This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin
A Reckoning with Depression

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...anyone who has experienced or witnessed the pain of clinical depression up close can’t help but be moved by her struggle.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

A New York Times Book Review Favorite Read of 2016

“Despair is always described as dull,” writes Daphne Merkin, “when the truth is that despair has a light all its own, a lunar glow, the color of mottled silver.” This Close to Happy―Merkin’s rare, vividly personal account of what it feels like to suffer from clinical depression―captures this strange light.

Daphne Merkin has been hospitalized three times: first, in grade school, for childhood depression; years later, after her daughter was born, for severe postpartum depression; and later still, after her mother died, for obsessive suicidal thinking. Recounting this series of hospitalizations, as well as her visits to myriad therapists and psychopharmacologists, Merkin fearlessly offers what the child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz calls “the inside view of navigating a chronic psychiatric illness to a realistic outcome.” The arc of Merkin’s affliction is lifelong, beginning in a childhood largely bereft of love and stretching into the present, where Merkin lives a high-functioning life and her depression is manageable, if not “cured.” “The opposite of depression,” she writes with characteristic insight, “is not a state of unimaginable happiness . . . but a state of relative all-right-ness.”

In this dark yet vital memoir, Merkin describes not only the harrowing sorrow that she has known all her life, but also her early, redemptive love of reading and gradual emergence as a writer. Written with an acute understanding of the ways in which her condition has evolved as well as affected those around her, This Close to Happy is an utterly candid coming-to-terms with an illness that many share but few talk about, one that remains shrouded in stigma. In the words of the distinguished psychologist Carol Gilligan, “It brings a stunningly perceptive voice into the forefront of the conversation about depression, one that is both reassuring and revelatory.”

 

About Daphne Merkin

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Daphne Merkin, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, is a regular contributor to ELLE. Her writing frequently appears in The New York Times, Bookforum, Departures, Travel + Leisure, W, Vogue, and other publications. Merkin has taught writing at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount, and Hunter College. Her previous books include Enchantment, a novel, and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. She lives in New York City.
 
Published February 7, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 301 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for This Close to Happy
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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Feb 16 2017

...anyone who has experienced or witnessed the pain of clinical depression up close can’t help but be moved by her struggle.

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