An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Tracy Thompson was thirty-four when she was hospitalized and put on suicide watch during a major depressive episode. This event, the culmination of more than twenty years of silent suffering, became the point of departure for an in-depth, groundbreaking book on depression and her struggle with the disease. The Beast shattered stereotypes and inspired countless readers to confront their own battles with mental illness. Having written that book, and having found the security of a happy marriage, Thompson assumed that she had learned to manage her illness. But when she took on one of the most emotionally demanding jobs of all—being a mother—depression returned with fresh vengeance.
Very quickly Thompson realized that virtually everything she had learned up to then about dealing with depression was now either inadequate or useless. In fact, maternal depression was a different beast altogether. She tackled her problem head-on, meticulously investigating the latest scientific research and collecting the stories of nearly 400 mothers with depression. What she found was startling: a problem more widespread than she or any other mother struggling alone with this affliction could have imagined. Women make up nearly 12 million of the 19 million Americans affected by depression every year, experiencing episodes at nearly twice the rate that men do. Women suffer most frequently between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four—not coincidentally, the primary childbearing years.
The Ghost in the House, the result of Thompson's extensive studies, is the first book to address maternal depression as a lifelong illness that can have profound ramifications for mother and child. A striking blend of memoir and journalism, here is an invaluable resource for the millions of women who are white-knuckling their way through what should be the most satisfying years of their lives. Thompson offers her readers a concise summary of the cutting-edge research in this field, deftly written prose, and, above all, hope.
Reviews for The Ghost in the House by Tracy Thompson
What a difficult book to read, and yet, it seems to have been helpful to me. Admittedly, I have a deepseated need to make sure *my* mother, who struggled/struggles with anxiety & depression, never reads it; I don't think I could handle her guiltridden reactions. Anyway, Thompson conducted both survey research and some in-depth interviews with mothers identifying as having depression (recruited from the readership of O: The Oprah Magazine and some newspapers. She incorporates with that her own experiences as the daughter of a woman with depression, a mother with depression herself, and the mother of a child with depression. Sometimes that's good; sometimes it's a bit Too Much. (For instance, her struggles with breastfeeding clearly tint her attitude towards breastfeeding in the depressed mother.)There's a good deal of scary stuff here, about the long-term effects of depression in the mother genetically and behaviorally on the children. The stories of the pain, exhaustion and frustration of depressed moms would get Pollyanna herself a bit down.But there's also hope here. "One of the many great things about children is that they can learn from your weaknesses as well as your strengths..." (What a great chapter title: "How your struggles with depression can make you a better mother.")The author matter-of-factly talks about tools that she and her interviewees have shared for dealing with being an appropriate parent while depressed. Unlike many books, this one touches on the tendency in depression to be exhaustedly super-irritable, as well as too exhausted to get out of bed, though there was less attention paid to the irritable side. For me, the emphasis on making sure to get appropriate care (at whatever level one considers appropriate), on the ways that mothers trying to tough it out can fail for both mother and child, was helpful also. The admission that most pop self-help 'optimism' peddled today is pretty fake and the experience of dealing with doctors can be incredibly frustrating was reassuring. [Thompson points out one of my pet peeves: the current emphasis on incredibly close child supervision and attachment parenting can make things harder for exhausted, irritable depressed moms to cope.]In conclusion, this probably isn't the book to read if you're in the great trough of depression, unless you're so hungry for honesty on the subject that one more "cheer up" will cause you to beat someone's head in (except you're too tired). However, it is a helpful book for those who have chosen or are in the process of choosing to be a mother despite struggles with depression, and perhaps for those seeking to understand what it was like to be a depressed mother (though if you're still pissed at your mother, maybe not so much). It is also a helpful source for coping mechanisms-- though a shorter, more concise list of suggestions might be helpful when in the throes.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.