This Close To Happy: A Reckoning With Depression – Daphne Merkin (2017)


Daphne Merkin’s memoir about battling chronic depression and suicidal ideation is both intimately close, while keeping the reader at an arm’s length. Sharing her innermost thoughts, and wishes to die, the reader feels that Merkin is sharing in a therapy session; however while she paints a fearsome picture of her relationship with her mother, with whom she shared a strange relationship with what she considers a distant and cold mother, the reader feels that she glosses over some areas of her life that may make the author herself seem unfavourable. The memoir stretches back and forth through her memory like an elastic, pulling all the way back to her childhood with an abusive nanny, and then snapping back to the present, where she finds herself in yet another “dark season”. Keenly self aware, Merkin writes that she knows that her Park Avenue upbringing, and life advantages, along with her insistence that her parents are to blame for her depression, might make her unsympathetic to the reader, alienating them too much. This, however frustrating it may be for a fellow depressive to read, is in part what makes it a true “reckoning with depression” – depression is insular, therefore the depressed person tends to alienate friends, family, coworkers, and whomever she meets simply by being depressed. Depression is self-centred – one literally cannot focus on anything but the self when swamped with a brain that will not see the good in the world. She discusses the desire to get away from her own head, an understanding that there are much worse things in the world than her situation, but truthfully points out that depression doesn’t care. Logic does not come in to it. There were many moments throughout the book that I found myself nodding in understanding, feeling the “mean reds” swirling around, but they were dampened by my desire to have her stop complaining about her mother. But isn’t that the reaction people have to depressed people in general – ‘stop complaining. Go do yoga. Everyone feels depressed.”? Through this memoir, Merkin isn’t looking for sympathy, she is simply sharing her story.

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