Tag Archives: #HoldOnToTheLight

Why Fandom is My Family, and Family Don’t End With Blood

I don’t usually write blog posts that are about someone else’s book. BUT–Lynn Zubernis asked for my ‘thinky thoughts’ about her new book, Family Don’t End With Blood, so here I go.

The story so far….Lynn runs the Fangasm Supernatural fan site and is @FangasmSPN on Twitter. She’s very active at SPN conventions and both she and Laurena Aker of the WinchesterFamilyBusiness site are pillars of the Supernatural fandom community. Family Don’t End With Blood is Lynn’s new book about how Supernatural–the show, the characters, the actors and the fandom–changed lives and helped people through depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, grief, physical challenges, self-harm and other issues. It includes interviews with actors, fans and others who are part of the SPNFamily.

IMG_0078I knew I was in trouble when I choked up on the introduction. Trust me when I say I’m not a big crier. I was teary before I was even into the first essay. Not sad tears, but that sense you get when you come home and know it.

I’ve talked candidly about how fandom saved my life when I was 15. And I’ve also talked about why, in these frightening and unstable times, we fans need each other and our fandoms more than ever. And I’ve also shared how Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles’ #AlwaysKeepFighting (#AKF) campaign via the Supernatural fandom inspired me to pull together 100 science fiction/fantasy authors for the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign.

Fandom has been part of my life since I was about 15. Now that I’m an author of epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk, I’m not only a fan, but I’m up on the stage on panels, talking about how we create the worlds readers escape into, as well as other fannish interests. Most of my friends are involved in fandom at some level or another, either as pros or fans–or both. I travel for about 15 sci-fi/fantasy conventions a year all over the U.S. and sometimes Canada. I am writing eight novels this year, plus some short stories and novellas. I spend most of my waking hours surrounded by the characters in my books. So I take fandom very seriously.

I came late to the party on Supernatural, diving into the show during late S11 and got completely caught up on all eleven seasons plus all the tie-in books (and reading more fan fiction than I will admit to sober) by the start of Season 12. I haven’t gone this deep into a fandom since the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. And gradually, I came to understand why.

I knew about Supernatural because one of my daughters had watched it when the show first came out and she said I would like it. Then last April, all of a sudden it seemed like the right time to start in. I was hooked from the start, and we binge watched a couple of episodes each night. Little did I know that I was also just heading into a storm of personal upsets and set backs that still hasn’t fully worked its way out. I found myself getting immersed in the show–and then the books and the fan fiction–as a way to hang on.IMG_0347

One of the first ways Supernatural changed me happened when I saw how much good came out of the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign. I was really impressed that Jared and Jensen and Misha would use their platform to do something so personal and important. That got me thinking. Writers aren’t famous like actors, but our books create the worlds that inspire TV shows and movies–we create the genre. I know a lot of writers, and I also knew that we all had our own demons. So I asked 100 of my author friends if they would be willing to write a post on their own blogs about how mental health issues like depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety, self-harm, etc. had affected them, someone they loved, their characters and their writing. I called it #HoldOnToTheLight, and the goal was to decrease the stigma about mental health issues within fandom, to stand in solidarity with fans, and to encourage readers to seek help. You can find more about #HoldOnToTheLight and the master post of blogs at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com. We also encouraged convention runners to add panels on mental health to con programming or to expand/promote panels they already offered. The list of cons with those panels is growing, and now includes GenCon (approx. 70K attendees) and Dragon*Con (approx 80K attendees).

But Supernatural wouldn’t let me go–and going through a personal rough patch, I dove in deeper. I found my way into online fandom, first by immersing myself in fan fiction, fan videos and art, and then gradually getting involved in the lively, ongoing conversation on Twitter.

