Tagged: William Styron

Mindy Newell: On Being Fucked Up

new-york-108The President: What’s his plan? Ohila: I think he is finishing his soup. • Hell Bent, Doctor Who Season Finale, Series 9

“Sometimes I think about what my mom told me. How I was really, really sick when I was first born and the doctors thought I was going to die. But there was this one doctor who wouldn’t give up. And sometimes, when things are really bad and fucked up, and I’m just so fucking tired of hauling myself out of the abyss one more goddamn time, I wish he had.” • Mindy Newell, On Her Depression

18 October 1990

Dear Ms. Newell,

Thanks for the letter and the story, which I liked enormously. I’m glad you liked my little book and that it may have helped in some way.  I’m sure you’ll avoid your Jack the Ripper and pull through with grand success; remember that most people do. I did. So will you.


William Styron

Postcard I received from William Styron after I sent him a copy of “Chalk Drawing” along with a personal note after reading his “Darkness Visible.” I treasure it.

I recently had the fun experience at my day job of assisting with ECT – electro-convulsive therapy. While the procedure has come a long, long way from the days of One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest, it ain’t – to put it mildly – pleasant.

Oh, the patient is put under general anesthesia with a hit of succinylcholine to control tonic-clonic activity, so it’s not exactly Torquemada’s House of Medieval Torture, but there’s still something ugly and uncomfortably sadistic about purposely sending an electrical charge through a brain, isn’t there? Even if it has proven to be a successful intercession against intractable depression. And something profoundly impersonal that disturbs me, too, in the way a human being is treated like a slab of meat on the grill. “How would you like that, sir?” asked the waiter. “Well done,” said the diner, to twist W. C. Fields.

Or is that I feel it more deeply because of my own acquaintance with the Darkness Visible, as Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron titled his memoir of his own battle with the disease.

At any rate, as I stood looking down at the patient as the doctor was about to go to Defcon 5, I couldn’t help thinking…

There but for the grace of God go I.

At the time I co-wrote “Chalk Drawings” (Wonder Woman #46, September 1990) with George Pérez, I hadn’t told anyone about the depression since I hadn’t been officially diagnosed with it; in fact, I didn’t even know that I had it, only that something was “off” and “wrong” and had been for a long time…a very long time, actually. IIRC, the only one I had ever even mentioned my anxiety episodes to – which are frequently symptomatic of the condition, though they can stand “alone” – was my editor Karen Berger, and even that discussion was on a friend-to-friend basis one night over dinner in a restaurant on Columbus Avenue (I think) in Manhattan, and only because I was in the midst of having a giant panic attack over my plate. So the story of teenage depression and suicide was a bit – well, the word serendipitous comes to mind, but I usually use that word connoting something good happening, as in good karma.

So I can’t say that the depression made the story easy to write – I only know that it came pouring out of me like milk from a carton. At the time I guess I thought it was because of my empathetic ability – not in the way of Betazoid Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course – to get inside the head of my characters. At least, that was what everybody (editors, fellow writers, and so forth) was telling me.

It’s well known that many creative people have suffered from depression, and you can Google “creativity and depression,” or “writers/artists and depression” and get a zillion hits. While the psychiatric community is still out on the actual conclusive evidence, i.e., the biological/genetic/chemical linkage, there is a lot of subjective support out there. And while by no means am I putting myself in the category of writers like David Foster Wallace or Virginia Woolf or F. Scott Fitzgerald or William Styron, I do somehow just know that my illness, while certainly fucking up my life in so many god-awful, totally horrible ways, has also led me to that oft-touted “empathetic ability” to get inside my character’s heads

But can I get into my head?

I have a dream, a dream to write a “personal memoir” in the form of a graphic novel (of course, I can’t draw worth a damn so I’ll have to find an artist) about my experiences with the “darkness visible” of depression.  It won’t be a “my mommy and daddy fucked me up” account, as in Prozac Nation or in Girl, Interrupted, although, dearest family, you’ll be in there; you’ll have to be. I think, rather, that it will be more along the lines of Carrie Fisher’s Postcards From The Edge, vignettes or short-short stories.

Like the time, way, way back in 1976 (I told you it’s been around me for a long, long time) when I ran from my dorm room at nursing school through the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the L train subway station because I thought the clouds were falling down on me. And if you know the L train subway line, you’ll understand just how crazy I was, that the L train subway station at 14th St. and 1st Avenue could be a sanctuary.

That’s a great visual, isn’t it?

•     •     •     •     •

Holy Shit! Holy, Holy, Holy Shit!

Awesomely Amazing!

Abso-fucking-lutely Brilliant!

