My mother was gone. I never thought I would survive her death.
A major bestselling novelist and former magazine editor, long married to a handsome and successful stockbroker with whom she has a beautiful daughter and son, Benilde Little once had every reason to feel on top of the world. But as illness, the aging of her parents, and other hurdles interrupted her seemingly perfect life, she took a tailspin into a pit of clinical depression.
Told in her own fearless and wise voice, Welcome to My Breakdown chronicles a cavern of depression so dark that Benilde didn’t know if she’d ever recover from what David Foster Wallace called “a nausea of the soul.” She discusses everything from her Newark upbringing, once-frequent visits to a Muslim mosque, and how it felt to date a married man, to her doubts about marriage, being caught between elder care and childcare, and ultimately how she treated her depression and found a way out.
Writing in the courageous tradition of great female storytellers such as Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, and Pearl Cleage, Benilde doesn’t hold back as she shares insights, inspiration, and intimate details of her life. Powerful, relatable, and ultimately redemptive, Welcome to My Breakdown is a remarkable memoir about the power within us all to rise from despair and to feel hope and joy again.
I've been a professional writer for 25 years. I was a journalist for 12 years before fulfilling my long desire to write fiction. I wrote four best-selling novels, my first, Good Hair, was the biggest selling novel from Simon and Schuster the year it was published. I had a lot of success and was very grateful for it. But, as life goes, things happened that took my life in a different, difficult direction and the culmination of those difficulites was losing my much beloved mother. I fell into a clinical depression for several years. I didn't intend to write about it or to write a memoir. I was just writing things down ocassionally as a way to try to make sense of what was happening. During my journey, I did a lot of reading about psychological health. I've done a lot of therapy and understand a key to mental health is through self awareness.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced while writing Welcome to My Breakdown?
The hardest part was in re-reading the difficult phases I went through.
What is it that separates your book, Welcome to My Breakdown, from others covering the same topic?
The others were novels, this is non-fiction, a memoir.
What is it that you'd like readers to walk away with after reading Welcome to My Breakdown?
I want to give readers permission to accept all of themselves, warts and all. To take off the mask that we all present to the world and just get real. I think we're in real jeopardy in this culture of Facebook and Instagram and posting all the fabulous aspects of losing a true center, a soul if you will. We're being put to sleep, shown that we should want lives that are just about the shiny and perfect. But life is messy and it's in the messy where we can find real joy because it's really about being--to use an overused word-- authentic.
What is a hidden talent or pastime that you enjoy that would surprise others?
I don't have a talent that's hidden. I like simple things like walking my dog every day in the park with the same three friends and their dogs.