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The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression

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An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Tracy Thompson was thirty-four when she was hospitalized and put on suicide watch during a major depressive episode. This event, the culmination of more than twenty years of silent suffering, became the point of departure for an in-depth, groundbreaking book on depression and her struggle with the disease. The Beast shatte An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Tracy Thompson was thirty-four when she was hospitalized and put on suicide watch during a major depressive episode. This event, the culmination of more than twenty years of silent suffering, became the point of departure for an in-depth, groundbreaking book on depression and her struggle with the disease. The Beast shattered stereotypes and inspired countless readers to confront their own battles with mental illness. Having written that book, and having found the security of a happy marriage, Thompson assumed that she had learned to manage her illness. But when she took on one of the most emotionally demanding jobs of all—being a mother—depression returned with fresh vengeance. Very quickly Thompson realized that virtually everything she had learned up to then about dealing with depression was now either inadequate or useless. In fact, maternal depression was a different beast altogether. She tackled her problem head-on, meticulously investigating the latest scientific research and collecting the stories of nearly 400 mothers with depression. What she found was startling: a problem more widespread than she or any other mother struggling alone with this affliction could have imagined. Women make up nearly 12 million of the 19 million Americans affected by depression every year, experiencing episodes at nearly twice the rate that men do. Women suffer most frequently between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four—not coincidentally, the primary childbearing years. The Ghost in the House, the result of Thompson's extensive studies, is the first book to address maternal depression as a lifelong illness that can have profound ramifications for mother and child. A striking blend of memoir and journalism, here is an invaluable resource for the millions of women who are white-knuckling their way through what should be the most satisfying years of their lives. Thompson offers her readers a concise summary of the cutting-edge research in this field, deftly written prose, and, above all, hope.


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An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Tracy Thompson was thirty-four when she was hospitalized and put on suicide watch during a major depressive episode. This event, the culmination of more than twenty years of silent suffering, became the point of departure for an in-depth, groundbreaking book on depression and her struggle with the disease. The Beast shatte An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Tracy Thompson was thirty-four when she was hospitalized and put on suicide watch during a major depressive episode. This event, the culmination of more than twenty years of silent suffering, became the point of departure for an in-depth, groundbreaking book on depression and her struggle with the disease. The Beast shattered stereotypes and inspired countless readers to confront their own battles with mental illness. Having written that book, and having found the security of a happy marriage, Thompson assumed that she had learned to manage her illness. But when she took on one of the most emotionally demanding jobs of all—being a mother—depression returned with fresh vengeance. Very quickly Thompson realized that virtually everything she had learned up to then about dealing with depression was now either inadequate or useless. In fact, maternal depression was a different beast altogether. She tackled her problem head-on, meticulously investigating the latest scientific research and collecting the stories of nearly 400 mothers with depression. What she found was startling: a problem more widespread than she or any other mother struggling alone with this affliction could have imagined. Women make up nearly 12 million of the 19 million Americans affected by depression every year, experiencing episodes at nearly twice the rate that men do. Women suffer most frequently between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four—not coincidentally, the primary childbearing years. The Ghost in the House, the result of Thompson's extensive studies, is the first book to address maternal depression as a lifelong illness that can have profound ramifications for mother and child. A striking blend of memoir and journalism, here is an invaluable resource for the millions of women who are white-knuckling their way through what should be the most satisfying years of their lives. Thompson offers her readers a concise summary of the cutting-edge research in this field, deftly written prose, and, above all, hope.

30 review for The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This book was just what I needed. Tracy Thompson is a journalist. She is also a daughter, a wife, and a mother. She has been all of these things successfully, despite living and struggling with crippling depression and anxiety. In her second book, a follow-up to her memoir detailing her battle to learn to live with her disease, Thompson has examined the effect of motherhood on depression. She surveyed and interviewed hundreds of women, narrowing it down from thousands of responses, and in the Gh This book was just what I needed. Tracy Thompson is a journalist. She is also a daughter, a wife, and a mother. She has been all of these things successfully, despite living and struggling with crippling depression and anxiety. In her second book, a follow-up to her memoir detailing her battle to learn to live with her disease, Thompson has examined the effect of motherhood on depression. She surveyed and interviewed hundreds of women, narrowing it down from thousands of responses, and in the Ghost in the House presents the information she learned from these women, history and science. Only recently has depression, and in particular post-partum depression, begun to be accepted as a real problem. However, Thompson contends that it is even worse than that. Post-partum depression is usually defined as the onset of depression in the year following the birth of child and tends to be attributed to the extreme changes and fluctuations in hormones. But what if there is something more, what if depression is something that continues to linger, crippling a woman's ability to be a mother. The author calls this maternal depression. From my experience she is spot on the money. What started for me as PPD has morphed into a depression that hasn't abated. These should be years that I cherish, raising my three young boys, lucky enough to be able to stay home and watch them grow up. Instead, I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, scream, cry, throw things, and isolate myself. I hate myself for feeling this way, and yet I'm powerless to stop it. What this book did for me though, was to show me that I'm not alone. Unfortunately it has also taught me that my children are at a very high risk for inheriting my disease and behaviors. I'm only the latest in a long history of depressed women in my family and I already see my oldest beginning to fall prey to the same beast. Thankfully, this book also shows me that I can live with this. I can change turn things around for me and my kids. My only complaint is that I wish this book offered other solutions besides anti-depressants, therapy, and friendship. Yes, I know that this is the best way for many to solve their problems, but I also feel like there should be more resources available. Forcing yourself to go make friends when you can barely get out of bed in the morning is nearly impossible. Therapy and medication can be cost-prohibitive for many. I just feel like there is something more and because she seemed to gloss over the solutions, focusing instead on the problem, this information seemed to be lacking.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy D.

