Conquering the Beast Within by Cait Irwin is an uncomplicated, realistic look at the author’s battle with depression. As I have not only suffered from depression myself, but researched the subject for a recent psychology course, I found Ms. Irwin’s book a refreshing change of pace. While most books tend to distance the problem from the patient with medical jargon and clinical analyses, the Beast does neither. It is written in everyday English and is illustrated simply and effectively.
More than ever, young people are becoming the victims of depression. It can be harmful for those (especially young people) wondering about depression (do I have it?) to read books written for academic purposes; as well I know. The cold hard facts and statistics in these books give not hint of the strength, courage, and support needed to overcome the hardships of depression. Irwin, on the other hand, describes the nature of "the beast" while emphasizing that depression is no one’s fault: "[it] is not a weakness, it’s an illness that’s curable"(Irwin 7). She details her road to recovery from hospitalization, to medications, and therapy. She emphasizes the role her family played in her recovery and their comments are included as letters to the reader. Irwin never denies that the road is a long, hard one, but she is persistent in her underlying message of hope: "I have beaten depression and you can, too!"
This is a book for people of all ages who are, or who know someone who is, depressed. It is also a good introduction to depression from an academic viewpoint in that it shows the ‘human’ side of the illness, the emotional part that is unexplainable by the sciences. A short read, but an excellent book nonetheless.
Lyz Rudolph is a seventeen-year-old survivor of depression. She is currently finishing grades eleven and twelve at Vancouver Community College. In her spare time, she likes to converse with her cats and pursue artistic and environmental interests. She also enjoys living vicariously through the books she devours, participating in live theater, riding the wild beast that is the horse, and other ‘dangerous’ hobbies.