Milton said it perfectly in 'Paradise Lost'. 'No light, but rather darkness visible served only to discover sights of woe', and it is this quote which gives William Styron the title for his moving book, which deals with the dark journey through his own depression.
Writing is, for the most part, a solitary profession. In my case, (save for the occasional school visit, convivial lunch with agent or editor or fellow authors, or annual publisher's party), I sit in a room, on my own, making stuff up and setting the visions in my head down on a screen. It is hardly surprising that, living as I do in a daily mindworld where dead girls speak, dragons rise from the earth and green-toothed elves dance in warning, my own mind should sometimes rise up against me, telling me that what I do is unutterably useless and pointless. It is at this point that the Beast bites. Styron describes this as his thought processes 'being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.' Reading his words was, for me, a recognition akin to a light being turned on in a dark room. With this book I did what I never do (being a respecter of the sanctity of the printed page). I underlined and made comments and wrote 'YES!!' in large capitals in many places. I felt as if, finally, I had found a fellow wanderer in an empty desert who could describe not only what and how I am feeling, but also do it in words simple and direct enough that others--those 'healthy people' on the outside of this condition--might be able to understand too. When Styron speaks of the 'weather of depression', I understand precisely what he means. For him its light is a 'brownout', for me a greyish fog impossible to see anything in except blurred shapes and outlines.
Maybe you cannot understand how strengthening and comforting it felt to read something which made sense of my own experience, and reminded me gently of how many other writers have been in the pit too. Shakespeare understood it--how else would he have written Hamlet? Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Camus, Manley Hopkins, Beethoven, Van Gogh...and so many more. I am in good company when I find myself in Dante's 'dark wood', and so, when the Beast is once again at its most savage (which it surely will be), I will remind myself of this. For now, the fight to climb upwards will go on. I am not quite there yet, but thanks to William Styron's book, I am closer to the place where I will come forth to 'riveder le stelle'--to 'behold the stars once more.'