Getting By: Understanding Lifelong Depression is a memoir by Jack Trelance.
The author has lived with depression since his teens, and admits to planning his first suicide attempt at age 14. He describes his first suicide attempt at age 25, and afterwards he didn’t feel sadness but rather “a slow-burning anger and frustration, coupled with resigned, numb detachment – a go-to cocktail of emotion that would follow me for years.”
His second suicide attempt followed not long after, and resulted in him going to a day hospital program. He describes feeling that “with a sudden jolt I had to accept I wasn’t special; mental illness, depression, stress, anxiety, even self-harm and attempted suicide were all normal there.”
The author shares his struggles with the notion of taking medication. For years he had resisted them thinking that taking medication was a sign of weakness, and then when he did take them in his 30’s, he stopped them on his own after a few months even though they were helpful. That being said, the book does not take an anti-medication stance, and the author acknowledges that his illness didn’t plunge to the same depths as others who may truly need medication.
Now in his 60’s, the author is living in rural Thailand with his Thai wife. He shares what it has been like to experience recurrence of the depression in that setting, and how as he’s gotten older he’s gotten better at managing it, and the suicidal thoughts are less intense and more removed.
Throughout the book, the author is quite insightful regarding his relationship with depression. He also freely shares the denial, lack of insight, and other problematic patterns that marked much of the early part of his journey with the illness.
The author also reflects on the possible, and most likely multiple, causes of his depression. He describes coming to accept that, for him at least, the illness was going to be chronic rather than curable. He writes: “I may not have asked for or initiated my depression, but I know how my negative thinking, round and round the spiral, drove me deeper each time, and, if I’m honest, how comforting it was to ease myself into a familiar groove.”
The book is short and divided into easy to read sections. It’s sequenced chronologically, but interspersed with present-day commentary and insight. I would describe the writing style as eloquent simplicity. One line that particularly struck me was describing the world visible outside the window as “someone else’s summer”.
The book begins with a positive message to carry the reader through the darker material covered in the book. In the process of writing, “I’ve gone further back in my mind than depression, and in doing so have come full circle back to my own future, pushing at an open door marked ‘Hopeful’.”
I was glad to be able to go along on that journey.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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