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A Cure for Darkness

A Cure for Darkness Summary

A Cure for Darkness The Story of Depression and How We Treat It: A fascinating, “rich, and generous” (Financial Times) look at the treatment of depression by an award-winning science writer that blends popular science, narrative history, and memoir.

Is depression a persistent low mood, or is it a range of symptoms? Can it be expressed through a single diagnosis, or does depression actually refer to a diversity of mental disorders? Is there, or will there ever be, a cure? In seeking the answers to these questions, Riley finds a rich history of ideas and treatments—and takes the reader on a gripping narrative journey, packed with fascinating stories like the junior doctor who discovered that some of the first antidepressants had a deadly reaction with cheese.

“Interweaving memoir, case histories, and accounts of new therapies, Riley anatomize what is still a fairly young science, and a troubled one” (The New Yorker). Reporting on the field of global mental health from its colonial past to the present day, Riley highlights a range of scalable therapies, including how a group of grandmothers stands on the frontline of a mental health revolution.

Hopeful, fascinating, and profound, A Cure for Darkness is “recommended reading for anyone with even a peripheral interest in depression” (Washington Examiner).

About the Author

Alex Riley is an award-winning science writer, and A Cure for Darkness is his first book. In 2019, he received the best feature award from the Association of British Science Writers for his reporting on The Friendship Bench, a project that began in Zimbabwe in 2006. His articles have been published by New Scientist, Mosaic, Aeon, NOVA Next, Hakai, Nautilus Magazine, and the BBC. He lives in Bristol, UK.

A Cure for Darkness Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

On a chilly December morning in 2019, I walked to my local doctor’s office in South Bristol, just as gray clouds passed overhead to reveal a patchwork of clear blue sky. Unlike my previous appointments, some booked in an emergency, this one felt hopeful, like a milestone in my recovery. I told the doctor, a middle-aged woman with a kind smile who leaned forward in her chair as she listened, that I wanted to come off antidepressants. I had been taking sertraline—a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI—every day for over two years and I wanted to see what life was like without it.

Could I be rid of the side effects that had become so normalized that I had forgotten what life was like before? Would my energy levels be any different? My feeling of connection to others? My libido? SSRIs are known to take some of the intimacy of life away, and I wanted to be reunited.

The doctor asked me whether I was sure I was ready to come off these drugs. I told her that I was, adding that my partner, Lucy, was supportive of this decision. My bouts of depression had become so brief and infrequent that we hoped that I didn’t need these drugs anymore. Although my thoughts still turned to suicide now and again, I felt confident that I could control them.

The suicide plan that I had once sketched out didn’t just seem like a distant memory, but the memory of a different person. In addition to antidepressants, I had been through two rounds of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and seen therapists who practiced mindfulness and psychodynamic approaches. Consequently, I felt like I was better able to rationalize the extremities of negative thought that can make it feel like others would be happier, healthier, more content without me.

While therapists can come and go within a few weeks, antidepressants often need to be taken for years to keep depression at bay. Before sertraline, I had been on citalopram (another SSRI) for two years. Chemically accustomed to their effects, coming off these drugs can be a tortuous experience for many people.

Withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, sweating, confusion, brain zaps, and—if recent anecdotal reports are confirmed—a heightened risk of suicide. That’s why I met with my doctor and agreed to take things slowly, over months and not the two weeks that psychiatric guidelines once recommended. After four years of elevated levels of serotonin, I was introducing my brain to a new equilibrium.

At the same time, thousands of miles away in Wuhan, China, a novel coronavirus was spreading through its new home in the lungs of humans. Silent and unknown to science, this was the germination of a pandemic that would thrive on proximity, bring health care systems to their knees, and demand widespread quarantines in the general public. Had I known all this, I may have changed my decision to decrease my dose of antidepressants.

After all, the consequences of a pandemic and the social triggers for depression overlap with frightening acuity. There’s the death of loved ones. Unemployment and poverty. Major life transitions. Trauma. Divorce and domestic violence. All are known to precede episodes of depression. And all followed in the wake of COVID-19, a virus that could kill and debilitate, that led to some of the highest rates of unemployment since the Great Depression and forced billions of people to transition into a new and uncertain world.

