Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

by William Styron

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How have relationships helped or harmed William Styron with depression in the book Darkness Visible?

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In Darkness Visible, William Styron chronicles his battle with major depression, with which he was diagnosed at the age of sixty. Styron was a heavy drinker for many years—according to his daughter Alexandra—and she believes that he used alcohol to help mask the symptoms of his depressive condition. At some point, however, he became physically intolerant of alcohol and could no longer drink; only when he was "clean," did it become clear how severe his problem had become.

Styron's relationships with other people—his family in particular—were complicated. His mother died when he was thirteen years old, a loss he never fully grieved. He was not a hands-on father with his children, who were intimidated and cowed by him, especially when he was sober. Although he and his wife Rose had a long, meaningful relationship, they did have tempestuous arguments from time to time. In fact, in Darkness Visible, however, Styron does not discuss Rose much at all. Perhaps this is because depression is essentially a lonely and inward-looking disease. So while Styron wasn't necessarily harmed by his relationships with people while suffering from depression, it doesn't seem that he was able to find much solace in them either.

Eventually Styron came to a conclusion: "For me the real healers were seclusion and time.''

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According to Styron, his wife played a major role in his ability to fight depression. He asserted that his wife stood by his side throughout his fight with depression. She comforted him and helped him until he was institutionalized.

At one point, Styron sought help from a psychiatrist, Dr. Gold, who believed in prescriptions to alleviate the suffering caused by depression. However, Styron viewed the drugs as unhelpful and chose instead to be institutionalized. It was through the institutionalization and interactions with other patients that Styron began his recovery. He also noted that the drugs did not achieve much in helping him with the condition.

Romain Gary and wife Jean Seberg were both friends to Styron and also suffered from depression which led them to commit suicide. Romain’s and Seberg’s challenges informed Styron about his own situation which ultimately helped him seek professional help.

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