A gifted and audacious writer confronts her lifelong battle with depression and her search for release
This Close to Happy is the rare, vividly personal account of what it feels like to suffer from clinical depression, written from a woman's perspective and informed by an acute understanding of the implications of this disease over a lifetime.
Taking off from essays on depression she has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, Daphne Merkin casts her eye back to her beginnings to try to sort out the root causes of her affliction. She recounts the travails of growing up in a large, affluent family where there was a paucity of love and basics such as food and clothing despite the presence of a chauffeur and a cook. She goes on to recount her early hospitalization for depression in poignant detail as well as her complex relationship with her mercurial, withholding mother.
Along the way Merkin also discusses her early redemptive love of reading and gradual emergence as a writer. She eventually marries, has a child, and suffers severe postpartum depression, for which she is again hospitalized. Merkin also discusses her visits to various therapists and psychopharmocologists, which enable her to probe the causes of depression and its various treatments. The book ends in the present, where the writer has learned how to navigate her depression, if not "cure" it, after a third hospitalization in the wake of her mother's death.
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I should be the last person to recommend this book
I would recommend this book to anyone trying to understand what depression feels like.
I have always said I don't have time for depression, despite having faced a very difficult (and impoverished) childhood, followed by close calls with death (first by assault, then by disease). Let's just say I couldn't imagine having much sympathy for someone with a Park Avenue upbringing. Yet I found myself intrigued by Daphne's story and amazed at how much she is willing to reveal. I don't understand exactly why but I have ended up liking her and giving her props for getting this all down, no matter how long it took. I plan to read more pieces by her.
I do have one problem though -- I don't think she is totally forthcoming about how much her parents footed the bill for some things, like her psychiatric hospitalizations during her 30s and it's kind of unclear if, after her father says he'll buy her an apartment if she promises to keep kosher, and she says no way, who does end up buying the 3 br apartment? I have a suspicion that although her loaded parents are stingy Daphne has that security of knowing that bottom line they are still there for her. Her situation is so different from those who are totally financially on their own. I just wish she would acknowledge that. Because not having to worry about where your next dollar is coming from provides a person with a certain freedom to make choices not available to someone who does have that worry.
excellent book on depression