The ebb and flow of a life with depression

The ever-tightening grip of mental illness pushes its victims to disturbing ends. The narrative journey of This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression is easy to follow, but its themes are not for the faint of heart. Learning to live with mental illness is a daily struggle, especially for someone whose family has been affected for generations. Daphne Merkin exhibits shocking honesty in allowing readers to look into her journey. Merkin presents a realistic but uncomfortable look into her struggle with depression. Her depth of writing experience on the topic comes through in emotion-packed prose. The first-person account invites readers to see the personal side of a struggle, when much mental health writing can take a sterile, almost clinical approach to describing the sickness.

This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 304p, $26

The book opens with a line whose message haunts the entire narrative—“Lately I’ve been thinking about the allure of suicide again.” The theme of death, and more specifically what it can mean to someone facing a seemingly indefinite period of suffering, surfaces again and again. Because she lived on both sides, Merkin writes for those in anguish and those watching the anguished. Her mother struggled with mental illness, too, a cold reality that haunts the author as she raises her own daughter. The details of how she copes with her responsibility to herself and her family are enlightening but at times troubling as her depression complicates the trial-and-error process of parenting.

Merkin packs her story with prose that rings: “You have lost the thread that pulled the circumstances of your life together. Nothing adds up, and all you can think about is the raw nerve of pain that your mind has become.” This book offers the education necessary for readers need to follow depression as it rises and falls in one woman’s life, as well as in the lives of thousands of others.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Photo via Wikipedia Commons
Largely forgotten today, Ignaz von Döllinger was one of the most widely respected Catholic intellectuals of his day.
John W. O'MalleyJune 13, 2017
Johanna Pung made this for Wikimedia Deutschland
Thomas Murphy, S.J. reviews "The Book that Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation" by Randall Fuller.
Thomas R. MurphyJune 09, 2017
More than 2,000 people attend Mass at historic St. Albertus Church in Detroit Aug. 10. The Mass was organized as part of a "Mass mob" movement to fill now-closed historic inner-city Detroit churches for occasional Masses. St. Albertus is no longer an active parish but the church remains open as a center for Polish heritage. (CNS photo/Jonathan Francis, Archdiocese of Detroit)
T. Howland Sanks, S.J. reviews "Great Catholic Parishes," "Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century," "Parish Leadership," and "Seminary Formation."
T. Howland SanksJune 02, 2017
Ivan Kramskoy Painting a Portrait of his Daughter
Jon Sweeney reviews "Lessons in Hope: My Life with John Paul II," "Milosz: A Biography," and "This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer."
Jon M. SweeneyJune 02, 2017