Listening to Depression – this book is better than it seems at first glance

listening to depression

Better than it first appears, this book has exercises to help you find avenues of support and identify/manage destructive avenues with depression.

Listening to Depression is a difficult book to get through. Although slim, it packs in plenty of exercises for countering negative thoughts, opportunities for introspection, and challenges for self-growth in its 192 pages. The book is designed to accompany a personal journal; if you’ve never journalled before, Listening to Depression is a great catalyst to help you start.

Listening to Depression will not magically cure your depression, and it’s not meant to take the place of treatment, either, as the author points out early on. Its aim is to help change the way you view depression. It intends to help motivate you when things feel impossible, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of a depressive episode, you should speak to a mental health or medical professional.

What makes Listening to Depression different to many of the self-help books out there is its move away from discussing depression as a collection of physical and emotional symptoms.

Most readers familiar with depression already know the list. Fatigue. Anger. Anhedonia, anxiety, discontent, intense feelings of worthlessness, weight loss or gain, social isolation, headaches, stomach aches, and the rest.

Someone with depression knows the core summary of this list: depression sucks.

Unfortunately, the book summary and table of contents might scare a potential reader away. When I picked up the book and flicked through the dust jacket, my first instinct was to tear it to shreds… it’s only as I kept reading that I started having the complete opposite reaction.

As an example, the author uses the phrase “gifts of depression” to talk about positive life changes that can occur when changes are made to accommodate or treat depressive symptoms. What? At first glance, this seems flippant and incredibly dismissive – depression is certainly not a gift anyone would ever want to receive.

There are also a few pieces of outdated advice that might make your eyes roll (Feeling depressed? Avoid goth music and other reminders of negativity!). Thankfully, eyebrow-raisers like these  few and far between.

Make no mistake: the author knows depression sucks. The book asks the question, so what are you going to do about it? Its sections are designed to challenge the way you look at depression and how you look at life. The author knows that you can’t control depression, but she encourages you to look at the parts of your life that you can control.

The tone of the book is gentle and understanding. The author isn’t there to tell you how to live or to give you an ultimate list of things-you-should-do-to-be-depression-free like other self-help books, but to guide you into making decisions to improve your life outside of depression.

This book can help you during periods of self-care. It can be part of your weekly mental health hygiene, too.

Listening to Depression can help provide a better way to understand your thought processes. Your goal is to identify both the positive avenues of support available to help you, and to identify and manage destructive avenues during periods of depression.

However, Listening to Depression is probably most effective during periods of less intensive depression because it’s asking you to put some serious time and thoughts into your answers, which can be remarkably hard to do when experiencing intense fatigue and hopelessness.

Some exercises will be more relevant to you than others.

For example, I found that several of the exercises for my physical health were remarkably helpful, but the exercises for helping with career stress was less applicable since I work a remarkably low-stress and low-energy job.

It’s okay to skip some exercises if they don’t apply to your situation, but don’t skip an exercise just because it makes you angry or frustrates you. Keep an open mind and don’t worry about rushing through the prompts. Consider writing the prompts on pages in your journal and just responding in bulleted lists.

The earliest chapter in the book is about doubt. One of the earliest journal prompts is to make a list of your doubts and to ask yourself, what if I’m wrong?

This book won’t work.What if I’m wrong? This book might help me overcome parts of my depression.

I can’t afford therapy. What if I’m wrong? There may be other options that I can afford and I might be able to get help.

I don’t have the energy to journal about this. What if I’m wrong? Journalling might not require any energy at all, and writing about my thoughts may help me understand them.

The questions themselves are simple and directive and can provoke a variety of emotions, and not all of these emotions are going to be pleasant. That’s why a journal is so necessary to accompany this book. You’re going to be asking yourself, Why do I think this? Why do I feel this? What can I do? How can I use this as a strength?

If you have experienced depression in the past, consider picking up a copy of this book. I would also recommend this book to those experiencing situational depression – that low period following an unpleasant (or pleasant but disruptive) life change like beginning college, losing a job, ending a relationship, or moving home.

Listening to Depression was written by Dr. Lara Honos-Webb and published in 2006 by New Harbinger Publications. Stop by your library, visit a local independent bookstore, or check out a copy from Amazon.