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Afraid of the Day: A Daughter’s Journey

by Nancy Graham

Severe depression afflicts between five and 10% of the Canadian population at any given time, yet the illness largely remains a taboo subject, one that elicits far less sympathy and support than such maladies as cancer.

Writing about depresson in an accessible format is tricky too, as many readers are likely to avoid the topic. Nancy Graham hopes to change all that with her deeply personal story of a mother-daughter relationship whose parameters have been defined by a debilitating condition that caused family chaos and a lifetime filled with the emptiness of loss.

Like many women of the 1950s and ’60s, Graham’s depressed mother was often told by callous doctors to “snap out of it,” her depression seen as a uniquely female fault best treated by a growing regimen of pills and electric shock. Graham documents the embarrassment, fear, and anger of growing up with the terrible secret that had no name, and certainly no foreseeable cure. In doing so she gives readers a rare glimpse into the lives of those suffering from depression.

Told through old journal entries and memories salvaged in adulthood, the book itself is a catharsis for Graham, an act of therapy that she hopes will assist her fellow sufferers. In handling an enormous number of issues with great sensitivity, from the dynamics of her family life and her sexual awakening through self-abuse to an eating disorder and the eventual road to understanding and dealing with her own demons, Graham makes the reader an engaged participant.

At a time when depression is still easily brushed aside by those who don’t know any better, Graham’s compelling read is a valuable contribution to the growing body of works calling for understanding and empathy for this terrible illness.