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Living With A Family Member With Depression.

A 1995 study by the American Psychiatric Association reports that families play a significant part in the recovery of depressed people. Mary Wallace and Rose Styron are the wives of journalist Mike Wallace and writer William Styron, who both suffered from bouts of depression. They'll talk about what it was like to help their husbands thru depression. Mike Wallace and William Styron will appear in the upcoming documentary "Dead Blue: Surviving Depression"


Other segments from the episode on December 17, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 17, 1997: Interview with Hugh Thomas; Interview with Mary Wallace and Rose Styron; Review of the television show "South Park."


Date: DECEMBER 17, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121701NP.217
Head: The Slave Trade
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The new movie "Amistad" is leaving many people wanting to learn more about the history of slavery. My guest Hugh Thomas is the author of the new book "The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade from 1440 to 1870." The study focuses on the business of slavery and examines the slave merchants -- men who often never saw slaves, but profited from their sale.

Thomas has been a history professor in England and head of the think-tank The Centre for Policy Studies. When I spoke with him, he hadn't yet seen the film Amistad, however Spielberg bought the film rights to Thomas' earlier book "Conquest: Cortez, Montezuma, and the Spanish Conquest of Mexico."

I asked Hugh Thomas how common slave rebellions were -- like the rebellion in the film Amistad, which begins with a rebellion on a slave ship.

HUGH THOMAS, HISTORIAN, FORMER PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, CHAIRMAN, CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES, AUTHOR, "THE SLAVE TRADE: THE STORY OF THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE FROM 1440 to 1870": Well, I think that probably one out of every 10 slave voyage from Africa to the New World had some kind of rebellion. But most of them were put down very sharply and usually brutally. Most slave captains thought that there was always a danger of a rebellion while the slave ship was in sight of Africa, and the slaves might have thought that in certain circumstances they might even swim home.

So they -- slaves were usually kept below decks until Africa had completely disappeared. But even so, there were rebellions. The number of rebellions which were successful can be counted on the fingers of one hand, I think, really, because the trouble was that even if you were successful as a slave rebel, and you got your fellow slaves successfully to kill all the Europeans who were forming the crew of the slave ship, then you didn't know what to do. You couldn't necessarily sail -- you couldn't sail your ship back to Africa because you didn't know how to sail.

GROSS: How -- how significant do you find the rebellion on the Amistad in the history of slavery?

THOMAS: Well, I think it was a most unusual occasion in that the rebellion was successful. Of course, it was not a rebellion on a trans-Atlantic shipment. It was a rebellion carried out in coastal waters off Cuba, and the rebels, of course, headed by Cinque, knew perfectly well that they had to have a trained sailor to sail, so they didn't kill him.

And those two Spaniards who were responsible for that sailing back to Africa, as the slaves supposed it was, were of course clever enough to sail their ship up so that it landed off -- it anchored off Long Island. It was rather a brilliant achievement on their part, I must say.

GROSS: What lens do you feel you're looking through in your book The Slave Trade, or I guess to put it another way, what focus have you taken?

THOMAS: Well I hope I've used a balanced lens, if that's the right figure of speech, to give an impression of how the slave trade was founded, managed, and brought to an end. I haven't really sought to find villains. I think there were a lot of villains involved. But I have, I think, developed one or two heroes -- the -- who are chief -- who are -- who are chiefly the abolitionists, I suppose.

On the other hand, those slaves who survived the journey and put pen to paper, like Equiano (ph), is one of my heroes because he tells us what it was like to be a slave, and that's a very rare piece of documentation of great value. Perhaps I should have used a little more, I don't know.

GROSS: I'd like for you to read a quote from an original source that your book begins with. And tell us who wrote what you're about to read and what the significance is.

THOMAS: Well, this passage was written by a Portuguese court historian called Gomez Ynez D'Surara (ph) who was attached to the brother of the King of Portugal, Prince Henry the Navigator, who not only began the great Portuguese journeys down the west coast of Africa in the early 15th century, but also inspired the beginning of the slave trade, since originally he was looking for gold. He didn't find as much of that as he wanted, but instead he brought back men and women as slaves to Portugal.

GROSS: And what is he describing here?

