In the midst of my writing I have taken the time to finish reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar a book she had written under the pen name Victoria Lucas back in 1963. It was released a month before her suicide. This book brought me to tears for it has hit home on so many levels. As a fellow writer, and poet who suffers from depression, I can relate with everything the protagonist Esther Greenwood experiences (Esther who is Plath's fiction self) and I certainly feel for her. Her isolation, her sadness, loneliness, all these things. On a personal level I cried reading this book.. But it's still a good read, and I recommend it unless a depression story is not for you. But then my own novel Love Child was criticized by some for being to depressing to read, but here's the thing about depression. It's an issue a real one, and it does exist. Millions are affected. Not everyone ends up committing suicide, but more than enough do. Many make attempts. Unfortunately, we live in a society that prefers to deal with suicide and depression by not dealing with the issue. By pretending it doesn't exist. This is often caused by the stigma of depression, and the wrongful belief of many that depression can be controlled, or simply something one could get rid of if they want too. I wish this was true. Yes, it takes a person's effort to fight this sickness, but that is what depression is more than anything. A sickness. An illness. And like every illness it needs to be treated. And like every illness it affects people differently. Depression needs more understanding to put it mildly. It's a lonely illness to deal with especially when no one understands or wants to bother with you. In many ways you can understand why, but it doesn't take away the pain that leaves you.
So while some readers may prefer to keep depression out of fiction or whether they prefer to avoid reading stories about it, I must say that I feel fiction is a great place to bring attention to the problem. Books like The Bell Jar are very enlightening even if disturbing to learn of mental illness, and how someone could succumb or slowly deteriorate. In my novel Love Child it's protagonist Tommy Hulette's mother who suffers from depression to the point she ends her life. A horrible reality that disturbed some readers. Others found it disturbing, but still enjoyed the story overall, as they wanted to see where Tommy would wind up after his mother committed the act. It wasn't easy for him, but he had to deal with the repercussions of his mother's actions. I can understand why reading about such a character may be disturbing to some. Why a character like Esther Greenwood would freak people out. Even in fiction people get depressed or sad just to read about a depressed character. As one reader once put it to me "Reading is an escape. This is why many readers choose fiction. They love its unreal stories, and happy endings. As a reader you have the option to stick to these kind of stories while avoiding the dreaded sad ones. Lord knows there are more than enough books to choose from when looking for a book to read these days. Different genres. However always remember too that aside from entertaining ourselves with reading, we should become informed with it too. And stories with depressed characters can be very revealing. You can learn a lot of things from reading about them. After all there are a lot of Esther Greenwood's and Sandra Hulette's out there. (Tommy Hulette's mother) And like most people even depressed people can overcome things. And if they don't the people around them can.