A Depression Memoir Like No Other

Matthew Sitman at Commonweal:

Depression forces itself through the cracks of one’s life, finding the weak spots particular to the person it inundates. Like consciousness itself, depression seems to dwell in that hazy realm where matter and spirit meet, and we turn inward to pursue its elusive essence. Exploring what caused a person’s depression, however, what set it off on the particular course it ran, necessarily ends in an overdetermined tangle—one reason why the shelves overflow with depression memoirs. We keep trying to pin depression down, but fail again and again. Styron’s depression set upon him when he was around sixty years old, likely “triggered” when he suddenly gave up alcohol and began taking a dangerous sleeping medication. But as Styron meditates on what happened to him, the chain of causation extends ever backward—he realizes three main characters in his novels kill themselves, a fact that suggests the storm had been gathering for many years. Then he presses on to childhood wounds. Would a man who’d led a different life sink into depression after he quit drinking? Styron gets to the end of Darkness Visible and confesses, “The very number of hypotheses is testimony to the malady’s all but impenetrable mystery.”

more here.