Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The "D & C" Argument: How to Survive Depression, Lessons from an AIDS Warrior

The "D & C" Argument: How to Survive Depression, Lessons from an AIDS Warrior

Cover jpeg of Journeys Through Darkness, a biography of AIDS written by Alina Oswald, featuring photographs by Kurt Weston
Journeys Through Darkness
There are certain words we avoid just because that, over the years, the "society" has taught us that they are not nice words:

The A-word: during the eighties, especially during the beginning of eighties, the A-word (AIDS) was such a word. It took Reagan years to utter it. In some strange way, sometimes I still feel the resonances of the eighties' A-word...

The D-word: Depression (sometimes followed by the S-word, for Suicide) is also (or, should I say, are both) still taboo; people don't really talk about them until they touch a loved one...

The C-word: Creation, like in creative minds that is, is associated with yet another A-word (Arts) which, lately, has been threatened to become extinct because of budget cuts. Yet, art has the power of healing, of marking our presence in history for future generations... Art can help survive the blues and also document happenings some wish to leave forgotten (like the AIDS pandemic).

How does one survive depression? I asked Kurt Weston this question. The long-term AIDS survivor's answer offered me a lesson not only in how to survive "the blues," but life's obstacles, in general. I'd like to share it with my readers, through a short excerpt from my book on the AIDS warrior and award-winning photographer, a book I called Journeys Through Darkness.

Hope you enjoy the read. As always, thanks for visiting,
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS

Excerpt from Chapter Nine: Arrival of the Angel, from Journeys Through Darkness

Kurt Weston considers himself lucky that he has so much to live for. His life may not always be inspiring and joyful, but he is happy to still be able to pursue his goal--to create his art and, thus, achieve his dreams. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get depressed at times. He does. Though many years of living with AIDS and related eye-sight have helped him to figure out a way to maintain a positive attitude towards life. Weston considers thinking too much about oneself a reason for depression. Therefore, he encourages people to think, instead, of those less fortunate, of the poor kids whose parents died from AIDS, of those living with famine and starvation, dying from lack of water and lack of nutrition. Looking at the surrounding world from this perspective makes it difficult to even think of being depressed.

The photographer continues by explaining that although people can always find somebody in the world whose situation is far worse than theirs, stopping at this realization should not be an option. The next step is for individuals to become proactive in using their creative energy to do something efficient and useful to help those who have less. Thus, the experience keeps them away from getting down and depressed. This is important because, in turn, depression leads to destruction (“the D word”), which is just the opposite of creation (“the C word”).

When he feels down, Weston starts thinking of being creative, about what he can do to add something to the world. For him it really comes down to a “D and C” argument. For him, creation is the whole purpose of being an artist. And being an artist has kept him from thinking in destructive terms. Art has helped him survive his disease and related visual loss.

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