“David’s Inferno”: Memoir About Surviving Depression

A new book by David Blistein, whose “writing is the culmination of a lifelong pursuit of wisdom, transcendence, and humor” is called David’s Inferno: My Journey Through the Dark Wood of Depression. His reference point is The Divine Comedy of the poet Danté, who was familiar with “both depths of despair and manic visions of rapture.” In advance of publication, Blistein introduced the impetus for David’s Inferno on his blog:

I’m easily as cheerful as the next person these days. But between October 14th, 2005 and Summer 2007, I had (depending on whom you ask) a major depressive episode with hypomania, brain chemistry gone ballistic, a virulent mid-life crisis, Pluto opposite Sun, raging kundalini, and/or congealed heart ch’i. Or maybe I just got seriously tangled up in the dark woods made famous by Danté.

He notes that “nervous breakdown” doesn’t do his experience justice:

It’s a rampant agitation that careens from constant low-level anxiety to gut-wrenching, dry-heaving despair. After the worst attacks, I’d feel like I’d just been spit up, Jonah-like, on the shore, wondering if next time the whale would be a shark. Breakdown is way too static a word. Every day is spent on roiling waves. Occasionally—for an hour or two, maybe even a day—those waves buoy you up high enough for a gasp of blessed air, only to sweep you back down into such fierce undertow that drowning, while terrifying, at least holds out the promise of peace.

Indeed, Blistein notes that the uncertain and variable language of his disorder has been a significant challenge. Working backward from his current diagnosis—Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, in Partial Remission—he lists many of his previous labels, including the following:

His favorite is yet another: Melancholic Depression–Severe with Hypomanic Episodes. “Just seems like a nice blend of literary and technical.” All kinds of therapy, both Eastern and Western, were tried. Unfortunately for him, for too long a period nothing helped very much.

Caroline Carr, author of Living with Depression: How to Cope When Your Partner is Depressed, states about David’s Inferno: “Warm and compassionate, often hilarious, and full of hope and encouragement…If you love someone who is depressed (or who you think might be), read this book.”

One thought on ““David’s Inferno”: Memoir About Surviving Depression

  1. Ros: Thanks for the review. It seems that our experiences and senses of humor are on similar pages. BTW: you may have noticed that I grew up (if you can call it that) in Providence and will be returning to read at Books on the Square at 7 on Friday May 10. Be great to meet you! David

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