Thursday, December 15, 2011

Illustrating Depression and Bipolar

As most of you who follow this blog know, at the beginning of this year I essentially blew up mcmanweb and started over. The site was in serious need of an updating, plus a facelift. My first phase involved a complete redesign, together with rewrites and reorganization of a lot of old articles. This consumed most of my time well into spring.

Throughout the rest of the year, I made incremental changes and additions.

I began mcmanweb around this time in 2000, with a small collection of articles on depression and bipolar. My goal was to create a comprehensive resource exploring mood disorders from every conceivable angle. Over time, I built up a collection of more than 300 artlcles (later pruned down to about 250), most written by myself, but with some personal accounts from contributors.

As the years went on, I essentially turned over just about all my content, save the pieces on famous people and personal stories. But by this time last year, it was clear to me that I had fallen way behind. I’ll just mention one of the matters I had to deal with, which involves design and the organization of my content.

The key to a successful website is making it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for, fast, and to facilitate their going deeper and wider. My basic navigation since the beginning has been successful -with content organized under categories such as Mood, Treatment, Science, Stories, and so on - and I stuck with what worked.

Thus, from my home page - as well as every page on the site - you can click on a category, which will take you to a landing page with the articles containing the information you are looking for.

But how do you bind a site together? At the same time, how do you differentiate between categories? How, in essence, do you lend coherence to the reader’s experience?

This time, I decided that a collection of old (and a couple of new) master’s paintings would define the look and feel to mcmanweb. A different old master would illustrate each category. Moreover, I carried forward these same old masters into every article. Thus, a Rembrandt for all my DSM articles, a Vermeer for my Treatment articles, and so on.

So here I am - today - nearly a year after I started the project when it occurred to me that I never explained my choice of illustrations to my readers. I just remedied that a few minutes ago, with short explanations on all my landing pages, which I have reproduced here. So without further ado ...

The pic to illustrate Mood is a close-up of La Tour’s “Magdalen at Night.” The woman seems to question her very existence. We have all been there.

The pic to illustrate Behavior is a close-up of Holbein’s “Henry VIII.” The monarch’s defying the Pope and killing off half his serial wives takes care of the seriously disturbed side of the personality equation. His sixteenth century rock star status - he was an accomplished lutenist, singer, organist, and composer, and a generous patron of the arts - captures the creative and positive side. Mind you, Henry’s way of resolving personal domestic quarrels can also be regarded as creative.

The pic to illustrate The DSM-5 is a close-up of Rembrandt’s “Moses.” Was there any other choice?

The pic to illustrate Treatment is a close-up of Vermeer’s “Cavalier with Young Woman.” I also use Vermeer to illustrate “Recovery.” The Treatment pic has two people in it, suggesting the wisdom of seeking expert help. The Recovery pic has a solitary woman actively engaged in a pursuit, reinforcing the notion that we are in charge.

The pic to illustrate Recovery is Vermeer’s “The Lacemaker.” Same explanation as above.

The pic to illustrate Science is a close-up of Dali’s “Exploding Raphaelist Head.” Dali was equally fascinated with Freud and the quantum building blocks of existence. This painting says it all.

The pic to illustrate Issues is a close-up of Raphael’s “The School of Athens.” Here we see Socrates engaging in a dialogue with a student. Socrates always challenged our cherished beliefs, strongly suggesting that anyone who claims to know the answers is a fraud. Indeed, if there is an absolute truth, there is no way of knowing it, much less knowing we know it.

The pic to illustrate Famous is a section from one of Warhol’s “Marilyn” prints. Marilyn’s iconic status made her a no-brainer to lead the parade of notables chronicled here. Warhol’s recasting of the same image in different shades suggests that what you see is not necessarily what you get.

The pic to illustrate Stories is Fragonard’s “A Young Girl Reading.” We all have stories in us. What the woman in the illustration does after reading one of them is up to her. Who knows, once she gets out of that chair.

The pic to illustrate Populations is a close-up of Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance.” We may be one, but each one of us is also unique.

The pic to illustrate Relationships is a close-up of Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Ah, the possibilities. Alas, the ambiguities.


I cordially invite you to check out mcmanweb.


Smitty said...

Not to stir things up too much, but I wonder if you wouldn't stop by this good doctor's website to see if you agree or don't?

He has an off-hand comment about Whitaker today that sparked some emotion in me!

What do you think!

John McManamy said...

Hey, Smitty. I think the only person capable of intelligently critiquing Whitaker is Christopher Hitchens and he just died today. When confronted with Whitaker, psychiatry goes into dumb and dumber mode.

This latest iteration is attacking Whitaker on what he didn't say, rather than we he actually said. Whitaker never argued that antipsychotics increased the population of those on the streets.

Yes, I suppose you can fashion a counter-argument that antipsychotics gets people from eating out of dumpsters and into day rooms drooling in front of TVs, but how pathetic is that?

I wish I could come across an intelligent attack based on what Whitaker actually said. Poke holes in his disability figures, cite evidence in opposition to the Farrow study, come up with a better hypothesis to supersensitivity psychosis.

Alas! Cheap shots and empty rhetoric. You have every right to be pissed off. I know I am.

Smitty said...

"One wonders how author Robert Whitaker (Anatomy of an Epidemic), who believes that antipsychotic medications make psychotic people worse, explains away how people with schizophrenia somehow become far more likely to end up in jail when they do not take antipsychotic medication. Or perhaps he thinks that this development is the result of a malicious government plot ."

Says the good man, David Allen M.D.

I noticed he did not post my critique, in which I also say that there is no evidence of brain disease in many of us who are diagnosed (and misdiagnosed) with schizophrenia. Plain fact is the brain can react with psychosis in response to blood sugar aberrations, lack of sleep and hormonal surges.. Oh, and unremitting anxiety. These problems, if medical, are likely NOT contained within the brain. I wish the good docs were much more wholistic.

John McManamy said...

Hey, Smitty. It's really strange. Pdocs have had a lot of training in neck-down medicine. Yet they seem to want to forget it all once they get their neck-up credentials. I think every DSM-IV diagnosis is conditional upon the condition not having a physical medical cause, which strongly implies that pdocs expressly need to rule out things like food or chemical sensitivities, thyroid conditions, fatigue, major lifestyle changes, stress, etc etc prior to making a psychiatric diagnosis.

Moira said...

My compliments on the makeover of McMan. Sister Wendy would approve of the art choices, but what about Sister Randy? Sister Randy is usually found here:

hypnosis for depression said...

Loving these odd looking paintings and images.