THE BEAST: A Reckoning with Depression by Tracy Thompson

THE BEAST: A Reckoning with Depression

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Another first-hand account of the depression era (psychological, not financial) of the '90s. A reporter with the Washington Post, Thompson has a twofold goal--to relate her own lifelong battle with the ""Beast"" of depression and to perform a journalistic task of explaining the illnes to those unfamiliar with it. Unfortunately, the two don't mesh well, with didactic asides interrupting the flow of Thompson's personal narrative. In addition, readers will occasionally get tangled up in her complex ratiocinations as she attempts to understand the irrational blight on her spirit. Still, though it lacks the lyrical, visceral compactness of other accounts (such as Martha Manning's Undercurrents, p. 140), Thompson's tale does illustrate how an enterprising, talented young journalist can suffer from feelings of worthlessness, emotional isolation, and the wish to die. A moody father, an anxious mother who took refuge in southern fundamentalist Christian faith, and a disfiguring scar from a car accident, all contributed to a childhood of guilt, private rages, and the author's sense that she was ""defective."" The result, as she grew up, was academic and professional overachievement (she was a Pulitzer finalist in 1988) and a belief that only marriage would validate her existence. Even after her successful move from the Atlanta Constitution to the Post, she clung to a relationship with Thomas, a controlling, contemptuous academic, because she believed his smarts and sophistication would redeem her. Thomas did at least recognize the seriousness of her depression--a fact that the author herself did her best to ignore. After toying with suicide and a brief hospitalization, she writes, she finally ""chose life."" Armed with Prozac and an intelligent plan to refocus her attention from herself to others (a plan that could be helpful to readers suffering from depression), she learned to keep the Beast at bay. The author is a better journalist than she is a memoirist; still, an instructive addition to the growing literature on depression.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam