The Beast: A Journey Through Depression
In 1989, I'd achieved a career dream—a job at the Washington Post, the newspaper of Watergate and the legendary editor Ben Bradlee—and was on the front lines of covering the unfolding legal drama of then-Mayor Marion Barry on charges of using crack cocaine. And as that political train wreck played out, I was experiencing a private train wreck of my own: my carefully constructed façade of cool super-competence was being overwhelmed by a mental illness I'd worked desperately to hide for many years. At a time when I most wanted to do hard work and make it look easy, I found myself in a locked psychiatric ward on 24-hour suicide watch.
The Beast, as I came to call my depression, had stalked me since early adolescence, as far back as fourth grade. Through successive bouts of debilitating despair over the intervening years, I'd tried to ignore it, outrun it, cure it by chasing after love and simply white-knuckle my way through. Conventional psychotherapy hadn't worked, and drugs were (I thought) for "crazy" people. This is the story of happens when social stigma and a distorted definition of "failure" combine, as they did with me and as they still do with too many people, to create a prison of denial and despair. Depression kills. On several occasions, it almost killed me. Instead, I learned who my enemy was and how to fight him, and that I should never underestimate his power.
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"In that resilient genre, the autobiography of melancholy, we hope for courage, honesty and the texture of the particular. Tracy Thompson supplies all in generous measure."
—Peter Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac
"Told with novelistic grace and unflinching candor."
—Demitri F. Papolos, M.D. and Janice Papolos, authors of Overcoming Depression.
Putnam, Hardcover, August 1995, ISBN: 9780399140778
Plume, Paperback, October 1996, ISBN: 9780452276956
Diversion Books, Paperback, October 2014, ISBN: 9781626815209