THOMAS: He is describing -- Surara is describing a shipment of slaves in 1444, about 230, who were brought back from what is now Mauritania to Portugal.

GROSS: Would you read the quote to us?

THOMAS: Certainly.

"'What heart could be so hard,'" this contemporary chronicler Surara, a courtier attached to the brother of the King of Portugal, the inventive Prince Henry asked himself. 'As not to be pierced with piteous feeling to see that company. For some kept their heads low and their faces bathed in tears, looking one upon another. Others stood groaning very dolorously, looking up to the height of heaven, fixing their eyes upon it, crying out loudly as if asking help from the father of nature. Others struck their faces with the palms of their hands, throwing themselves at full length upon the ground, while others made lamentations in the manner of a dirge, after the custom of their country.'"

GROSS: The quote that you just read was written in the mid-15th century by a Portuguese court chronicler. The Portuguese...


GROSS: ... the Portuguese were the first Europeans to get involved in the African slave trade, and for a while, the Portuguese were the biggest in the world of slave trade in Europe. Why were the Portuguese the first to get involved? Why did it start in the mid-15th century?

THOMAS: The Portuguese invented the whole business. They were the people who went down the West Coast of Africa looking for gold, perhaps some spices, and actually also for gum and then later ivory. But they brought back slaves continuously from the 1440s onwards, first of all to Europe and then sold them to the Spaniards to take to the New World. And then they themselves took slaves to Brazil from the early 16th century.

Why they were? Well, they were the -- the most prominent maritime power in the Atlantic at that time. The Spaniards, the British, the French were all involved in their own civil wars in the mid-15th century. Portugal had the benefit of peace. They had curiosity. They had maritime skills. They used a great many Italian, principally Genoese, navigators and captains. And they had a maritime tradition based on fishing villages which meant that a very high percentage of their population were concerned with the sea.

GROSS: You say that the first technique that the Portuguese used for capturing Africans and taking them back as slaves was kidnapping. How did they do that?

THOMAS: Well, they simply arrived off a African port or settlement, sent boats from their ship to the shore, and perhaps at night raided a settlement and carried off as many Africans as they possibly could. That procedure really only lasted about 10 years, and by 1450, they were really negotiating their purchase of slaves by exchanging, bartering really, European goods for Africans.

From the very beginning, textiles played a part; so did wine; so did metal bars, to begin with copper and later on iron bars. They didn't -- the Portuguese didn't -- they didn't exchange weapons because they thought that was condemned by the church. It was -- it was illegal from the point of view of the church to carry or to exchange weapons with infidel peoples. Once they Christianized the people concerned, weapons might be exchanged.

GROSS: Now you mentioned that the Portuguese started by kidnapping Africans and bringing back that -- bringing them back as slaves. And then they started buying Africans from merchants in Africa. Who were the slave merchants in Africa at the height of the slave trade?

THOMAS: Well, there were kings like the King of Dahomey or the King of Ashanti. There were merchants of Muslim or other origin. There were also half-breeds, if that's not too offensive a word to use -- people who were half African and half Portuguese or half English or half French.

All the way along the coast of West Africa, there were these families of mulattos who were pretty well established by the 18th century, which I think was the height of the slave trade, and they played a part as middlemen, serving as interpreters, informing the slave captains who came down the state of the market, so to speak. And they also procured slaves for these European colleagues.

So, this was something which was accepted as an institution. Slavery was accepted as an institution in Africa as much as it was by Europeans or by settlers in the Americas.

GROSS: How did the merchants who sold the slaves to the European traders get the slaves?

THOMAS: Well, I think there were four different ways they might have obtained them. Firstly, they might have obtained them as prisoners of war in wars, which might have been no more than raids carried out specifically for the purpose of ensuring slaves.

Secondly, they might have kidnapped slaves, perhaps because of the desire to settle a debt, as I think happened at the beginning of the film Amistad in relation to the slave Cinque. Then, some African monarchies used punishment as a means of obtaining slaves. That's to say if you commit a crime, that you might be enslaved.

And there were occasions when families out of poverty sold their -- their children, or sometimes even themselves for slavery.

GROSS: Were there any rebellions against the African merchants who sold fellow Africans into slavery?

