Darkness Visible

William Styron
'By the time we arrived at the museum, having dealt with heavy traffic, it was past four o'clock and my brain had begun to endure its familiar siege: panic and dislocation, and a sense that my thought processes were being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world. This is to say more specifically that instead of pleasure [...] I was feeling in my mind a sensation close to, but indescribably different from, actual pain. This leads me to touch again on the elusive nature of such distress. That the word is 'indescribable' should present itself is not fortuitous, since it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience. For myself, the pain is most closely connected to drowning or suffocation - but even these images are off the mark. William James, who battled depression for many years, gave up the search for an adequate portrayal, implying its near-impossibility when he wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience: 'It is a positive and active anguish, a sort of physical neuralgia wholly unknown to normal life.''

William Styron, Darkness Visible
I spent some time this afternoon reading William Styron's Darkness Visible, a clear and concise memoir of the writer's ongoing struggle with depression. Styron reached a popular audience with Sophie's Choice, which was later made into an Oscar-winning film, but Darkness Visible also garnered much critical acclaim and public acceptance when it was first published.

Interested by the subject manner, I thought I'd browse more of the details surrounding William Styron's life, and came across a fifty-minute interview with Charlie Rose broadcast in 1998. The discussion includes contributions from film director Alan Pakula, and Robert Boorstin, once senior advisor to the secretary of treasury. Charlie Rose leads the discussion on 'living and coping with mental illness, depression and its implications if it remains untreated'. You can watch the entire broadcast by clicking here.