That’s my review of Hell Bent, the Season 9 finale of Doctor Who.*

SPOILER ALERT! As I told editor Mike Gold on the phone last night after the broadcast, I though that Stephen Moffat was about to pull some time-winey stuff when the Doctor and Clara stole the TARDIS – taking us back to the very beginning of the story, with Clara “renaming” herself Susan, i.e., the Doctor’s “granddaughter.”

Mindy Newell: Depression Really Sucks

“…Depression… is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk… slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero…the body…feels sapped, drained.” Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron 

Sorry for the skip last week, everyone, but I wasn’t up to it – I was down. As in my depression said “Hello, again!” last weekend. No, I didn’t lie in bed for 48 hours, I’ve never given in to that, even back in the day before I was properly diagnosed with this goddamn thing. So on Saturday, though I could feel it banging on the door of my psyche’s house, I did get dressed and made the usual weekend runs to the supermarket and to the laundromat…but by Sunday Elvis was in the house, and even though I got up and put on my workout gear, I blew off my free personal training session that my gym offers to all members for their birthday, decided that I didn’t want to expose my grandson to his fucked-up grandma Mindy, and so just sat around in my workout gear, surfing the web and eating waaaaay too many potato chips. And I kept watching the clock tick away the hours thinking that I had to write my column, but I just couldn’t get the energy up and finally I let Editor Mike know I was sick, though I didn’t specify with what in my e-mail to him.

See, the thing about depression is that it drains the battery and warps the mirror. When it hits me I feel old and ugly and fat and powerless and oh! so! damn! alone! and my thoughts are all about the mistakes I’ve made and the lover(s) I’ve lost and the roads not taken and the…well, it gets pretty nasty and self-destructive, folks. And, for me, at least, it’s embarrassing, because…well, you know that old saw about how when animals are sick they hide away from the herd or crawl under the bed? I don’t know if it’s entirely true, but I always think that if it is, it’s because the animals feel shamed. And I get that, I really do, because, even though I know it’s completely illogical, I feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Which is why, I think, I try to be so open about my depression. It’s my way of fighting it. It makes me so! God-damned! angry! that I have had to deal with this shit for 25 years… anyway, it’s another old saw about how shadows disappear in the light, and I just wanted to let you guys know where I was last weekend.

But that was last weekend. It passed, as all things do….

Everybody stand up and cheer that our friend and fellow columnist John Ostrander came through his cabbage with flying colors! Yeah!!! And yes, we medical folk really do pronounce the acronym CABG that way. I do owe you an apology, though, John. I forgot to let you know about the shave job. Just be glad it wasn’t a body wax!

I’ve been binging on Star Trek: Voyager this week. Totally forgot how absolutely marvelous Kate Mulgrew (currently playing “den mother” Galina “Red” Reznikov on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black) was as Captain Katherine Janeway. The lady had a lot hanging on her performance as the first woman to head a Star Trek series, though technically she wasn’t the first woman we saw command a starship – I believe that honor goes to Tricia O’Neill as Captain Rachel Garret of the U.S.S. Enterprise-C in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” which aired on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1990. But it’s clear in her execution that Ms. Mulgrew embraced and cherished the opportunity and the role.

All the actors were superb, but one thing I’ve always questioned is why Voyager creators Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor chose not to have Robert Duncan McNeill replay his “fallen Starfleet cadet” Nicholas Locarno in TNG’s 1992 episode “The First Duty,” instead of “bad boy” Tom Paris. It may have been just synchronicity that McNeill read for the part and won it; it may also have been that it would have been very expensive to resurrect the Locarno character, as the writers of “First Duty” would have had to receive royalties every time Locarno appeared on the screen, which would have been every episode of Voyager.

Can’t say I’m happy about the results of the midterm elections last week. I don’t understand why the Democratic candidates ran away from President Obama. Hello, Allison Grimes, did you not learn your lesson when Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton? Jesus, woman, you were a delegate for Obama at the Democratic convention! Who the hell did you think you were fooling? I don’t understand any woman who votes the Republican ticket. No one’s forcing anyone to have an abortion, lady. And what business is it of yours, anyway, if another woman chooses to do so? I don’t understand why someone who is against the minimum wage, denies global warming and climate change and wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (created by Republican President Richard Nixon, by the way), gets into office. Oh, I know. She can slaughter hogs.

SPOILER ALERT! STOP HERE IF YOU MISSED THE DOCTOR WHO FINALE! “Bowties are cool.” But Osgood is dead. Or is she?

Danny Pink is dead. Worse, he’s a Cyberman. Or is he?

The coordinates for Gallifrey are wrong, a lie told to the Doctor by the Master – uh, the Mistress. Or are they?

Clara and the Doctor have ended their relationship – or did they?

Is that really Santa Claus?

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Hey, at least I’m not depressed anymore.