Depression - a psychiatrist's story
My friend Linda Gask is a distinguished psychiatrist who also suffers from a profound and sometimes very disabling depression. Linda is a great writer and has just published her autobiography - The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist's Memoir of Depression - which is out now on Amazon. I was privileged to see a prepublication copy and I although I don't often do book reviews I thought I would say a few words about it here.
In her book, Linda Gask offers us three interwoven stories. The advertised story – and the main focus of the narrative – is about what it means to experience depression. Here, her story is a painful one because there is no medical answer to her depression. Neither pharmaceutical medicine nor psychotherapy can offer her a complete solution. Even so, this isn’t a book in which the author achieves some kind of self-validation through the lived experience of suffering. Dr Gask is serious about understanding depression and knowing the limits of human responses to it, and her second narrative is about this. It’s an account of what it means to experience depression in others, from the standpoint of someone who, through the course of the book, progresses from life as a schoolgirl to a very distinguished professor of psychiatry. This stream of narrative is an emotionally complex one, because it explores not only the limits of what psychiatry can achieve for the author, but also the limits of what she can achieve for her patients. The third narrative that runs through this book is one that explores the ways that complicated and difficult family relationships echo through the years, and how our achievements sometimes carry us far away from the little pattern of relationships into which we are born and mean that we must negotiate the sometimes very demanding expectations of the people that we grow up with. Each of these stories weaves into the other, as Linda Gask tells us about how she has learned to live with depression. I recommend this book to people who live with depression, but I also recommend it to students and practitioners in medicine, nursing, and psychotherapy: all will find an interesting story here, and both patients and professionals will find profitable lessons about the limits of medicine.