Book Review: Coming Through Depression by Tony Bates

Published by Gill & MacMillan 2011 ISBN: 978 07171 4780 9
Reviewed by Sylvia Rowe

Recently I have noticed a list building in my mind of books I have come across that fit under my title of ‘every home should have one’. They are all books with a very practical style and they are all published here in Ireland. In this list I have the late Dr Aine Tubridy’s book, When Panic Attacks (2003) and Joan Freeman’s, Cover Up: Understanding Self Harm (2010).

Another book I would now add to my list is this recent publication by Tony Bates. Many of you will be familiar with his earlier work, Depression – The Commonsense Approach (1999). Coming Through Depression is an updated version with depth and clarity added to passages and a new section on ‘Living with Yourself’ which puts forward the art of mindfulness as a gentle means of supporting recovery by steadying ourselves and relating to distress rather than reacting from it. He talks about using attention practices to create a larger frame of reference internally, so that, rather than getting rid of distressed thinking, we see these thoughts just as part of our lives and not the whole story. With the book is a CD of the author talking the listener through a series of mindfulness practices that includes working with the breath, body, feelings and thoughts.

The other sections of the book discuss the experience and causes of depression and steps for the road to recovery. Step one recommends structure and realistic goals using activity and mood diaries. Step two encourages moving out of isolation, finding a good listener, perhaps a professional therapist; turning the inner conflict into an outer conversation. He believes that psychotherapy decreases the vulnerability to relapse and can be a crucial step in restoring a channel between inner experience and others.

He talks about the benefit of medication for severe physical symptoms and adds that this medication cannot correct the emotional and social causes. He is clear that medication is always only part of the journey and that everyone holds the choice for recovery in their own hands in how they eat, exercise, know themselves, work, be active and establish nourishing relationships.

The third step advocates self-reflection and gratitude for even ‘tiny’ lifts in mood. He develops this self-reflection theme into exploring habits of ‘negative’ thinking and separating these out from emotions and the need to find an emotional language for experience. He supplies mood logs and self- help exercises. He also talks about shame and self-worth and how those who feel flawed have difficulty in finding the ‘hero’ within who has survived, despite life.

I like this book because it has heart. It is written in a language that empowers rather than creates distance. The author has the ability to put across, in his mindfulness section, concepts that were originally eastern in a form that makes them accessible to the western mind and the general reader.

May we all find that safe place within.

References

Bates, T. (1999). Depression – The Common Sense Approach. Dublin: Newleaf
Freeman, J. (2010). Cover Up: Understand Self-Harm. Dublin: Veritas Tubridy, Dr.Á. (2003). When Panic Attacks. Dublin: Newleaf