In Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron writes about what it is like to lose one’s soul. Not through what we might consider the “usual” ways of losing one’s soul, for he did nothing wrong, nothing evil. He in no way forfeited his claim to be part of humanity. He did not become a monster who preyed upon children or poured drugs into the veins of the weak. But he fell into a depression, in 1985, that crippled him as a human, that made suicide seem seductively attractive, that made him lose all sense of connection with what it means to be human.
Styron despaired of life, despaired of himself, despaired of ever finding his way back to a place that held the light. But by the end of this very brief memoir, he has managed to do precisely that, and we feel joy not only at his own recovery but because he offers hope far beyond his own experience. He offers hope not only to those who suffer from the particular demon that is depression but also to all of those who suffer from any crippling mental illness. And even beyond this, he offers hope to everyone because his description of his own journey to the edge of death and back reminds us of the great strength of the human spirit and of the divinity that lies in the heart of each one of us.
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