Friday, November 03, 2006

How William Styron Helped Save Me From Depression

I suppose that I could say that I am a "depression survivor." I don't mean that I survived the years that followed the stock market crash of 1929, of course. I do mean that I suffer from chronic depression and that some years ago, before I realized what I was up against, I almost succumbed to it.

Aside from my hope in Christ, the faithful, patient love of my wonderful wife and the eventual medical therapy I received, there were two things that "saved me" and help me to diagnose myself accurately.

The first and most important of these two things was William Styron's little autobiography of his own struggle with depression called, "Darkness Visibleā€”A Memoir of Madness," in which he graphically described his own descent into depression, an account that almost perfectly reflected my own.

Styron's eloquent and honest writing style chilled me to the bone. He was, it seemed, describing me from the inside. Perfectly. In even the details.

Unless I dealt with this matter I might well be doomed to a constant cycle of suicidal thoughts and physical/emotional exhaustion.

The second help was a book by Dr. Archibald Hart entitled, "Unmasking Male Depression." Here I discovered that the symptoms of depression in men were generally quite different that those in women (who had provided most of the case studies and diagnostic models for symptoms of depression).

Dr. Hart's book taught me that, in men, anger (and often violent response to things...not true in my case, fortunately) was a prime indicator for depression. In women, depression generally causes anger or emotion to be directed inwardly towards oneself. In men, the tendency is for the anger or emotion to be directed outwardly towards others . . . especially those emotionally closest such as a wife or girl friend.

Bingo! I was depressed and I now knew it without any doubt. I knew I needed help and I was desparate enough to seek it out.

For me, medication was the path that eventually helped me to recover a functional emotional stability. Over the past few years I have attempted a small variety of medications and, more recently, I have actually quit one of the two I was taking and have reduced the dosage of the one I am still taking by half.

These thoughts have come to me today because of William Styron's death this past week at the age of 81. I suppose I should have written him a letter telling him that his own suffering had helped me to overcome my own. I shall aways be grateful to him for that one book; a book, by the way, that my wonderful wife checked out from the library and, without saying anything, simply set on the coffee table hoping that I might read it.

I did. And I am glad I did!

Thank you, William Styron. Rest in peace.