Book review - The Happy Depressive
Posted Thursday 19 January 2012
Ilona reviews The Happy Depressive: In Pursuit of Personal and Political Happiness, a new ebook examining the nature of happiness from a personal and political perspective, by Mind ambassador Alastair Campbell.
The same year that I was born, Alastair Campbell had a breakdown. We could well have been in hospital at the exact same time; me facing life for the first time, and him facing up to what his life had become. We both had a lot to learn.
The juxtaposition explains how depression can feel and what purpose it can serve. It illustrates perfectly the intense extremes of emotion; the person who is at the top of the world but dying inside.
It also suggests a more encouraging perspective - that having depression doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t ever be happy.
Through exploring what happiness is, where it comes from, what it stands for and how it can be created and maintained both personally and politically, Alastair reveals a side of himself that many readers have probably never seen before or didn’t know even existed.
His theories seem dark, perhaps even defeatist, but above all they are real and understandable given the sequence of events that led to those conclusions.
A quick and gripping read, part essay, part memoir, flowing smoothly between carefully considered political ‘what ifs’ and meandering through examples of how other countries and religions’ belief systems influence and affect the lives of their people.
I do not wish to discount any of the political aspects of The Happy Depressive. Nor do I intend to divert attention from the admirable suggestions and lists of considerations which he urges David Cameron to take note of in his mission to improve 'wellbeing' across our country.
But it is the personal anecdotes, conversations with his closest family, friends and colleagues and reflections upon his own actions that make this really worth the read.
When Alastair gets down to the nitty gritty, something stands out more starkly than the confessions, the raw emotions and the brave stripping down of his own depression.
He writes, “I hope that by the time I die I will have played a part in ending the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness.” With regards to that, I can safely say he can rest happy.
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