Monday, October 10, 2011

Darkness Visible

I was browsing the new book shelf one night at work and saw a large biography about William Styron's daughter. I've heard of Styron before but had never read him and I knew that he had written a book about his depression. This book is often cited as being a good one for people without depression to read so that they may understand the illness better. As someone who suffered from depression in the past, I was interested in seeing at how well Styron was able to put depression into words so I requested the book.

Coming in at only 84 pages, it didn't take long to read. Styron reiterates a good deal, too, which means the book is probably longer than it needs to be. I thought Styron did a pretty good job of explaining his own feelings and symptoms, at least as best as possible well after the fact. Of course, doing so while suffering from depression is well nigh impossible.

The big problem with depression (as well as other illnesses, both mental and otherwise (see lupus)) is that the illness manifests itself differently in different individuals. If you look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you'll see that there are a checklist of possible symptoms. If so many are met, the patient probably suffers from depression. So one person might have 1,4,5 and 9. Someone else might have 2,3,4 and 5. Both are depressed. Totally different behaviors and symptoms.

It's because of this that treatment is still haphazard. Styron went through a number of pharmacological options, one which he believes made him more suicidal, until he found something that worked (good lord, I just read another book on drugs. I didn't even realize it). He talks about the importance of cognitive therapy, which is how I overcame my depression, and which surprised me given the age of the book.

Styron does a nice job. I did find it hard to believe at times that he had ever been depressed as he didn't seem to have a lot of self-esteem issues. The tone rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. It was a good read and one I definitely recommend for those who have a loved one suffering from depression and are having a hard time grasping the condition.


jtorrey13 said...

I wanted to be sure to post on this to say hello and because I may have recommended it. Reading about how others deal with depression can be informative and helpful (like you mentioning cognitive therapy.) I also just read this - and while really, really funny, it also catches the feeling just about right.

Like you said above, there are many different symptoms and conversely many different causes. One of the funniest people I have seen perform live, wrote personal pieces on his battles.

The more info for me the better. Thanks for sharing this book and reminding me of that.

How about those Cardinals? Talk to you soon.

Mad Guru said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I enjoyed them. Look forward to talking to you soon.