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The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery

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NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE - In this vulnerable, insightful memoir, the New York Times columnist tells the story of his five-year struggle with a disease that officially doesn't exist, exploring the limits of modern medicine, the stories that we unexpectedly fall into, and the secrets that only suffering reveals. "A powerful memoir about our fragile hopes in the face of NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE - In this vulnerable, insightful memoir, the New York Times columnist tells the story of his five-year struggle with a disease that officially doesn't exist, exploring the limits of modern medicine, the stories that we unexpectedly fall into, and the secrets that only suffering reveals. "A powerful memoir about our fragile hopes in the face of chronic illness."--Kate Bowler, bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason In the summer of 2015, Ross Douthat was moving his family, with two young daughters and a pregnant wife, from Washington, D.C., to a sprawling farmhouse in a picturesque Connecticut town when he acquired a mysterious and devastating sickness. It left him sleepless, crippled, wracked with pain--a shell of himself. After months of seeing doctors and descending deeper into a physical inferno, he discovered that he had a disease which according to CDC definitions does not actually exist: the chronic form of Lyme disease, a hotly contested condition that devastates the lives of tens of thousands of people but has no official recognition--and no medically approved cure. From a rural dream house that now felt like a prison, Douthat's search for help takes him off the map of official medicine, into territory where cranks and conspiracies abound and patients are forced to take control of their own treatment and experiment on themselves. Slowly, against his instincts and assumptions, he realizes that many of the cranks and weirdos are right, that many supposed hypochondriacs are victims of an indifferent medical establishment, and that all kinds of unexpected experiences and revelations lurk beneath the surface of normal existence, in the places underneath. The Deep Places is a story about what happens when you are terribly sick and realize that even the doctors who are willing to treat you can only do so much. Along the way, Douthat describes his struggle back toward health with wit and candor, portraying sickness as the most terrible of gifts. It teaches you to appreciate the grace of ordinary life by taking that life away from you. It reveals the deep strangeness of the world, the possibility that the reasonable people might be wrong, and the necessity of figuring out things for yourself. And it proves, day by dreadful day, that you are stronger than you ever imagined, and that even in the depths there is always hope.


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NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE - In this vulnerable, insightful memoir, the New York Times columnist tells the story of his five-year struggle with a disease that officially doesn't exist, exploring the limits of modern medicine, the stories that we unexpectedly fall into, and the secrets that only suffering reveals. "A powerful memoir about our fragile hopes in the face of NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE - In this vulnerable, insightful memoir, the New York Times columnist tells the story of his five-year struggle with a disease that officially doesn't exist, exploring the limits of modern medicine, the stories that we unexpectedly fall into, and the secrets that only suffering reveals. "A powerful memoir about our fragile hopes in the face of chronic illness."--Kate Bowler, bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason In the summer of 2015, Ross Douthat was moving his family, with two young daughters and a pregnant wife, from Washington, D.C., to a sprawling farmhouse in a picturesque Connecticut town when he acquired a mysterious and devastating sickness. It left him sleepless, crippled, wracked with pain--a shell of himself. After months of seeing doctors and descending deeper into a physical inferno, he discovered that he had a disease which according to CDC definitions does not actually exist: the chronic form of Lyme disease, a hotly contested condition that devastates the lives of tens of thousands of people but has no official recognition--and no medically approved cure. From a rural dream house that now felt like a prison, Douthat's search for help takes him off the map of official medicine, into territory where cranks and conspiracies abound and patients are forced to take control of their own treatment and experiment on themselves. Slowly, against his instincts and assumptions, he realizes that many of the cranks and weirdos are right, that many supposed hypochondriacs are victims of an indifferent medical establishment, and that all kinds of unexpected experiences and revelations lurk beneath the surface of normal existence, in the places underneath. The Deep Places is a story about what happens when you are terribly sick and realize that even the doctors who are willing to treat you can only do so much. Along the way, Douthat describes his struggle back toward health with wit and candor, portraying sickness as the most terrible of gifts. It teaches you to appreciate the grace of ordinary life by taking that life away from you. It reveals the deep strangeness of the world, the possibility that the reasonable people might be wrong, and the necessity of figuring out things for yourself. And it proves, day by dreadful day, that you are stronger than you ever imagined, and that even in the depths there is always hope.

