Tracy Thompson. The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression. (Harper Collins, 2006).
What a difficult book to read, and yet, it seems to have been helpful to me. ( Read more... )
Anyway, Thompson conducted both survey research and some in-depth interviews with mothers identifying as having depression (recruited from the readership of O: The Oprah Magazine
and some newspapers. She incorporates with that her own experiences as the daughter of a woman with depression, a mother with depression herself, and the mother of a child with depression. Sometimes that's good; sometimes it's a bit Too Much. (For instance, her struggles with breastfeeding clearly tint her attitude towards breastfeeding in the depressed mother.)
There's a good deal of scary stuff here, about the long-term effects of depression in the mother genetically and behaviorally on the children. The stories of the pain, exhaustion and frustration of depressed moms would get Pollyanna herself a bit down.
But there's also hope here. "One of the many great things about children is that they can learn from your weaknesses as well as your strengths..." (What a great chapter title: "How your struggles with depression can make you a better mother.")The author matter-of-factly talks about tools that she and her interviewees have shared for dealing with being an appropriate parent while depressed. Unlike many books, this one touches on the tendency in depression to be exhaustedly super-irritable, as well as too exhausted to get out of bed, though there was less attention paid to the irritable side. For me, the emphasis on making sure to get appropriate care (at whatever level one considers appropriate), on the ways that mothers trying to tough it out can fail for both mother and child, was helpful also. The admission that most pop self-help 'optimism' peddled today is pretty fake and the experience of dealing with doctors can be incredibly frustrating was reassuring. [Thompson points out one of my pet peeves: the current emphasis on incredibly close child supervision and attachment parenting can make things harder for exhausted, irritable depressed moms to cope.]
In conclusion, this probably isn't the book to read if you're in the great trough of depression, unless you're so hungry for honesty on the subject that one more "cheer up" will cause you to beat someone's head in (except you're too tired). However, it is a helpful book for those who have chosen or are in the process of choosing to be a mother despite struggles with depression, and perhaps for those seeking to understand what it was like to be a depressed mother (though if you're still pissed at your mother, maybe not so much). It is also a helpful source for coping mechanisms-- though a shorter, more concise list of suggestions might be helpful when in the throes.