Monday Madness: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Posted 30 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Madness: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of MadnessDarkness Visible by William Styron
Published by Open Road Media Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Depression, Medical, Mood Disorders, Personal Memoirs, Psychology, Psychopathology
Pages: 96

Styron’s stirring account of his plunge into a crippling depression, and his inspiring road to recovery In the summer of 1985, William Styron became numbed by disaffection, apathy, and despair, unable to speak or walk while caught in the grip of advanced depression. His struggle with the disease culminated in a wave of obsession that nearly drove him to suicide, leading him to seek hospitalization before the dark tide engulfed him. Darkness Visible tells the story of Styron’s recovery, laying bare the harrowing realities of clinical depression and chronicling his triumph over the disease that had claimed so many great writers before him. His final words are a call for hope to all who suffer from mental illness that it is possible to emerge from even the deepest abyss of despair and “once again behold the stars.” This ebook features a new illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.


“The madness of depression is, generally speaking, the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk. Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped, drained.”

More of a long essay than a book, this piece is fantastic. It’s beautifully written by an author that many think was a major literary force in our time. (I sadly, have not read anything else by him but this.)  More importantly this piece accurately describes the feelings of being truly clinically depressed in a way that may be beneficial to individuals with a loved one who is dealing with the disease.

Depression, all mental illnesses really, are mysterious and misunderstood by those fortunate enough not to have ever experienced them. That’s why pieces like this are so important to educate the public at large, giving people some small insight – really just a glimmer – on what it is like to live day to day with some sort of mental illness. In this case of course, depression.

Though Styron’s journey ends in a way that is atypical to those suffering from clinical depression, the bulk of the book is extraordinarily accurate in its depiction of the disorder.

The brevity of this piece makes it a must read for everyone — especially those suffering from or living with someone suffering from a depressive mental illness.

“In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come—not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”


April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • This sounds like such an important work. Especially to counter the twisted dramatization that Hollywood does with this kind of topic, you know?

    • It really is. The brevity makes it accessible to everyone. Don’t get me started on twisted/outdated methods warped by pop-culture portrayal. 🙂