May 202013

Jan Wong is a well-known journalist and author in Canada. I’d read some of her other books, and then a friend suggested I read her memoir about depression, “Out of the Blue” ( link, link). For a summary, read Globe’s Reaction to Jan Wong Depression Put Journalism in a Sad Place .

Jan Wong’s book details not only how a person in a high-stress job can hit a wall when something goes wrong, but also how the company that person is working for can help, or make it all worse. In her case, it was all much worse than it needed to be. I admit, over here in Vancouver, the entire kerfuffle that started her spiral into depression evaded my attention (and, I suspect, the attention of most people who aren’t avid Quebec/Ontario watchers).

This book is more than a memoir of one woman dealing with depression; it also makes it clear how many people suffer or have suffered from depression, whether they’ve been formally diagnosed or not. There’s a stigma attached to depression that makes it hard for people to admit they might have it and so they battle on and through. I suspect, for example, that my mother suffered from depression after my parents divorced, but it isn’t something she would have ever admitted to herself, let alone anyone else. Some passages in the memoir are hard to read (especially, for me, the effects on her family), but in the end it’s a positive book. I’m glad I read it, I learned a lot about the medical aspects (e.g., that depression can be triggered by external factors, or can be due to an internal predisposition, or a combination of the two). Neither the triggers (often stress and/or insomnia) nor the reactions (fight or flight, anhedonia) are widely understood. I didn’t know, for example, that depression is often a short-term condition, that medications take so long to take effect, that so many famous people suffer from chronic depression.

Recommended for anyone who works in the corporate world, or has more than a few friends and relations. You may be lucky enough to never work with or be close to someone who has or has had depression, but even so, it’s worth getting an appreciation for what it’s like. Chances are, someone you know has it, had it, or will have it in the future.

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