Friday, November 30, 2012

Out of the Blue

Jan Wong

Jan Wong’s self-published book Out of the Blue is a sobering read. Focusing on the tragic circumstances of her descent into the hell of depression and anxiety following vitriolic criticism of her Dawson shooting coverage, Wong provides an incredible overview of the research and the lived experience of this debilitating condition. The dragging, all-encompassing ability of depression to snuff out hope and true rational thought is brilliantly described and analysed in Wong’s work.

Her chaotic fear of a possible sniper—a sobbing mess, she races from her own garage to the doorstep of her home, screaming to be let in—is a tipping point. And Wong’s brilliant but tragic recounting of her journey accompanying her son on a Scandinavian hockey tour is one of her many reflections on the destructiveness of the disease on family life.

Wong’s horror at not being able to write as a result of her illness, her skewed logic, and her uncharacteristic memory lapses are painstakingly described. I found Wong’s descriptions all the more vivid, having also suffered a major depressive episode; however, I was lucky to have an employer who supported me and my recovery. Wong unveils the shocking cut-throat corporate culture of the Globe and Mail and its grossly unsympathetic handling of mental illness.

Out of the Blue celebrates the fighting spirit of a journalist whose curiosity and critical thinking skills never fully desert her, but it is also a call to demand more humane work environments where recovery is possible and, even more crucially, where prevention is considered an essential  part of productivity.

- Rossyln Bentley

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