That’s how I met Nightsky, and as we chatted–first with tweets, then direct messages, then emails–she asked me to do a guest blog post for Winchester Family Business based on some comments I’d made. Then I was heading to Chicago to a non-SPN convention, and we agreed to meet up between my panels. We ended up spending most of the day together and having a wonderful dinner, and then continuing the conversation via email afterwards. I’ve written another guest blog since then for WFB and might do so again. Along the way, I started to live tweet the new episodes, and met even more fans. Now going out on Twitter is a highlight and social point of my day, responding to conversations, posting photos and memes, and enjoying the SPNFamily’s online companionship. I’m still not through that rough patch, but the SPNFamily is helping me hang on–they mean more to me than I can express, and I hope I can pay the favor forward.

There’s one more reason Supernatural is so special to me, and I didn’t realize it until I was well into season six.

Sam and Dean faced down the specter that dominated my childhood and convinced me that I would never live long enough to become an adult: the Apocalypse.

Now maybe that sounds strange. But I grew up in a church that expected the literal Biblical Apocalypse/Rapture/Armageddon to happen any day. And simultaneously, my parents were involved in the far right’s conspiracy-fueled underground expecting a Communist take-over (a la the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Stalin’s purges) to happen at any time. (Note: I disavowed both these religious and political views decades ago, but they unquestionably warped my childhood and framed my world view as a child/adolescent.)

IMG_0106One of my favorite books as a child and pre-teen was Clarence Larkin’s The Greatest Book of Dispensational Truth. It was–I kid you not–an illustrated, fold-out guide to the Apocalypse that did not consider itself to be fiction. If you wonder where Supernatural got its horsemen, Leviathans, the Witnesses, the Seals, the Whore of Babylon, the Beast, the AntiChrist and so much more–it’s all in there, in pictures. Larkin and John Nelson Darby popularized the Rapture and Armageddon mythos by reading several prophetic books of the Bible (Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation as well as the apocryphal book of Enoch–yes, it’s where Enochian comes from) and interpreting them outside of generally accepted methods of textual criticism and archeological/cultural study. In other words, they in a sense wrote fan fiction of the Bible, and it stuck.

When these frightening images are part of what all the adults around you accept as real and inevitable, it is terrifying to a child–like finding out that the monster under the bed is real. It was too big to handle, and the only advice from adults was just to make sure my soul was ok when it came my time to die.

At the same time, my parents got pulled into a secretive network of conspiracy theorists who believed that Communists had infiltrated the world governments at every level and that–any day now–we were all either going to die or be imprisoned in gulags. One of my earliest memories is my mom coaching me on how to behave when the day came that we would be taken to a prison camp. I think I was around four or five.

My uncle got us into it. He had been in infantry and then tanks in World War II and saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge. I believe he returned with severe PTSD, which went untreated and unacknowledged, and I think it made him vulnerable to the nightmarish scenarios of the conspiracies. My uncle’s friends were also WWII vets. They passed information via short-wave radio (no internet back in the 1970s), through secret get-togethers, and by word of mouth–always wary that ‘They’ were watching.

IMG_0107So I grew up with people who stockpiled ammo and hid guns in the walls of their houses, who had bunkers and safe houses, who talked about keeping a stash of silver coins on hand so that when–not if–the banks collapsed and currency lost its value, we could run and go to ground. I grew up with caches of freeze-dried food–enough to last five years–and survivalist tactics and friends who trained their kids to strip a gun blindfolded. My uncle and his friends saw themselves as the thin gray line of sentries in a war against evil, willing to die for a cause kept secret because others would think it was crazy.

I don’t think John Winchester and Bobby Singer would have shared the political views of my uncle and his friends, but they could have walked into the room and had a drink with them and understood those guys. They were damaged men, trying to do the best they could, protecting the people they loved.

Shedding those two pervasive world views that had shaped my understanding of reality nearly destroyed me as a teenager in my college years. Fandom and my early attempts at writing the novel which would someday become The Summoner kept me alive. Back then, I discovered I could entertain and amuse my friends by writing fan fiction for Star Wars, Star Trek, Space: 1999 and other shows. We passed the typed or hand-written stories around at convention room parties in the early 1980s. For a short time, I even ran a fanzine.

