Jason Tompkins, LCSW | Article

"Listening to Depression" a Book Review

For many people, Depression is a debilitating and paralyzing condition that robs them of the ability to enjoy life. Symptoms such as disturbed sleep, fatigue, low energy, loss of libido, and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness (among others) often keep sufferers from reaching their full potential. Depression sometimes begins with a major life event such as the loss of a loved one or the experience of a trauma and can lasts for a relatively short time. For others, depression’s roots lie deep in the childhood and can last much longer. For both groups depression can be a gift that provides an opportunity to provide clarity about life, desires, and relationships.

The idea that Depression is a gift can be painful and odd for some. Sufferers often ask, “How can something that hurts so much be a gift?” This is a valid question. In her book Listening to Depression, Dr. Honos-Webb acknowledges that depression is painful and for some people can be dangerous. However; she invites readers to imagine the possibility that Depression may also be a gift. Symptoms are reframed as opportunities to make lasting and freedom finding changes in life. This will be a journey, not a get better fast prescription. Often times our “gotta have it now culture” encourages us to find quick fixes to unpleasant symptoms and ignore Depression’s invitation to stop and reevaluate what you are doing in your life and why. Dr. Honos-Webb writes, “Depression is not just a meaningless affliction to be eliminated-it is a communication to the self, from the self, about the self.”

Much like an airplane navigation system, depression alerts sufferers that it is time to change course. If an airplane goes off course, consequences could range from arriving late to dangerously entering another plane’s flight path. In the same way, Depression can be navigation system reminding you to check your course and to change your life’s direction. Consequences for ignoring the signals of depression can likewise range from the mild to severe. Dr. Honos-Webb cites one patient, a saleswoman, who operated her entire life under the motto, “The customer always comes first.” After a time, she began to feel overwhelmed by the expectations of her family and her career. Through her brave journey, of therapy she was able to realize that the sleepless nights, periods of intense anger, and lack of self worth was a message from her navigation system alerting her that she had gone off course. By feverishly meeting the needs of her customers, her husband, and extended family, she forgot to respect herself and take care of her own needs.

Many times, sufferers lose touch with the strengths in their life and are overwhelmed with the painful aspects of the Depression. Sometimes, Depression is a signal to slow down and take inventory of the positive and rewarding experiences of life. Dr. Honos-Webb suggests that sufferers take the time to realize that depression does not define them and it may be helpful to ask, “What strengths do you have that the depression has not over shadowed?” She also offers useful exercises such as sentence completions to change the depressive’s focus from pain to hope. “I am depressed but one quality about myself that will help me through he depression is:_____.” and “I am depressed, but I can reach out for help. The following people can support me through this depression: _____.”

Listening to Depression can serve as a great beginning to journey of working through depression and towards a life of joy and fulfillment. It is a well written book filled with hope for hurting people. This book can help you begin to shift your focus from hopelessness to hope.