Part of the problem with depression is that it’s somewhat beyond description, and almost impossible to fathom for those of us who haven’t experienced it. I’ve been bummed, sad, melancholy, etc., but never actually depressed or suicidal, and I never really began to understand depression until I read William Styron’s 80-page memoir, Darkness Visible:
Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description… it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience.
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.
Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me. I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason.
I wish y’all well. Hang in there.
I am never more nervous than when I hand my wife a new manuscript, and I am never more relieved than when she says she likes it. She’s my first reader (first everything, really) and if I can write something that she really likes, I feel I’m a success no matter what.
Of course, I’m thrilled when anybody else likes the work. This week I got word that the mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee started a book club and made Steal Like An Artist the first book up for discussion.
It’s wonderful but also a tiny bit unnerving how that book, which I wrote when I was 28 years old (I’ll be 35 this June), keeps having such a life of its own. I’d thought of Steal/Show as the Robin Hood duology — first you steal, then you share — and I didn’t see how it could go any further than that. But it’s clear now that I’m writing what is obviously the last book in a trilogy. It’s always more complicated when people have expectations, and it’s always a challenge to tie things up in a satisfying way, but I’m really excited about this book. It feels right to me. And long overdue.
A few hours after I made this blackout, my mom texted me something my grandma said to her earlier today: “Being old is terrible, but I sure had a lot of fun getting here.”
“Books are frozen voices, in the same way that musical scores are frozen music. The score is a way of transmitting the music to someone who can play it, releasing it into the air where it can once more be heard. And the black alphabet marks on the page represent words that were once spoken, if only in the writer’s head. They lie there inert until a reader comes along and transforms the letters into living sounds. The reader is the musician of the book: each reader may read the same text, just as each violinist plays the same piece, but each interpretation is different.”