Winston Churchill called it his “black dog”, some call it a “black hole” , it has been called “the noonday demon”, and Sally Brompton just wanted to shoot the damn thing. Once a successful editor of Elle magazine, Sally suffered from such a bad depression that, at one stage, she was unable to leave her flat and was drinking two bottles of wine a day. She tried to commit suicide twice and was hospitalised twice. Both the alcohol and suicide attempts were a desperate wish just to get rid of the dark cloak of depression that covered her.
I found this book to be a fascinating account of her depression – she writes about it openly and frankly, with no self-pity and no attempt to glamourise it either. She says that looking back on it, there were signs that depression was creeping up on her, such as a grief and sadness welling in her; she pushed those feelings aside, as she had such a successful life, it wasn’t possible that she could be feeling sad.
Unfortunately for her, once clinical depression was diagnosed, she seemed to have drug-resistant depression and was unable to find an anti-depressant that could lift her out of it. The overwhelming severity and length of the depression was what led her to drink and pills. So, as well as having to deal with her damn dog, she had to go into rehab for alcoholism. Now that’s a bummer.
The book, though, doesn’t only cover her story, but also discusses depression in an easily accessible way, which makes me think that this would be a good book for anyone to read, not just those who battle with depression. Personally, I found it such a comfort to read, having had a pack bloody rottweilers snapping at my ankles at times. It’s always good to know there are others out there who have had the same experience, for, as Sally puts it, depression is such a lonely illness.
What does amaze me about her story is that she seems to go to such disasterous therapists – she must be a very intelligent woman, yet she was unable to see how bad some of them were. To be fair to her, she writes that she was in such a bad way that she couldn’t make any decisions. Her psychiatrist, also, doesn’t seem to tackle the problem with much urgency, but perhaps that is just how she writes about him.
The psychiatric units she goes into sound horrendous, with bars on all the windows and even the odd screaming person, like in horror movies. Both the ones I’ve been in have been positively luxurious compared with the ones she describes. But then, she meets some wonderful characters in the insititutions, who become great friends of hers over time.
Through her awful depression, she somehow managed to keep her relationship with her daughter, Molly, going (who was about 10 at the time and a very mature sounding 10 year old, but I suppose she had to be in that situation). Sally did everything possible to look after Molly. She also had a good relationship with her ex-husband, who looked after Molly when Sally was physically unable to because of the crippling effects of the depression and the side-effects of the drugs she tried.
I could go on for ages about this book, as I could relate to virtually everything in it – except for the drinking and the terrible side-effects of the anti-depressants. It is extremely well-written and I would recommend it to anyone who has battled with depression or anyone else who wants to understand the illness.
Mow the damn dog down with a machine gun, I say.