Book Review: Black Rainbow

Black Rainbow: How words healed me – my journey through depression: Rachel Kelly (Yellow Kite, 2014: £16.99)

This book does not relate to mental capacity in the sense that I normally use it in this blog, but it is such a powerful memoir of the crippling effects of depression, and of one person’s path through, that it undoubtedly merits a review here.

Rachel Kelly was a successful Times journalist whose entire life changed shortly after the birth of her second child when she suffered the first of two major depressive crises.    The book opens with the first of these crises, and tracks the course of her life in the years thereafter as she started to recover, sustained a second major crisis, and ultimately found a new and more stable path.   During the course of her illness she came into contact with mental health services, spending a short period of time (it would appear informally) as a patient in a psychiatric hospital and being prescribed and taking the full gamut of modern day anti-depressants.  She also sought help in other ways, and is clear-eyed and interesting about the assistance (or otherwise) she found from different practitioners.   Her greatest solace, however, was in poetry, and her book contains 40 poems (woven into the text) that were of particular importance to her on her journey.

As strange as it may sound, Rachel Kelly was, in many ways, extremely lucky.   The crises she suffered were intense, but she had the support of a loving and loyal family, as well as the financial resources to engage nannies who provided practical assistance at the points that she most needed it.   However, as she is at pains to point out, many of the tools that she found to be of most assistance in managing depression need not be expensive, either in terms or time or money: poetry is free (at least until the libraries are all closed) and breathing techniques, again, come without a price tag.

Some might wonder why we need more additions to the “depression memoir” genre.  However, as with all good journalists, Rachel Kelly seeks to use her personal story to illuminate the bigger picture, and footnotes liberally, but not intrusively, deployed through the book provide discussion of the extent to which her experiences reflect those of others and suggestions for further reading or assistance.   As she discovers when she starts to share her experiences with others, each story of serious and crippling depression is intensely personal, but its manifestations are often strikingly universal.  This book therefore serves both as a powerful story of her personal journey but also as a potential tool to help others facing the same challenges (a tool, I note, which has direct effects as the author’s proceeds go to mental health charities).

Full disclosure: I am very grateful to Rachel Kelly for providing me with a copy of this book for purposes of this (unpaid) review.  I am always open to reviewing books in the area of mental capacity law and policy (broadly defined).

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