I finished reading Shoot the damn dog by Sally Brampton yesterday, and it just blew me away. It’s the story of her depression, its symptoms, its effects, and how she learns to manage it all. Some pages are like reading excerpts from my own diary in my head, which is wonderful in a strange way – it’s always reassuring to know you aren’t alone with something, but your heart aches with empathy.


(There’s a good review in The Guardian: here).

Sally’s family background and childhood were very different to mine, plus she developed an alcohol dependence (so far I’ve managed to avoid any substance abuse!), but so much of what she experienced resonated in deeply personal ways. I was also lucky that almost the first type of anti-depressant medication I was put on (over 20 years ago, and after two years of therapy) worked for me – I hadn’t realised that over 60% of depressives do not respond well to drugs, until I read this book. So, I’ve come to see “lucky” as an understatement: fluoxetine still works relatively well for me, my ‘low moods’ are generally short-lived, and most people probably have no idea that my mental state is sometimes shaky. I battle with fatigue, but I manage to work around it (it could be a symptom of something else entirely, anyway).

It’s a fascinating blend of scientific research (albeit a bit sketchy in places) and individual experience that I am going to pass round to everyone I know – if you aren’t a depressive yourself, chances are you know at least one person who is. This will help you understand that it is in fact a genuine illness, how they/we see the world when they/we are really ill, and how you can support them/me best.

I was moved to write to the author to let her know what her book has meant to me. But googling her name took me straight to a report of her death, by suicide, in May this year. As if she had been a close friend, I felt absolutely gutted. I also know I’ll always be grateful for the courage and energy she found to write her story, and I so wish she’d found her own happy ending.

22 thoughts on “Depression

  1. Gail

    So glad that this book helped and resonated with you dear Jill. Sad that the author is no longer in this reality. Asking the angels to keep you safe. xxx

  2. katechiconi

    ‘Liking’ this post felt a bit wrong, but I wanted to show my encouragement. I’ve been fortunate never to have suffered clinical depression, although family members have, and I applaud you for the courage and honesty you show in telling about it. One would never have guessed from your regular writing that there’s a Black Dog in your life too. Bravo for sharing your situation and the impact of this book.

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I’m just lucky and grateful that my BD is usually kept at bay. Everyone has different ways of dealing with it when it does strike, though, and I prefer not to be around people then. I think other people prefer it, too! :-)

  3. insearchofitall

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t think I’d be able to read the book. Mostly because I’ve struggle with depression my entire life as well. On and off different meds for years, I now try to manage quite well mostly without them. I only use food as my drug of choice. Whenever stressed, I find myself looking for a comfort food. I surround myself with happy, productive people and stay as creative as possible. Sometimes, when it’s bad there is a lot of napping needed as well as walks and happy music and movies. I eliminate a lot of negative from my life including people. It helps. I’m always sorry to hear someone has succumbed to the depression and given up. I intend to keep plodding along and looking for ways to find happiness everywhere I can. I don’t watch the news unless the sound is off and it’s in fast forward. I get the gist without being overwhelmed. Just a few of my little tricks. It does run in families including mine. We just help each other. Always here to help anytime. Marlene

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Thank you, Marlene, I do appreciate that. I definitely don’t have the guts to stop taking my meds, I tried it once a few years ago and the experience was about as successful as Hillary Clinton’s run for president. I figure if I’ve found something that works for me, then that’s something to be grateful for and I’ll stick with it. Napping and walks are both helpful, I agree. Especially napping. And eliminating negative people! (Doesn’t help when some of them are closely related though….!!!!) xxx

      1. insearchofitall

        I wouldn’t suggest stopping medication that is working. I only stopped after trying several and then they stopped working for me. I was weaned off carefully. Negative people that you are related to is a hard one. I hung up on my cherished son when he wouldn’t stop talking about something that I found distressing. I’m setting stronger boundaries. Had to do it with my sister too. It’s my lesson in life. I’ve been too passive with people and let them bully me. Not so easy now. :) Searching for the answer to how the mind and body work together is a lifelong mission for me.

      1. insearchofitall

        I love to know about events that are going on in town and glean bits of good news so fast forward with no sound while I’m doing some hand sewing lets me catch the good stuff but filter out the junk and takes half the time. :)

  4. The Snail of Happiness

    I suffered from depression when I was in my 20s, but fortunately once I got over it, it has never returned. Drugs helped me at the time, but the most positive thing since has been Mr Snail (our relationship started a year or two after the depression)… he makes me laugh and helps me out of declining moods.
    How tragic that the author of the book did not find a way out of it. It really tugs at my heartstrings to read of anyone losing that battle.

  5. nanacathy2

    Oh that is a tragic end to an author’s life. How sad. I am sorry to that you have suffered. I am a glass half full kind of person and not prone to depression. I comprehend that it is an illness that is totally debilitating when it strikes. Hope you have good health from now on.

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I feel like a relatively healthy person! It might sound stupid to compare like this, but I think of it as an illness like flu – I try and take care of myself as much as the next person, but sometimes the “virus” is just coming to come along and lay me low for a while. I DO know that it will always pass – I just have to trust my experience and endure the misery and lethargy while it lasts:( For most of the time, I am quite cheerful and optimistic. I hope that’s the “real” me. xx

  6. yarnchick40

    Love you my friend & happy to know you find your way through those times. Thanks for sharing, as I live with a husband that struggles with this & am always looking for stuff to help him. 😘xox

    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about his struggles. It’s a real stinker sometimes! There are some people who know me well enough to accept me when I’m like this and to do what I have told them I want them to do – which is to leave me alone. No inviting me out, no making demands, no nothing. Especially no visits. I realise that sounds ungrateful, but it’s not – it’s what I want, so when they have understood that, no matter how well meaning and loving they want to show me they are, then I really am grateful. Hope that makes sense. Everyone is different. I guess you will know by now what works for your husband. Knowing you love him in whatever state he’s in is the best support ever. He’s lucky to have YOU. xxx

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