THOMAS: Do you know, I don't think I can think of such an occasion, but there must have been one. Slaves certainly tried to escape their lot in one way or another by escaping. That's why they were usually chained, one to another, on the very often long walks from the African interior to the coast.

But I actually can't remember a rebellion which was successful. The only occasion I think I can recall just at the moment is that when a number of so-called "castle slaves" in the then-Dutch castle of El Mina (ph) in what is now Ghana realized that they were going to be transported across the Atlantic rather than kept in the castle serving the Dutch officials there, they took a step back and collectively took -- collectively committed suicide. They had -- had secreted knives about their persons and this was therefore possible.

GROSS: My guest is Hugh Thomas, author of the new book The Slave Trade. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

If you're just joining us, my guest is Hugh Thomas, a British historian who has written a new book called The Slave Trade.

Now as horrible as conditions were in the places where slaves were held before being sent overseas, the conditions on the slave ships were abhorrent. You say about 12 percent of the Africans on the slave ships died before arriving in Europe.

Would you describe one of the slave ships that you read about and what the conditions were like on that ship?

THOMAS: Well, the average slave ship, I suppose, was about -- no more than about 100 tons burdened. The slaves were kept in a special deck, packed so far as the immediate stages were concerned, that is to say while the ship was in sight of Africa, like -- someone said like "spoons in a drawer," lying on their right side to avoid damage to the heart, as it was supposed. And, they would be normally chained to each other. And the conditions there were filthy and disgraceful.

GROSS: Louis Farrakhan has said that the Jews dominated the traffic in trades -- that they were important in the slave trade. And I'm wondering what information you turned up in relation to that?

THOMAS: Well, I think that's an inaccurate statement because looking at the 18th century, for example, in relation to the United States and to Britain -- and that was the period when the British were chiefly involved and when they were beginning to carry, in fact, more slaves than anybody else, even more than the Portuguese -- the numbers of slave traders or slave merchants in Britain who were Jewish seemed to me to be nil.

As far as the United States was concerned, I think that there were -- there was one firm, that of Aaron Lopez (ph) and his in-laws in Newport, Rhode Island who were of Portuguese-Jewish origin, but that was it. Newport was the biggest United States slave port, financing slave voyages, that is to say. And Lopez seems to me to be the only person who could be regarded as Jewish.

Earlier on, it is fair to say that some converted Jews were dominant in the slave trade in the 16th century in Portugal and in Spain. But a converted Jew was after all someone who presents themself as a Christian. The Inquisition often denied that a converted Jew had really converted himself and often punished them because of secret Judaism.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

THOMAS: But this is -- so far as the 18th and the 19th centuries concerned, is complete myth, really. The slave trade went on until the 1860s as far as Cuba was concerned; as far as Brazil was concerned, to the 1850s. I don't see any signs of any Jewish merchants involved at all. And it is mostly in the 18th or the 19th centuries that most slaves were carried across the Atlantic.

GROSS: What -- what are your biggest questions about how slavery managed to last so long in the Americas?

THOMAS: The demand was greater from the non-North American -- non-United States markets, by far, than it was in North America. That is to say, well over 90 percent of slaves carried across the Atlantic went to Brazil, the Spanish empire, the British or French Caribbean, and only something less than 10 percent -- perhaps only about a 6 percent -- came to British North America or the successor state, the United States.

The reason why it went on for so long was that there were always new possibilities. When, for example, the sugar plantations in Brazil began to decline, there was a demand for slaves in gold and diamond mines. When those began to be exhausted, there was a revival of sugar and then ultimately the development of coffee plantations.

And it was thought always that slaves -- black slaves from Africa -- were the ideal workers in these -- in these places. And the same was true of the sugar plantations in the Caribbean or the cacao or other plantations in Spanish America or, indeed, even in the mines in Mexico.

All those territories introduced vast numbers of slaves for different industrial or agricultural purposes. And they also had demand for slaves for domestic -- as domestic servants who, from the 16th or 17th centuries to the 19th, were used in every maritime town from Boston in the north to Buenos Aires in the south.