I belonged in fandom the way I didn’t ever belong in my birth family, at my church, at my college or with most of the people I knew growing up. Inside fandom, I was safe. Inside fandom, people understood and liked the same things I did, they got the jokes and the catchphrases. They validated, affirmed and encouraged. We might have been freaks to the outside world, but we were freaks together.

When I started watching Supernatural, I didn’t realize the connection at first. Then one day, it hit me and I was poleaxed. Sam and Dean faced down my personal bogeyman–the Apocalypse–and survived. Scarred, yes, but still standing and stronger than before. True heroes.

So when I read Lynn’s awesome book and the essays by creators, actors and fans alike about the strength and healing of the fandom family, I totally understand. I cherish my time at conventions when I can be with my tribe–although the events at which I’m a panelist are general sci-fi/fantasy cons instead of the SPN cons (which do sound like a lot of fun). I’m so thrilled that because of Supernatural, a much larger group of people have come into fandom and found that refuge. We all find our corner of fandom, whether it’s books, movies, TV shows, cosplay, gaming, LARP, comics, filk music, art or a mix of all of those.

One of the most affirming thing you can hear as an author is that your book and characters got someone through a hard time. I have read books by favorite authors that got me through depression, loneliness, deaths in the family, and stressful circumstances. And my most cherished notes from readers are the ones who tell me that my books kept them company at the bedside of a dying loved one, got them through two tours of duty in Afghanistan, or otherwise helped them survive hard times.

As Lynn shares in her book, that two-way support is taken to a whole new level of special with the Supernatural fandom and its creators and actors. I’ve seen that kind of support in action, and I know how powerful it can be, and how wonderful it is to belong to a community that welcomes you and encourages you to be your real self.

I’ve felt that welcome myself as a newcomer to SPNFamily–take a look at my Twitter feed, It’s turned Twitter into one of my favorite activities. I look forward to seeing what new wonderful comments and photos my SPNFamily is going to share that day, and enjoy trying to return the favor. Getting adopted by this wonderful group of people has meant a lot to me.

So go buy Lynn’s book. Give it to a friend who needs encouragement. But even more importantly, continue being the wonderful fandom and SPNFamily you already are and be there for each other. Because family really doesn’t end with blood–in the end, our true families are the people we choose.

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Filed under Books, Conventions, Fandom, Gail Z. Martin

In the Dark Hours of the Night–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Charles E. Gannon

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Hold On To The Light is probably advice that all of us c/should live by. But for those whose lives have been harrowed by one or more mental/emotional/behavioral challenges, this phrase achieves the status—and significance—of a mantra. Because in the dark hours of the night, when sleep does not come to draw its blackout curtain across the notional gargoyle-presences spawned by those challenges, the afflicted have only one recourse: determination and raw guts, anchored to the light of a seemingly distant hope, seen at the end of a long tunnel of isolation.

We all have some experience with that outlook. There is no broken heart, no worrisome diagnosis, or pending medical test, that has not cost us a night’s sleep, somewhere along the timeline of our existence. But I dedicate what I have included below to those who daily awaken to the knowledge that they are once again rising into a state of siege: that the adversary cannot be surgically removed or excised, and that their battle is endless, for that foe is always ready to pounce upon any loss of resolve, any sideways stumble, any weakness.

I have seen numerous family members grapple with many such conditions. And if the bestiary of those adversaries is diverse—depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, any of the conditions now linked under the unified genera “autism spectrum”, more—these variform demons all evince this dark commonality: that those whom they haunt must live with a weight that they cannot shed. Rather, their victims can only carry the burden with as much determination, strength, and grace as human nature allows.

This excerpt from the forthcoming web-serialized novel The Gathering Storm (with Eric Flint, Kevin J. Anderson, and Marko Kloos), is my brief, awkward attempt to honor all their ongoing struggles in the form of one veteran’s battle with PTSD and addiction.

