–by Laura Dennis, with much gratitude to Hilary Jacobs Hendel, to whom I owe both the title and content of this post

This is not a book review

Last month, I wrote a post previewing Hilary Jacobs Hendel’s new book, It’s Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self. In it, I promised a review of that book, which Hilary was gracious enough to send me. This is not that review.

Let me explain. In real life (IRL), reviewing books is part of my job. My field, however, has nothing to do with therapy, psychology, trauma, or anything of the ilk. I’m a French professor. I review books about French literature and film.

When I agreed to review It’s Not Always Depression, I figured I’d follow more or less the same formula I do for any review. The only problem is, it didn’t work, and it wasn’t for lack of material – some of this stuff is gold! It’s that I found myself engaging with it much more at the level of the heart than of the head, which means this will be more the story of my experience than an actual book review.

Emotions upon starting It’s Not Always Depression

I picked up this book with a sense of anticipation. I read the forward and the first chapter in a single sitting, and was absolutely over the moon. I even e-mailed Hilary to tell her how eager and hopeful I felt.

Then I stopped reading. For days.

“No sense reading it now,” I told myself. “You’ll have plenty of time during spring break.”

That, however, was not the real reason, as my reading would eventually show. The real reasons are:

Emotions upon finishing It’s Not Always Depression

So, why did I pick it back up and keep on reading?

I finished it in two more sittings. Granted, I am a fast reader, but really, the book wanted to be read.  I tried my best to do the exercises and use the tools – there are many, which is one of the major strengths of the book. So many “experts” tell us that we have to stay calm, centered, and connected to be effective. Hilary is one of the few therapists I’ve read who actually provides concrete ways to make that calm connectedness happen. Some, such as grounding or mindfulness, I’d already stumbled upon myself. Others, like the Change Triangle, were new. What’s really great is there are enough that the reader can pick and choose.

Using the tools IRL

Does this mean that I’m all better, that poof! I waved a magic wand and the secondary traumatic stress is gone? I’d be surprised. But at least I have a few more tools for when it rears its ugly head, and for that, I thank Hilary Jacobs Hendel.