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by Elizabeth Swados
Hyperion, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 16th 2005

My Depression

In My Depression, Elizabeth Swados explains what it is like for her to be depressed. She gets depressed on a regular basis, and while when she is well she is highly creative and productive, when depression strikes, she becomes reclusive, self-critical, and negative about life. Her mother and brother also suffered from mental illness, and killed themselves (Swados has previously published a memoir about her family: The Four of Us: The Story of a Family). Swados admits that for many years she resisted getting conventional medical treatment for her depression, and instead tired all sorts of alternative therapies and activities that didn't help much. She also finds, once she does start psychotherapy and medication, that is has limited success and does not always keep depression at bay. She tries different ways to cope with her illness and hopes that she will survive.

The famous names who wrote blurbs for the book give it high praise -- Gloria Steinem, Garry Trudeau, Jimmy Breslin and Jane Pauley. So far, the first 3 reader reviews on also give it high praise. Maybe Swados's book would be helpful to people with depression who could benefit from learning about other people's experience of depression, so they know that they are not alone. Swados goes into some detail about her life and her drawings are evocative, so readers unfamiliar with the basics of depression may found her book a helpful resource. It does give a clear sense of how disabling and awful it is to have depression.

However, the most obvious fact about Swados' drawings is that they are very crude. It is hard to see what benefit there is in using such badly-drawn pictures, and why the publisher did not commission a more talented artist to do the drawing. Some of the images are charming because they have some fun details -- people wearing funny T-shirts, or with a silly expression on their face, for example -- but most of them just look amateurish. I'm not sure who would want to own such a book; maybe someone with a quirky personality would appreciate it. But I would think twice before buying the book for a friend.



2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

Link: Author web site


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.