I reminded myself that anxiety and distress are natural responses to a global catastrophe. But if the depression returned—the crippling lack of motivation and the mental pain that can make suicide appealing—I knew I could just as easily increase my dose as decrease it.

My doctor recommended regular exercise and meditation to help with withdrawal symptoms. I had been researching this book for two and a half years by this point and knew that both can have potent antidepressant effects. Meditation is based on the positive acceptance of the present, leaving little space for the negative thoughts about the past and the future that often define depression.

There is some evidence that it can even recalibrate the immune response. As low-grade chronic inflammation—the same process that underlies rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease—is a common contributor to depressive symptoms, these moments of silent contemplation might be seen as a form of mental medication. As long as depressive thoughts aren’t allowed to spiral and grow, meditation is an anti-inflammatory without side effects.

Excepting the risk of injury and muscle tiredness, the same is true of exercise. But there is also a sense of mastery that comes with jogging, practicing yoga, or weight lifting. Both the psychological and physiological benefits of exercise are valuable parts of staying mentally healthy. The latest studies show that running three times a week, for example, is as effective in reducing depressive symptoms as first-line treatments such as SSRIs and cognitive behavioral therapy.

And so, with these studies in mind, I made sure to don my running shoes and jog to the woodlands and parks near our home in South Bristol. With our dog, Bernie, chasing squirrels through the undergrowth or quietly trundling along by my side, I felt my daily concerns start to fade away with every mile. My breathing slowed and felt effortless.

My mind started to wander as my muscles flexed in rhythm. It was fluid. Meditative. I didn’t carry my phone or own a smartwatch, so I don’t know how far I traveled. But when I’d get home, a banana tasted like heaven and a cup of tea was pure indulgence. I felt a warm glow throughout my body that could last for the rest of the day. On other days, I made time to sit, cross my legs, breathe with my diaphragm, and let my thoughts flow through my mind as neutrinos passed imperceptibly through the earth.

My favorite place to meditate is anywhere with trees. Listening to their leaves rustle, their boughs creak, reminds me of life outside of myself, wondrous products of evolution that barely move even in the fiercest winds. They even share nutrients with their neighbors through their entangled roots, just as we might reach out and offer someone a helping hand.

After three months of tapering my dose toward zero, I swallowed my last chunk of sertraline on March 6, 2020, a time when the number of deaths from the coronavirus were higher in Europe than in Asia. Based on sertraline’s half-life, I knew that it might take a few days for the drug to be out of my system.

I was expecting the worst. Indeed, by the second day, I felt fatigued, had the occasional cold shiver down my back, and felt so tired that I had to curl up in bed and sleep in the afternoon. When I woke up an hour or so later, I didn’t feel any better.

Sleep wasn’t restorative. As I noted in my diary, “Today [Monday], feeling groggy, like my thoughts are flowing through treacle. Brain heaviness. Goose pimples, chills, flu-like symptoms? Confused, nauseous.” I decided to go for a walk. With Bernie snuffling along next to me, I passed through city streets, boggy parks, woodlands, and across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was illuminated against the evening sky like a floating shelf lined with fairy lights. A fine rain filled the air. After an hour or so, I was drenched, but my head had cleared. I was returning to a life soon to be placed in lockdown.

While the world adapted to life behind a screen, I remained vigilant for any symptom or sign that I might be collapsing, just as I had done so many times before.

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A Cure for Darkness

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1501198785, 978-1501198786
Posted onMarch 1, 2022
Formatpdf
Page Count464 pages
AuthorAlex Riley 

A Cure for Darkness By Alex Riley PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

A Cure for Darkness The Story of Depression and How We Treat It: A fascinating, “rich, and generous” (Financial Times) look at the treatment of depression by an award-winning science writer that blends popular science, narrative history, and memoir.

URL: https://amzn.to/35AdTRy

Author: Alex Riley

Editor's Rating:
4.3
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