I thought I’d try processing a book with you guys, reading chunks and writing about them. I’m going to start with Unholy Ghost; writers on depression, a collection of essays that was edited by Nell Casey and published by Harper Collins in 2001. This book is available on Amazon here.
This section consists of two poems by Jane Kenyon describing aspects of depression. I was struck by the poet’s sheer powerlessness in the face of her depression and by the way she captured how moments of beauty are wrapped in despair. It can be difficult to explain to someone why a joyful moment can turn sour so quickly, so I appreciated her words. I think that Kenyon understands that each time beauty or pleasure is discovered, even in something small, like a flower’s shape or a food’s flavor, those feelings are quickly followed by the realization that you have never felt this way, never noticed this phenomenon before. For years, or decades, you have walked these streets, eaten these foods, seen these people, but something invisible has kept you at a great distance from life’s pleasures.
This happened to me rather frequently when I was growing closer to my husband. The better that he treated me, the happier I was, but then the sadder that I became. It was wonderful to be loved, supported, listened to, respected, but… I also realized that I had not been treated like this before, which hurt. It’s like every time that my life gets fuller, richer, or better, I have to cry over all of the years when it wasn’t full or rich or good. When I first had antidepressents, I started seeing more colors than usual, like the world had suddenly become a vibrant place instead of a dull gray mess. It was the most magical afternoon of my life! I still remember the bright yellow flowers, the sunlight, the level of detail in my surroundings. It was… it’s very hard to describe.
Acknowledgments and Introduction
The most noteworthy part of this section is the backgroud for the book. Each essay is written by someone who has depression or by someone within the blast zone (spouses, siblings, parents, friends). Every author has had their life changed by mental illness, has felt the changes in themselves or a loved one. The editor walked through her sister’s depression, and presumably created this collection because of those experiences.
The acknowledgments and edior’s note were written by Nell Casey, and the introduction by Kay Redfield Jamison.
Next time, I will cover “A Delicious Placebo” by Virginia Heffernan and see how far I get.