Darkness Visible

Memoir Written By William Styron

Hurt by Johnny Cash was written by him about his addiction, however, it fits perfectly to how a person would feel with depression. A lack of feeling, a sense of worthlessness, almost an involuntary addiction to sadness.

Californiacation, written by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and covered by 2CELLOS, has a similar vibe to Hurt. The cellos also add a more somber, sullen mood with their deep tone, coinciding with the darkness in depression.

This is a portrait of Styron. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and showing the person behind the story and the illness seems to be a crucial element. Authors are people just like us. If we relate to their work, we have something in common.

As a prerequisite to the summary of the book, this is a short but sweet video of a doctor who worked with Styron and her take on the book and its author.

Getting a Feel for Depression

             The central idea of the book is depression, regardless of whom it affects. At one point during the book, Styron is with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gold, who attempts uncovering the origin of his depression. Styron elaborates on how most depressions begin with loss. He states, “One dreads the loss of all things, all people close and dear.” (Styron 56). Loss is a common factor to catalyze a depressive reaction. Whether a simple break-up, a death of someone close, or even the fear of being alone, it all relates to “the concept of loss.” (Styron 56). Dr. Gold continued striving to aid the ailing mind of William Styron after speaking with him, and prescribed him medication. To many, including Styron, “medications have proved invaluable,” (Styron 54). In every line of Darkness Visible, Styron explains depression, how it feels to have it, and the failed attempts to treating it in the most accurate and eloquent way. This book is one to be associated with depressive disorders.

The Great Depression was fundamentally a worldwide hopelessness and despondency. This famous photograph depicts the face of sorrow, and the look of total loss.

A Developing Disease

              Darkness Visible was written by an author of many prized books, William Styron, who discovered he had depression. Many people would assume that people that have depression would know right away. However, that is not always the case. Styron tells how he developed deeper and deeper feelings of never-ending, gut-wrenching despair and melancholy, including the exact moment at which he knew he had depression. William Styron has a depression specified as unipolar depression, which he describes with “the pain [being] most closely connected to drowning or suffocation,” (Styron 17). This is an accurate analogy, because “unipolar” means to keep moving in one direction; it’s getting worse.

              Depression is one of the hardest things to deal with, for both the possessor and the one trying to help. Styron informs the reader, “calling ‘Chin up!’ from the safety of the shore to a drowning person is tantamount to insult,” (Styron 76), with the “drowning person” being the mentally ill. For Styron, he had to tell himself to keep his chin up until a while after already dealing with the disease. He spoke of the different aspects of the deplorable disorder, including apathy, insomnia, and suicide. Styron compared the symptoms he knew to the symptoms he knew he had. He diagnosed himself in France. He was no longer acting like himself, and it was not solely because he would not drink alcohol anymore. During his time there, he felt his life was a “demanding struggle” where his sadness caused him to feel “actual [physical] pain,” (Styron 16). He had felt this way prior to his trip, yet that was when he knew.

              At the exact moment he felt his depression, he said, “I was shaken by the certainty with which I accepted the idea that I would never see France again, just as I would never recapture a lucidity that was slipping away from me with terrifying speed.” (Styron 4). Styron had many memories in France, especially due to his travels as a writer. He had gone to receive an esteemed prize, but he had no self-esteem while he received it. He noticed it was getting increasingly detrimental, which induced his first traces of insomnia. Even while it was good it was bad. He compared this feeling to a storm. He said it was a “change from a torrential downpour to a steady shower,” (Styron 26). Thus, even on good days it never let up.

             William Styron compared himself to his fellow affected artists. He spoke of Vincent van Gogh, Romaine Gary, and even a Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, who killed himself even after escaping the grips of Auschwitz. Styron was perplexed by the many whom committed suicide, even though he was suicidal himself. Depression was a serious matter that affects millions, and suicide was sometimes the result of it. As much as Styron knew, there was so little anyone knew about suicide, let alone depression. Luckily, many survived and were able to fight the idea of death. As Styron said, some are “destroyed,” while the “similarly stricken-struggle through.” (Styron 36).

             Darkness Visible was an appropriately named memoir. Styron wrote it to inform the world of how life-ruining depression is, yet that it was still survivable. He did so by living to tell his story and enlightening those who were still in the dark.

           Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory depicts how it feels to look at a clock when depressed. Time is melting; nothing feels real. It seems like a dream sequence, but it is real.

             This is a painting by Marcus Larson. It corresponded with the theme of Darkness Visible because Styron directly compared depression to a storm. This painting depicts how it feels to have depression. A person with depression will feel like the ship, being smashed onto the rocks by the red, hate filled waves. They are lost, they are stuck, and they are thrown.

          Depression feels like a battle. It can be compared to a stalemate between the body and the mind. To overcome suicide and the other dark thoughts, it feels like winning a war. A life is the flag that flies free when the war has ended.

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