Depression has been noted as one of the principal causes of suicidal deaths in the modern society and research has shown that over 90 % of people who commit suicide suffer from depression or other kinds of diagnosable mental illnesses. Intensely depressed people usually do not have the power to commit suicide, but when the thought gets to them, it composes them which gives them the energy to kill themselves. It should, therefore, be acknowledged seriously by the society as a big tragedy especially to those going through emotional delicacies. The book, Darkness Visible. A memoir of madness was a narration of the writer's experience when he perceived himself as insane.
It gives a detailed confession of Styron as a victim of depression from the time he first noted the signs, his struggle with the disease up to the time he found new hope. It's a revelation of an encounter from a dark stage in life to a rather hopeful phase. The disease consumed the writer and almost sent him to his death. Its a rather interesting confession which sheds light on the reality some people are living, and through its sharing, it unmasks the pain and the suffering evil that the victims of the disease are subjected. Styron's encounter with illness and his ideas to commit suicide narration gives hope to the society that has been victimized by the nightmare of the disease.
Styron starts by explaining the ambiguity of the source of his deep depression in 1985 which had emerged on his trip to Paris to an awards event. He had fallen into a panic attack but aware that something wasn't right he had booked an appointment with a New York psychiatrist. He proceeded to the event but excused himself earlier than expected. On the way to the psychiatrist, he tried to search within himself the cause of his melancholic mood which was consuming him day by day and without any particular reason. He however considered that it was most likely because he was about to turn 60. He also found his quitting of alcohol which he had depended on for so many years as a probable cause. It was like a habit for most great American writers to use alcohol as a means to enhance their brain. It helped them to fantasize and to be creative in their work, Just like them, Styron had followed suit, Like a great many American writers, whose sometimes excess addiction to alcohol has become so legendary as to provide itself a stream of studies and books (Styron, 1992, p. 4). Most of the time he wrote under the influence of alcohol but nearing the stage of sixty he had decided to quit. Styron had experienced signs of depression since the age of 13 after his mother died and had struggled to enquire more about the disease and its diagnostics from books and other sources. He then subjected himself to pills and tried to convince himself on the other hand that it was a genetically related thing since his father had struggled with the same illness for long.
The disease had manifested itself through the feeling of being lost. Styron no longer seemed to know or even remember much and Styron had begun to insinuate his heartening loss of his mother when he was young. Her mother had passed away leaving him to adventure the mystery of life alone at such a tender age. He figured it must be the source of the illness. He tried to reason it out, but the more he strained to find and convince himself the more he felt lost and abandoned and couldn't even bear being alone even for a short moment in the house (Styron, 1992, p. 6). He continued to explain how he felt during the different times of the day and the feeling could progress as the day faded away to the extent of having some sleepless nights. The scope of his suffering is seized in one of his quotes. In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there's mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than the pain that crushes the soul. He also continued to explain how he masked his pain with a smile to prevent questions and worry from his family. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship (Styron, 1992, p. 29). It seemed like the brilliant thing to do until the illness caught up with him.
Having given in to the side effects of the disease such as sleeplessness, he decided to consult a professional psychiatrist who prescribed some drugs for him. He obliged himself on the prescription for a period, but it didn't help since the psychiatrist didn't quite understand his illness and instead of advising him on the best action to take, proceeded to prescribe some anti-depressant pills which made him even worse. He required more of an inside solution to the disease, the type of someone who had experienced what he was going through and also himself to face the disease. It was not, however, the case, and the illness became even more discomforting to the extent of making him contemplate suicide. Having given up and made up his mind to commit suicide, he threw away his personal diary because he considered it too personal and shouldn't be read by anyone else. It contained some of his top secrets. To him, suicide felt like the only way out. He had lost hope and saw no future. His brain could not function. In fact, it had reached a point where instead of thinking it could only bear the pain he was feeling. He felt helpless and even prepared to commit suicide, but every time he did, he couldn't manage to finish writing the suicide note which he felt essential. Apparently, there seemed to be a lot of things to address in the letter before he dies, like plotting his will, dealing with the reason for the suicide, people to thank and acknowledge. He however at one hand couldn't bear the thought of it (Styron, 1992, p. 36). He tried, but just before he did it, he heard some music which eventually reminded him of the things he was about to leave behind if he carried on with the act like the beautiful music and family happiness. He imagined of the people like him, and some who were even greater than him and who had endured the same experience and a glimpse of hope caught him. He couldn't decide and just like he quoted, to decide whether to live or die seemed more of a philosophical problem. There was so much to lose, and this changed his mind. It was at this point that he decided to seek help from the hospital where he became hospitalized for some time. The doctor prescribed different medication from the psychiatrists following his knowledge that depression patients are different and anti-depressants do not work for all the same way. Styron was able to find his mind again from as described, a much rather unusual hospital environment to recover his senses.
Darkness visible is a demonstration of the life that some ordinary people live and apart from the professional way of the narration it provides a learning opportunity which not only adds to our knowledge but also helps in facing the challenges during the day-to-day life. It is a stepping stone that encourages everybody life such adversities that there is always hope. The book is written with creativity and carefully chosen words that not only captures the interest of the reader. Apart from creativity, one of the characters of a good writer is to make the readers visualize what they read so as to create a vivid picture of whatever the subject is. Through his descriptions in the book, example, emotional and physical pain stories, the reader can comprehend, visualize and even feel the pain that the writer was experiencing during his struggle with depression example when he describes the pain as, so overwhelming as beyond expression. I would personally view the book as a success because it brings out the message it was intended for and the writer as courageous and an inspiration to the people who struggle with the disease. The readers can find comfort from the words of a victim who was once sick but got healed after a long battle. The book is also interesting because it makes reasonable what is viewed by most in the society as abnormal and I would commend the writer for the courage to narrate his experience with the disease.
The writer of the book can relate to the reader also because what he shares is an occurrence of everyday life and brings out what possibly most people fear to talk about (personal experiences). What he went through can affect anyone in spite of differences in physicality and health, and therefore the book suits everyone to read. The book also reveals some elements of human truth since it's based on a true story and can equally act as a source of comfort to those suffering and also those who have lost their loved ones from the disease.
Apart from the sad and painful descriptions from the book, the element of humor is also portrayed such as the part where the writer compared the way he survived the disease with the military and when he states that choosing whether to live or die is a philosophical matter. The use of active vocabulary also makes the book interesting as it creates enthusiasm in the reader's mind and the writer's ability to detail his writing also captures the interest of the reader.
Styron, W. (1992). Memoir of Madness. In W. Styron, Darkness Visible. Vintage.
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