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.