Honesty is often simple. It is found in unflowery language, easy yet elegant sentence structures and mostly, impassioned emotional outpouring. Talking about depression, anxiety, and/or any other mental ailments is slowly gaining grudging acceptance in an increasingly democratised online society. Yet, the taboo associated with actual conversation about the same is changing at a turtle’s pace. In that light, this book is a refreshing breath of fresh air. It makes no assertions whatsoever of offering a solution, and is by far one of the most accurate accounts of depression I have ever read (or as far as I can associate with it.
Depression is notoriously different for each person who experiences it). Baring your soul in a memoir of this kind takes a special kind of courage, and at the same time, a special kind of courage to read as well. There were times when I had to put the book down because it would induce memories of darker times, memories I would rather not revisit. To that extent, I am split about whether I would want to ask people to read this book or not. But that being said, this feeling is demonstrative of the powerful writing Shaheen has demonstrated in this book.
What genuinely captivated me was the much required deromanticising of mental ailments. Therapists are increasingly worried about the rather casual way in which mental health is treated by society these days, more so about how any form of sadness is self-diagnosed by individuals as depression, and used as a crutch for difficult situations. This not only devalues their own life experiences, it belittles the experiences of people who actually suffer from it. On that front too, this book is a bold step in talking about what depression actually is, and feels like. Something that particularly stood out for me was the nuance of explaining the difference between being suicidal and simply wanting to be dead.
Most people find it difficult to believe or understand the complex thoughts provoked by mental ailments, most of which are self-contradictory. Tackling it on head on, Shaheen manages to distill it perfectly.
Coming back to my earlier conundrum, I think the answer is that I would end up asking people to read this book, of course, with a trigger warning. Anyone either suffering from a mental ailment will strongly associate with the book, and to the lucky ones who don’t, I suppose this book will aid you in empathising with those who do.