Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
Having been treated for depression and anxiety before. Seeing the sub-title “why you’re depressed and how to find hope” made me both excited and nervous. I remember picking up the book from the shelf and settling into my reading corner where I started reading immediately. The introduction alone astounded me to a point that I couldn’t stop reading. It was not yet telling me anything about depression or how to treat it. Instead the author shared their first-hand experience with depression. And I was relieved that at least he knows what he is talking about.
In a matter of seconds, my attention was completely consumed. And I just kept reading hoping to understand why I had been depressed and anxious for the past five years. This expectation to get answers, gave me a subtle feeling of more anxiety because I knew my fears would soon be confirmed within the pages of the book. And I was not sure if I was ready for that.
What made the book more interesting to me was the fact that I could understand the language the author interjected throughout the chapters. Having studied the mechanisms of drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines. As well as the anatomy and physiology of the human brain during my undergraduate pharmacy studies. I found that this knowledge came in handy for the experience I had while reading this book.
It might appear like I was all excited and impressed with every section of the book. Well, I was impressed but I was also critical about some theoretical remarks he gave to validate his findings. Although the author speaks of the first-hand experience in the first chapters of the book. As well as meta-analytical studies with both qualitative and quantitative evidence. I somehow felt robbed of something I was still yet to know. Because when you have been through a traumatic event, especially one which includes ingrained pain. It becomes difficult to listen to someone else (regardless of their experience or professional grounds) tell you what your problem is and how they think you can find help/hope.
I believe that, although different people may have similar diagnosis or experience. How they go through it, and the extent of, said, pain, may vary distinctively. And for this reason, I found it hard to accept his generalization of some of his ideas. I think it would have been better to say ‘some/most people’ instead of ‘everyone’ thinks. Nonetheless, besides the latter commentary, I enjoyed the book, and I am glad I picked it up from the shelf that fateful day.
Now you may be wondering what exactly this book is saying. The author, Johann speaks about depression as a condition caused by a variety of biopsychosocial factors (among many others). And not only by low levels of serotonin in the brain. When I continued to read on, especially in the second half of the book. I liked how he further enlisted the ways to reconnect and “find hope”, as the title of the book extrapolated. Every word and experience complement each other and for someone who is a critical reader, I was left in awe before I could even finish reading.
I had, in most instances while reading the book, what Oprah Winfrey calls an “Aha moment”. This book not only teaches you about the core end of mental health. It extends its wisdom to the broader concept of life and how to deal with them without leaving a stone unturned. What interests me with his research was that in one of his findings on the cause of depression. He reached down on our ancestry line to find out why they were less depressed compared to us. I thought, as you might also be thinking, “they didn’t have social media.”. Which is true, because they did not. But also because they spent more time together and not just behind screens. They were also not as lonely as our generation because they understood the importance of what a community is and how to live and work together as a collective.
In summary, the book is teaching us that depression is just a symptom of something deeper than just a misfiring in our brain. And that we can lessen the emergence of this condition if we could look deeper and focus on dealing with the real problem. The perfect example that Johann used was when he said “depression is like a dark cloud of smoke from a burning house. What we see mostly is the smoke, but the problem is the flame and treating the smoke would not, in any way, help get rid of the flame – which is the real problem.”