Descent: A Memoir of Madness (Kindle Single)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
From the best-selling author of Snow Falling on Cedars: a poignant, searching memoir about one man's fall into depression in the wake of a national tragedy, and his brave struggle to return to normalcy.
Like most of the country and the world, David Guterson woke up on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, not thinking history was about to change. He was in Washington, D.C., with a group of fellow writers, evaluating grant applications for the National Endowment of the Arts. But before their work day had even begun, the Pentagon was bombed; the Twin Towers were down in New York City; and havoc was wreaked irrevocably on our collective sense of happiness, security, and national pride. Scrambling to get out of the city and back home any way he could, David, along with two fellow writers, rented a car and drove 2,600 miles across the country to Seattle. But the attacks triggered something inside him, a pervasive feeling of hopelessness, fear, despair--a clinical depression that that would not go away. He lost interest in his work, family, friends--his life. Inspired by William Styron's masterful Darkness Visible, Guterson's Descent is the searing account of one man's envelopment by the darkest of human emotions, and his tunneling out. Powerful, intense, and deeply felt, it is at once personal and universally illuminating--a confession from a great literary mind who takes us on a journey of what it feels like, and means, to lose one's grasp on the world--and to find it once more, even if by fumbling in the dark.
pastimes. * * * Tuesdays with Todd. His broad-faced earnestness was neither grating nor therapeutic, neither condescending nor worth the check I wrote. The theme was “letting sadness through the door”; the barely concealed subtext was social action as anodyne. My redemption would come through contribution; there was no path other than submitting a think piece to Slate or The New York Times. I was coddled toward “journaling”—Facing Apocalypse in 250 words or less, My Own Private
Association Book of the Year Award), East of the Mountains, The Other, Our Lady of the Forest (a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer Best Book of the Year), and most recently, Ed King; two story collections, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind and the forthcoming Problems with People; and a work of nonfiction, Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives in Washington State. ALSO BY DAVID
up counting them repetitively to confirm their existence in sets of twos, a practice that never yielded satisfaction, one counting always leading to the next and producing fresh uncertainties. The lumber in the ceiling needed counting too, but shiplap in expanse can seem like op art and this girded my deep insecurity regarding the number of boards overhead; mightn’t some have blurred together? They wanted recounting with a sharper eye, but still I couldn’t be sure. I counted and the rhythm of
surreptitiously I called my brother—a psychiatrist—to discuss the remedy my doctor had meted out, this call made with the bathroom door locked and the door to the shower stall closed, me inside. My brother asked diagnostic questions, cautioned me regarding the addictive quality of the entire class of benzodiazepines, applauded as appropriate and widely standard my doctor’s choice, and dosage, of Xanax, then reminded me that a stock explanation for certain kinds of creative output—for example,
CNN was a cacophonous chorus of ad-laced doom—anthrax, dirty bombs, smallpox, light aircraft—a panoply of biblical plagues. I absorbed a documentary on suicide bombers that convinced me these people would blow up our Thriftway—they were young and full of religious fervor, and their mothers passionately approved of them—and so, with shame, I let my wife get the groceries solo. There was a second documentary on nerve gas that pressed me not to breathe anymore, lest the atmosphere contain,