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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990)

de William Styron

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2,628704,044 (3.91)61
A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron's true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression's psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery. From the Trade Paperback edition.… (més)
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I closely relate to the demons of depression that Styron writes about in this powerful book. One in ten adults in this country suffer from depression, and then there are the closely-related 40,000 people who commit suicide each year.
The stark honesty that Styron writes with in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, makes this a painful read as he describes his 1985 descent into a suicidal depression. He doesn’t dress things up—and while he brings in fellow artists who suffered and who didn’t outlive their depressions (Primo Levi, Randall Jarrell, Virginia Wolfe, and Van Gogh)—he starkly chronicles his own descent, and then the counseling and drug therapy that allowed him to recover to write another day. His story was first a lecture that he gave, then a Vanity Fair article, and finally the well-known book that so many have related to over the years.
While I’ve suffered from some level of depression most of my life—the love of my thirty-year relationship with my late wife, partner, lover, and best friend, was my saving therapy. Now, I find myself drawn back to Styron’s book two years after losing her—my rock. Clinical depression and the crushing lose of the most important person in one’s life can be very different, but there are many commonalities, mentally and physically.
The raw honesty of this book reminds me of that same quality in C.S. Lewis’s seemingly-uncensored reflections on losing his wife in A Grief Observed.
Styron knows to count himself very fortunate to have made it through this period of his life. The depths that he plunged to are reflected in this line that has stuck with me. “But never let it be doubted that depression, in its extreme form, is madness.” Nobody reads this slim book and comes out untouched, some most profoundly. ( )
  jphamilton | Jun 24, 2020 |
So many of my favorite books are books about depression; isolated from the trappings of fiction it just sort of festers and floats like a laboratory sample. The horrors here are very acutely rendered; the recovery, less so. Something like those awful audio tapes they make for the families of schizophrenics, if those audio tapes were read by James Mason, pleasing, poetic, possibly helpful? But a nightmare tour through hell is still a nightmare tour through hell. Forgive all the mixed metaphors here but this book shrivels up like a dried turd. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
Styron's essay on melancholia and his experience with suicidality is luminous, frank, and artful. As someone who is dealing with their own struggles with this mental state, I found his reflections to connect deeply to my own experience and expand my own capacity to creatively think about my struggle. My only gripe is that I wished he had brought in Freud's famous essay "Mourning and Melancholia" because I would've appreciated his view of this work and its relevance to his excellent subject matter.
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
This was a highly anticipated one for me, but the fact that it was so personal and (only slightly) pre-Prozac/SSRI era makes it less universal and more dated. Still, some great passages and a meaningful narrative. ( )
  nicholasjjordan | Nov 13, 2019 |
It is difficult for someone who has never experienced the feelings of despair, hopelessness and helplessness of depression to truly understand this mental illness. I find that I do. The American novelist, William Styron, experienced his first depressive episode when he was 60. Five years later hew wrote this memoir of his experiences with this episode and recurrent depressive episodes, including suicidal ideations, side effects of antidepressive medication, and hospitalization. He describes well his bout with depression when he writes:

Of the many dread manifestations of the disease, both physical and psychological, a sense of self-hatred--or, put less categorically, a failure of self-esteem--is one of the most universally experienced symptoms, and I had suffered more and more from a general feeling of worthlessness as the malady had progressed.

If you want to understand this mental illness better, I would recommend this memoir. I know I will be using some of his words in my psychology classes. ( )
  John_Warner | Apr 26, 2019 |
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For the thing which
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and that which I was afraid of
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I was not in safety, neither
had I rest, neither was I quiet;
yet trouble came.
— Job
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In Paris on a chilly evening late in October of 1985 I first became fully aware that the struggle with the disorder in my mind—a struggle which had engaged me for several months—might have a fatal outcome.
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A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron's true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression's psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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