30 review for The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Nostalgic for the rural New England they’d grown up in, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and his wife, science writer Abigail Tucker, sold their row house in a recently gentrified Washington, DC neighbourhood for a great price and bought an old home on a large property in Connecticut. Their fantasy about the richness and wonder of country living didn’t last long. You could argue that their “folly” was exposed before Douthat, his pregnant wife, and their two young daughters had even moved in Nostalgic for the rural New England they’d grown up in, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and his wife, science writer Abigail Tucker, sold their row house in a recently gentrified Washington, DC neighbourhood for a great price and bought an old home on a large property in Connecticut. Their fantasy about the richness and wonder of country living didn’t last long. You could argue that their “folly” was exposed before Douthat, his pregnant wife, and their two young daughters had even moved into the quaint 1790s-era house. In the spring of 2015, the two-hour home inspection revealed the need for major repairs that would require significant expenditures. The outdoor portion of the inspection would also leave the author with a bite from a tick carrying both Lyme disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi, a shape-shifting spirochete bacterial disease that can evade the immune system) and the Bartonella bacterium. Shortly after the inspection, Douthat woke one morning with a stiff neck and a painful, enlarged lymph node, a few inches below one ear. A DC walk-in-clinic doctor diagnosed a boil and prescribed mild antibiotics. However, the symptoms persisted, and a new one was added: a peculiar vibration in the patient's head. Several weeks later, Douthat had to cancel a journalists’ trip to Italy, as he now had widespread chest pain, a gagging feeling in his throat, and liquefied bowels. The vibratory sensation initially felt only in the head was now ranging throughout the body. He consulted multiple doctors—an internist, neurologist, rheumatologist, and infectious diseases specialist—and had innumerable medical tests, including an upper endoscopy when his GI symptoms had become overwhelming and he’d lost a lot of weight. The Lyme tests, notoriously unreliable, were inconclusive. Ultimately, as recommended by the physicians who could find nothing wrong with him, he saw a Connecticut psychiatrist who told him his illness wasn’t stress-related; it certainly wasn’t psychiatric; indeed, she was certain his symptoms pointed to tick-borne disease, which the DC doctors evidently didn’t see much of. Douthat’s memoir covers his six-year ordeal with chronic Lyme disease, his desperate search for doctors who might help, and the significant controversies around diagnosis and treatment (which bear some remarkable similarities to the heated public disagreements and polarization over Covid-19). Increasingly, the narrow official line of the medical community is being abandoned as scientific evidence grows that Lyme disease, like cancer, can trick and evade immune defenses. Douthat tried multiple antibiotics, combinations of antibiotics, and non-antibiotic antimicrobials, including herbs. He was supervised by various doctors, some of whom had caught the attention of state medical regulatory boards for their eyebrow-raising treatment regimes. He also did a fair bit of very unorthodox (even wacky) experimentation on himself, collecting “anecdata” about his own symptoms and reactions to drugs, supplements, and devices. His memoir is not essentially a religious one, but Douthat, a Catholic, acknowledges that desperate, pleading prayer figured in his self-treatment, and his faith offered a way to frame his suffering when he felt he was at the end of his rope, which was apparently often. In spite of its relative brevity, The Deep Places is a wide-ranging book. Douthat includes a short history of Lyme disease —including a discussion of a conspiracy theory about its origins in a bioweapons lab on an island in Long Island Sound. The controversies around the condition, its impact on the family, and the ways in which chronic illness transforms the sufferer (physically, psychologically, spiritually, and financially) are also considered. While I wish Douthat had provided a bibliography, he does leave enough hints about sources in the body of his text for the interested reader to follow up on. I particularly recommend the article that alerted him to what he was really dealing with: Alexis Tsoulis-Reay’s June 2015 interview with Dr. Neil Spector, an oncologist and professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine. Spector had chronic Lyme that went undiagnosed for years, and he ultimately required a heart transplant as a result. https://www.thecut.com/2015/06/what-i... This is an engaging and illuminating read about one person’s ordeal and his attempt to make meaning of it. Douthat explains that he wrote it for other sufferers, who “are more numerous than the healthy ever realize,” to encourage them to experiment and possibly save their own lives, “but also for the skeptical doctors and doubtful experts who are so often the targets of long-suffering Lyme patients’ fury and suspicion, in hopes of convincing them to see more clearly the enfleshed reality of a chronic, life-stealing disease.” Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with a copy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    Learning to live with a debilitating illness is quite an arduous task. For writer Ross Douthat, it becomes a constant battle to try to regain the life he once knew. He relocated his family, a pregnant wife, and two daughters to a lovely farm house in Connecticut hoping to both repair the old farm adapt an idyllic life living away from the frenetic DC life they were anxious to get away from. After some time passes, Ross begins to feel alarmingly sick. He is stricken by headaches, nausea, and beco Learning to live with a debilitating illness is quite an arduous task. For writer Ross Douthat, it becomes a constant battle to try to regain the life he once knew. He relocated his family, a pregnant wife, and two daughters to a lovely farm house in Connecticut hoping to both repair the old farm adapt an idyllic life living away from the frenetic DC life they were anxious to get away from. After some time passes, Ross begins to feel alarmingly sick. He is stricken by headaches, nausea, and becomes a man living with constant pain. This, whatever it is, is wrecking his life. He visits a plethora of doctors and after a time gets a diagnosis of Lyme disease, which there is no course of treatment for. Ross becomes so desperate that he starts down the path of dosing himself, trying various combinations of antibiotics, drug, herbs, and literally whatever he finds to give him relief. Nothing seems to offer any long-term relief and to add to all of this, the Dumonts are forced into selling the "dream" home because of financial issues. Luckily their immediate families are wealthy and help them in many ways. Maddeningly, the CDC has refused to recognize what appears to be Ross's issues, chronic Lyme disease. Many who have chronic pain live with it daily and often survive with the hope that one day there will be methods of treating this pain. They develop coping mechanisms that often send them into bizarre methods for treatment that offer a glimmer of hope. Ross's story is frightening, yet it is one that many live with. Ross writes well providing copious details about his illness which at times does become a bit long winded. This story is solely about himself and lacks much detail in the way his wife and family handle the limitations of a father who is a shell of his former self. I will say that I was disappointed in that aspect of the story. However, he and others fight for a return to normalcy, one that often seems out of their grasp. Thank you to Ross Douthat, Convergent Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this journey Ross has taken with pain and suffering.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Touching memoir of Douthat's own battle with chronic illness, in this case lime disease. The book is a trip through his life behind the "veil of pain" that separated him all the things he loved. Its also a look at the world of alternative medicine and the limits of the scientific consensus on many issues. Illness is a part of life, and it is too often airbrushed from the neat pictures that people present of themselves on social media. Over so many years of reading Douthat I would never have susp Touching memoir of Douthat's own battle with chronic illness, in this case lime disease. The book is a trip through his life behind the "veil of pain" that separated him all the things he loved. Its also a look at the world of alternative medicine and the limits of the scientific consensus on many issues. Illness is a part of life, and it is too often airbrushed from the neat pictures that people present of themselves on social media. Over so many years of reading Douthat I would never have suspected what he was going through privately. This is a vulnerable book and he does not omit the many times he broke down in tears fighting his illness. It's a good reminder to all who read it about the painful and complex thing that ones mortal life inevitably is.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3 stars Thank you to Random House and Convergent Books for allowing me to read and review this book. Published October 26, 2021. This was a very in-depth reading of one man and how he coped with Lyme disease. The way he felt, the doctor recommended cures, his own high controversial cures, his suicide ideation, the ups and downs he and his family went through. He was in the throes of this nasty little blood borne disease for 6 long years. I was interested in this book due to my own grandson havin 3 stars Thank you to Random House and Convergent Books for allowing me to read and review this book. Published October 26, 2021. This was a very in-depth reading of one man and how he coped with Lyme disease. The way he felt, the doctor recommended cures, his own high controversial cures, his suicide ideation, the ups and downs he and his family went through. He was in the throes of this nasty little blood borne disease for 6 long years. I was interested in this book due to my own grandson having contracted Lyme disease while hunting in Mississippi a few years ago. As Douthat states, 'every person has their own individual case - and cure'. Whereas my grandson could not eat red meat, which seemed to make him violently ill, Douthat could not tolerate even the smallest drink of alcohol. Although it is said that Lyme disease is never 'cured', since it stays in the body just waiting for another irruption, my grandsons course ran right at a year under Drs care. Douthat was still suffering 6 years later, which obviously shows that Lyme disease is nothing to ignore. It is a very serious and dangerous disease that doctors still know very little about.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Teaghan

