Many therapists understand severe depression. Many fewer have actually experienced it firsthand.
Martha Manning is one of those few therapists. Years ago, after a particularly rough battle with depression, a close friend referred her to a psychiatric treatment facility for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where she spent the next six months.
In the process, she not only came across a colorful cast of characters, but also discovered the depth of the love a family can give. At the close of an impromptu karaoke session with the facility’s other residents, Manning’s daughter, in attendance in the audience, had a surprising reaction that proved transformative for her mother.
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As Manning notes, a family’s love can have a profound healing effect. “I learned something that has stayed with a me all this time,” she says. “Love never feels so real as when sorrow mixes with joy.”
Even still, she notes that people suffering from severe depression—herself included—rarely find a cure. Rather, they experience temporary respites. “Depression and I are not finished with each other,” Manning writes in her Networker article. Two years after her initial ECT treatment, she experienced another episode of severe depression. Afterwards, “life was not business as usual,” she continues. “But we managed the details with the help of our families and friends.”
Martha Manning, PhD, is a writer and clinical psychologist who has written five books, including Undercurrent: A Life Beneath the Surface. She has published frequently in the Networker as well as other magazines.