*     *     *

Opium. Reflex turned Conrad von Harrer’s head toward his battered wooden night table. Resting on the stained top, a cracked and yellowed meerschaum imp adorned the Hungarian-made bowl he had purchased for his opium pipe. His two eyes locked on the imp’s one. If only he could outstare it, then he could reject it. But the meerschaum imp was like the opium; the more one tried to defy it, the more one realized that there was nothing to defy except oneself. It was a game, the type a child plays when trying to trick its own reflection in a mirror.

A honey-thick torpor overcame von Harrer while his gaze was still fixed on the pipe. Time passed and the difference between seconds and minutes—or hours—became indistinct, meaningless. He watched as the imp’s face lost its yellowish glaze, gradually deepened to amber as the sun moved from the center of the sky toward the horizon. The one laughing eye still glared upward: puckish, sardonic, leering. A leer like those worn by the fire-bleached skulls outside Mafeking, Kimberley, and in the ruins of Johannesburg: leers which evoked no mirth, only desolation.

When Conrad’s eyes once again showed him the world of the present, he saw that the last light was fading, giving way to darkness. The orange sun had grown larger and murkier, diffusing itself across the light-smeared horizon. On his first approach to Al Qahira, von Harrer had tarried to sit on the sands at Giza and watch the sunset glaze the pyramids: fading triangles that sat squat and timeless on the horizon. His mind’s eye could still make out the cowl of the sphinx, the faint light limning its supine contours. It was an enigmatic posture, a recline that did not suggest rest but, rather, endless watching. A pitiless gaze which had seen the death of many an age, perhaps many a species. It was easy to believe that such blank eyes had always looked out on barrenness, knew nothing else, could augur nothing else.

Von Harrer let his own gaze slip from the window and back into the room, rolling like a lazy ball from one empty corner to another. His eyes touched the spaces that had once been occupied by his possessions: a lamp with crystal pendants, a little mahogany liquor cabinet, a roll-top desk, and a dresser. Faint shadows on the floor marked their old territories, darker where the boards had been spared the bleaching stare of the sun.

All gone now. All gone to the same place. He turned his eyes back to the meerschaum pipe-bowl. All gone there.

Cravings jumped up at the thought, the sight, of the pipe. The meerschaum eyes laughed, invited: just once more.

He turned away, looked at the bare wall on the opposite side of  his bed. He could still feel that mocking leer boring into his back, the dull ivory eyes promising: you’ll almost forget.

You’ll almost forget the clusters of dart-shaped steel rods that screamed down from nearly twenty miles above Johannesburg, glowing with heat when they impacted, the ground vomiting upward in waves, shot through with flame—right before the blast knocked everything flat.

You’ll almost forget the airships hovering out of rifle range, dropping bomb after bomb, only leaving to get more from Rhodes’ secret arsenals of death, hidden safe behind the British lines.

You’ll almost forget the endless litter of civilian dead on the retreat back through what was left of Johannesburg, particularly the children, their little bodies blown apart by the concussive forces, their little heads—blonde, brown, and black—rolled up against walls or into ditches like those of decapitated dolls.

You’ll almost forget the defeat, the camps, the dysentery, the hunger, the vengeful African guards and, finally, the stumbling silhouettes of the internees who were evicted due to disease or frailty. Within the first one hundred yards, each one unfailingly attracted a loping cluster of cape dogs or jackals, whose patience was invariably rewarded by a taste of human flesh.

But opium’s promise of forgetfulness was a lie. The memories never evaporated; they were simply disordered. Even when his head was filled to the point of nausea with the musk-sweet fumes, visions of the past always trespassed upon the present. But instead of complete scenes of the so-called Greater Boer Insurrection, they came as splintered flashes of carnage, each image frozen onto a shard of the shattering mirror that was his mind, his memories.

