It’s not often that many people would want to read a book on depression written by a psychiatrist. Sometimes we can have preconceived ideas about what they are going to have to say on the subject and we think we’ve heard it all before. Well, with this book you are in for a pleasant surprise. Not only is it written by a British psychiatrist it also approaches depression from a very different angle than what we would expect. It’s a small book which delivers a powerful punch and rekindles hope in the psychiatric profession.
Straight away Dr Cantopher identifies the dreadful stigma and hurt caused by the ignorance of others which is felt by many of us who suffer from emotional health problems. This catches the reader’s attention and immediately one feels the author’s empathy, it is not patronising in any way at all, just down right honest. It’s a breath of fresh air - “someone does understand” comes to mind.
The acknowledgement that you could be attempting to read this book against all the odds because of lack of concentration and low mood is also reassuring. He suggests reading Chapters 1 and 5 if at all possible and ignoring the rest until you feel able. Wise words indeed as some of the book is very technical and rather dry compared to the chosen two chapters.
The author is very keen for the reader to appreciate from the outset that you are suffering from an illness which affects you mentally but also physically and clearly explains why. It's definitely worth persevering - you gradually become aware of why he believes that depression is “The Curse of the Strong”. Examples of famous people underline his reasoning - but he is reaching out to ordinary people like you and me to give us some strength to believe in ourselves.
Chapter 5 is a revelation - “What to do when you get ill”. There is acknowledgement that there are times when we push too hard to keep going and the safety valve blows - "well done!" - we’re trying to live a very difficult life. However, he is at pains to help us accept there are times when we have to get off the roundabout. We need to do what we would do if we acknowledged we had a physical illness. The advice given is to rest - practical ways of doing this are suggested. We need to take our prescribed medication which again we would do if we felt physically unwell. Lastly he explores the uses of psychotherapy and realistically points out the lack of NHS resources. However, he then briefly explains the different therapies which he expands on later in the book. He values “talking therapies” as a way of changing how you think which in the long term is what is going to help you on the road to recovery.
The remainder of the book explores these areas in more detail and only needs to be read if you feel able. Towards the end of this little treasure there is a chapter on problem areas of the illness and different ways of coping are clearly explained. All the advice given is attainable and sensible making it attractive as a way of addressing our lives rather than just giving up.
The book ends on a very honest note - yet again - and gives a brief overview of how the author looks at life and what is the point to it all - a question we all ask ourselves frequently. It’s about acceptance of where you are and being constructively selfish to make a better quality of life for yourself and not feeling guilty about other people and their lives. He hopes the book goes someway to help us see a better life for ourselves and to let us know that realistically there are things that none of us can change even though we desperately want to. I feel he’s actually talking to me rather than me reading a book about depression.
I highly recommend this book for its human qualities and the way in which it can be read - a bit at a time. It’s a very honest and down to earth approach to life in general.