GROSS: America has been so totally shaped by the institution of slavery. In your country, England, the British were very big in the slave trade, but they didn't bring Africans back to their own country to be used as slaves. So although the English were great participants in the slave trade, I think your country was shaped in a different way than America was. And I'm wondering if you think that slavery has remained much in the conscience of the British?

THOMAS: No, I think it has not. And it would be a surprise to many English people living now to realize the extent to which their ancestors, or the ancestors of some of them anyway, were involved in such a iniquitous trade as the slave trade for so long, up 'til the time of abolition.

However, I think it's fair to say that the British did turn from supporting the slave trade so substantially into being the most prominent abolitionists. And the debate over abolition in England was extremely moving and interesting, and of course in the end, successful.

GROSS: Hugh Thomas is the author of the new book The Slave Trade.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Hugh Thomas
High: Historian Hugh Thomas has written a new major work on the history of slavery, "The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870." It's based on his 30 years of research in archives and libraries throughout the world. His book includes eyewitness accounts, published for the first time, and an examination of the traders and the countries who profited most. Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a masterful survey." Thomas is a former professor of history and chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies in Britain.
Spec: History; Slave Trade; The Middle Passage; Books; Authors; The Slave Trade
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Slave Trade
Date: DECEMBER 17, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121702NP.217
Head: Surviving Depression
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

A new documentary called "Deep Blue: Surviving Depression" looks at how depression transforms the people who are suffering with it, and how that affects their families. Two of the people who discuss their own bouts with depression are journalist Mike Wallace and writer William Styron, who's the author of a memoir about barely surviving his depression.

Here's Mike Wallace, speaking in the film.



MIKE WALLACE, JOURNALIST: New York City, so much is going on -- all the energy and so forth -- and you just -- you want to turn your back on it because the sunshine means nothing to you at all. Matter of fact, I rather liked gray days. For me, anyway, seasons didn't make any difference; friends didn't make any difference; good food didn't make any difference -- nothing of that sort. It was all -- all you focused on is yourself and how bad you feel and you don't care about what's going on outside. You don't."

GROSS: The documentary Deep Blue was directed by Eames (ph) Yates, Mike Wallace's stepson. It will be shown on HBO Tuesday, January 6.

My guests are Mary Wallace, Mike Wallace's wife, and Rose Styron, who's married to William Styron. Each speaks in the film about the impact of her husband's depression on their marriage.

Mary Wallace says that during her husband's depression, he became like a stranger -- as if he turned into somebody else. I asked her describe some of the ways he was transformed during his depression.

MARY WALLACE, WIFE OF MIKE WALLACE: He really changed completely in that he was so down about everything and so negative and uncommunicative, which he's a very good communicator; and so discouraged about everything. And, that's how he changed. It was just an entirely different person.

GROSS: Rose Styron, did you feel like your husband, William Styron, became like a stranger to you during his depression?

ROSE STYRON, WIFE OF WILLIAM STYRON: In a way, yes, but in a way, no. I think his depression had been coming on for many, many years and he seemed to get more and more remote and uncommunicative. So, when this happened, it was an enlargement of a process that had already begun. But what I found was there was no way to reach him and get him out of it. He took no pleasure in anything. There was no laughter, no joking, no -- there was no personality there whatsoever.

And so, while I first thought it was just a worsening of what had already been there, I suddenly realized that there was a person missing. He wasn't there.

GROSS: Mary Wallace, your husband Mike Wallace in the documentary talks about -- basically how self-absorbed he knows he became during his depression; how nothing going on outside of his head mattered to him at all. Did you interpret that -- before you really understood what was happening -- did you interpret that as selfishness -- as a lack of interest in you?

WALLACE: Oh, you take -- when this happens the first time, even the second time or any time -- even if intellectually you understand it, you do feel it's all your fault because there's -- as Rose says, you can't bring them out of it. And the first thought is: what am I doing wrong? Why isn't it working? You know, I -- that's the thing: you blame yourself for it.

STYRON: You certainly do. You blame yourself for at least 80 percent of it.

GROSS: Did you each try in your own way to bring your husband out of the depression? Or, to try to encourage them to get to see a doctor?

STYRON: Of course. And he went to see one doctor after another, and the diagnoses were not correct and the medicines were too much and in conflict. And then, of course, I wanted him to go to a hospital, but we had to wait a bit for that.

