This Close to Happy – Why not?

“You shouldn’t, you should have, why are you, why aren’t you, there’s no hope, it’s too late, it’s always been too late, give up, go back to bed, there’s no hope…” (Excerpt from This Close to Happy, page 7)

This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin is a candid memoir about what it means to suffer – truly suffer – with depression.

Why not talk about this today? I’ve been talking about depression for the last two posts. I’m smack in the middle of a depressive episode.

Duh.

I originally reached for this book… I mean, in the bookstore… because it looked like water.  I pulled it from the shelf and read the subtitle: A reckoning with depression.

Indeed.

The word “reckoning” makes me think of the word “accounting” which makes me think of the word “math” which makes my eyes bulge and cross. I don’t do well with the maths. But what I do reckon is that finally getting an actual label for what was going on with me felt… liberating.

You may be thinking, right now at this very moment: Damn! Depression again? When does it stop?

I don’t blame you. I think the same thing. You know, when I suddenly feel like crying for no reason. Or when nothing in particular has happened, but I feel like everyone hates me.

But this isn’t about me.

This book is 280+ pages of stunning writing about the pulling away of the mask that is depression. Not the mask covering it… the mask of it.

In her lifetime, Merkin has tried everything to get to the root cause. She has been depressed since childhood… and it is there that the “root” seems to take hold. Her emotionally vacant childhood and relationship with her mother are not clichés… they are reality.

Let me be brutally honest here. I didn’t finish this book. Not because I didn’t like it. Because… it resonated so deeply, it hurt. I hurt. I tend to step away from things that hurt.

It reminds me of a time in my life… oh, in the late 1990’s… before my first husband and I separated. I’ve talked about it before, so if you’ve heard this, I apologize. Anyway, I was at the bookstore looking at a sale table. I bought three books that day. All were fiction, which was odd, since my penchant for all-things non-fiction (and self-help) is well-documented (and well-hyphonated, obviously).

I don’t remember the 3rd title but I remember the first two: I Was Amelia Earhart and What Dreams May Come (not the movie, this was years before that – the book!). However, the third book had a story like the first two, centering on death.

I can remember now… all these years later (to the point of goosebumps)… how it felt to read them. It will sound melodramatic but here goes:

I became what I was reading. I crashed. I walked in the valley. I wept. I died.

Well, not literally, of course… but inside.

My marriage, my career, my life… was crumbling around me. It *was* a death of sorts, wasn’t it?

And that is what I mean when I say: I resonated with This Close to Happy.

I had to put it down.

I hope you understand. 

Sometimes, it’s enough to know that someone understands. So, I keep this book… this beautifully written powerhouse of a book… close by. For when I need a friend who understands. And one day, I hope to feel strong enough to pick it up again… and read.