Thursday, October 11, 2012


While I'm in no sense implying parity between my written work and that of the late William Styron, I feel driven to confess here that his 1990 memoir Darkness Visible, concerning his struggles with deep depression, stirred resonances in me that have never stilled in all the years since; and, for reasons I only partly understand, are more awhirl now than ever before. "The madness of depression," Styron wrote, "is the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk. Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped, drained."  This is an exact description of the malaise that has afflicted me most powerfully since the end of this past July but in truth has recurred time and again throughout the course of my life.

Naturally despite this onset I've tried to struggle on, writing this blog, going about the routine affairs of daily life, getting by.  I've not fallen utterly supine.  But I have felt sapped and drained in the exact way Styron describes.  Perhaps it's been evident in the randomness of the topics I've written about here of late.  There has been no straight line of direction or emphasis in my posts, no consistency of thought or purpose or theme.  I've been like a sailboat without a rudder, blown here and there by errant winds.

I hate to confess this; I've always had contempt for writers who publicly wallow in their angst, so I've not thought it, well, correct behavior to speak of such matters here.  But lately I've undergone a change of attitude.  It has occurred to me that if I made a conscious effort to write explicitly of my depression, perhaps this would serve as a kind of self-therapy; or even that such a confessional might also be of some use to other writers, or readers of this blog who aspire to write, who also tussle with self-doubt, neuroses and the glums.

One reason for my depression has to be my looming birthday--on the 21st of this month I will turn 74.  In my youth I never believed I would reach such an advanced age.  I lived accordingly. For thirty years or more I smoked four packs of cigarettes a day.  I drank heavily. I never engaged in regular exercise.  I suffered the anxiety of a high-stress job, to such an extent that I suffered a bleeding ulcer and had to be hospitalized.  In consequence, though I'm often told I still appear younger than my years, in fact I'm something of a walking train-wreck.  I'm a Type II, insulin-dependent diabetic; take two additional kinds of medications that stabilize my blood sugar and two others to combat high blood pressure; and more pills for anxiety, insomnia; high cholesterol; stomach acid; sleeplessness; vertigo; and dry eyes.  I've lost all my upper teeth and wear dentures.  I can't run twenty feet without losing my breath.  I can't walk more than a mile without exhaustion.  For years I lived as if I hoped to die as quickly as possible.  In fact, I did hope for that.  I believed I had nothing to lose, that my life had no purpose and so was of no use to anyone, least of all to myself.

Then my life changed.  An agonizing, mutually damaging marriage ended at last, after twenty-five
years of unspeakable pain.  I moved to my native North Carolina mountains.  Ruth and I came together.  A lifelong desire to write ceased to be a never-to-be-recognized dream and became a reality.  I published five books, some award-winners, and a sixth is on its way.  But with the happiness for which I had for so long yearned came the recognition that the time left to me, which had seemed infinite when it did not matter, was now, ironically, finite, and that the damage I had done to myself in my despair had made it certain that my productive years, now that they had come, could not last long.


1 comment:

  1. Ah HA! My first foray into a blog - I think. Possibly my last - I'm quite inept keeping up with the electronic Joneses, with the exception of email. Thank you, Charles, for sharing what's going on in your head. You are creative and brave.