GROSS: Were they treating depression? Or were they treating physical manifestations of the depression?

STYRON: In the beginning, they were all treating physical manifestations, and there were different ones, and none of them seemed to have a clue as to what it really was.

GROSS: What were they? Like exhaustion, headaches, that kind of thing?

STYRON: Oh, exhaustion and headaches were only the beginning of it. But imagined or real symptoms in every part of the body drove him back and back to different doctors.

WALLACE: There's a lot of physical pain, at least in Mike's case. His arms hurt and his legs hurt. And so one immediately thinks, well, maybe something's wrong with his back or, you know, the nerves in his body or something.

STYRON: And all the organs didn't seem to function properly, so there were a lot of doctors who looked at different organs.

WALLACE: And then another thing that happens is sleeplessness, so you think there's some problem there; loss of appetite. So, you know, all sorts of things go through your mind that could be wrong.

STYRON: And sleeplessness leads to all kinds of medications which contribute to worse depression.

GROSS: When you each got the diagnosis for your husband of clinical depression, did that change your outlook on your husband's behavior?

WALLACE: Well, it certainly -- it changed mine.

GROSS: This is Mary Wallace speaking.


STYRON: And it changed mine also.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

STYRON: I was relieved to find out that there was one thing that was wrong, and I was told that it was treatable. So it was a vast relief. It was particularly relief for all our kids -- for everyone in the family -- to put a name to something that had seemed a personal thing to them, too.

And also, we were so ignorant about what was happening -- that Bill was convinced he would never get out of it. And he convinced me of the same thing.

WALLACE: And I think that all people in a clinical depression think it will never, ever end, ever. They just can't see a bright side to anything, it seems.

GROSS: Do you think it ended because of medication?

WALLACE: It did in our case, in Mike's case, and he has said a thousand times he will never stop taking that medication.

STYRON: I think Bill's was helped by the proper medication, but most helped by isolation for seven weeks in a hospital where he didn't have to perform or put a face on. He could just relax into his misery and let the doctors do whatever they needed to. And eventually, the depression lifted.

GROSS: Is it very difficult continuing to love and to help someone who is becoming so withdrawn as to almost be indifferent to you?

WALLACE: Yes, it's very...

STYRON: Yeah, it is hard.

WALLACE: ... easy not to like them at all anymore, and as we said earlier, it's a different person...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

WALLACE: ... and you just can wake up and say: "my gosh, I don't even like him anymore."

GROSS: Well, how did you handle that? I mean, you both stuck with your husbands through the depression.

WALLACE: We did, but most people don't.

STYRON: It's very important that you stick with them. That would be certainly my advice...

WALLACE: Mm-hmm.

STYRON: ... to see it through, since we now know that most depressions do lift, which we didn't know 12 or 13 years ago when this all began. I would certainly say, you know, "stick around" because the person does come back to you and comes back better. I'd been married for so long and our life was so entwined in our family and country living, that there was no question in my mind of leaving.

GROSS: How long are we talking? How long did it take in your husband's case for the depression to lift?

STYRON: Well, from the time it began, although I didn't know what it was, until it lifted totally, I would say about eight months?

WALLACE: Hmm -- I think that's about six or eight months for Mike, too.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. What impact did it have on your self-esteem and self-confidence during this period when you weren't -- when your husband wasn't responding toward you? Wasn't giving you the kind of, like...

WALLACE: Well, it just totally shatters you.

STYRON: Absolutely. Your self-esteem goes right where his goes.

WALLACE: And I would think if somebody had already low self-esteem, which neither of us have...


STYRON: Right. Speak for yourself, Mary.

WALLACE: ... it would -- it would be terrible.

GROSS: Why did your husband's depressions impact on your own self-esteem?

WALLACE: Why did it? Well, if somebody tells you 100 times a day that everything you do is wrong, and that, you know, your house is horrible and you're no fun and that -- I mean, that's how it is...


STYRON: And if there's no way that you can persuade them ever to do anything that you would like to do or that you think would be, you know, pleasing for family, friends or them -- and you just get a flat, negative response -- then your sense of yourself and your worth goes down to the cellar.