    An amazing, funny (damn, you wouldn't think a book on depression could be funny, but it really is) book - and one that every OB or midwife or anyone dealing with postpartum women should read. Thompson talks about the genetics of major depression, the relationship to PPD, there's some really fascinating stuff about postpartum OCD, how depression affects your children, treatment (both therapy and medication) - it's just an excellent book. Short, well-written, informative. I've had this book for ove An amazing, funny (damn, you wouldn't think a book on depression could be funny, but it really is) book - and one that every OB or midwife or anyone dealing with postpartum women should read. Thompson talks about the genetics of major depression, the relationship to PPD, there's some really fascinating stuff about postpartum OCD, how depression affects your children, treatment (both therapy and medication) - it's just an excellent book. Short, well-written, informative. I've had this book for over a year but didn't read it because I thought it was a "depressing topic". It's not - if anything, the book is really uplifting. And not in a cheesy self-help think happy way, but in a subtle, very honest, gritty way.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I thought it was depressing. Go figure.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Part memoir, part gathering of information both from scientific studies and anecdotal interviews, this book explores a range of issues surrounding parenting and motherhood. It's a book I needed to read, probably needed to read about two years ago, just before my daughter was born. I could have learned that my serotonin levels were already wonk-a-doo from pregnancy, that the last trimester would certainly cause me to be more irritable as I battled hormonal fluxes, and then, post-birth, that word, Part memoir, part gathering of information both from scientific studies and anecdotal interviews, this book explores a range of issues surrounding parenting and motherhood. It's a book I needed to read, probably needed to read about two years ago, just before my daughter was born. I could have learned that my serotonin levels were already wonk-a-doo from pregnancy, that the last trimester would certainly cause me to be more irritable as I battled hormonal fluxes, and then, post-birth, that word, failure, that wrapped itself around me in a myriad of ways, both professionally and physically (42 hour labor, many choices I didn't want to make made, ending in a c-section). And that dark period after, in the late winter. The one without words strung to it. And the slump in this second pregnancy. And the rally. And that unending love I have for my husband and my daughter, my never regretting or wanting anything else, save for me to be better. Reading one section in the book where a woman swallows 36 sleeping pills, one for each year of her life, because she wanted her husband and child to be able to replace her for someone better. How familiar that was, how simple the words, and how they were mine too. How she woke up in hospital, angry. How she is still here now. I also began to understand what happened in my childhood more too. I didn't get it, what happened when we moved from Chattanooga to Green Bay, why my mother slunk into herself and watched television all day, terrible, crappy shows, how she had once made literature and travel and exploring the magical world glow for us. How she'd rage at us, around our friends, how our friends would speak of it too, would whisper later how badly they felt--for me--how when I was seventeen, my girlfriend walked out of the house in the middle of a tirade and I had to find her, miles away, and go back to her house. How that was the year I began to cut myself and to not be able to get my lungs to properly fill with air. It came back when I was teaching high school too, that tight-chested feeling, and suddenly I was the one who was raging, but it was the dogs who looked at me balefully. I wasn't married yet, but we owned our house, and we were on our way. I wanted children. I didn't want this, me bashing a pomegranate on the floor of our kitchen in frustration at what was happening at my job. I'm glad I went through all of that before I got to here. The women in this book have this anger too, this all-connected-to-depression, and my eyes popped in recognition. And here I was, thinking depression meant sadness, meant folding into yourself and lighting candles and listening to Mazzy Star (ah, me in high school). Depression was supposed to be peaceful to those around you--frustrating, but mostly tears and closed doors. But there's that edge to it too, the one where patience is worn thin, and I have it now, again, as my body creates life, and I struggle to maintain treatment. I'm so, so grateful that my biggest rage came into an empty room, came when my daughter wasn't even sought after, and I got better before I could smother her in that depression and anxiety. So many women don't get treatment until well after, so many can't admit they need the help, can't afford the help (c'mon Obamacare), feel it is a phase that will pass. I would recommend this book to anyone who feels familiarity with any of it--because it's not just about commiseration, which is, in fact, a huge help, and naming the thing and knowing it's real and it's physical and not imaginary, nor are you a terrible human being, nor is it your fault, nor is it something you can just snap out of. The book discusses how to help yourself, and also, for those of us who are petrified of passing these genes on to our children (and yes, it is chemical, and yes, it is in our genes), there are ways to help it not manifest. There are strategies and ways to allow our children to take the good. That's so hopeful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    This book explains what depression is and how it happens and how to live with it. I really liked the information about coping with depression as a family, particularly trying to safeguard our children as best we can against depression, because although there is a hereditary aspect, children of depressed parents aren't destined to be depressed. The author talks about how depression shouldn't control your life and the importance of making good choices and being honest and realistic with yourself, This book explains what depression is and how it happens and how to live with it. I really liked the information about coping with depression as a family, particularly trying to safeguard our children as best we can against depression, because although there is a hereditary aspect, children of depressed parents aren't destined to be depressed. The author talks about how depression shouldn't control your life and the importance of making good choices and being honest and realistic with yourself, as well as advocating for your mental health. She says people who successfully deal with depression have the humility to recognize they are imperfect. I found that very insightful. It is a great book and I think every mother and everyone who has a mother should read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    I read this as part of an online book club with other moms struggling with and in recovery from postpartum mood disorders, and I found it very helpful. It definitely has the potential to be triggering if read too early in one's recovery but I still plan on recommending it to friends. There are lots of good thoughts in here. The one that made the most difference, though, was to have in print, right in front of my eyes, that I was not alone in my fight with depression. It is so helpful to have thi I read this as part of an online book club with other moms struggling with and in recovery from postpartum mood disorders, and I found it very helpful. It definitely has the potential to be triggering if read too early in one's recovery but I still plan on recommending it to friends. There are lots of good thoughts in here. The one that made the most difference, though, was to have in print, right in front of my eyes, that I was not alone in my fight with depression. It is so helpful to have this reminder.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dani

