8.6 Your How to Guide to Depression

So you have heard of Sophie Alston. She is an incredible artist and is guest blogging today, with thanks.

Sophie Alston is legitimately a top UK
artist who lives and works in London. She graduated from MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2015. A quick point- regarding Sophie’s strength of character – Sophie was caring for her beautiful mum (during her masters) who she was fortunate to be extremely close to. I’ll finish this by saying Sophie’s mum was a major influence on her work. She was very very proud and is with Sophie at all times

(More at the bottom of the article on Sophie’s art)

She is also one of my good friends from the UK, Great Britain. She’s a labour supporter.. She’s a feminist (and that’s a good thing) She’s my guest blogger today and she is super smart and we have a piece today that you could argue I could have had as the site launched a year plus ago, however I regularly get asked “I have been diagnosed or have been made aware I have Anxiety/Depression, what the hell do I do”. Sophie is a Mental Heakgh Advocate and Pioneer.

I have 2 of my own brand new posts coming the next 2 days, so watch this space.
Now over to Sophie and let her bring you through 19 points with some honesty from her too.

1. Listen to yourself, your body and the way it feels, and your feelings. I knew I needed help because I couldn’t breathe, not like a panic attack but continually and unremittingly. I knew that my body was physically healthy as I had been very physically unwell years before and had lots of tests. Maybe you don’t know what you are feeling, you just know you don’t feel right. That’s OK. You don’t need to diagnose yourself to receive help, you just need to be aware of a difference.

2. Talk to a friend or family member if you can. Let them know that you’re struggling. This can be really hard, I know! I’m really bad at this but if you can tell just one person that should take the pressure off you a little bit.

3. Look up the number of your GP surgery (which you are hopefully registered with. It’s best to be registered with a GP surgery before you’re in an emergency. It just makes things easier administratively.)

4. Pick up the phone. This is a major step. My heart was pounding making this first call but you can do it. You don’t need to tell the receptionists what’s wrong but you might want to ask for a double appointment to give you enough time to talk. If it’s too hard to pick up the phone you can ask your friend or family member to make the call.

5. Going to your appointment. You can take someone along if this makes it easier. It will be hard to talk but that’s OK. A good GP will be patient and caring. If you don’t feel this in your first appointment then you can swap GP.

6. Your GP will ask you some questions about how you’re feeling, such as whether there have been any changes in your life. There is no right or wrong answer, just be honest. GPs have lots of experience and are not generally shocked.

7. Your GP might prescribe you some medication depending what is wrong. For example you might be offered beta blockers for anxiety, or antidepressants if your problem is more severe. Sometimes the GP will wait to prescribe you with anything, but they will ask to see you again to see if you improve.

8. You might feel very tired and drained after yourself appointment and thats OK too. You made it! You made the first step!

9. You will be invited to a follow up appointment. Again, you can go alone, or with a friend. And again be honest. This time you may be asked about whether you are interested in therapy or counselling. There are many reasons people seek help and this will determine what you are offered. I was offered counselling for grief. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) wouldn’t have been appropriate under those circumstances. Hopefully you will be offered what’s right for you at this stage, but it’s a question of funding in your area. It may take many months.

10. Hopefully at this stage your medication or therapy/counselling will be helping, but sometimes you will feel much worse before you feel better. That’s OK, just keep in touch with friends, family and your GP.
For many people number 10 is the last step, and they go on to feel much better but sometimes things are more complicated.

11. If your symptoms don’t seem to be getting better, or are actively getting worse you might be referred for more specialist help. This will be in the form of the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) or a psychiatrist.

12. If you are referred to the CMHT or a psychiatrist you may feel really scared. You can prepare for your appointment the same way as when you went to your GP. It’s a really good idea to take a friend or family member at this stage. They can fill in the gaps for you.

13. A psychiatrist will ask you a very detailed history about you symptoms, what you are feeling right now, and about your family and your childhood. Again, this can be hard, but you need to be honest. It’s the only way that you’ll get the right help. You may receive a new diagnosis at this point, or have the diagnosis your GP has given you confirmed. This is OK, it means that you can arm yourself with information.

