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A Memoir of an Intellectual, not of Madness
on November 27, 2013
After reading these amazon.com reviews I feel compelled to write my own to set the record straight. This is a fabulous book, not just a "good" book. And it is in no way a "dreary" book!
Well, at first I [thought] it was going to be a dreary book; after all, it's about depression. I was a practicing mental health
professional when it was published and I bought it to see what one of my favorite writers had to say about such a depressing subject. I did put off reading it, however, and finally brought it with me on a coast-to-coast flight when I knew I couldn't escape reading it any longer.
This brilliant writer squarely hit the nail on the head and I literally laughed out loud with the turn of every page. I didn't just chuckle....I laughed until tears came to my eyes. Of course, they were squished laughs because, after all, I was sitting on a crowded plane with people all around me. This was years ago and I still remember how I hid my face in the book trying to thwart my insane giggles.
What?! you say. I was laughing over this poor man's struggle with depression!?
Not at all. This brilliant and profound intellect took a mere 84 pages to completely trash the prevailing methods of treating depression in the mainstream mental health system. This depressed wordsmith of wordsmiths was relegated to a group therapy practice along with a cadre of fellow depression sufferers. Not only did they not realize who was sitting in their midst, neither did the lowly little social worker who ran the weekly group therapy sessions. Mr. Styron immediately saw the absurdities of the situation he found himself in and deftly laid bare the follies of a treatment process conducted by a cooky-cutter social worker in an abjectly dark and dreary mental health system.
His carefully worded, knife-like asides humorously shredded this dreary system as he contemplated the "David and Goliath" aspects of the predicament he found himself in. He spoke the unspeakable with such acuity that I felt my own professional insides about to burst in anticipation as I turned the pages.
Depression sufferers tend to see the world in grayscale anyway, so those readers probably totally miss Mr. Styron's literary shenanigans. But professionals like me, who cannot abide our "state of the art" psychiatric system, find solace and great joy in this man's subtle condemnations.
He helped lift himself up out the black hole he was in by giving free-reign to his utter and hilarious disregard for group therapy, social workers, and the domain of psychiatry itself. He was right, and they were wrong...and it is as true today as it was back then when the book was written.
The truth is, mainstream psychiatry leaves much to be desired. It has never recognized depression for what it is, which is primarily a struggle of the intellect with the absurd realities that can sometimes consume it. The greater the intellect, the more gargantuan the struggle. Canned treatment processes totally miss the intellectual component that the system doesn't know what to do with anyway, as Mr. Stryon clearly saw for himself.
He must have had great fun writing this book that still today graces my list of treasured possessions.
BTW, dozens of passengers demanded to know what book I was reading as we disembarked. I held the book up as they furiously scribbled the title on any available piece of paper.
Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph