I am Andrew Solomon, I am the author of 'The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression', and a lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell and I write on mental health issues.
In 1994, I was publishing my first novel, something that I thought I should feel very happy about, and I found that I had almost no feelings about it at all.
And in the weeks that followed, I found myself less and less interested in what was happening, and more and more exhausted and uninterested in the world.
I was utterly terrified, but I couldn't say what it was that I was utterly terrified of. I felt like my heart was always in my throat.
I felt like I was going to explode from this feeling of anxiety and it wasn't about anything.
I thought I had had a stroke, I couldn't even get out of bed, and finally the phone rang, and it happened to be my father, and I said, I think you had better come down here,
I don't know what's wrong with me. I was diagnosed shortly after that.
It's the complete death of being able to feel pleasure. While you're depressed, you can't articulate that. You can't say what's wrong; you just know that something is terribly wrong.
But because my way of being in the world from the very beginning of my childhood was always to try to find the words for everything, when I began to come out of that,
I felt as though that by writing it down that I could actually gain some kind of control about it.
While I was in the depression, it felt to me like a barren, useless, pointless, piece of my life.
And writing about it redeemed it, because I have turned it into something which I like to think has been helpful to other people.
After you've gotten through that acute period the only way to make sense of yourself or your life is through intense introspection.
I was just at my 25th reunion at Yale where I was asked to be on a discussion panel.
I've read a huge amount of correspondence in the wake of this book. I've tried to respond to all of it. Out of all the letters the one that was the most compact, and the most moving to me,
which came from someone who didn't include a return address, was a letter that just said, "Dear Mister Solomon, I was going to kill myself, but I read your book and I changed my mind."
I love being able to be in this funny transnational role that I found for myself, in which for the people who are sufferers, I can explain the medicine,
and for the people who are doctors I can explain the experience. I have somehow found a middle place that is relatively unpopulated and I think quite important.
In terms of avoiding relapse there are several things that I've identified as important. One of them is sleep.
If I get really over tired I become much more vulnerable about going over the edge. And so I'm fiercely protective about getting enough sleep.
One of them is exercise. My natural impulse is to spend the day propped on pillows eating chocolates and writing,
but in fact I make it a point of exercising on a regular basis because there is a lot of evidence now that shows that exercise can do as much for your depression as any medication can.
And the other is to recognize when I am getting incredibly stressed out and by in large to pull back from situations which I feel are just too stressful.
It doesn't limit me very much but sometimes I think I have 5 things going on right now so I'm not going to take on this sixth thing.
Not because I feel I physically couldn't do it, but because I have the concern it might escalate.
But I think the primary things are sleep, exercise, and solid nutrition; which are really not a bad idea even if you're not depressed.