienation which is already dismantling you.
Cat Treadwell knows about depression, and this really shows in her writing. This is someone who has walked dark paths repeatedly and come back with some significant insights.
The first time I read Facing the Darkness, I was, by my standards in a pretty good place - for me (only mildly depressed, by medical standards). I found the book helpful and it was good to read. Coming back to it in states of more serious depression, I appreciated being able to just pick it up and dip in at random. Depression is not conducive to good concentration, often. I would suggest that for a person whose depression is mild to moderate, this is a really helpful book and well worth having on the shelf.
If you are seriously depressed, wanting to self-destruct, to stop breathing, to crawl into a small, hidden space and never come out again, you won’t reach for any kind of help. You’re probably not reaching for anything just to make sure you can’t pick up something sharp and dangerous. If you’re in that place and fighting to keep going from one breath to the next, then the best place for this book is in the hands of anyone who is trying to be with you through that. It offers insight. If you’ve taken Cat’s ideas on-board really thoroughly when in a more viable state, you might be able to draw on them in times of absolute crisis, but that’s going to come down to your nature more than anything else.
It is so important to talk honestly and openly about what depression is and what it does to people. It is so very important to have realistic literature that actually deals with what depression means. In writing from the heart and with a deep honesty about personal experience, Cat has made a powerful contribution to what needs to be a large and on-going public discourse.
If you, or someone you love walks the dark roads sometimes, or lives along them, this is book worth investing in. It isn’t a comfortable or easy read, but that’s rather the nature of the beast.
(And, my other half, Tom Brown did the cover illustration)