I do not suffer from mental illness, but I love people
When I first heard of this #HoldOnToTheLight project, I
was excited to support it. The most important people in my life suffer from
anxiety and depression, but I cannot imagine a blinding anxiety attack or a paralyzing
depression. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe things
would be okay. The thought of losing that part of myself terrifies me.
I am not suggesting that those of us who don’t struggle
with mental illness somehow suffer a much as those who do. But for many of us,
knowing how to help is difficult. Do I keep telling her it will be okay? Or is
that only making it worse? Do I encourage him to believe that his anxiety is misplaced
or unnecessary? Or do I agree that it is scary, even if, to me, it isn’t? Or
are all of my ideas for “help” useless, or worse, harmful?
My biggest fear: what if I make it worse?
When I love someone, I want them (yes, I use the singular
they and them) to be happy. When they have problems, I want to be part of their
solutions. When they suffer, I want to comfort them. When they hurt, I want to
heal them (and then find the person/thing that hurt them and have words).
But for those of us outside looking in—for those of us
trying to help—it can seem impossible. Our culture doesn’t make it any easier,
either. If my person had a broken leg, a nasty little voice in my head and
heart wouldn’t whisper, Why can’t they do
this? It isn’t that hard! If they just decided to [whatever]they could.
Even when I know—in my heart of hearts and in my brain—that no one suffering
from mental illness chooses to do so,
I still sometimes get frustrated or angry.
And then, once I’m frustrated or angry, I hate myself.
How can I be angry at something that this person didn’t cause? How could I be
such an asshole?
Caring is exhausting. Knowing that it is an uphill fight
for a person I love and that there is nothing I can do to take the burden from
them is painful. If I let exhaustion take over—if I allow myself to get too
tired, to spend too much energy in too many places, and ignore what I need—then
I will be a shitty partner, child, friend.
I cannot fix the problems.
Accepting that is devastating. When I know that I would
do anything to make the suffering stop, but there isn’t anything I can do, it
is nearly impossible to not feel helpless and hopeless.
So for those of you out there who, like me, may have
found this cause because you want so badly to help someone you love, you aren’t
alone. It is okay to get tired, to get frustrated, to get cranky. It is okay to
get angry, too. It’s okay to take time to recharge, to focus on your own needs
and not neglect them.
We know that depression and anxiety seem an impenetrable
darkness. We know that they are lonely and frightening. We know that they lie.
We struggle to help our loved ones hold onto the light
because we do not want to face our darkness without them, and we will not let
them face their darkness alone. Even on the days we lose our tempers or our
hope, we will not lose our grip on the light.
We do not suffer from mental illness. But we love people
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.
I love ConCarolinas. The first time I went was in 2008—one
of my first cons ever, and certainly the most influential. There I met a bunch
of folks—Misty Massey, David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, Edmund
Schubert, AJ Hartly—who really made a difference in my writing life. Through
them I found Magical Words, a website that did more for my writing than practice itself.
At that time, I hadn’t published anything yet—my first
short story sale would come some months later. My first editing job was still a
year off. The novel Sarah and I had in hand was .. well ... it's hard to find the right words. So
I’ll go with the novel was so bad that, while I have a copy of it, I never want to read it
This year at ConCarolinas, 8 years later, I’ve edited for
a small (now gone) erotica press, sold several short stories, co-edited three
collections (the Big Bad, the Big Bad II, and Tales from the Weird Wild West) and a fourth one (Lawless Lands) . I’ve submitted a ton of
other things—stories, novels, queries—and gotten a lot of rejections. Oh, and Sarah and I signed a four-book contract with John Hartness (who I met at a
later CC!) of Falstaff Books for the Eisteddfod
Chronicles. This weekend I got to give away postcards with a link to the
(free!) first chapter of Changeling’s
Fall, the first book in the series.
While that in and of itself was great, other things made
CC incredibly special. As always, I got to see many of my writer friends from
all over the US and Canada, and, as always, there wasn’t nearly enough time to
There were two panels in particular that I was on that I
really enjoyed and felt were really important. The first, Impostor Syndrome moderated by David B. Coe, was about the crippling doubt that so many writers
experience. John Hartness, Rod Belcher, and Andrea Judy were also on the panel
with me. Everyone told raw stories about being sure that they
weren’t for real—that whatever got them where they were must have been luck, or
a horrible, horrible mistake that would eventually be exposed. We also talked
about how we get over it. (We don’t. We find ways through it, but we’re never
done feeling it!)
The second panel was called Hell Hath No Fury, and was
about the (over) use of rape as a trope. The panel was well attended for 10:00
on a Saturday night, and while we were all pretty tired, we still had a great
conversation. Janine K. Spendlove moderated and Misty Massey, Natania Barron, and
Leigh Perry all were excellent. We determined, as Janine pointed out at the end,
that rape is bad. Also bad is the use of rape without any care to the actual
reality or the ramifications experienced by women. In particular, the use
of rape as a means of furthering a man’s story without treating the woman as anything but a plot device, is both typical and problematic. We also agreed that eliminating
rape from storylines isn’t the solution, particularly given the prominence of
it in most women’s lives today.
All the panelists treated delicate and potentially volatile
subjects with respect and professionalism. I was glad to be a part of both of
them and hope that we continue to have conversations like this outside of
convention panels, too.
ConCarolinas will always be close to my heart, both
because I entered the world of writing genre fiction there and because
the people make it amazing every year. So thanks to all of the organizers (and
Misty Massey in particular for the Writers Track) and all the guests and all
the attendees. I already can’t wait for next year!