Growing up, I always felt a little different. Even though I was smart and athletic and had a lot of friends, I could never shake the thought that I was inferior. That I didn’t matter. That if I just disappeared, no one would miss me.
It wasn’t until years later I realized I was suffering from depression. I started having suicidal thoughts in my early teens. Nothing that I acted on, but it was always there in the back of my mind. Preying upon my fears.
But perhaps I should back up a little.
My mother shot and killed herself when I was eight years old. I remember that day. My brother and I were playing in the basement of our home. To this day I can’t decide if I heard the shot, or if that’s just my memories playing tricks on me. In any case, my father found the body and rushed us out of the house. My brother and I waited at a neighbor’s home for a couple hours until the emergency vehicles had left. Then our father came and told us the news.
I remember my father crying as he told us. I remember feeling bad about it, but not being able to summon up any authentic sorrow. It wasn’t until many years later that I really cried about her death. As I got older, I questioned whether my depression stemmed from her suicide, or whether it had always been there, deep inside me like an evil seed.
As time went on, I learned to cope with these feelings. But as writer, I am obsessed with finding the reasons behind things, of shedding the rationales to glimpse the heart of a matter. So it’s no wonder that many of my stories include or touch upon personal loss.
In my first published novel, the main character lost his parents when he was young. And that loss remained tied to the core of his personality well into adulthood. In the sequels, the character tracks down what happened all those years ago and tries to make sense of what his life has become. In another series, the main character has lost his wife and young child in a terrible accident. Guilt and loss haunt him throughout the story.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Psychology to understand that I was seeking catharsis in these stories. Writing can be a source of healing. Although I’ll never know all the reasons why my mother ended her life, I can explore those feelings in my stories, and I suppose it gives some measure of comfort. But what really helps is the aspect of sharing these experiences, even in fictional form. Depression feeds on isolation and loneliness, making us feel abandoned in the middle of a crowd. Sharing counteracts that isolation. Every time I reveal this pain, its hold on me diminishes.
Also, writing about these flawed characters teaches me that I don’t need to be perfect to have value. Even heroes suffer loss and loneliness. There is strength to be found in the struggle.
I want to thank you for reading this. Exploring these feelings isn’t easy or particularly pleasant, but it’s necessary. We aren’t alone. We aren’t invisible. And people do care about us, even when we have a hard time seeing it. By standing together, we push back the darkness and hold onto the light.
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, Hope 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 (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight