Darkness Visible, A Memoir of Madness

download.jpg

This author, William Styron, abused alcohol for 30 years, and then started adding excessive tranquilizers.  When he went into depression he thought it may have been the result of going off alcohol cold turkey. On one of the first pages of this small book he wrote a verse from the book of Job:

“For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet, yet trouble came”

An article in Vanity Fair reported on the death of Primo Levi, an Italian writer who survived the Nazi death camps, but apparently died from depression in his final years. Styron was appalled by the unsympathetic response of the public. 

He wrote his own article for Vanity Fair saying that "the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances, because its anguish can no longer be borne”. He wanted the public to know that the prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the “nature of this pain”.  He didn’t offer a lot of details about causes, but felt strongly that the “disorder of mood” should carry no more stigma than other diseases, and that the great majority of people who go through, even the severest depression, survive it and live afterward at least as happily as others. 

His father had battled alcoholism throughout his life, so Styron considered that, and his own experiences growing up, looking for answers. He tells us about, and tries to convey his feelings, of falling into despair and almost killing himself. He recognized the role of friends, lovers, family, and religious devotion, in helping, and says, even though it helps, it also reinforces the sense of worthlessness that is felt. He refers to the psychiatric literature on depression as being enormous in quantity, and suggests that it just proves the difficulty of understanding the mystery.

Quotes by William Styron

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading. 

The writer's duty is to keep on writing.  

The pain is unrelenting; one does not abandon, even briefly, one's bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.  

The pain of depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.