This excellently-illustrated book on Depression arrived in my post-box yesterday. Written and illustrated by Matthew (and Ainsley) Johnstone, Living with a Black Dog contains roughly 50 touching illustrations of what it’s like to live with someone who suffers from Depression. (Incidentally I’m not sure that depression warrants a capital letter like that but it does make it look more forbidding. I guess a Black Dog is also a lot more scary than a black dog )
Anyway, it’s easy to read and communicates valuable insights in a light-hearted way. Perhaps because it’s visual it appeals to our emotions more directly? Matthew has this to say (on his website) about the book: “I gave it to a friend recently to have a look at and he shared it with his wife and he said the biggest thing he got out of it was (a) communication, communication, communication & (b) the sufferer taking a bigger responsibility in getting well.”
I loved the illustrations of the black dog itself and the way the dog mirrored the characters’ situations. I also felt quite sad that the couple wave goodbye to the black dog at the end as it sails away into the sunset. Such a cute dog and they’re letting it go? (Perhaps there’s something in this about how we cute-ify our “dark sides” but it’s Friday afternoon so I’ll let that one go.)
In honour of such creativity (and because I’ve been meaning to tackle this subject for a while), I thought I’d do a quick scan to see what online resources are available on Depression. I’d be interested in any thoughts you have on the topic as well. For example:
1. Any well-known novels and movies that spring to mind on depression?
2. Any well-known writers and poets? (Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf are three that come to mind.)
3. Is it even helpful to separate out “depression” in this way, as something scientific to be diagnosed, rather than focusing on relationships?
Of course that leads to the inevitable question of what is depression and how it differs from distress (or just having a bad day or being down-in-the-dumps). I guess severity and duration are the keys here — and the DSM requires you to have five out of nine symptoms to qualify for a diagnosis of a Major Depressive Episode (MDE).
I also know that it’s not possible to do more than scratch the surface of this topic but I thought I’d at least start the discussion, in part because this is something I’ve wrestled with from time to time. A bit like Matthew, I’m not that comfortable putting it out there for people to see. And I’m also wary of labelling myself in a way which is not helpful. I clearly don’t have MDE now but I’m pretty sure that I would have qualified in my early twenties.
I also know that it’s difficult to talk about losses, even minor ones such as the loss of friendships. Perhaps this is part of what this is about. And another part of it is curiosity (from the personal to the more general) of the types of stories that are out there and the ways that people have of talking about loss and longing and sadness. (And then the myriad ways we have of defending against such feelings.)
There’s a sober topic for a Friday! Have a good weekend now