A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Darkness Visible

Tonight is the first snow of the season. I’ll wake up tomorrow to a white world, the first I’ve seen in months. It will be beautiful but I’ll be looking to see if the roads are clear. I go to see my psychiatrist for my prescriptions. I see him every three months. This visit lasts maybe ten minutes. He’s a nice man (the only psychiatrist I’ve ever seen) but I don’t feel comfortable talking to him about my illness. I just don’t know him that well. But lately I’ve been thinking about asking him about anti-anxiety medicines. I’ve been thinking a bit too much lately about death.

I finished reading Darkness Visible. Styron writes about death, his desire for it, friends who succeeded in committing suicide and other famous suicides. He stresses that the word depression does not cover the intensity and misery of acute depression. Many of his descriptions could also describe acute schizophrenia. I’m writing through the fog of a poor memory and dulled feelings but I remember some of what he writes about. I, too, felt suicidal and took time to consider how I would kill myself. He stopped himself and went into a hospital (which he said really helped him) and I just waited it all out while increasing the anti-psychotics to the maximum dose. It was so hard to go to my psychiatrist then because he (sensibly) raised the dose gradually and I had to wait and wait until I finally began feeling better. Now that I remember it, it was a drug called Provigil that finally snapped me out of the worst of the depression. My doctor prescribed the Provigil to counteract the soporific effect of the Zyprexa.

I was so miserable. I remember going out to eat with my brother and crying at the table part way through the meal, something I never did with him. Part of why I was crying was that I knew there was little he could do to help me, my isolation at the time was so complete but I needed to reach out anyway. It was like calling out in the dark. He was kind and gentle and said I could come visit him anytime. Ultimately I knew I had to work it out. For a while there the only thing I could do was lie down on the couch and listen to hours and hours of audiobooks ( I couldn’t watch tv or read much), sometimes I crocheted while I listened. I listened to stories. I needed to get out of my life and into the fantasy of some other more interesting, less painful life or lives. The pain still broke through but I fought against it. To listen and rest or to listen and crochet was enough to keep me in the world. The highlight every two weeks was getting more audiobooks from the library.

Darkness Visible is a short book but it is a good book. At one point Styron says that his experience of incapacitating depression was almost indescribable, elusive but here in writing this book he takes the courageous approach and not only shares with his public the fact of his illness but tries to describe the experience to the best of his abilities. And he has knowledge, skill and talent working for him. This is a book I want in my personal library and I recommend you read it. The book was published in 1990.

Does he succeed in making darkness visible? He touches on it and writes well about it but there seems to be so much more that needs to be said. I’m collecting memoirs from people who have suffered from mental illness. The more memoirs, the better. As Styron points out mental illness is individualistic rather than uniform. The world needs people to speak out about their experiences with mental illness, so we can get past the stigma and move towards better and better treatment, maybe even a cure.

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