Book review: Be There For Me

Book cover: Be There For Me by Faith Trent

Faith Trent explains that she wrote Be There For Me: An Insight Into My Journey With Depression to “1. Show sufferers they are not alone. 2. Provide advice and guidance for those trying to support a sufferer. 3. Try to remove some stigma around depression.”  At the time of writing she was in the midst of a depressive episode and was off work, and she thought writing would be a good way to make something positive out of something horribly difficult.

The author’s depression journey captures common elements shared by many of us living with depression.  When she first became depressed, she had no idea what was happening, especially since there was no identifiable trigger or reason for her to be depressed.  She was initially reluctant to try medication, a view that she’d picked up from her mother.  There are chapters devoted to various different features of her illness, including anxiety and self-harm.  For her, self-harm was a way to somehow legitimize the way she was feeling.

She describes what it feels like to live with depressive symptoms such as fatigue, apathy, poor concentration, and the pervasive shadow of guilt.  She also explains common thought patterns in depression, including self-doubting, feeling like a burden, and drowning in shoulds.  These are not textbook definitions, but rather descriptions of the subjective experience.

She writes about the challenges of parenting young children with depression, and how the illness makes the daily parenting tasks feel like a mountain that must be climbed.  She finds it hard to be fully present with her children, and she regrets the distance from them that has created.  She also crying in front of them.  I’ve always wondered, though, if there isn’t benefit in children seeing what mental illness actually looks like, and perhaps this helps to prevent the propagation of stigma.

She identifies the essential elements she has found for managing her illness: becoming aware of her triggers and early red flags of worsening illness, maintaining work-life balance, getting enough rest, talking to a close circle of friends, exercising, and doing things that make her happy.  When her illness hits hard, she says “it cripples my whole life…  It causes me to question every part of my life, doubt my value, and make me feel like I am a burden to all I encounter.”  This struck me as such classic depressive thinking.

As is far too often the case for those of us living with mental illness, the author has experienced stigma directly.  Some people made her feel “truly inadequate and small for suffering from something that I feel they didn’t believe was real. I was patronised and made to feel like I was making it up at times.”  It was disturbing to read that a teaching colleague of hers questioned whether she should be allowed to be at work because she might pose a danger to her students.  As a nurse I have faced questions about my safety to my patients, but somehow no one realizes (or cares?) that with depression most often the real risk is to ourselves.

The main focus of the book is breaking down stigma.  She concludes that the only way to do this is for people with depression to share their stories to counter the misconceptions others may have.  I wholeheartedly agree.

 

You can find the author on her blog Shatter the Stigma.

 

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