    I'm a paid-up Douthat fan already, so maybe that clouds my judgement a bit, but I really think this is the best thing he's ever written. Few contemporary writers are as honest and vulnerable as he is here, and I came away with far more sympathy for those with chronic disease and invisible wounds. I'm a paid-up Douthat fan already, so maybe that clouds my judgement a bit, but I really think this is the best thing he's ever written. Few contemporary writers are as honest and vulnerable as he is here, and I came away with far more sympathy for those with chronic disease and invisible wounds.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I received a free digital ARC; this did not influence my review. Oh, I strongly disliked this memoir. As someone who has been on both sides of the coin - someone who worked in healthcare, and who has also dealt with disability and chronic illness (though, to be fair, not Lyme Disease) I found many of Douthat's characterizations, assumptions, and criticisms deeply unfair. I don't disagree that there are a slew of doctors with no bedside manner, who rely almost solely on lab work rather than full h I received a free digital ARC; this did not influence my review. Oh, I strongly disliked this memoir. As someone who has been on both sides of the coin - someone who worked in healthcare, and who has also dealt with disability and chronic illness (though, to be fair, not Lyme Disease) I found many of Douthat's characterizations, assumptions, and criticisms deeply unfair. I don't disagree that there are a slew of doctors with no bedside manner, who rely almost solely on lab work rather than full histories and physicals. (And Lyme is far from the only disease that can be missed due to negative lab tests and blood work, despite Douthat's implications that this is a problem unique to Lyme). Yet there are also countless doctors who are true medical investigators and pioneers, who are invested in helping patients live fuller lives. It's worth noting that even once Douthat found a doctor who practiced outside the typical realm of Lyme care, he still conducted his own "experiments" and took a large number of both leftover prescription meds and self-administered alternative therapies and supplements (many of which he discovered through online Lyme communities, not medical professionals or scientists). He seems unwilling to trust than any doctor or scientist might know better than him. One passage that I deeply resented was Douthat's concerns for the future, "...and through it all his father [refers to fathering his newborn son] unable to be the dad he needed, not a baseball coach or a biking tutor but a cripple in the house, tapping away on columns to pay the bills..." Parents come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities, and I deeply resented the notion that a "crippled" parent leaves a child lacking in some inherent way - we all want to give our children the best, but Douthat's view of parenting is limited at best. I also worry that he will leave many readers with the assumption that a life lived with chronic illness is one of chronic misery with no bright spots, one to be pitied, which is simply untrue for so many people. He also takes on the opioid epidemic at least once in the book, despite the fact that most overdoses do not occur to chronic pain patients, many of whom are often appropriately prescribed opioids or other pain medications (he seems to imply that the opioid epidemic is a result of patients being abandoned by doctors and taking pain relief into their own hands - probably because he takes so much of his own medical care into his own hands). By the end of the book, Douthat takes on Covid-19 as well, and while the U.S.'s response certainly left/leaves a lot to be desired, Douthat (a journalist by trade, not a doctor or scientist) criticizes everyone from the CDC, to the FDA, to Anthony Fauci. If Covid treatments existed in direct relation to Douthat's pride and ego, we'd all be healthy with nary a concern about Covid. Douthat's assessments of the medical community would be akin to saying that he is a bad journalist because there are writers spinning falsehoods for tabloids. I gave this book two stars (rather than one) because Douthat expressed himself clearly and the book was fairly organized and easy to follow. However, my enjoyment of the book sits at one star, rounded up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lilisa

    This is a candid, insightful, and well-written account of the author’s struggle with chronic Lyme disease, which was difficult to pinpoint and was achingly frustrating as he tried to identify what was causing his illness. As a young husband and father in the prime of his life, with a good job and the world before him, he had everything to look forward to. Then the crippling disease hit him - mysterious and undiagnosable. The book takes us through his everyday struggle as he attempts to figure ou This is a candid, insightful, and well-written account of the author’s struggle with chronic Lyme disease, which was difficult to pinpoint and was achingly frustrating as he tried to identify what was causing his illness. As a young husband and father in the prime of his life, with a good job and the world before him, he had everything to look forward to. Then the crippling disease hit him - mysterious and undiagnosable. The book takes us through his everyday struggle as he attempts to figure out what’s wrong and his dogged research for relief and remedies trying every avenue possible to beat the disease. Along the way, many in the medical profession doubted the severity of his illness wondering if it was all in his mind. Sometimes his wife thought the same. He points out that despite the fact that he is someone viewed as having his stuff together, his descriptions of what the illness he was experiencing was met sometimes with skepticism. What then of others who are ill with indescribable symptoms yet cannot be diagnosed because the number of cases is small and the patterns don’t fall into place as known symptoms by medical professionals. (I recall the book Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan who wrote about the rare form of encephalitis she had contracted but could not be diagnosed. She spent time confined to a mental health facility because people thought she had mental issues.) Douthat bares his soul as he documents the rollercoaster ups and downs of his life and physical, mental, and emotional toll the illness had on him and his family for more than five years. Not only that, the financial strain and burden as a result of his illness were significant. He was fortunate to have parents who supported and helped him financially. He wondered how those who are not as fortunate as him could handle and survive a debilitating illness on all fronts. He also points out how the medical industry has a long way to go in how they handle and support patients with rare forms of symptoms that don’t fall cleanly into the more commonly diagnosed diseases they generally encounter. The author does a nice job shining a light on Lyme disease and balances his personal struggles against the realities of a disease that can inflict anyone. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stetson

    Ross Douthat, probably NYT Opinion's most talented and thoughtful writer, has delivered a moving and engaging memoir, The Deep Places, concerning his one-man guerrilla war against a disease that the medical establishment holds doesn't officially exist, chronic lyme disease. The body of work focuses on his family's fateful choice to move from the D.C. suburbs to pastoral Connecticut. During the inspection of his soon-to-be idyllic property, Ross is ostensibly bit by a deer tick carrying Borrelia Ross Douthat, probably NYT Opinion's most talented and thoughtful writer, has delivered a moving and engaging memoir, The Deep Places, concerning his one-man guerrilla war against a disease that the medical establishment holds doesn't officially exist, chronic lyme disease. The body of work focuses on his family's fateful choice to move from the D.C. suburbs to pastoral Connecticut. During the inspection of his soon-to-be idyllic property, Ross is ostensibly bit by a deer tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi and maybe some other nasty bacteria too, causing him to spiral deep into the turmoil of a seemingly inescapable medical malady. Douthat intertwines his chronicles of illness and despair with accessible science writing on chronic lyme disease and social commentary on the limitations of bureaucratic, evidence-based medicine. His case for the existence of chronic lyme and advocacy for experimental efforts is persuasive, especially given that he acknowledges why such N of 1 experimental effort cannot be sanctioned by medical practitioners. Douthat's narrative opened my mind about medicine's approach to chronic illness, though I would still hold the only tenable, scalable solution for issues like chronic lyme disease will require rigorous, evidence-based practices otherwise everyone's journey will have to be through a dangerous and painful wilderness like Douthat's. Douthat's story about his mysterious medical odyssey and personal growth is rendered in beautiful yet brief prose that moves the reader quickly yet thoughtfully through. I strongly recommend this work and am happy to hear that Douthat is on the mend. *Disclaimer: I received The Deep Places as an ARC through NetGalley

  9. 4 out of 5

    Flynn Evans

    A striking narrative that, more than anything else, is one’s wrestling with the woes of modern epistemology as it is so often abused in the context of medical care. Douthat’s reckoning with the ineptitude of the establishment in regards to his own chronic illness illumines the reader to the necessity of sometimes acknowledging that the darkest places in our lives don’t bring forward the light as quickly or conveniently as we might hope.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sunday

    I'm a member of the chronic pain club and picked up Douthat's book because I wanted to read the words of someone whom I respect who is also suffering. A passage that jumped out at me as words of wisdom I need to remember (when I think about others' responses to my pain as well as my response to others' pain): p. 86-87 "To get sick and fail to bet better is to realize the harsh truth of this insight. Human beings have a great capacity for kindness, empathy, and help, but we are more likely to rise I'm a member of the chronic pain club and picked up Douthat's book because I wanted to read the words of someone whom I respect who is also suffering. A passage that jumped out at me as words of wisdom I need to remember (when I think about others' responses to my pain as well as my response to others' pain): p. 86-87 "To get sick and fail to bet better is to realize the harsh truth of this insight. Human beings have a great capacity for kindness, empathy, and help, but we are more likely to rise to the occasion when it is clearly an occasion--a moment of crisis, a time-bound period of stress. In the aftermath of a hurricane, society doesn't usually fragment; it comes together in solidarity and support. Likewise with families and individuals facing suffering in the moment that it descends, or when a terrible finally bottoms out: Not always but very often, people behave well, with great generosity, in the face of a mortal diagnosis, a mental collapse, an addict's nadir. Not least because in those circumstances there are things you can clearly do, from the prosaic--making frozen dinners for a suffering family--to the. more dramatic and extreme, like flying across the country to help drag a friend into rehab. But when the crisis simply continues without resolution, when the illness grinds on and on and on--well, then a curtain tends to fall, because there isn't an obvious way to integrate that kind of struggle into the realm of everyday life. It's not clear what the healthy person is supposed to give to a friend or family members who isn't dying, who doesn't have some need that you can fill with a discrete act of generosity, but who just has the same problems--terrible but also, let's be frank, a little boring--day after depressing day. 'Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him," the nineteenth-century French writer Alphonse Daudet, wrote of his experience of a different spirochetal infection, syphilis, whose pain could be managed but in his case never cured. 'Everyone will get used to it except me.'" Douthat writes about a friend who lived across the country but kept showing up - not to talk about or try to solve Douthat's pain. Instead "His appearances were, in their way, acts of love and solidarity--offering no answer to my illness, no cure for our distress, save his solid physical presence, his good humor, and the proof, in all the miles he'd traveled, that he genuinely cared." (p. 89)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    In this book, Ross Douthat, a conservative pundit, recounts his experiences with "chronic Lyme disease" (CLD) -- the term used by some people to describe a broad array of illnesses or symptom complexes for which at this time there is no reproducible scientific evidence to justify its association with Lyme disease. In fact, currently, there is no accepted clinical definition for the phenomenon and only a very small percentage of doctors in the United States and Europe recognize the concept of CLD In this book, Ross Douthat, a conservative pundit, recounts his experiences with "chronic Lyme disease" (CLD) -- the term used by some people to describe a broad array of illnesses or symptom complexes for which at this time there is no reproducible scientific evidence to justify its association with Lyme disease. In fact, currently, there is no accepted clinical definition for the phenomenon and only a very small percentage of doctors in the United States and Europe recognize the concept of CLD. This skepticism, in part, stems from the fact that many persons (not all) who claim to suffer from this condition, including the author of this monograph, never tested positive for Lyme disease. This is not to say that the physical suffering experienced by those who claim to have CLD is not real; no doubt it is. The controversy centers on whether Lyme disease is the cause of their long-term suffering and what, if any, treatment is advisable. This controversy over diagnosis and treatment means that those who manifest long-term this broad array of symptoms, which includes fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, headaches, sleep disturbance and other neurologic features, such as demyelinating disease, peripheral neuropathy and sometimes motor neuron disease, cardiac presentations (including electrical conduction delays and dilated cardiomyopathy), and musculoskeletal problems--often find themselves turning to experimental treatments that range from lengthy courses of antibiotic to much more unorthodox alternatives in an effort to find relief from their symptoms, It also means that many who seek treatment encounter doctors who believe the cause of their illness is psychological rather than physical. The author both tried many of these unorthodox treatments and interacted with doctors who thought it was all in his head. Thus, he sets out to present himself as a "fundamentally reliable narrator, open-minded but not naive, vulnerable but not an outright wreck, aware of my own limitations and the possible doubts about my story, but neither paranoid nor mad." And there are times in the narrative where he succeeds; however, at least for this reader, the times when he failed at this endeavor abysmally were more numerous. When I started this book, I had no preconceived ideas about CLD, and in fact knew of some persons through FB who claimed to have this condition. Based on their brief descriptions, it seemed very real; however, after reading this narrative, I am much more skeptical, owing to statements such as the following: "In the beginning only prayers to Mary seemed to have any effect, but then eventually there were reactions when I asked specific saints for help, beginning with my own namesakes--Gregory (my middle name) and Athanasius, which I had pompously adopted upon conversion..." Such statements make it hard to accept his claims of reason or relying on science. Not to mention, by his own admission he was not one for spending time in the great outdoors; if he contracted Lyme disease (again he never tested positive for the disease), it had to have been from the one visit to the country house that they were looking at buying (and ultimately did buy). Although not impossible that he could have been bitten by a tick during this single visit to the countryside and contracted Lyme disease, it is statically unlikely. I also found this narrative of illness at times tiresome, because the author is so focused on proving the disease is real and describing his self-prescribed methods of treatment that he never delves into the impact of his chronic illness on his marriage and his children. It is a "me" narrative that never really explores how chronic illness impacts loved ones or how it changes family dynamics. Although the author briefly references his wife's skepticism about the cause of his symptoms, he leaves largely unexplored how this skepticism or his obsession with alternative treatments impacted their relationship, what tensions it created, or how it changed daily routines. The sacrifices that family members must have been making so that over the course of six years, he could pursue his self-prescribed path to wellness (including massive doses of antibiotics that left him unable to function or his investment in a machine that produced high-level sound frequencies to kill off the Lyme infection) go mostly unmentioned. There is no sense in this narrative of it "taking a village" to combat chronic illness; there is only the image of lone warrior whose suffering has blinded him to his illness's impact on those who love him. That said, what the author does capture well is the anger and sense of betrayal that chronic sufferers of pain feel towards their own bodies as well as towards the medical community that has let them down. For some, this may be enough to make this a powerful and empowering narrative. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    What a haunting and yet poignant story of determination and honesty in the face of pain and disease. Despite having only met the author once at a conference, I feel like I know him since I have been reading him since the early days of the blogosphere. So to read such an honest and vulnerable portrayal of chronic illness and the emotional, financial and, of course, physical toll it takes on mind and body left me frequently fervently wishing for a “Hollywood ending.” While knowing that the truly tr What a haunting and yet poignant story of determination and honesty in the face of pain and disease. Despite having only met the author once at a conference, I feel like I know him since I have been reading him since the early days of the blogosphere. So to read such an honest and vulnerable portrayal of chronic illness and the emotional, financial and, of course, physical toll it takes on mind and body left me frequently fervently wishing for a “Hollywood ending.” While knowing that the truly tragic ending would be avoided, I soon realized that the “happily ever after” was also not in the cards. Thankfully, the family came out scared and wounded, and a little humbled, but as a family and a future to look forward to and embrace. If you have any interest in chronic ailments like Lyme Disease this is a must read. But in the age of the pandemic, it is also just a brutally honest story about wrestling with illness, the complexity and mystery of the human body and the challenge of a medical system that works remarkably well for many but leaves far too many alone seeking answers with little or no guard rails. Douthat allows the reader to see this too often hidden world and understand better the tragedies and challenges it presents. Given you probably know someone who is wrestling with these issues this is not only a poignant and honest story it is one that will leave you with a better understanding and hopefully more empathy and sympathy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Khris Sellin

    I don't agree too much with Ross Douthat, but he showed up as a witness on a trial I had and he seemed like a fine fellow so I thought I would check out his book. And it's a book about a mysterious illness, which I always find fascinating. Douthat and his wife decided they were sick of DC and their rapidly gentrifying neighborhood there. They wanted to get back to their New England roots and found a lovely old farmhouse in Connecticut, a dream house to start their new rural lifestyle. But right f I don't agree too much with Ross Douthat, but he showed up as a witness on a trial I had and he seemed like a fine fellow so I thought I would check out his book. And it's a book about a mysterious illness, which I always find fascinating. Douthat and his wife decided they were sick of DC and their rapidly gentrifying neighborhood there. They wanted to get back to their New England roots and found a lovely old farmhouse in Connecticut, a dream house to start their new rural lifestyle. But right from the beginning, this fantasy was doomed. Probably from the first walk-around on the property, he was bitten by a deer tick and contracted Lyme. He had debilitating symptoms -- excruciating pain, spasms, digestive issues, etc., etc., etc. And they kept shifting and changing. Even worse, doctors kept telling him it wasn't Lyme, and wanted to prescribe anxiety meds and advised him to see a psychiatrist. So began his long, arduous journey with chronic Lyme disease and the world of alternative treatments that his pre-illness self would have scoffed at. When he showed up at trial, he had a little bit of a "deer in the headlights" look, wondering what in the world he was doing there, but maybe he was just very focused on masking the residual pain. You just never know what people are going through... I hope he's continued to improve.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Logan

    The middle, most harrowing parts of this book—when Douthat is in the titular 'depths' of his chronic Lyme disease—are the best. He draws dark, damp, decomposing connections between his disease and the dense New England forested country where he and his wife thought they could raise a family in idyllic bliss. These intensely personal portions have a real sense of pain that gesture to Douthat's fanatical writing sensibility and a deeply spiritual apprehension of the world. The more 'educational' s The middle, most harrowing parts of this book—when Douthat is in the titular 'depths' of his chronic Lyme disease—are the best. He draws dark, damp, decomposing connections between his disease and the dense New England forested country where he and his wife thought they could raise a family in idyllic bliss. These intensely personal portions have a real sense of pain that gesture to Douthat's fanatical writing sensibility and a deeply spiritual apprehension of the world. The more 'educational' sections—dealing with the tangled history of Lyme disease and the rejection of its chronic variations by the medical establishment—are passable, and I understand the need to offer a fitting historical backdrop for Douthat's extremely insular and isolated experience. I feel like the memoir traipses into a bit of pandering and cliché by its end. The ending's dull "and I fought and I fought and I fought.....and I am still alive" felt so unbelievably wooden and clanging against the gorgeous indeterminacy of a host of other image (a haunted copse of trees, a fever dream of librarians decapitating vampires, a possibly hallucinated sand dollar washing ashore) that he ended all his other chapters with. In the end, I feel as if two Douthats exist in this book: the columnist and the memoirist. Douthat-the-columnist surfaces to frequently to the detriment of Douthat-the-memoirist in "The Deep Places." He really tries to just 'show' his experience—but he also can't help but *tell* you, with excruciating straightforwardness, how this is clearly connected to COVID-19 and Susan Sontag and Charles Taylor and the election of Donald Trump and and and..... Douthat-the-memoirist weaves in affecting portraits of his clearly deeply felt Catholicism; but Douthat-the-columnist then quickly reassures his urbane secular upper middle-classs colleagues that he KNOWS how weird it is that he believes in God. Douthat-the-memoirist crafts a convicting, angry narrative of a bloated medical bureaucracy that constantly fails chronic sufferers, including him, and how he steps very far out of the medical mainstream to treat himself; but Douthat-the-columnist quickly steps in to blunt any critique with hand-waving about how he much he appreciates modern medicine and to assure his reader he *knows* it's crazy he used a frequency machine to (successfully) treat his Lyme disease. And Douthat-the-memoirist ruminates upon privilege and draws near contemplation of the horrific, lifelong pain other less-privileged sufferers must experience; only for Douthat-the-columnist to end with the saccharine reflection on how beautiful life is and how grateful he is for all of it. I don't begrudge the happiness he feels for his improvement, of course! After the harrowing depths of his long, bleak summers with Lyme—I experienced a gratitude reading this too. I just felt as if, when this book is edging towards saying something profound, Douthat pulls back because he's worried about offending sensibilities (be they that of the medical consensus, his upper-middle-class liberal colleagues, or skeptical moderate conservatives like himself) with his more unsettling experiences.

  15. 5 out of 5

    AmyRose

    This might be my favorite book of 2021, evident in the fact that I read it cover to cover in four days. With brilliant prose and gripping story-telling, Ross shares his experience of chronic illness. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    *ETA (5/7): I must apologize for promoting an author who is anti-abortion and women's rights. I knew he was conservative but I didn't know how far that went. I still think this book says a lot of important things about Lyme Disease, but maybe don't give him your money. The Deep Places by Ross Douthat is a memoir of a man living with Lyme Disease in the woods in Connecticut. Many people may not know about the controversy that has become the medical establishment vs. Lyme Disease patients but it's *ETA (5/7): I must apologize for promoting an author who is anti-abortion and women's rights. I knew he was conservative but I didn't know how far that went. I still think this book says a lot of important things about Lyme Disease, but maybe don't give him your money. The Deep Places by Ross Douthat is a memoir of a man living with Lyme Disease in the woods in Connecticut. Many people may not know about the controversy that has become the medical establishment vs. Lyme Disease patients but it's getting completely out of hand (because all that pain must be caused by stress or something, eh?). The CDC only recognizes Lyme as a diagnosis if you have a bullseye rash followed by a positive Western Blot test. And yet, diagnosis is overlooked by many doctors because of how the disease hides. Because of this, the necessary treatment of anti-biotics isn't given, or being given but not for long enough. The author examines his experience of medical gaslighting as well as many other's. He takes you through the history of Lyme and where the doubt from the medical world begins. His prose is exceptional and he captures the painful reality of living with a chronic illness with little treatment available. He experiments with alternative therapies and discusses the way that doctors dismiss self-treatment (because how do you do a double blind study for treating Lyme? You just can't.) Douthat wrote a book that many sufferers of Lyme Disease can relate to and feel seen by. I highly recommend this book, and avoiding wooded areas in the Midwest and the East Coast. (Although I actually found a tick stuck in me while camping in Utah, but I didn't get Lyme.) Ticks scare me more than most illnesses. 😬😬🥺

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kait Griffin

    While I do not suffer from Lyme disease, I do suffer from another chronic illness- endometriosis. So much of the author's journey resonated with me; the uncaring medical professionals and implied mental illness. After all, we LOOK healthy. His was an interesting journey to follow. And while I am no stranger to ticks in northwestern Pennsylvania, I will certainly be more aware of them after learning of his torturous experience. Overall I would rate this a 3.5. While I do not suffer from Lyme disease, I do suffer from another chronic illness- endometriosis. So much of the author's journey resonated with me; the uncaring medical professionals and implied mental illness. After all, we LOOK healthy. His was an interesting journey to follow. And while I am no stranger to ticks in northwestern Pennsylvania, I will certainly be more aware of them after learning of his torturous experience. Overall I would rate this a 3.5.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelsie

    This is a fascinating and moving portrait of a struggle with chronic Lyme disease. But its significance is evident to anyone with a chronic ailment. I found echoes of my own desperation and despair when I was struggling with chronic pain that wouldn’t go away, and it was comforting to hear pieces of my own thinking and pain and resilience in this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    wynter

    "There are feelings worse than naked pain," Ross Douthat says, early in his memoir. It's a truth foundational to his journey with chronic illness, and, I'd wager, foundational across chronic illness experiences both within and outside the Lyme Disease community. For anyone interested in a close examination of those feelings—the ones that sound less terrible than pain but that, experienced across years, amalgamate into something arguably more insidious—I recommend The Deep Places. But honestly, f "There are feelings worse than naked pain," Ross Douthat says, early in his memoir. It's a truth foundational to his journey with chronic illness, and, I'd wager, foundational across chronic illness experiences both within and outside the Lyme Disease community. For anyone interested in a close examination of those feelings—the ones that sound less terrible than pain but that, experienced across years, amalgamate into something arguably more insidious—I recommend The Deep Places. But honestly, for anyone experiencing chronic illness, particularly illness that is impervious to "solutions" from western medicine, Douthat's memoir won't communicate anything you don't already know. Indeed, the real audience for this book is undoubtedly doctors, particularly those inclined to equate physical mystery with a psychiatric diagnosis. For those readers, I can only hope memoirs like Douthat's make inroads. 3 stars Favorite lines A friend could listen, another friend could visit, another family member could watch our kids or make us dinner, but there was a gulf fixed between my world and theirs, between my morning-to-evening experience of pain's variety and novelty and their inability to comprehend what it would mean to be sick every day, the same thing waiting every morning upon waking, without recourse or relief. I could understand their bafflement, because I remembered what the term "chronic illness" had meant to me in the before times.... I still associated it with the fatigue that comes after you've stayed up with a newborn baby, or the aches and pains you feel after exercising for the first time in months—suffering that was challenging but manageable with recourse in the worst case to an exhausted sleep. Whereas the reality was pain that didn't let you relax, let alone sleep; pain that made your body feel like a cage around your consciousness ... But chronic illness dramatically clarifies just how much this world of surfaces and curated selves lies to its inhabitants, to both the healthy and the sick. It lies to the healthy about the likelihood that they will one day suffer ... And it lies to the suffering, day after day, about how alone they really are. Chronic illness encourages a feeling of mind-body dualism because you can feel your old self—your true self, or so you think—stuck somewhere inside the body's prison, struggling for survival, waiting for release. But it's a dualism in which the power of the body over the mind is made manifest because the mind is always carapaced by suffering flesh, like a balloon bobbing against a hard ceiling, free to move but not to soar away.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I raced through this audiobook in two days, unable to stop listening. A remarkably honest, self-aware and compelling memoir. I should say right up front that I was uncomfortable with one specific part of the author's self-directed treatment – when he described taking multiple courses of antibiotics that he ordered off the internet, without telling any of his doctors. But the memoir is a truthful account of a brutal illness, and I felt a deep kinship with the author as he wrote about his emotions I raced through this audiobook in two days, unable to stop listening. A remarkably honest, self-aware and compelling memoir. I should say right up front that I was uncomfortable with one specific part of the author's self-directed treatment – when he described taking multiple courses of antibiotics that he ordered off the internet, without telling any of his doctors. But the memoir is a truthful account of a brutal illness, and I felt a deep kinship with the author as he wrote about his emotions and spiritual evolution through this extreme challenge. Unexpectedly, it left me with a feeling of hope. I think it was because he just kept fighting back. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/23/op...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Shurance

    I binge-listened to the audiobook over two days. Fascinating information, a compelling personal narrative, a challenging experience and an unconforming perspective: all make for a enriching memoir.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Fouche

    Douthat is a wonderful writer. I found the darkness in this one a little unrelenting, but that does make the moments of hope shine out all the clearer. Also, this should be required reading for those who triumphantly proclaim “we must trust the science!” Reality is often more complicated.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    Granted, a book about the horrors of Lyme Disease and the search for a cure among all the contradictions and misinformation and lack of knowledge does not sound like the kind of book everyone wants to read. But I still give this one five stars because: 1) it articulates very well the massive divide between those of us who are basically healthy and those of us who are not and who have to live with that every second of every day with no escape (thankfully I am in the first group, but never unaware Granted, a book about the horrors of Lyme Disease and the search for a cure among all the contradictions and misinformation and lack of knowledge does not sound like the kind of book everyone wants to read. But I still give this one five stars because: 1) it articulates very well the massive divide between those of us who are basically healthy and those of us who are not and who have to live with that every second of every day with no escape (thankfully I am in the first group, but never unaware of the second or of the fact that any of us in the first group could join the second at any time with no warning, 2) the author is very aware of how crazy he sounds at times when he’s trying out fringe cures out of desperation, but at the same time you completely understand how he makes those choices, because YOU WOULD TOO if the system was as unhelpful to you as it was to him. Lyme Disease has never been something I really worried about. It’s always been in the same category as hantavirus and fibromyalgia and swine flu and West Nile virus — bad stuff that I don’t question happens to some people somewhere, but never to me so not really a threat. This book will force you to get to know Lyme Disease very well. Seriously, I feel like I know more about it than I should just from breezing through a book about it. I’m not going anywhere near Old Lyme, and if I do I’m staying inside. (Shuddering at the thought of all those years I spent in NY/NJ running through the woods with abandon and never thinking about all my exposed skin… I was SO LUCKY.) Ultimately this book has a hopeful ending, but, man, did that guy have an ordeal.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie Tedjeske Crane

    I’ve always liked Ross Douthat. He is a smart, funny, and open-minded writer.  This is a memoir about what it’s like to live with long-term Lyme disease. While I don’t have Lyme disease, I suffer from chronic migraines, and I had years of chronic panic attacks before that, so a lot of this book resonated with me. For example, in all of these conditions, outsiders can’t “see” the problem, which leads to skepticism. Also, I could relate to Douthat's description of having a reduced ability to functi I’ve always liked Ross Douthat. He is a smart, funny, and open-minded writer.  This is a memoir about what it’s like to live with long-term Lyme disease. While I don’t have Lyme disease, I suffer from chronic migraines, and I had years of chronic panic attacks before that, so a lot of this book resonated with me. For example, in all of these conditions, outsiders can’t “see” the problem, which leads to skepticism. Also, I could relate to Douthat's description of having a reduced ability to function while carrying on with everyday life, as well as his acknowledgment of getting better without ever being 100 percent cured (my panic attacks were cured long ago, but I still get occasional migraines).  The book doesn’t offer any real answers, but it reflects what it is like to be a person with long-term health problems. Or just someone with problems, which is just about everyone at some point in their lives. Recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dave Barie

    If you’ve chosen this book as a means of trying to exercise some empathy, this is not the book for that. The casual nod to “privilege” by way of a single sentence acknowledgement seems to be all the absolution Douthat needs for exhibiting some staggeringly gross privilege. As if enduring page after page about the country dream home that the author brags about purchasing for over a million dollars to relive some childhood nostalgia for white New England homes and the bucolic land upon which it si If you’ve chosen this book as a means of trying to exercise some empathy, this is not the book for that. The casual nod to “privilege” by way of a single sentence acknowledgement seems to be all the absolution Douthat needs for exhibiting some staggeringly gross privilege. As if enduring page after page about the country dream home that the author brags about purchasing for over a million dollars to relive some childhood nostalgia for white New England homes and the bucolic land upon which it sits, we the reader must also be informed about just how spectacular the sale of his D.C. property was. Because the author is so privileged he has no concern for healthcare access much less cost. He uses the app Zocdoc to secure appointments with specialists so he can be seen same-day. Of course the author also has access to transportation, traveling great lengths to visit these specialists, not mention a network of support (mostly family it seems) who will see to his pregnant wife and 3 children while he drums up fodder for this book which is a bald money play after having made a series of poor financial decisions along the way to owning his precious, tucked away country home. And then things get weird. The author is admittedly Catholic and conservative. And not unlike most overzealous religious folk, he starts finding signs and reading mystic wonder into ordinary life events as if lassoing these random events into some legible narrative will unlock the reason for his suffering and tap the readers empathy for his mostly self-made plight. In reading this, one learns precious little about Lyme disease or its origins and less about the experience of suffering or what having a chronic illness does to others. Instead the reader is buffeted with colorful descriptions of the same scene where the author scratches himself vigorously after chasing the bacteria out of hiding with whatever reckless, self-administered concoction of admittedly weird treatments he employs. He ends by passing off some thin hope to those suffering when he says “I have fought and fought and fought. I am still alive.” Yes, well,no one expected that this was published posthumously so perhaps a more fitting ending is owed the reader for the amateur effort Ross displayed here. After spending 198 pages bitching about quality of life Ross seems to think it perfectly fine to tell other chronic sufferers to simply be grateful to be alive. That should be enough. Survival doesn’t have much to recommend it when quality of life is what keeps people from suicide. Bottom line, DO NOT PAY for this book. If you insist on making the effort to give Ross the benefit of some serious doubt, do so by visiting your local library, eh?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jean Greenberg

    Searingly honest account of what it is like to have Lyme+ and the lengths one will go to be released from the pain.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Good

