A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the book Living with Depression by Dr. Deborah Serani. I thought the book was spot-on in terms of offering a comprehensive look at depression, its causes, its treatments, and what it might be like to live with the disorder in the long term. The author, Dr. Deborah Serani (who is not only the book’s author, but also a clinical psychologist in private practice, a professor, and a popular blogger – whew!) agreed to answer a few questions for me. Welcome, Dr. Serani!
Dr. S: You include a lot of personal information in this book. Can you talk a little about your decision-making process in terms of including so much detail about yourself? What have been the positive and negative effects of such disclosure?
Dr. D: Society gives permission to high profile people to talk about mental illness, but the waters are still rough for ordinary people to talk about depression. It’s important to be wise and thoughtful about disclosure – and I thought long and hard about sharing my experiences with depression for a few years before actually doing it. Essentially, it was easier for me to be outspoken about living with depression because I’m my own boss. I have my own practice. I don’t have to worry about some social fallout or losing my job. But there are many people that need to keep certain issues private because stigma still makes living with mental illness a difficult subject to talk about. When making the decision to talk about my life, I knew I had to really lay it all out. I didn’t want to gloss over the despair and the scariness of my depression – or that it was a super easy journey for me to get well. For me, the disclosure has brought very positive experiences. I like seeing how my story inspires others not to be ashamed of their illness, to get help and to have hope. I like teaching misinformed person about the real facts about depression. And nothing makes me feel more proud than when I exceed someone’s expectations of what a person with mental illness should be like.
Dr. S: How does your struggle with depression make you a better psychologist?
Dr. D: You don’t have to live through something to be a good therapist, but living with depression has taught me about how hard it is to endure pain, despair and helplessness. I also know how a good treatment plan and hard work with a therapist can lead to recovery and remission of depression. From knowing both sides of the coin, my experiences have led me to be a more compassionate person, and a more compassionate psychologist.
Dr. S: You have a popular blog, in addition to this award-winning book. Who is your main audience? How do you hope to impact people by your writings?
Dr. D: I started my blog back in early 2004 when blogging first launched, and slowly found it a great way to teach and reach others regarding psychology. I have always written my blog for a general audience, wanting to make sure it wasn’t too clinical or jargon-filled. Blogging has become less in the forefront for me these days, what with faster social media tools out there like Twitter, Linked In and Facebook. But as with all my social media, I hope that others take the articles, research and observations I note and use them personally to better their life.
Dr. S: In my blog I write a lot about creative stress management. Whether it’s baking cakes, watching Gossip Girl, or playing backgammon – I believe that there are many avenues to healthy (and effective!) stress management. What do you do to keep stress at bay?
Dr. D: I love how you join creativity with managing stress on your blog. The way that you present these strategies in your posts makes taking care of yourself fun and easy. I am a very creative person too, and I use many fun ways to help soften the hard edges of life. I’m a huge foodie, always trying out new recipes, and cooking and baking to de-stress. I like to play board games with family and friends, the sillier the better. Apples to Apples, Balderdash and Trivial Pursuit always bring the laughs. I also do a lot of painting, drawing and writing and find those expressive arts a tremendous stress-buster. I love surfing through Pinterest and Indulgy to find motivational sayings, and find the visual aspect of those activities really soothes my soul.
Dr. S: Do you have any new projects in the works? Can we look forward to future books?
Dr. D: I am finishing my second book “How to Parent a Depressed Child,” which will be published in late 2013 by Rowman & Littlefield. My hope is that it will be a go-to resource for parents who need guidance in raising a child with a mood disorder. Early diagnosis and intervention can make the depressive experience less intense for a child – and well, I’m all over that!
Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Dr. Serani! To order Living with Depression click here. To read Dr. Serani’s blog, Dr. Deb, go here.