S3-EP7: Writer Daphne Merkin on Living Through the Pandemic With Serious Depression
Debbie Weil talks to acclaimed author Daphne Merkin about what it’s like to live through the pandemic as a lifelong sufferer of serious chronic depression.
Note from Debbie
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Debbie Weil talks with Daphne Merkin, a highly acclaimed novelist, essayist and literary critic. She is known for writing boldly, without shame or modesty, about depression, obsession, money, sex, family, and religion. Her 2017 memoir, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression, which was 16 years in the making, got a front page review in The New York Times by Andrew Solomon, another acclaimed author on the topic of depression.
Daphne’s latest novel, 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, is a powerful story about sex and obsession. And underlying those twin themes, the experience of depression. Today she and Debbie talk not about her books, per se, but about her experience with clinical depression and what that can teach us in this difficult year of COVID when many of us are experiencing deep uncertainty and anxiety. It’s a topic of personal interest to Debbie who is an occasional sufferer of clinical depression. Depression is the story behind the story, if you will, of much of Daphne’s writing.
Debbie and Daphne explore why real depression – sometimes called endogenous depression – is not talked about, why it is so misunderstood, and why it’s something that NEEDS to be talked about. They talk about how her creativity as a writer, cooped up in her apartment in New York City, has been affected the past few months. They talk about the pros and cons of doing therapy via Zoom. And they talk briefly about Psilocybin and the new psychedelic-assisted therapies for depression.
Daphne ends the conversation with some poignant thoughts on what the depths of depression are like and how society has a long way to go to better address depression, as well as thoughts of suicide. This is a powerful conversation with a brilliant author. Be sure to explore the links to Daphne’s writing below.
Mentioned in this episode or useful:
- Daphne Merkin bio
- 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love by Daphne Merkin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 2020)
- New York Times review of 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love (July 7, 2020)
- This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression by Daphne Merkin (Picador 2018)
- New York Times Review of This Close to Happy (Jan. 30, 2017)
- Re-issue of her 1987 novel Enchantment (Picador, July 2020)
- Other writing and reviews
- Daphne’s review of new Sylvia Plath biography: Shifting the Focus From Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death to Her Brilliant Life (New York Times, Oct. 22, 2020)
- Depression and isolation during a pandemic by Daniel W. Drezner (Washington Post, Oct. 29, 2020)
- New York Institute for the Humanities
- Freud’s wife, Martha Bernays
- How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
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