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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 4 August 2017
The best book on depression that I have ever read. Thanks Spike.
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on 26 December 2000
This was the first book on depression that I have read having suffered several bouts of severe depression over the last 12 years. More than anything it made me feel not so alone in my symptoms and that people can live full and rewarding lives suffering from this disabling clinical condition. It was very intelligently written and the personal anecdotes made it all the more real. As an introduction and insight into depression and manic depression I would recommend it. The only thing I would say is that since it was written several years ago now, it doesn't deal with the latest developments in medications (i.e. SSRIs) which have helped me and many others I suspect in recovery from depression.
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on 30 August 2000
After years of not understanding what depression actually was, this book gave me a thorough insight into the 'disease'. Whilst reading Spike's candid story, his ups and downs and such struggle with this debilitating illness, I have been thoroughly enlightened. It was the first book on depression which I chose to read and how it mirrored the history of my own life. I read it from back to front in 2 hours, so gripping was the material. Thank goodness someone had the good sense to write of their experience of a manic depressive life. It has opened a new world of understanding to me, since it not only disclosed Spike's problems, anxieties and tribulations, but also spoke of the medical diagnoses which have meant such a stigma being attached to individuals and families in the past, and which is no longer the case. Spike has intended to help fellow sufferers of depression and manic depression through recounting his own story, He has certainly helped me. I highly recommend this book.
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on 24 July 2003
This is a useful but ultimately disappointing book. It reads for the most part like a medical textbook, exploring the causes of depression and reviewing the available treatments. Spike Milligan's contribution is limited, and he disappears for large parts of the book. This is emphatically not a user-friendly guide on how to limit the effects of depression; it is more a scholarly review leavened by Spike Milligan's own observations.
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2010
Spike Milligan (1918- 2002), was a wonderful anarchic comedian, actor and writer, and the co-creator, and a principal cast member of 'The Goon Show', 'QI' amongst other shows.
Milligan wrote and/or edited many books, including 'Puckoon', and a six-volume autobiographical account of his time serving during the Second World War, beginning with 'Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall'. He was also a writer of comical verse.
Television director Richard Lester recalls that the television series 'A Show Called Fred' was recorded live. "I've seen very few moments of genius in my life but I witnessed one with Spike after the first show". He had brought around a silent cartoon, and asked Lester if his secretary took shorthand. She said she did. "Good", said Spike, "this needs a commentary". "It was a ten-minute cartoon and Spike could only have seen it once, if that. He ad-libbed the commentary for it and it was perfect. I was open-mouthed at the raw comedy creation in front of me".
Even late in life, Milligan's black humour had not deserted him. After the death of friend Harry Secombe from cancer, he said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." Appropriately,a recording of Secombe singing was subsequently played at Milligan's memorial service. He died at the age of 83, on 27 February 2002, and once famously quipped that he wanted his headstone to bear the words "I told you I was ill."
He suffered from severe bipolar depression for most of his life, having at least ten mental breakdowns, several lasting over a year. He spoke candidly about his condition and its effect on his life: "I have got so low that I have asked to be hospitalised and for deep narcosis (sleep). I cannot stand being awake. The pain is too much... Something has happened to me, this vital spark has stopped burning - I go to a dinner table now and I don't say a word, just sit there like a dodo. Normally I am the centre of attention, I keep the conversation going - so that is depressing in itself. It's like another person taking over, very strange. The most important thing I say is `Good evening', and then I go quiet".
In 1993 he collaborated with Dr Anthony Clare on 'Depression and How to Survive it'. "Spike Milligan describes in a particularly powerful and reflective way what it is like to be depressed, and the factors in his make-up which may or may not have contributed to his experience of depression. He considers whether, looking back, such mood swings have proved any benefit (given that it is often said genius is related to madness), or whether they have disfigured in an irredeemable way what would otherwise have been a happy and fulfilling life. This may not be a comedy book, but Spike's personality shone through for me.
The book illustrates in a particularly powerful way how depression can strain family relationships. Why is it so difficult to communicate how you feel? There is a desire to avoid causing pain and anguish, a desire to avoid being a burden. For their part, relatives can find the presence of a depressed family member profoundly distressing. Relatives can also feel threatened or hurt to find that a loved one feels suicidal. They feel they must have failed the depressed person in some way. Often it is too difficult to get it right, and emotional involvement, the needs of children or other dependents, or family history, mean outside counselling, formal or informal, is essential. So many of those who have benefited, wonder why they delayed so long.
If you struggle to understand or give meaningful help to a depressed friend, try reading Spike Milligan's story.
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on 19 May 2012
The late and great Dr Anthony Clare, a highly respected psychiatrist,analyses in clearcut terms the bi-polarism suffered by Spike Milligan, a comedian of the highest cailibre in the old days. This is a book that would provide the lay reader with a perceptive insight into depressive disorders and how to cope with them.
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on 15 February 2008
Very interesting read. Spike Milligan is a perfect spokesperson for the bipolar suffers. This book is illuminated by his contribution, delving into the rich life he has led. I can say I found this book both informative and touching.
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on 19 March 2014
Was well reviewed and will be a source of reference, I hope
Something that perhaps we all ought to know something about
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on 18 October 2010
Quite helpful, but at bit medically technical at times, however I found it an interesting book, although I was only interested in depression and it did cover various forms of mental health issues.
Overall I was happy with the purchase of this book which gave me an insight into mental health issues plus responses to treatments currently available.
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