My latest book is companion for sufferers of depression, co-written by bestselling author Kate Harrison and Dr Patrick Fitzgerald.
I became friends with Kate after joining local group Beach Hut Writers. It was here we found that not only did we share writing in common, but we had both suffered with depression. We both agreed that talking to others who understood depression was something that had helped us both, and following the success of Making Friends with Anxiety and Kate’s 5:2 Diet books, decided we might be able to bring more to a book if we wrote it together. It’s a serious subject and we felt we had a responsibility to our readers, some of whom might be at risk of self harm, so we invited Dr Patrick Fitzgerald to bring his clinical expertise to the book, too.
Kate says, ‘We have tried to ensure that Making Peace with Depression is easy for people to understand. It needs to be manageable – we know ourselves what it’s like to be in that state of mind. Everything can seem tangled up and it can feel hard to cope with complex thoughts. But we are also aware that everyone’s depression is personal. Sarah and I have very different personalities, and as we were writing, we found our experiences didn’t always tally. I think this, together with Patrick’s understanding, meant we were able to delve deeper into what depression is like, and provide a range of ways to tackle it.’
Depression and anxiety are the most common forms of mental illness
That Kate and I are so different temperamentally yet have both experienced depression shows how it can happen to anybody. Depression will be the biggest global health problem by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation. While doctors try to deal with the epidemic, individual sufferers can feel overwhelmed by their condition and the options to treat it.
We hope our book will be like a friend or companion to those who are struggling, and/or their friends and family. It gives an overview of the different kinds of therapy and medication available, as well as explaining the cycle if negativity that can keep us trapped in the depths, and ways of breaking that vicious circle. I believe that, just as with anxiety, compassionately acknowledging our feelings rather than fighting them can help us to find a way through.
Combatting the sense of isolation
This time, however, I’ve also chosen to illustrate the book. Sometimes a picture can say more than words, and I hope readers connect with the drawings and take comfort from them.
The book has been a labour of love for us all – Kate even posed for the photograph on the cover, which I took in my office. We see the heart on the mug as conveying the idea that readers are not alone. One symptom of depression is an intense sense of isolation, of being cut off from other people. We’ve also expanded Making Friends with Anxiety on Facebook so as to include sufferers of depression, so there’s ongoing online support, too.