GROSS: What would you do to protect yourselves when you were feeling most depressed as a result of living with a very depressed husband?

STYRON: Well, I would go take a walk with my daughter or go commune with nature or invite a friend or two in, hoping it would help. That was the only protection I had from isolation.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

WALLACE: I -- I think -- good thing I didn't do it, but I think a very, very good advice would be to go to a psychiatrist yourself, or a psychologist, and talk about depression.

STYRON: I agree with you.

WALLACE: If you're living with a depressed person, you really get depressed yourself and it may not be a clinical depression, but you should go and talk to somebody or -- or in my case I formed a group of women who had husbands who were depressed, and we hired a psychiatrist and the four or five of us would go and talk to each other, and the psychiatrist would sort of lead us for an hour or two once a week. And that really helped to not be isolated yourself.

GROSS: My guests are Rose Styron and Mary Wallace, who along with their husbands writer William Styron and journalist Mike Wallace, speak in the new documentary Deep Blue: Surviving Depression. It will be shown January 6th on HBO. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

My guests are Rose Styron and Mary Wallace. We're discussing the impact of their husbands' depressions on their marriages. They and their husbands, writer William Styron and journalist Mike Wallace, describe their experiences in the new documentary Dead Blue: Surviving Depression.

From the film, here's William Styron describing depression.


WILLIAM STYRON, AUTHOR, "THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER": I would say that the -- the closest description I can think of to the -- to the overall sense that you have when you are suffering from depression is to be condemned to life. You're condemned to life. It's as if life itself was so painful, and so without pleasure or joy, much less joy, that it's a form of -- a condemnation to be in this state of existence."

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Rose Styron and Mary Wallace.

Now I know you both believe it's important when you're in a family with somebody who's seriously depressed to realize that you're not alone; that this is a condition; it's an illness; and you're not the only one suffering through this -- there are certain patterns. But when you were going through it with your husbands, did you want to protect them by keeping it a secret? And therefore, were you cut off from being able to communicate with other people about the problem?

WALLACE: Well, you are -- you certainly are cut off because they don't want to see anybody. So, you become more and more remote -- the two of you -- and more and more together, but alone. And you're getting -- getting it all the time from them. And that's -- that's what's so hard because you -- you just retire from your friends and everything else. They don't want to be around him either.

STYRON: But it's slightly different in each case, because Bill's was coming on a long time. It seemed to me, I was getting the negative stuff from him for a long time. And when he was really down at the bottom and really needed me, then he was extremely nice and I got very positive feedback which, you know, made me sad and certainly made me love him, but didn't give me a clue as to how I could help.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. But were there things that you had to do to compensate for their lack of energy?

WALLACE: I often had to call people at the last minute and say we weren't coming, and make excuses.

STYRON: Yes, I did a lot of that, too.

WALLACE: And -- and you end up -- it's almost like living with an alcoholic, I would imagine, where they just don't show up at the last minute. You know, and they don't want to go and you do -- you do tend to make excuses for them.

STYRON: Well, Bill had a doctor who told him he should go ahead and do everything that, no matter how awful he felt going to whatever public function he had promised to go to, was good for him. And it was not. And we went to a lot of things which were just a disaster because he was -- he was trying and couldn't make it, and the whole time in his head, he was thinking that he, you know, wanted out of this life, but there he was.

And when it was private things, then of course, we didn't go and I made the excuses.

GROSS: Mary, your son who is Mike Wallace's stepson, says...

WALLACE: Stepson.

GROSS: ... in his movie about depression that he didn't find out about Mike Wallace's condition until -- until much later.

WALLACE: Yeah. Well, Mike -- nobody did. Mike went to work every day...

GROSS: Right.

WALLACE: ... almost.

GROSS: Right.

WALLACE: And he was able to do that. He did it by rote. You know, you just -- if he -- he just did what he always does. And so -- but he was able to do that. But then, that was the -- that's the other thing that can happen is -- in his case, he could go out and appear perfectly normal, although he was in a great deal of pain. But then he'd come home and that's when he'd let go, and I wondered how -- why are you so nice to everybody and then you talk to me this way?

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.


WALLACE: I think that's just awful.

STYRON: It really is awful.