*     *     *

For those interested, The Gathering Storm is set in 1903, but in a world where a single alteration of physics—that the Michaelson-Morley experiment at Carnegie Mellon did in fact detect the expected existence of aether—began changing history in the 1880s. The aether-assisted air-craft and even space-craft changed history in this universe where alternate physics has created a Dark Edwardian downturning. Characters as diverse as Churchill, Tesla, Wells, Roosevelt, Rhodes move among the shadows of a past tinctured by both streampunk and hard sf sensibilities.

I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it, starting in 2017.    ——Chuck Gannon

cegannonprofilepicAbout the author: Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English at St. Bonaventure University, where he was the Director of Graduate English until he became a full-time author in 2007. A Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Literature and Culture from 2004 to 2009, his most recent non-fiction book is “Rumors of War and Infernal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda Setting in American and British Speculative Fiction.” Now in second edition, it won the 2006 American Library Association Award for Outstanding Book, and was the topic of discussion when he was interviewed by NPR (Morning Edition).

Among various media appearances, his most recent was as an expert commentator on The Discovery Channel’s second installment of its premier series “Curiosity”.  Along with 45 other SF writers (such as David Brin, Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Bruce Sterling), he is a member of SIGMA, the “SF think-tank” which has advised various intelligence and defense agencies since the start of the millenium (including the Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, DARPA, Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and several agencies which may not be disclosed). For more information on SIGMA and its work, go to www.sigmaforum.org .

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The Other End of the Situation–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Stuart Jaffe

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When I was first asked to write this blog post for #HoldOntoTheLight, I agreed without hesitation. Then I tried to write this thing. But it hurt, so I put it away. I tried again, sitting in my office, thinking, staring at the screen. But I couldn’t. Not yet. Put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. By the time other authors had started posting, I should have had this done. I read their blogs, saw how open and honest many of them were, but still, I couldn’t.

I finally decided that hey, I’m a writer. I should be able to do this in some form that works for me — like fiction. So I wrote a thousand-word piece about a man and a woman reaching the point where they realized they had a trauma to deal with.

And I shelved it.

See, the problem here isn’t that I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything of the sort. The problem is that the depression I deal with on a daily basis is not mine. I don’t want to betray a trust. I don’t even know if I have to right to discuss the issues of a depression that isn’t mine.

What I can discuss, however, is what it is like to be on the other end of the situation. I can reach out to the spouses, parents, and friends of those who suffer.

Because we suffer, too.

We are just as caught in a world of silence and sadness. We are the ones making excuses for our loved one’s absence at parties, events, and family gatherings. We are the ones running interference between our loved one and the demands of the world. We take on the tasks and burdens of two. And we hurt when we see the dark place our loved one has gone to, when we reach out to help and nobody reaches back, when day after day turns to year after year and it gets harder to maintain a connection.

It’s like watching an enormous ship — a life — slowly sinking in the ocean. We want to help. We try to help. But we rarely have the ability to jump aboard and patch the holes. Even when it seems like we can succeed, those holes reopen the moment we step away.

We’re stuck watching.

I’ve been fortunate, so far. My loved one is still alive. But for many, that ship sinks. Many watch as depression ends in suicide. And regardless of what outcome we find ourselves in, we feel guilty. Because no matter what, we always think we can do more than watch. No matter how often we try, no matter how often we are rejected, no matter how many slivers of good days we cling to, in the end, we can only stand there, hold out our hands, and hope that our love will raise a hand to reach back. We can watch and wait.

And we do.

That is the thing I want those of you with depression or PTSD or any mental illness to understand. We are there for you. We are holding your hands. We want you back. So much that we’ll suffer for you, too. We don’t give up on you. Ever. So, you shouldn’t either.

Because that’s the way love works.

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 https://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

stuart-jaffe-headshot2014About the author:

Stuart Jaffe is the author of the Nathan K fantasy-thrillers, The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, the Gillian Boone novels, FoundersReal Magic and After The Crash as well as the short story collections, 10 Bits of My Brain and 10 More Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

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Unlocked–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post from Tracy Chowdhury

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“Are you big, hairy, and scary?”

