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Inspiring and illuminating testimony.

An insightful account of the significant physical and emotional scars caused by depression.

In 1983, Cregan (English/Barnard Coll.) gave birth to a daughter who died of a heart defect two days later. Plummeting into despair, she attempted suicide and then found herself in a locked psychiatric ward, diagnosed as suffering from a “major depressive episode, with melancholia.” In her absorbing debut memoir, the author returns to that dark time—“the worst days of my life”—both to understand what happened and to offer support to others confronting anguishing “internal forces.” Mining her medical records, her journal, family recollections, and a wide range of sources, Cregan examines her own experiences in the context of evolving psychiatric practices. Although initially doctors assumed that she was depressed in response to her child’s death, the author realized that she had endured periods of depression from the age of 16 that were unacknowledged in her Irish culture of “self-suppression, stoicism, and silence.” Moreover, depression had afflicted many members of her extended family, strong evidence of a genetic connection. As she discovered from research into the history of diagnosis and treatment, there has been much debate about whether the disorder arises from the mind or the body, whether it is a “maladaptive response” to life circumstances or a biological mood disorder associated with chemical imbalances. During her monthslong hospital stay and after, Cregan was offered psychotherapy, tricyclic drugs, and electroconvulsive therapy, which she describes in chilling detail. ECT, much maligned at the time because of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the writings of psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, for her was “a life-saving treatment.” Equally lifesaving were the support and understanding she felt from other patients and the hospital staff. By the 1990s, psychiatry’s “new and expansive definition of depression” spiked diagnoses, and drugs like Prozac publicized depression as caused by “an imbalance in brain chemistry.” Although the efficacy of such drugs is controversial, Cregan attests to their positive effects. Much, she acknowledges, is still unknown about the debilitating disorder, but she shines much-needed light.

Inspiring and illuminating testimony.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00172-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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