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Review of "Undercurrents"

By Martha Manning
Harper San Francisco, 1994
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 30th 2000

In short diary entries over the period of nearly two years, psychotherapist Martha Manning tells the story of her depression. She is a very active, successful, and thoughtful professional with a daughter and a large extended family. She has a strong religious faith. She worries about how messy her house is, and early in her story she gives in to the necessity of hiring a house cleaner. She has a patient who is dying from cancer. She is overwhelmed with her work. Maybe that's why she becomes clinically depressed for the first time in her late thirties. Maybe it's due to a hormonal change. We never find out what exactly causes the depression. Rather, the journal entries are focused on what happens each day, the small details that make up life.

When the depression comes, it crashes into Martha's life. She starts seeing a therapist (the renowned Kay Redfield Jamison, who has had her own experience of depression) but as Martha's condition just gets worse, she has electroconvulsive treatment (ECT). The ECT works, and after it she continues to take antidepressants. But she also has to repair her life. It takes a while for her to find to confidence and relearn how to get through each day.

Martha Manning tells her story very simply, with insight and wit. Her book is poignant and raises profound issues, although it is far from being theoretical. For those who can benefit from comparing their experience with those of other people, reading Undercurrents shall be a rewarding experience.

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