But Bill being a writer, just went into his office every day and didn't produce any good writing, but since he'd take so long to write a book anyway, I think the outside world wasn't aware of anything, except when I tried to force social life on him or the doctor tried to force public life on him, then it was absolutely apparent.

GROSS: You know, your husbands William Styron and Mike Wallace -- they're both very smart people; they're both very articulate people -- they're both in the position of framing things, either through fiction or through journalism. Did they take their own depressions and intellectualize them into an almost like philosophy of life so that it didn't become a problem they had to deal with, but rather like a world-view that they could turn into a little philosophy?

STYRON: That's very good. It's a good question and I hadn't thought of it before, but I think that's true. It was a very negative philosophy. It was no longer just individual gripes with things that were happening in the world. It was a total negative philosophy -- nihilism if you will -- that took over.

GROSS: I'm wondering if your husbands ever went through, you know, suicidal periods and if so how you dealt with that or what advice you were given on how to deal with that?

STYRON: Well, I was told by the doctor, who I thought was a very misguided doctor, that if he was suicidal, which he was -- I would call periodically and say look, you know, he wants to kill himself. That's all he's thinking about. Can I bring him to the hospital? And the doctor would say: "oh, no, just don't let him out of your sight." And that's very bad advice.

WALLACE: Very bad.

GROSS: What would the better advice have been?

STYRON: Bring him to the hospital or go to a psychiatrist yourself and find out how to deal with it.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

STYRON: And bring him to the hospital is what I think it would have been.

WALLACE: I think if you can realize that you haven't caused the depression and you really can't do anything about it, but you can get them help from the right person. And that's the only thing that's going to help them -- and stand by them, of course.


WALLACE: But you can't make them well yourself.

GROSS: How long has it been for each of you since this really bad depression that your husband went through?

STYRON: Oh, it was 1985.

GROSS: That's a long time ago.

STYRON: That's 12 years.

GROSS: Yeah.

STYRON: Both of them. They were, you know, within a month or two of each other.

GROSS: Now, I believe both of your husbands are still on medication, yes?

STYRON: No. Mine is not.

WALLACE: Mine is.

GROSS: Did you -- do you ever feel like you see glimmers of that depressed person peeking through the more healthy person now?

STYRON: Definitely. The interesting thing is that he sees it too. And so it's -- we can anticipate it a little bit and it doesn't go where it might have, because we know so much more now and we're able to balance it.

You know, the one time that he had another little depression and it was, you know, medically -- it was medical anxiety that began it, then he had to have medication again. But since we understood the symptoms and what was happening, I got him to a hospital early.

GROSS: And so has it only been one more episode?

STYRON: For us, yes.

GROSS: And Mary Wallace, what about with you?

WALLACE: Mike has had two more episodes.

GROSS: Were they as bad?


GROSS: Mm-hmm.

WALLACE: No. No, because we knew more then. I'll tell you, no matter how much you know, when it happens, you might think you know everything -- there's not anything a clinically depressed person can do except go and get some help.

GROSS: And -- and you've answered this a little bit, but I'm wondering if you feel that, you know, living with a man who is prone to depression has affected your own moods and your own personalities?

STYRON: Yes, I think it has with me. I think I tended to be a little more serene and a little bit more of a constant optimist, and it's of course caused a great deal of my own self-examination. I think after his depression, I got -- I was pretty down myself for a while. But luckily I have a lot of very supportive grownup kids and they sort of helped me out of that, as did Bill.

But yes, I think it's definitely changed my personality. It's made me more cautious. It's made me want to stay home and close to Bill more than I would have before. It's made me say no to things I might have said yes to that would have taken me far off for a long period, 'cause I work abroad a great deal and it's human rights. And I don't go in for all the stuff I used to.

GROSS: And Mary Wallace, how do you think, you know, living with depression -- someone else's depression -- has affected your own moods and your own personality?

WALLACE: Well, it's -- it's -- I had never known anybody like that. It just -- it's another dimension entirely. And you can recognize it in other people sometimes. It's just a whole new dimension in life, and I think -- I think good things have come out of it for all of us. I know Mike is very much more understanding of other people's problems...

STYRON: And so is Bill.

WALLACE: ... and so, that's good.

