In a series of meaningful coincidences, or synchronicities if you like, Andrew Solomon has been showing up in my world. In a favourite bookshop I came across his book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. The book was written in 2001, I hadn’t heard of it. I wasn’t sure I would read it, but I bought it and I have owned it for some months now. It’s more than a book with its more than 500 pages and its weighty subject, to my mind it is a tome almost to big to read and so far I have not read it.
A week or so ago in another favourite bookshop I came across a much smaller book, one published this year (2015), Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. The cynic in me did not want to be taken in by the title so I ummed and ah-ed a bit, in the end it was Joanna Lumley who convinced me to buy it. Not the actor herself but her recommendation on the front cover “A small masterpiece that might even save lives“. She hooked me in, I bought the book and this one I read in a night or two. It is an extraordinary personal account of surviving an existential crisis. At the back Matt Haig lists some further reading including Solomon’s Noonday Demon, which Haig describes as “An astonishing (occasionally terrifying) account of Solomon’s experience of depression.” Again I resolved to read it, but the word ‘terrifying’ haunts me a little and I haven’t started it.
Today a friend published Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk on Facebook. There he was again, Solomon is almost stalking me, I listened and I was deeply moved:
Andrew Solomon speaks slowly and deliberately about his depression. He is compelling to listen to. Like Matthew Haig, Solomon doesn’t tell anyone what to do, he speaks about his own experience knowing others may have experienced similar.
Part of what touched me was imagining being in the grip of this experience: “Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.” Something about the Stations of the Cross is evocative allowing me a sense of the experience he describes. There is much more that he says that makes listening worthwhile.
Both authors believe that the silence that typically surrounds depression makes it worse. I share that belief. I like to talk read and write about experiences of living with suicidal feelings, I am trying to understand what often defies understanding. OK Andrew Solomon, I hear you, tonight I will start reading The Noonday Demon.