    How one woman learned about depression and how it affected her children. A depressed mother is always trying to cope. Depression can manifest in anger, irritability, isolation, and fatigue. Recommends methods of dealing with depression including medication, therapy, time alone, exercise, etc. Notes and interviews from real moms who experienced depression and were willing to tell their story. The medical community is just now recognizing depression as a disease. OBs do not always acknowledge or t How one woman learned about depression and how it affected her children. A depressed mother is always trying to cope. Depression can manifest in anger, irritability, isolation, and fatigue. Recommends methods of dealing with depression including medication, therapy, time alone, exercise, etc. Notes and interviews from real moms who experienced depression and were willing to tell their story. The medical community is just now recognizing depression as a disease. OBs do not always acknowledge or treat depression.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marietta

    Tracy Thompson knows whereof she speaks - and as a white, college-educated, middleclass American mother, I'm grateful for her insight and humor. She sets herself a hard task: untangling the web of nature-vs-nurture as it applies to depression in ourselves, and - most urgently - how we might avoid passing it along to our children. Her conversations with researchers and her personal reflections are most valuable. The anecdotes gleaned from her own polling and research pile up without shedding much Tracy Thompson knows whereof she speaks - and as a white, college-educated, middleclass American mother, I'm grateful for her insight and humor. She sets herself a hard task: untangling the web of nature-vs-nurture as it applies to depression in ourselves, and - most urgently - how we might avoid passing it along to our children. Her conversations with researchers and her personal reflections are most valuable. The anecdotes gleaned from her own polling and research pile up without shedding much more light on her questions.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I found some of the scenarios very relatable. She definitely hit on some common issues of motherhood. I would not say the book was overly helpful, but I did find some comofort in knowing that I was not the only one thinking some of these things.

  10. 5 out of 5

    R-Reads

    This book sums up the story of my life! I’ve suffered all kinds of depression. Childhood/ adolescent depression. Major depressive disorder and post partum depression. It explains a lot about my how my relationship with my son was when I was in that deep dark hole and how it became now! It had improved so much (thank God) to my medication, my therapist and through workout. I’m not 100% cured but I’m much better. This book is opened my eyes to know that there are millions of women out there who su This book sums up the story of my life! I’ve suffered all kinds of depression. Childhood/ adolescent depression. Major depressive disorder and post partum depression. It explains a lot about my how my relationship with my son was when I was in that deep dark hole and how it became now! It had improved so much (thank God) to my medication, my therapist and through workout. I’m not 100% cured but I’m much better. This book is opened my eyes to know that there are millions of women out there who suffered and still suffering. I’m not alone facing this beast!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rosanna

    Can't rate this one, it was incredible. As a mom with depression, this book was so real to what I experience I couldn't keep reading (don't need it in real life and my books!) But i wish everyone else would read it to see what it is like to live with depression and raise children. Thank you Tracy Thomson for your searingly honest and accurate book. Can't rate this one, it was incredible. As a mom with depression, this book was so real to what I experience I couldn't keep reading (don't need it in real life and my books!) But i wish everyone else would read it to see what it is like to live with depression and raise children. Thank you Tracy Thomson for your searingly honest and accurate book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    miteypen

    A very good treatment of the subject. The author mixes personal experience, interviews with other depressed mothers, statistics, science and advice, all in one volume, without giving short shrift to any one element. I recommend this to any woman who has a history of depression and is contemplating motherhood as well as to women who are wondering if they are handling motherhood as well as they could. The only quibble I have with the book is that at times it really wasn't that clear that some of th A very good treatment of the subject. The author mixes personal experience, interviews with other depressed mothers, statistics, science and advice, all in one volume, without giving short shrift to any one element. I recommend this to any woman who has a history of depression and is contemplating motherhood as well as to women who are wondering if they are handling motherhood as well as they could. The only quibble I have with the book is that at times it really wasn't that clear that some of the behaviors reported by her interviewees were actually signs of clinical depression. Where do you draw the line between the "normal" stresses of motherhood and a depression that would be there whether or not the sufferer was a mother? It's a distinction that is important to make, because I don't think it serves any purpose to have mothers second-guessing their mental health just because they are stressed out by motherhood. The author came close to saying that motherhood causes depression and I don't think that was her intention. They need help, not censure. This book could be a great first step in getting them what they need. Possibly the best part of the book was where the author discusses different coping skills, both positive and negative. I also enjoyed her personal stories: about herself, her mother and her oldest daughter. I would add one more group to the recommended reader list: people who suspect that someone they know isn't handling motherhood very well. There are probably a lot of women out there who are being written off as abusive or neglectful mothers when what is really going on is that they're suffering from clinical depression.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Johnson

    good, but scary, as it reminded me too much of my own life and showed me just how sick I have been for the last 20 years or so. Interesting reading other people's stories about their depression. I have learned to manage my own so that some of the worst (?) symptoms I don't have anymore, so I could see my progress in comparison to others but also see that I am takign on new symptoms. important for moms with depression to understand how it affects your time with your kids. good, but scary, as it reminded me too much of my own life and showed me just how sick I have been for the last 20 years or so. Interesting reading other people's stories about their depression. I have learned to manage my own so that some of the worst (?) symptoms I don't have anymore, so I could see my progress in comparison to others but also see that I am takign on new symptoms. important for moms with depression to understand how it affects your time with your kids.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A friend recommended this book to me - and I was kind of surprised that she was reading it, as she seems to have her act in gear. This was actually a good read for me because it validated a lot of what I find myself feeling. It makes me wonder what I will pass on to my children, but it also made me realize that I'm not as bad off as some people . . . I should count my blessings. A friend recommended this book to me - and I was kind of surprised that she was reading it, as she seems to have her act in gear. This was actually a good read for me because it validated a lot of what I find myself feeling. It makes me wonder what I will pass on to my children, but it also made me realize that I'm not as bad off as some people . . . I should count my blessings.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This was my first swan dive into this topic as a mom. I found the book informative, but it really offered no solutions on sheltering your kids from the toxic effects of a depressed parent, other than - get on meds. My response to that is a polite "no shit." But I learned quite a bit about the various forms the monster can take, and it was a good read. This was my first swan dive into this topic as a mom. I found the book informative, but it really offered no solutions on sheltering your kids from the toxic effects of a depressed parent, other than - get on meds. My response to that is a polite "no shit." But I learned quite a bit about the various forms the monster can take, and it was a good read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Some parts were really good, but this book really did not live up to the subtitle about giving advice from other moms. About 1/2 of the book was more about herself and her own experience, which is fine if it is sold as a memoir.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This was a well-written book. I felt like I was reading all about myself. It's nice to know my situation is not uncommon. It was actually amazing how much it was like looking in a mirror to read it. This was a well-written book. I felt like I was reading all about myself. It's nice to know my situation is not uncommon. It was actually amazing how much it was like looking in a mirror to read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    read and re-read. like nothing i've read before on the subject. i think the paperback version coming out in august has a new subtitle. I read: The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression read and re-read. like nothing i've read before on the subject. i think the paperback version coming out in august has a new subtitle. I read: The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jakki

    Stories of hope, hospitalizations and the horror of mommy depression. How it affects our children life long. An excellent book for mom's who suffer - you are not alone. Stories of hope, hospitalizations and the horror of mommy depression. How it affects our children life long. An excellent book for mom's who suffer - you are not alone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Cowart

    http://stephaniecowart.com/?p=1902 Full review above http://stephaniecowart.com/?p=1902 Full review above

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    The book was too scientific for me. I was looking for more stories about mothers, their depression and how they cope. There were some but I thought there would be a lot more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hope McCormick

    Amazingly well done. Have to buy this. Will reread for sure.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erica Pulling

  25. 5 out of 5

    E

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Brentmar

  27. 5 out of 5

    انجيل

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cory

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Keahey

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

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