This month’s book choice is “Struck By Living”, written by Julie Hersh, a mother of two. She tells the story of her battle with depression, which began in childhood. Her older sister suffered from depression, which she saw as she came home from college a totally different person than she’d seen before.
Julie was not close to her mother- she felt as if she couldn’t talk to her mother because she was so wrapped in herself and work. Julie also felt as if she couldn’t please her father no matter what she did.
Julie reflects on these relationships as she goes through life events such as her own college years, dating, marriage and the births of her two children. She took care of her children and later, her husband’s grandparents, but not herself. She didn’t take much time for herself. Her husband, Ken, becomes angry when Julie has nothing left for him.
As Julie approaches her 40th birthday, she realizes that she doesn’t want to celebrate the upcoming day. She had withdrawn into herself, had lost weight and her husband had become unsure of what to do next.
She had already been hospitalized and received ECT (electroshock therapy). This had required her to stay in a mental health facility the night before and for a few days after. She was left feeling sluggish and with some memory loss. (These effects are common.)
Julie attempted suicide and Ken reached a point in which he became very serious about his wife’s treatment. Later in the story, she goes to a treatment facility for a month, and even while there, she forced herself to act well because she didn’t want to be there. She just wanted to be “normal”.
This story does end well- she is able to come home and be with her family. Julie tells her story so well that I could relate to it. It is common for many with mental illness or just ongoing stress to want to be “normal” and not have to deal with what’s going on inside them.
Her story is like millions of others that should be read. I believe if more people read first-hand stories like Julie’s, it would be possible for understanding to improve. That, in turn, can help end the stigma that people with depression and other mental illnesses face.