Reaction Paper to Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

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Shoshana Kowalsky
Reaction Paper to Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
William Styron, in his poignant literary work “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness” writes from a very personal viewpoint of the symptoms and the impact of depression, particularly on his own life. Not only his life in general, but how it impacted his social and emotional relationships with others and even the effect on his own self-image. In a way, Mr. Styron ‘normalizes’ the various reactions and symptoms individuals may have when suffering from depression. He EVEN begins the book acknowledging a moment in his life where it was expected of him to behave and react in a certain manner, yet it appears that he was unable to do so due to his depressive symptoms that he so affectingly describes. It was interesting to read about Mr. Styron’s personal reactions to these symptoms as well as the reactions of others he interacted with. Furthermore, Mr. Styron speaks of the suicide of various prominent members of society (such as Primo Levi, the famous Holocaust Survivor), although a ‘taboo topic’ perhaps, Mr. Styron writes how he believes that these suicides were due to the debilitating symptoms of the illness and how he reached this point in his life as well, and, if not for the support system of his family and friends (especially his wife) that ‘got him through’ he would not remained alive to write the book.
There are many lessons I learned from reading “Darkness Visible”. One of these lessons, which is a lesson gained at my field placement as well; is that we are all human beings. We each have life experiences, some positive, some negative, but we each have emotions and feelings about these experiences. Many of these emotions are felt in a similar manner. Although we may not have something as extreme or debilitating as the depression that Mr. Styron had, our experiences and feelings binds us as human beings. Mr. Styron’s prose conveys an individual afflicted by a tortured disease. The manner in which he described the effect of the disease is quite disconcerting and perhaps may explain how others undergoing this terrifying illness is like. Reading about the experiences leaves me feeling more empathic towards my clients with depression. Though I do speak about depression and suicide in my Coping with Loss group, which I facilitate, reading this book leaves me with a greater understanding of what my clients may be going through (especially when it is difficult for them to express themselves).
Moreover, one aspect which Mr. Styron speaks about which is conveyed throughout the book is the sense of a “lack of self-control” when dealing with the depression and its symptoms. He specifically speaks about how this affected him during the course of his illness and how it impacted his social relationships as well. The lack of self-control was not only apparent in his responses to others but also in his inability to maintain proper relationships with others. He did not know what to be...

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