Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Tim Cantopher

I’m really curious as to how much Dr. Tim Cantopher actually contributed to this book. I’m sure all of it is based on his research and practice, but as he’s constantly addressed in the 3rd person through the whole of this book, it comes across as being authored by someone on his staff. It could be presented that way to help with the disconnect that comes from it being narrated by a woman who is clearly not Dr. Cantopher… perhaps?

Speaking of the narrator, Lynsey Frost comes across clear and positive for the most part, but the way this book is presented, there are times when it crosses the line to sarcastic and glib, and I can no longer tell if that’s the narrator or the way the material is written that causes that. She comes across as patronizing. Any classic Doctor Who fans? She sounds a bit like the 7th Doctor’s companion Ace, both in voice and in tone. Again, I can’t tell if it’s because she’s that way, or if it’s Dr. Cantopher’s own arrogance that’s coming across in the written material. Sometimes it’s actually funny, even when it’s not supposed to be. Most of the time, you just want to smack her on principle, and she makes it feel like it’d be a public service to do so.

Having said all this, this book is built on a foundation I’ve not heard addressed very often, the idea that the strong-willed and determined simply keep going until stress breaks their limbic system, causing the chemical imbalance that deals with clinical depression. This book specifically deals with this form of depression, though it states that people suffering from other forms can benefit somewhat from what’s listed. Regardless, the diagnosis is that the illness is physical, not mental, and based on his descriptions and explanations, his reasoning is spot-on as near as I can tell from personal experience. That’s the good news, and because it makes sense, I give it the extra star up to two from the one it would otherwise deserve.

It’s the treatment options that I question, and I’ll try to detail some of the points here. Dr. Cantopher is part of Britain’s NHS, and according to the sarcastic narrator, he’s not afraid to fly in the face of what they recommend when it comes to making them look bad. He points out that psychotherapies are expensive and not really productive, and his first recommendation is that you’d treat it with drugs like you would a cold or flu, rebuking all major arguments that he’s heard over the years. It really makes me wonder how many kickbacks he gets from those pharmaceutical companies. And then supposing you’re convinced to take those drugs, this book makes it sound like the recovery phase is far, far worse than the original illness. The bottom line of it is “do as much of nothing as is humanly possible” while using your common sense to tell you when you’ve had enough.

If it truly came down to common sense, people wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.  Common sense tells people suffering in this manner that they can’t stop. If you power a hundred amps through a 25 amp fuse, it will blow, regardless of the common sense of not powering that many amps through it in the first place. This analogy is used frequently enough to call into question the concepts of common sense and depression as being coexistent qualities.

But wait! He addresses this very cycle of people taking the drugs, getting the recovery, and then going back to the normal cycle that started this in the first place because modern life simply won’t stop, thus resulting in relapse. His solution? Take your personal happiness into your own hands! *head/desk* And you should do this by operating just below peak capacity and avoiding extremes by sticking to the middle path. Really?! I’m so glad this book has come to my rescue! I’d never have come to this conclusion on my own! *hack hack cough*

It only gets worse from there. Having a panic attack? Don’t panic. You won’t die, even if you feel like you’re about to. This book actually says it just like that. Don’t panic during a panic attack. Have you ever experienced a panic attack, Dr. Cantopher? How in the raging f*ck do you not panic when that is the very definition of what you’re going through? According to this book, your recovery from depression may actually hinge on doing pointless things as badly as you can. Meanwhile, you’re supposed to realize that the productive things that led you to depression in the first place are, in fact, pointless. Please, somebody explain to me how this is not a psychological hamster wheel waiting to happen?

Dr. Cantopher is not a psychotherapist, so of course he covers psychotherapy in the “rare” case that the drugs won’t work. He also gives you tips and skills to help you sleep and combat stress that “won’t work once you’re diagnosed with depression,” but can help before you get there. These include meditation and relaxation exercises, which have cumulative effects over time, giving up caffeinated drinks, doing physical exercise, and other such things that he outright says will only make depression worse. More examples include avoiding the following: late night TV, horror movies, thriller novels, and any work you brought home with you. Again, all of these suggestions only help if you follow his advice before you get depressed or after you recover.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel empowered to make meaningful choices now. *groan*  I don’t need a medical degree to know Dr. Cantopher is a quack.  By the end of this book, if you’re not convinced of that, I have some snake oil to sell you.

2 stars

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