GROSS: Well, I really want to thank you very much for talking with us.

STYRON: Well, thank you.

WALLACE: Yeah, thank you. This has been very interesting.

GROSS: Rose Styron and Mary Wallace -- they and their husbands William Styron and Mike Wallace are among the people profiled in the new documentary Dead Blue: Surviving Depression which will be shown on HBO Tuesday, January 6.

Coming up, Christmas on South Park. This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Mary Wallace; Rose Styron
High: A 1995 study by the American Psychiatric Association reports that families play a significant part in the recovery of depressed people. Mary Wallace and Rose Styron are the wives of journalist Mike Wallace and writer William Styron, who both suffered from bouts of depression. They'll talk about what it was like to help their husbands through depression. Mike Wallace and William Styron will appear in the upcoming documentary "Dead Blue: Surviving Depression."
Spec: Health and Medicine; Depression; Media; Literature; William Styron; Mike Wallace
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Surviving Depression
Date: DECEMBER 17, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121703NP.217
Head: South Park Reviewed
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Tonight on Comedy Central, the controversial animated TV series "South Park" presents its first Christmas special. TV critic David Bianculli has a review.

DAVID BIANCULLI, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Christmastime is a special time for South Park because the show got its start and its big break because of this holiday season. A few years ago, a Fox TV executive commissioned two young talents, Tres Parker (ph) and Matt Stone (ph), to create a funny video Christmas card he could send to friends.

Parker and Stone got an animation camera and a lot of construction paper and turned out a five minute short called "The Spirit of Christmas." It told of a small group of grade-school kids and it was intentionally and outrageously irreverent. These cartoon kids were no rug-rats. They swore up a storm; some died horrible deaths; and the subject of this holiday video was a fist-fight between Santa Claus and Jesus about the true meaning of Christmas.

That cartoon was nasty and funny enough to have it make the Hollywood rounds quickly, and to have friends make copies for other friends. Before long, Spirit of Christmas was the most bootlegged offering since Bob Dylan's "Great White Wonder." But it was too raw and offensive ever to be shown on television.

That's where Comedy Central came in, and asked Parker and Stone if they could tone down the idea just enough for advertiser-supported cable TV. They did. And in August of this year, South Park, the TV series, was born.

Tonight's Christmas episode is only the 10th original installment of South Park to run on Comedy Central. But already, it's the network's all-time most popular series. Here's a good taste of why. To start off tonight's show, South Park presents a rehearsal for a Christmas pageant that lifts directly from the Bible recitation given by Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas."


CARL: Lights please?

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields
Keeping watch over their flock by night
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them
And they were so afraid
And the angel said unto them:
"Fear not, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy
For born unto you this day in the city of David is a Saviour,
Who's Christ the Lord
Glory to God in the highest
And on Earth, peace, goodwill towards men

And now, South Park Elementary presents "The Birth of Jesus."


C'mon Mary, push
Ahh, I can see its head


It's a boy

KENNY: (Unintelligible).

DIRECTOR: Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait -- Carl, what the hell was that? You need to hold the baby by the legs, not by the head. What kind of sick weirdo are you?

CARL: Sorry.

DIRECTOR: And Wendy, I'm still not believing the labor pains.


BIANCULLI: In South Park, things never go too nicely. The kids go outside to catch falling snowflakes on their tongues, just as the "Peanuts" kids did. And even do it to piano music suspiciously similar to Vince Giraldi's (ph) classic jazz score for that show.

But this time, a bird flying overhead ruins the festive mood by dropping something other than a snowflake. That's the first, but by no means the last, scatological reference in this particular South Park. In fact, the episode surrounds an allegedly mythical holiday creature called "Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo" (ph). He's a slender little brown guy with a Santa Claus hat who, according to legend, emerges each Christmas from the toilet bowl to reward all those with high-fiber diets.

I know, it sounds disgusting. It is disgusting. But it's also very funny and there's an energy to the irreverence that makes South Park a treat, even during the holiday season -- especially during the holiday season.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: TV Critic David Bianculli previews tonight's presentation of South Park on cable TV's Comedy Central.
Spec: Media; Television; Comedy; South Park
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: South Park Reviewed
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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