GUEST POST: A look at depression through new eyes

GUEST POST: A look at depression through new eyes

Ahead of Your Brain on Art, artist Stacey Walyuchow shares her experience and a new perspective on depression.

May 7, 2018

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable.”

– Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

I was immediately intrigued by the idea of partnering art and science, especially neuroscience, as I find the brain fascinating. Having suffered from depression and anxiety for years, I loved the idea of trying to create an image to represent one of the research studies.”

Yamile Jasaui is one incredibly smart woman. She wrote her thesis on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Response for depression. I had so many questions for Yamile that she answered very clearly for me. There was a moment in the conversation that completely stopped my breath for a moment. Yamile explained that this treatment was for individuals whose depression was ‘untreatable’. What a horrible word for anyone to have to hear trying to conquer any debilitating illness. I had not considered that depression was untreatable and was filled with emotion imagining how these people must feel. I am so grateful for scientists like Yamile, trying to find ways to help the untreatable sufferers. Prior to this conversation, I had an idea in my head as to the direction my piece would take. It completely changed after I spoke with Yamile.

When starting this process, I found myself getting a bit concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to create anything that showed the ‘science’ side of this research project. My work is sparked by a lot of emotion and feeling, not a lot of science and technicality. After speaking with Yamile, I realized that, although our focus and work are quite different, what drives us and what we hope to achieve, are not that different at all. Scientists and Artists are always asking questions and pushing the limits in their search for answers. I believe we are both very open-minded and inquisitive, always looking for the best way to communicate an idea or a possibility. In many ways, science is art and art is science.

After speaking with Yamile, I realized the emotional impact for those with untreatable depression. Depression is a cruel and lonely place. A treatment that works would be as comforting as being held by someone you love. This is where my thought process began. I create acrylic paintings that incorporate a photographic image that I hand paint. I found the perfect image immediately that depicted exactly what I was imagining and received prompt permission to use it. It all came together quite magically for this project. Everything worked out beautifully and I am proud of the final piece. I was able to stay true to the emotional roots that have formed my process from the beginning while illustrating the important research Yamile has so passionately worked on.

I would like to share a quote that Yamile Jasaui included in her thesis for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Response in depression. Speaking with Yamile and then taking in these words, truly solidified my visions for this piece.

To those living with treatment-resistant depression:
Though the way is tough, giving up is not an option.
No matter how intense, conquer.
Conquer the pain, the emptiness, the hopelessness,
and thrive.

– Yamile Jasaui

The Remnant – Hand Painted Collage on Wood Panel, 18″ x 18″