14. Following an assessment with the psychiatrist you will either be referred back to your GP with a follow-up plan or a change of medication, or you will be closely monitored by a psychiatrist. You don’t need to be scared about this. A psychiatrist is really just like a GP who has more specialised understanding of what’s going on with you. If you have the right psychiatrist they will be compassionate and caring and you will form a trusting relationship (I am aware that I was very lucky in this regard).

15. After careful monitoring your psychiatrist might decide to refer you to more specialist therapy, e.g.Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) or a Psycho-education group with others with your condition. Mental illness can make you feel really lonely so this is good. It gives you a chance to meet other people like you. Again, going to the first session can be really scary, particularly if you have social anxiety, but hang in there. It will feel easier after the first session.

16. Your psychiatrist might discharge you back to your GP’s care when they feel you are better. This may depend on funding. Most of these services are severely stretched. You might not feel totally well again but there is mostly only funding for psychiatrists to see people right in the depth of crisis.

17. You may have a setback after being discharged. The good thing about psychiatrists (in my experience at least) is that once you are the system it can actually be easier to get an appointment than with your GP.

18. Hopefully by now your condition is more manageable and you’ve had a ton of support. I know, this is the best case scenario here.

19. Here’s the big thing: the twitter mental health community will always be there. Come and talk to us! There are many, many really nice mental heath campaigners and advocates to talk to.

Here’s more about the cool, Sophie Alston

Sophie Alston is an artist who lives and works in London. She graduated from MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2015.

Sophie Alston – Artist Statement

My recent works consist of modernist, cross-stitched wall hangings and wooden plank and cross-stitched structural installations. In my practice I utilise an appropriation of signifiers from 20thC avant-garde modernism – De Stijl and Bauhaus design – and reconfigure them by using materials and techniques mostly associated with amateur craftspeople and executed in a purposefully unskilled way.

My practice centres around the notion that historically craft has been associated with women and the domestic environment and therefore outside of any serious aesthetic or philosophical debate within ‘serious’ (male) art. By appropriating the visual language of avante-garde modernism, and combining it with materials and skills associated with craft, I seek to undermine the historical binary male/female opposition that produces a hierarchy of values that privileges Fine Art over Craft.

The feminist nature of my work is in some way inspired by the feminist artist Judy Chicago who also focused on contrasting the use of traditional women’s skills such as needlework with traditionally male work such as welding.
The recurring theme of triangles in my work is in part influenced by the work of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party where the triangle tiles and placing of the whole installation in a triangle is a reference to the female form and specifically the vagina. Though I don’t want this female symbolism to be obvious in my work, I want the feminine to be an important element.

The De Stijl and Bauhaus movements have had a big influence on my work but specifically Mondrian’s use of shape and limited colour palette. I mostly use a limited palette which is used across both the structural and wool elements of the work. I like to refer to David Batchelor’s view in Chromophobia that colour is generally considered ‘other’, e.g. feminine or queer meaning that it is often dismissed as secondary and merely cosmetic. In my work it is very much the forefront of what I do.

I am also influenced by the works of Sonia Delaunay and Sophie Taueber-Arp who both focused on the materiality of their work and used fabrics, needles and threads to distinguish themselves from the work of their male contemporaries. Rosemarie Trokel’s knitted paintings draw attention to this materiality in her work. What these women artists did, and what I feel I am doing is corrupt the purity of the modernist genre by using real world, (and traditionally feminine) materials and therefore bringing the real world into the work.

Before bringing together all of my skills into my art practice I worked as an adult education teacher, alongside running a fashion accessories business, using traditional craft skills such as leather work. As well as having studied these processes I also learnt these skills alongside crochet, from my mother who was a knitwear designer, and passed down through her father who was a leather merchant. I see this learning of traditional craft skills as an important aspect of my work.

Website –
http://www.sophiealstonstudio.com/

AOC