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Recommended Reading: Darkness Visible

Darkness Visible
by William Styron.

So, Kim gave me this book to read a couple of weeks ago. She told me that I shouldn’t start reading it unless I promised to finish it.

I never made that promise, because I didn’t know where the book would take me … but I hung on to the book anyway.

On Sunday, we went to see Nickel Creek at Red Butte Garden. Since we got there so early, I hauled out the book and started reading it … and yes, I did finish it.

The title derives from Milton’s description of Hell in Paradise Lost. The book itself relates Styron’s battle with depression, which took control of him shortly after his sixtieth birthday.

Part memoir, part reportage; the book details the failures of various treatments that he sought, which included massive overprescribing of hypnotics like Halcion, amongst others.

I found the book a little difficult to read … his descriptions of various contemporaries who had committed suicide, and his own half-hearted considerations of the same are not easy for someone who is struggling with his own feelings.

The most difficult part to read, however, was that Styron eventually checked into a psychiatric hospital … spending a couple of months there altogether.

Some of my behavior has been described as parasuicidal … although I disagree with this characterization. Parasuicide is generally defined as “deliberate self-harm”. I’ve never set-out to deliberately hurt myself, and I’ve never actively attempted suicide.

What I have done is engage in risky behavior without serious thought to the consequences … but we’re talking about stuff like speeding while driving, skiing faster than my skill level would normally dictate, abusing illicit substances in my younger days, and so on … to me, there’s a huge difference between taking chances, and deliberately trying to hurt yourself, though.

I have to admit I’ve thought about just disappearing, running away and leaving my life behind … but I’ve never seriously considering actually killing myself. Suicide is a coward’s way out. But a LONG vacation might be nice.