Reading Through Depression: An Interview with Amanda Diehl

 AmandaAmanda is a regular contributor to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  In early November, she wrote a fantastic post over at SBTB titled “Depression and Amy Poehler”.  I loved the post so much that I asked Amanda if she’d be comfortable talking more about depression and reading.  Here she is!
In your essay for Smart Bitches, you talk about Amy Poehler’s book Yes, Please inspiring you to get treatment for depression.  What was it about her book that inspired you?
I’d like the book about that song – you know the one – that always seems to come on right when you need it. You’re feeling down or happy or angry and the radio gods smile upon you and give you just what you need to feel better, or even just something that perfectly mirrors what you’re feeling. Sometimes, depression is hard to express, especially to people who don’t have any experience with the disease. It’s more than just feeling sad all the time or listless. It’s a really complex thing to experience and to communicate. I picked up the book after her event and I didn’t open it and start reading until I got home. I then read it on the train, during breaks at class, whenever I could. There are little nuggets of wisdom, phrases and sentences and experiences, that seem to perfectly capture what I was feeling. It’s one of those “Yes! That’s it! That’s exactly it!” moments. 
I wouldn’t say I was reluctant to talk about how I was feeling with my family and friends. Partly, I was embarrassed. Not that I had depression, but that I couldn’t keep it at bay. I had hoped I’d be lucky enough to go through it once, but mental illness runs heavily on the female side of my family. The odds were against me anyway. The book, Yes Please, gave me a talking point. It was a conduit that enabled me to broach that topic of conversation with others.

As a romance novel fan, do you find that you read more or less romance during periods of depression?  
Truthfully, I have a hard time reading anything during depression. For me, it makes me not want to do anything at all. I think the only reason why I was able to finish Yes Please was because it aligned so acutely with what I was experiencing. When I’m depressed or feeling lower than usual, I tend to just get tired and I’ll spend hours upon hours in bed, sleeping or trying to sleep. One bad thing about the disease – and there are many bad things – is that something that would normally relax you or make you happy suddenly…doesn’t. And then that makes you even more depressed that you can’t even enjoy something as simple and fulfilling as reading.

 What fictional books do a good job of describing what depression is like?

Hm, this is a tough one. I haven’t read many adult books that deal with depression, though I’d love to find a romance where the heroine has it and/or is coping with it. A lot of young adult titles address depression though and there are a few good ones that I’d recommend. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Looking for Alaska by John Green. I know quite a number of teens struggle with a number of things and not all of those teenage fears go away once you hit adulthood.

What do you want people who experience depression to know, and what do you wish people who don’t experience depression understood?

For people who have it: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. After my post on Smart Bitches, there was such a lovely outpouring of comments and some of my favorites were the ones reminding me that the disease isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s part of a chemical imbalance in the brain. And there are so many people who have it – famous people, rich people, students, mothers, CEOs. Luckily, I came from a family where treating a mental illness wasn’t taboo, and whether you come from a place where admitting you have depression is frowned upon, the biggest thing I can suggest is not letting that aspect keep you from getting help.
For those who don’t have it: Exercise some patience. I know it’s tough dealing with someone who has depression. Before I was diagnosed, my mother had it severely. It may seem simple on the outside, that all they need is some cheering up, but it’s a disease. You cannot treat them, but you can help them by being understanding and being available should they need you.