Review: This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin

This Close To Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin (Farrar, straus, and giroux 2017)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Not glamorous, not an artistically-hued state of suffering for the more sensitive souls on earth. Not a story that can be told with the dramatic climax and victorious transcendency that characterizes heroic tales. No. Depression is unabated suffering whose victims, often blamed for self-absorption, shunned as social pariahs, writhe in silence. Daphne Merkin, the writer and literary critic, tells her depression tale in the dark memoir, This Close To Happy: A Reckoning With Depression.

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (Penguin Random House 2019)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

I have never encountered a person who is not fully human in 35 years of private practice as a clinical psychologist. Diagnoses, country-of-origin, race, religion, and financial status do not define people. Not at all. Why do we say that a person has cancer or has arthritis and, conversely, say that a person is autistic or is an immigrant as if those labels completely define them?

Assigning labels condemns people to a marginalized purgatory. Perceived to be less than human, unable to love or feel pain, they’re relegated to the sidelines of life and deemed to be odd, bizarre, even dangerous.

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Review: The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks (Hachette Books 2007)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Horrifying delusions and auditory hallucinations did not deter Elyn Saks from her Oxford University Master’s degree studies. Compassionate psychiatric care in England squired her through. But, later, as a law student at Yale University and in a psychotic state, Yale psychiatrists “bound both legs and both arms to a metal bed with thick leather straps” and forced medication down her throat. Multiple times. She plummeted into despair.

“A sound comes out of me that I’ve never heard before—half groan, half scream, marginally human, and all terror. Then the sound comes out of me again, forced from somewhere deep in my belly and scraping my throat raw. Moments later, I’m choking and gagging on some kind of bitter liquid that I try to lock my teeth against but cannot. They make me swallow it. They make me.” (4)

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