Top positive review
27 of 27 people found this helpful
Very good, possibly rather outdated, though...
on 18 January 2010
I'm in agreement with the other reviews here at the time of writing.
I'll start out with a couple of things you *won't* get from this book.
Firstly, the cover gives the impression that Spike had a hand in writing this book. That's not the case. Spike is merely the primary and almost only individual case study. His contribution is via interviews conducted by Clare about Spike's depression. Nevertheless Spike's observations and experiences of suffering bipolar illness are illuminating and, if you suffer from depression, you will be able to relate to them. If you've never suffered depression then his experiences will help you understand how depression feels.
Secondly, do not expect Spike's humour to play a role in the book. There is merely one page where Clare quotes some of Spike's comedy material to make a point about bipolar illness and creativity. Spike's input on the subject of his depression is devoid of laughs. This didn't bother me but I merely warn you that Spike's involvement does not make itself felt through any kind of madcap humour on the subject.
Thirdly, the "how to survive it" subtitle is a little misleading. If you're looking for a self-help book there are plenty of others on the market. This book focuses far more on studies about depression and research into treatments. It is very short on what someone suffering should do in their lives to relieve depression, though it does go into detail about treatments.
On the subject of treatments it is worth recognising that this book was published in 1994. I seem to recall the latest bit of research in the book comes from 1990. So, at the time I read the book here in 2010 I was struck that we are now a whole twenty years further down the road and it made me eager to learn what has changed in that period; it could be enough to make this book rather a shakey proposition now, but equally possible that things haven't progressed that much.
However, I still give this book 4 stars. Clare writes wonderfully, making all the research he refers to come alive and accessible. Because it is a reasonably brief book I would especially recommend it for people with depression who have people around them who do not understand what they're going through; they could pass this book onto them (perhaps after judicious use of a highlighter pen) and anyone could learn a lot about this debilitating condition.
It's probably worth reiterating that Spike is a bipolar depressive which has the distinct symptom of bouts of mania not present in most depressives. However, I am unipolar and didn't feel alienated or find the book less useful despite the fact that the chief case study has a different disorder to mine; the subject of mania is explored but doesn't override or dilute the content useful to the unipolar depressed.
I would recommend this book as an addition to a small library on the topic of depression, which I feel anyone with depressions severe enough to require medical attention should invest in.
Other books I would recommend are Andrew Solomon's "The Noonday Demon" which is a larger book and very thorough. It includes the writer's own experience of depression, covers the history of the condition and explores the societal aspects and much more besides.
I would also recommend "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies" as a great introduction to a therapy proven to really help people recover (and the whole book is cheaper than one private session with a therapist).
For anyone out there with depression, I wish you well. It is possible to manage it. It is possible to get through the bad times. It will pass.