Friday, May 1, 2009

Depression; Baroness


Jil and I just finished a book called Darkness Visible by William Styron. Shellie gave it to Jil for her birthday. It is an account of Styron’s period of depression around 1985, at about the same time he won a prestigious literary reward from France. (For reference Styron wrote Sophie’s Choice and won the Pulitzer for The Confessions of Nat Turner).

This book was incredibly enlightening for me. I won’t speak for Jil although I know she really connected with Styron, but all I can say for my experience reading it is this: no one but the depressed understands depression. One of Styron’s complaints about depression is about the label “depression”. According to his thinking, depression in no way accurately describes the turmoil taking place in the mind. He feels that naming depression something more accurate would increase a universally more sympathetic response to those afflicted with it. His preference would be “brainstorm”—that there is quite literally a confluence of opposing forces colliding in the mind that create such upheaval and disruption that it can only be compared to a violent storm of the brain.

How many of us have said to someone who is depressed, “Just get over it?” or “It will pass?” Or “We’re all depressed, get in line” (one of my personal favorite retorts that I’ve inflicted on both my ex-wife and Jil)? I realize now that I don’t understand it because I’ve never had it. My ex used to say that depression made her think suicidal thoughts and that religion offered her no relief whatsoever in finding comfort. In fact, religion and its belief in an after life made her even more depressed. She wanted to die and not exist in any form, spiritual or otherwise. Such is the effect this brainstorm can create.

Jil has found a current marketing campaign going on around SLC particularly affecting. The ad states, "You wouldn't tell someone with diabetes to just 'Get over it'. Depression is real."

Depression can be overcome and it can go away. Styron found relief in finally sequestering himself away into a hospital where he was able to minimize any outside stimuli. Over a period of months, the storm subsided and he was able to move forward with his life (he passed away in 2006, not by his own hand as so many artists do. This was another fascinating part of the book—the link between great art and depression). So there is hope for those who suffer from depression, either through medication or time or both. I believe now it is not something to be trifled with or brushed aside as I have so often done in the past. It is real and it can be devastating.

An excerpt from Darkness Visible:

‘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. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying—or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity—but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience—one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devastation would be lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words. '

Baroness: the real metal deal

These guys are the real deal for classic metal. Heavy like Sabbath, melodic like Zeppelin, this band will not disappoint. All four members are from Virginia but currently reside in Georgia and bring an epic-minded sensibility to their songs that make them seem both immediate to the music scene now and also timeless, like they hail from another era. This is not stoner rock like The Sword, as good as that band is, but more nuanced and actually with a better lead vocalist. I have played their latest CD "Red Album" countless times through and still find new things to listen to each time. Awesome. They are in the Playlist.


  1. Good God Angus, are you trying to get your blog sponsored by the "In Treatment " show?

  2. Dear Costanza-- So glad you are into Styron. My favorite all time book-- "Lie Down in Darkness." I can't watch "In Treatment"-- maybe because I've spent so much time in those sessions. But must say a psychiatrist sure helped me deal with defeat, criticism, failure, disappointment, jealousy, loneliness-- and to find ways to make up to my kids for being such a narcissistic fly-by-night mother. It's always a relief to get the words out.

    love you, j.

  3. I wrote a good comment, but couldn't post it. Do not know what I am doing wrong.
    Will try this, and if works, will write tomorrow.

  4. It worked, but now I am too tired to do it all over again.
    Do enjoy your writing, and seem to learn more about you every write.
    Played golf today, and I am really depressed, but don't think "Treatment" would do much good. Just have to live with it.
    Love you,

  5. Dear Costanza,
    Depression cannot be overcome. There is no hope for those suffering depression. The way you treat Spike depresses me. Life in general depresses me. Your blog depresses me.
    That's the way I like it.


  6. I could really go on and on about my dealings with depression but it would only depress you..seriously, until you have been there, one can't begin to understand how a depressed person really is real, it is devastating, it is not the person anyone wants to be and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy..however, my last really bad bout with it (about 2 years ago) made me lose my appetite and I got really skinny, so there is the upside....but it is a high price to pay. Thankfully there are many options dealing with depression and usually one can find one that works for recent solution: tequila...kind of kidding but kind of not. I need to read that book...Shellie told me about it ages ago and I really need to get it..for now I will just continue reading your blog and it always makes me happy and enlightened...except for that one about the Eagles...