This memoir of a clinical psychologist (also a professor of psychology) chronicles her own depression over a period of a year and a half, from early symptoms, through near despair, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization to recovery. The journey is detailed, not only in its treatment of her emotional states, but of her struggle to maintain family and professional life, keep her house and office organized, and attend to a dying friend.

As her bouts of panic and disorientation grow more apparent, first to herself and finally to others, she seeks refuge in spiritual retreats and in conversation with colleagues, ultimately submitting to treatment. She names the emotional "undercurrents" suggested in the book's title with moving precision: panic over sudden disorientation, anxiety about what to keep secret, frustration with her own unreliability, dread of small duties and ordinary appointments, heartache over her faltering efforts to be a good and present mother.

The consent to hospitalization costs a great deal in humility, in risking a controversial treatment, and in letting go of a professional persona she doesn't know whether she'll be able to retrieve. But clearly the book is written by a woman whose clarity is a testimony to regained mental health and exceptional intellectual clarity. It is not a professional record, but an intensely personal memoir of what was both an encounter with serious mental illness and a spiritual journey.


Among the many accounts of depression now available, this is one of the more startling, engaging, and therefore instructive in that the writer is able to render the complexity of her own emotional states, even the most desperate, with accuracy, simple eloquence, and, at times, wry wit.

She crafts her highly textured story as a novelist might, including dialogues with herself and others, poems and passages that helped in hard moments, and articulate reflections on what she describes. It is intimate without a trace of self-indulgence, and full of compassion for her own remembered pain and that of others who suffer mental illness. A helpful and compelling book for anyone who has had any contact with clinical depression.



Place Published

San Francisco



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