Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You by Richard O’Connor, PhD was the first book to influence my journey to healing from depression — I love it, and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with depression.
I came across this book when I was 21 years old. My family had a strict “suck it up — push through the pain” attitude that was still ingrained in me. Although I knew I was depressed I had put up a lot of barriers to accepting any sort of outside help. I didn’t recognize the severity of my depressive symptoms; I figured, I wasn’t sad all of the time, I was only suicidal sometimes, and only really seriously suicidal occasionally*. My family had expressed some pretty strong opinions about people being on medication, and as a result I was incredibly resistant to any suggestion of medication.
I knew I was depressed but I had put up a lot of barriers to accepting any sort of outside help.
This is essentially a guidebook for people struggling with depression.
The goal of the book is to encourage people with depression to take effective action for themselves. O’Connor emphasizes that “Practice is essential to change.” We can gain all of the understanding of why we’re depressed, but if we don’t force ourselves to get out of bed every morning we’re still going to feel depressed.
Undoing Depression breaks down the different patterns of thinking and behaving, and then teaches you a new set of skills that can lead you to a new life. The brain is able to change, but it is not easy and it takes practice.
One of the first things that O’Connor emphasizes that we aren’t depression, depression is something you have. In the same way that some people have heart disease, we have depression.
We who have depression have developed a specific set of skills to deal with that depression. We have gotten good at working around our depression, good at hiding it; these skills will let us struggle through life, but we’re not thriving or healthy.
I was lucky to come across Undoing Depression, and it was a great resource for me.
O’Connor doesn’t push meds . In fact, he discusses in depth the pros and cons of medication, as well as addressing the question to whether or not they work for everyone. He also discusses the value of trying medication to see if it will work for you. He speaks of using medication as a stepping stone to using the techniques learned in therapy into practice.
His perspective as someone who suffers from chronic depression, as a child of someone who committed suicide, and as a psychotherapist is welcoming. He goes over the different types of depression, what they look like, how they can be affecting your life, and the different treatment options that are available.
He openly talks about finding a good therapist. This is so important because there are a lot of counselors, doctors, and therapists who are terrible at their jobs (or maybe just don’t mesh well with you) and you may need to go to more than one person to get the help you need**.
There are new skills you can learn, but not so many that you will be overwhelmed.
You can use this book on its own to help you undo depression; it has a fantastic resource page if you’re open (or become open) to outside help.
This is the book that allowed me to realize that it was okay to get help from a doctor. That being suicidal on a regular basis isn’t actually normal. It helped me realize that I’m not just overemotional or overreacting; depression is a medical problem that should be taken seriously. That if I need medication for that problem it is OKAY. It showed me that my experiences with shitty doctors weren’t unusual, and that I had to keep trying. I would definitely recommend checking out Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor.
* Any level of suicidal is not normal. Most people travel through the world without ever being suicidal at all. As someone who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since childhood I didn’t understand this; apparently some — nay most — people never consider killing themselves in any capacity whatsoever.
** It is total bullshit that not only do we have depression, now we also have to sort the good helpers from the bad. There is a range of care available, and there are good counselors and doctors out there. I’m here to remind you that you are totally capable of switching them out without abandoning the healing journey!
Has my review convinced you to read this book?
(It doesn't cost you any more, just sends a small percentage of your purchase my way.)