    Author Ross Douthat is so very different from myself. He’s a conservative, comes from a very mainstream perspective regarding health and religion, is a devout Catholic. His book portrays a sudden, debilitating descent into the most painful and debilitating type of Lyme disease, and his journey out. I was raised Jewish, very much a child of the ‘60’s~ metaphysically and holistic health and alternatively minded in every way since age 14, always progressive in my politics. My experience of chronic L Author Ross Douthat is so very different from myself. He’s a conservative, comes from a very mainstream perspective regarding health and religion, is a devout Catholic. His book portrays a sudden, debilitating descent into the most painful and debilitating type of Lyme disease, and his journey out. I was raised Jewish, very much a child of the ‘60’s~ metaphysically and holistic health and alternatively minded in every way since age 14, always progressive in my politics. My experience of chronic Lyme builds on decades of already having environmental illness & many related health issues of the sensitive and toxic (mine quite different from his symptoms), and it is a journey of having gotten worse over decades. Yet, in common, we share the many similarities of dealing with Lyme. I am always interested in books of someone’s path through this, and it made for a very interesting read. Respectable, level-headed writer for the New York Times, he was led further and further from his comfort zone of the medical establishment, into non-mainstream treatments and ideas over several years with his contracting severe Lyme. This memoir is a thoughtful, well-written mix of his personal journey into and through that, mixed with the fascinating and rather amazing history of the "Lyme wars" of mainstream medical vs. less mainstream camps, the possible reasons for the explosion of Lyme (so insightfully penned!), plus an amazing chapter on relationships of this to the pandemic of COVID-19 . So much is packed into this little book...starting with those fateful & damning beginnings of not being properly diagnosed in time to prevent the terribleness of the disease, and the consequent doctor to doctor trek, visits to emergency rooms, fears of his dying and leaving his kids and wife, and having no answers…all as he endured ungodly suffering...then being told more and more often it was “stress” or “in his head” from ignorant, non-inquisitive doctors. All in the midst of moving his family to a sprawling old home in Connecticut (where he was finally diagnosed properly, tick-borne illness being more common than in D.C), massive issues & unexpected expenses with the new home, huge costs for his treatments that insurance didn’t recognize and cover, trying to maintain his writing career with the illness, even as his wife's own book took off successfully (& much later selling the damned house and buying another and moving again, with a baby on the way!). Once diagnosed, he drills down into the meaning of it all in a far more fascinating & vital manner than one might imagine, as he ponders the larger conversation of illnesses which mainstream medicine can’t treat properly—while addressing how he experiences bouts with antibiotics, the types of doctors who helped and didn't, how much he had to figure out on his own (always true for those of us with these mysterious illnesses!), and then more help and ideas from the huge and growing online Lyme communities. And so it went… eventually to his need for venturing further afield into “alternative” health. I feel like he's always trying to explain that he's a grounded, normal guy and these woo-woo things are not that weird, nor is he. Maybe that works to bring people into understanding the need for alternatives in these illnesses caused by growing modern problems—tick-borne, toxic injury by chemicals, mold, and more. But there was a bit too much (not a huge amount) of that, and putting down some things (like bee venom therapy which have helped thousands with this illness)…or distancing himself heavily & quickly from folks like Yolanda Hadid…who might sound “crazy," to some, but whose memoir of her own Lyme journey I related to more than this one. On the other hand, he did explain clearly how his very alternative choices first astonished even him, then helped him, and did a good job of that for the uninitiated, I would think. I actually felt the most interesting, brilliant part of the book was about the COVID-19 pandemic and the parallels he drew to the Lyme journey. His incisively illuminating the similarities of issues facing those suffering Lyme & other modern mysterious illnesses makes this brilliant chapter worth the book~though read in context of the rest, some of the unusual conclusions make absolute sense. Overall he does a good job of relaying how a sturdy, mainstream guy like him has had to become open to things he would have never imagined. And couching his personal memoir in the context of Lyme origins and medical "wars," and current pandemic issues, makes for very worthwhile reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    "To get sick and fail to get better is to realize the harsh truth of this insight. Human beings have a great capacity for kindness, empathy, and help but we are more likely to rise to the occasion when it is clearly an occasion, a moment of crisis, a time bound period of stress. In the aftermath of a hurricane, society doesn't usually fragment, it comes together in solidarity and support. Likewise, with families and individuals facing suffering in the moment that it descends, or when a terrible "To get sick and fail to get better is to realize the harsh truth of this insight. Human beings have a great capacity for kindness, empathy, and help but we are more likely to rise to the occasion when it is clearly an occasion, a moment of crisis, a time bound period of stress. In the aftermath of a hurricane, society doesn't usually fragment, it comes together in solidarity and support. Likewise, with families and individuals facing suffering in the moment that it descends, or when a terrible arc finally bottoms out, not always, but very often, people behave well, with great generosity in the face of a mortal diagnosis, a mental collapse, an addict's nadir. Not least because in those circumstances there are things you can clearly do, from the prosaic (making frozen dinners for a suffering family), to the more dramatic and extreme, like flying across the country to help drag a friend into rehab. But when the crisis simply continues without resolution, when the illness grinds on and on and on, well then a curtain tends to fall, because there isn't an obvious way to integrate that struggle into the realm of everyday life. It's not clear what the healthy person is supposed to give to a friend or family member who isn't dying, who doesn't have some need you can fill with a discrete act of generosity, but who just has the same problems. Terrible, but also let's be frank, a little boring, day after depressing day. 'Pain is always new to the sufferer but loses its originality for those around him...Everyone will get used to it except me'. Or alternatively, in an age of scattered friendships and virtual connections, everyone will forget about it except me" (Chapter 4).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Since I read Ross Douthat's piece, "How I Became a Sick Person" in the New York Times back in October 2021, I've been waiting to read this memoir. It was definitely worth the wait. In The Deep Places, Douthat chronicles his experiences with Lyme disease and his quest to restore his health. He gives the reader a raw, unflinching look at the ways Lyme disease ravages the body and mind, and chronicles the toll an illness takes on every single aspect of a person's life. His descriptions of his symptom Since I read Ross Douthat's piece, "How I Became a Sick Person" in the New York Times back in October 2021, I've been waiting to read this memoir. It was definitely worth the wait. In The Deep Places, Douthat chronicles his experiences with Lyme disease and his quest to restore his health. He gives the reader a raw, unflinching look at the ways Lyme disease ravages the body and mind, and chronicles the toll an illness takes on every single aspect of a person's life. His descriptions of his symptoms and the effects of some of the treatments are powerful and bring to life the pain and anguish he has endured due to infection with Borrelia burgdorferi , a corkscrew-shaped bacteria that wreaks havoc on the health and wellness of hundreds of thousands of people every year. Douthat also offers a fascinating look into the dilemma facing those who have illnesses with very real symptoms that don't respond to conventional, traditional medical treatments. Between conventional medical wisdom and outright medical quackery lies a huge, murky gray area that he is forced to navigate as he searches for answers. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the book, and has forced me to re-think some of my beliefs and understandings of medical treatments.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    If you'd like to get your mind off the current pandemic, you could pick up a book about Lyme disease, right? Wrong! There's such a thing as long Lyme which has oh so many things in common with long Covid-19. So as far as getting my mind off the pandemic, this was a fail. However, the book was engrossing and educational and deeply personal. And terrifying. Ross Douthat reads the audible and I wanted to listen to this after I heard him interviewed (I think on the New York Times book podcast?). Rea If you'd like to get your mind off the current pandemic, you could pick up a book about Lyme disease, right? Wrong! There's such a thing as long Lyme which has oh so many things in common with long Covid-19. So as far as getting my mind off the pandemic, this was a fail. However, the book was engrossing and educational and deeply personal. And terrifying. Ross Douthat reads the audible and I wanted to listen to this after I heard him interviewed (I think on the New York Times book podcast?). Really well written and narrated, but I can't emphasize enough that it is a scary book. Especially if you live in a state with ticks. YIKES! The ending of the book was especially good as he has advice for the medical community in dealing with chronic illness of all types. Highly recommend.

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