depression visible

depression visible
depression visible
depression visible
depression visible
depression visible
depression visible
depression visible
depression visible

 

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Diana Alishouse Biography
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Diana Alishouse
Author of Depression Visible: The Ragged Edge

Q: Diana, why did you write this book and what is the meaning of the title, Depression Visible: The Ragged Edge?

A: I’m an artist and my medium is fabric. Beginning in 1985 shortly before I was diagnosed with major depression and without realizing what I was doing, I began creating the body of work called The Ragged Edge. The designing and making helped me “get a handle” on the horrible illness that had plagued me for most of my life. The edges are ragged because that is the way I felt—ragged, torn, useless.

Q: When will your book Depression Visible be out? A:Publication date is May 15, 2010 which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month. Q:Diana, can you talk a bit about how depression affected your life?

A: Oh, gee! Where do I start? The depression took hold when I was a teenager. I did fine in school academically, but I couldn’t figure out who I was or what I wanted to do in life. That alone is normal in most teens, but mine went further—there was no purpose to anything. This pattern continued in college where I flopped around, finally graduating with a major in social studies and a minor in English. Then I got married because I couldn’t decide what else to do. After that I smiled and went in whatever direction called to me at the moment. I was a craft gallery owner, a bookkeeper, silversmith, Got divorced and remarried. Worked as a warehouse manager, sales rep for a food distributor, school cook, graphic designer. Got divorced and remarried to a wonderful man to whom I am still married 27 years later. His mother and her friends taught me how to quilt.

Q: Is that lack of direction the worst part of depression?

A:Oh, no. The most horrible part of living with depression was that I was not a good parent. That is one of the most devastating aspects of depression—no matter how I seemed on the outside, to other people—inside my brain I hurt so bad and was so scared that I was incapable of being the loving and nurturing parent I wanted to be. Depression affects not only the person who has it, but everyone they deal with. Q: When were you diagnosed with depression. A:Not until 1985 when I was in my early 40’s.

Q: What are the symptoms of depression?

A: The standard symptoms of depression: Persistent sad or “empty” mood Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down” Sleep disturbance – sleeping too much or too little Appetite and weight changes – either loss or gain Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, irritability Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts.

Q: Of those 8 symptoms, how many did you have?

A: Seven.

Q: Were you put on medication?

A: Yes, lithium and an antidepressant, and it helped after it took effect which was about 6 weeks. The new ones generally take effect more quickly. There were some difficult side effects to deal with. But at least I could see that life could be worth living. Since then, I have taken several different medicines and have sometimes quit taking them when I decided I didn’t need them any longer. That was always a big mistake. I would slowly sink back down into my black hole of depression.

Q: When did you start making the Ragged Edge series?

A: I started in 1985, but it took me three years to understand that the images that I needed to express were all about my depression. After that I made 10 more quilts about depressive and bipolar illness over a period until 1994.

Q:Why did you decide to write a book?

A: In 1990 I showed my art quilts at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington D.C. at an art show sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health to increase awareness of depression as a treatable illness. That show and the comments made by some of the viewers helped me understand that what I was expressing in the art quilt medium was a universal cry—not just my own. And that propelled me into writing the book that would become Depression Visible.

Q: DEPRESSION VISIBLE is written for the lay person. That was a conscious decision on your part?

A: No. I am a lay person myself, so it was just me talking to other people with depression or bipolar illness. There were already a lot of books out there, but I wanted people to be able to SEE what it looked like. “I See” means “I Understand.” That’s what I was after. I wanted people to have that vision of how they could recognize, understand, and treat the illness, so they could live whole, rewarding lives.

Q: It amazed me to read the long list you compiled of famous people who have lived with depression. Can you name a few?

A: The ones I always think of first are Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. There were several poets of the Romantic period—Byron and Shelley. Musicians—Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Handel, Mahler. More recently—Ted Turner, Patty Duke, Alice Walker, Kurt Cobain, Mike Wallace, Carrie Fisher. Some of these were bipolar, and some were unipolar or just the depression.

Q: Diana, you came close to suicide several times. Could you share some of your thoughts about this?

A: There were many times when I didn’t want to live. It’s not that I wanted to commit suicide. That requires at least a certain amount of planning and action, and I was incapable of doing that at the time. I just wanted not to be, to escape that terrible mental pain. Suicide causes immense pain to the survivors, who often blame themselves. But I don’t think most people who commit suicide do it to inflict pain. They may actually believe they are doing their loved ones a favor. When you are in the bottom of that black hole of depression you incorrectly believe that you are totally helpless—that is, nothing you can do will change anything—and totally hopeless—it will always be that way. So if that is the way you are understanding reality, then suicide becomes, in a way, a logical choice. That sounds twisted, and it is. Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

Q: Let’s talk about rumination.

A: Although rumination is a symptom of depression, it isn’t in the usual list of symptoms. In talking with other people who have depression, though, I have found that it is very common. The term comes from certain animals called ruminants—like cows. They swallow their food then regurgitate the semi-digested mass, known as the cud and chew it again. When we are depressed our brains do much the same thing. Thoughts go round and round in our minds over and over and over. I also call it rehashing the trash in our lives. Uncontrollable. This is one of the symptoms of depression that we must learn to control.

Q: Any final thoughts about depressive illnesses?

A: Yes, They are physical illnesses that have psychological, social, and spiritual aspects. They are usually readily treatable, but it is not a matter of just popping some pills. The medicine is an important bridge. We also must retrain our thought habits and ways of living, and learn as much as we can about our illness so we can be a participant in our treatment. What we want to achieve is not constant happiness, but wellness—a normal range of moods.

 
 
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