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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2008
In this short but powerful memoir, William Styron, the author of "Sophie's Choice", tells of his personal battle with clinical depression.

Suffering from depression myself and working in the mental health field, I can honestly say he captured this debilitating illness very well indeed. I have tried to explain to my friends how I felt going through depression at my lowest, low. It's like sinking to the bottom of a well with no lifeline to hold on to, gasping for air.

There were so many things in this book that I could relate to first hand! People who have been lucky enough not to suffer from depression don't usually realize how debilitating it is. Symptoms are not just psychological, but there are many physical aspects as well. Styron explains this in a way that everyone, suffers and non-suffers can understand.

I still have some smaller bouts of depression at times, but it's more like treading water at the top of the well, thank goodness. Some of my experiences with the professionals were similar to his, but my ultimate recovery was a bit different. I was not hospitalized and my recovery took a lot longer.

This book is a bit dated. As I said above, I work in the mental health field. I can tell you that the hospitals that I have worked with, don't have the budget to do many of the programs that Styron had the fortune to experience, such as a lot of art therapy. It's a shame, because these would be beneficial!

Though this book is a little dated now, I recommend it for those that have suffered from depression and those who want to know more about what it is really like.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2004
This is the best description of what it is like to suffer depression I have ever read. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and related to SO many of the authors problems. I was in a hospital for 3 weeks, outpatient for 4 1/2 and am still on partial disability. My wife is now reading the book so she can get at least some idea of what this is like. This really hit home,and I feel it is a must read for every sufferer of depression, and just as importantly, the key people in their lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2004
Since I have suffered from depression, I can relate to this book in many ways. For me, it is uplifting in ways to hear an accout of another who has suffered in similar ways and to ultimately hear of his triumph over the disease. He describes the disease well, emphasing how difficult it is to exaplain to others the terrible disabilitating effects of the disease.
It is good that this book is a short, easy reader that does not waste time. The personal accounts are great. Lets others know they are not alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2004
By now, most that are Styron fans know of his battle with depression. Couple this with his excellent writings about difficult subjects (think SOPHIE'S CHOICE) and you've got one heck of an interesting portrait of a writer and a man. I found DARKNESS VISIBLE to be spellbinding and frankly, I couldn't put it down. Would also recommend two other books: A BRILLIANT MADNESS and THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD for those interested in creativity and abuse or mental illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 1999
While Styron is a wonderful and insightful writer, this account of his depression stays on the surface of his problem, and he never really allows readers into his troubled world. His detached analysis of his journey seems somewhat clinical and not very personal at all. For a very personal glimpse into depression, I would suggest reading AN UNQUIET MIND instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2003
In this slim volume, William Styron documents his descent into near-suicidal depression and his eventual recovery to something near normalcy. He eloquently describes his condition, and discusses some things about depression and how it's sometimes different for each individual. By telling of his journey, he offers a sense of hope through the depths of depression. I do wish this book were longer, if only to hear more about his battle and to see more clearly the path he walked.
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on March 22, 2003
If you seek a book on depression, you are probably looking for clinical texts written by people in the health professions. You may hardly expect this slim book by novelist William Styron--a memoir, but also a literary self-analysis regarding his condition.
DARKNESS VISIBLE is a revealing and engaging look into the life of a particular man who suffers this disease. Although I can only imagine how a victim of depression would respond to such a book, I would suppose it would offer something like companionship or camaraderie with someone who has experienced what they feel others can't understand, as well as a glimmer of hope if read to the end.
As a reader not afflicted with depression, the book was a story that illustrated his philosophical dilemmas, agonizing psychological pain, and his experiences in a personal and thoughtful way. If it was not as entertaining as the novels of his that I have read, I'm certain it wasn't meant to be. But if you suffer from depression, treat people who suffer from depression, or are just interested in the affliction, you might be interested in reading about Styron's attempts to grapple with and understand this often fatal disease that strikes so many people.
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on August 16, 2002
It's hard to imagine that someone like William Styron with so much talent and so much to live for could succumb to such a life-shattering clinical depression.Yet nonetheless, he did at the age of sixty, and in this brief 80 page memoir he entails how it was that he came to be depressed, how he endured it, and how he came through and reemerged from it. He also manages to do so with a brief intensity, without dwelling on how the world had "wronged" him or on how tough it is to be a writer-celebrity or bragging about all his achievements. Styron writes with a confidence and deftness which does not attempt false modesty or give us overbearing or pointlessly shocking revelations.
The book starts out rather slow with a trip to Paris to accept a prestigious writing award, and at first I was not crazy about it. Yet soon I found myself thoroughly engrossed and liking it in spite of myself. While he does not fully analyze the causes of depression, I don't think that was his intention in writing this book. He also does not take time to explore casual aspects of this life and seems to obliterate the myth that all memoirs are egocentric. Perhaps what I liked most was William Styron's insistence that while he does not blame others for depression, nor is it the victim's fault, and that suicide is not a cop-out or something to be disguised by relatives, but the tragic outcome of a crippling illness.
I don't think that I will be reading another memoir by Styron simply because I don't think he meant for this book to be a display of his life to the public. What I do hope for is another memoir on depression that is written with his skill and mastery of the English language.
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on June 27, 2002
Darkness Visible is not a complete description of depression. It depicts only one example of many varieties and symptoms of the disease. What makes the essay wonderful to me is because it is a written personal experience, rather than an encyclopedic reference. What startles me about my own experience of the disease is the fact that even after I have recovered from it, I am still somewhat left in the dark. This, I thought, is parallel to Styron's story. Although he was obviously aware of the possible culprits of his illness, in the end he really wasn't sure. Indeed, one frustrating aspect of depression is the fact that there are still so many unknowns of its nature. Styron found solace in knowing that others, such as the literary friends that he mentioned a great deal in the essay, suffered from depression. My reason for reading this essay was because I wanted to find someone to relate to because for the longest time it felt as if I was the only one suffering from it.
The book is so conveniently short and makes a great reading for those suffering depression or know of one. To be honest, I failed to finish this book the first time because I had a ridiculously short attention span during my illness. I read it after recovery and felt that it may be the best way to explain what I was going through to to loved ones.
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on May 25, 2002
"Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" is an autobiographical work in which distinguished novelist William Styron recalls his battle with clinical depression. A lean 84 pages, this is a straightforward and eloquent book.
In an author's note, Styron explains that this book started out as a lecture given at a symposium sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The lecture was developed into a "Vanity Fair" essay before ultimately becoming this book.
Styron describes depression as "an insidious meltdown" of the mind, a "tempest in my brain." He reflects on the depression and suicide of other individuals whose lives had touched his. He describes in detail his own struggle with suicidal thoughts. Also covered are the medications he took, as well as his hospitalization and therapy.
Styron's book is both a fine piece of literature and a very informative window into a particular mental illness. Styron has been in the pit of despair, but has survived; I commend him for his courage and candor in sharing his experience in "Darkness Visible." Recommended companion text: Audre Lorde's "The Cancer Journals," about a poet's battle with breast cancer.
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