"Depressed people need their depression taken seriously. Someone once said to me, 'Everyone's a little depressed.' You'd never say that everyone's a little schizophrenic," says journalist and author Daphne Merkin. "There's still an attitude that you can pull yourself together, get a massage, go to a movie. We use the term 'depressed' in such elasticized ways. If you had a bad meeting, you say, 'That really depressed me.' But that's a very loose use of the word."
But as Merkin demonstrates in her deeply honest and often profoundly funny new book "This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression," true clinical depression is not a passing mood or feeling; it's not the state of having a tough day or receiving difficult news. In her book, Merkin reveals her own chronology with a condition that began when she was still a young child — she had her first psychiatric hospitalization when she was just eight years old — and continues to this day. She also describes her rocky relationship with her emotionally withholding mother and her struggles to be a better parent to her own daughter, but she resists the temptation to offer easy explanations for her depression or pat conclusions about where she is now with it.
"I didn't want to falsify my experience and say, 'It's over forever and now the trees are in bloom and I am in bloom.'" Instead, she says, "I wanted to give some sense of how you can navigate it. You can learn to live with it, if not cure it."