I’ll never forget those words as long as I live, words asked to me by the meanest girl in my class back in 5th, maybe 6th grade. I don’t really recall anymore since I’ve long forgotten most of those two years of my life.

“Well? Are you?”

“N…no.”

The girl laughs. “So you don’t have any pubic hair yet? You’re not developing?” More laughter.

My face becomes red with embarrassment. Of course I was. Wasn’t everybody at that age?

A few days later the same girl approaches me. Her eyes twinkle. “Are you big, hairy and scary?”

I know the right answer this time even though it seems so wrong. “Y…yes.”

The girl laughs raucously. “Eeew, that’s gross.” She leans in close and deepens her voice. “You are BIG and HAIRY!” Other kids standing nearby snicker at my expense and I crinkle my nose because her breath stinks.

The girl approaches me for a couple more days after that, but I ignore her. Finally she leaves me alone, but those aren’t the only taunts I received as a young girl in elementary school. Rather, they were only one of many, meted out by both the kids, AND the teachers.

I think back on it now and I’m sad. I was that puny kid that let everyone pick on her and kick around like she was a piece of trash. I was that ugly girl, the weird one that liked unicorns, dragons, and faraway places. I was the girl who wore her mother’s old clothes because they made her feel better during the hardest days at school, the one who daydreamed in class, praying that one day she would be away from that place. I was that dumb girl that made bad grades and felt like she was nothing.

Looking back, I realize that I just didn’t feel like I was nothing. I WAS nothing.

Fast forward to the end of my senior year in high school. Somehow I had managed to drag myself out of that hole. I was on the honor roll, had friends, and had even managed to bag myself a college boyfriend. But in my eyes, I was still that dumb girl because I had to study so hard, and I wondered what was wrong with my boyfriend because he liked someone who wasn’t all that pretty.

Fast forward through college, the first years of my marriage, and having my children. I knew I suffered from bouts of depression because I was medicated for it after the birth of my first son. That was scary, because I was either unable, or unwilling, to take care of myself.

Fast forward a few more years. I had my fourth child….and I became terribly ill. The stomach pain was hideous, and I was in the bathroom all the time. I went to the doctor. They ran multitudes of tests only to finally settle on IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I saw a couple more doctors and they determined the same. However, it was one of the last ones that told me she wanted me to do something other than take a bunch of meds. She wanted me to do something about my mental health, determined that much of my problem was because of that.

I resisted. I mean, who wants to believe they have a mental illness? But I did it. I went to see a psychiatrist. It was only in his office that I remembered my struggles at school, not just with the kids and my grades, but my anxiety. Every day was an epic battle to talk myself up enough just to function. Everything was stressful, especially how I’d deal with the other people I’d see there. I always felt like I was alone, with no one to tell my fears. And I was sad.

I never told Mom and Dad. I didn’t realize I had anything to tell them.

I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. Instead of getting those manic highs I get intense anxiety. My lows are clinical depression. I’ve been taking medication for a few years now, and it feels like a part of me has become unlocked, the part that was always afraid to stick up for herself.

The days of being kicked around like trash are over.

I’m glad that someone finally told me to seek help. My IBS isn’t gone, but it’s better because I’m not struggling with debilitating anxiety every day. The depression is still there, but manageable.
For everyone out there like me- never give up. You never know what may lie unlocked within you, just waiting to be freed.

About the author: Tracy Chowdhury is the author of Shadow Over Shandahar – Child of Prophecy and Warrior of Destiny. She is the co-author of Dark Mists of Ansalar – Blood of Dragons, and is a contributing author to the anthologies, Missing Pieces – Volume 1 and Missing Pieces – Volume 2.

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 https://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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One Rock at a Time–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

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In ancient times one form of execution was to pin the accused down and pile rocks on them until they died. Until they were literally crushed and the breath squeezed out of them.

This is an excellent analogy for depression. Elements of life pile on to a person until they just cannot bear up anymore. It isn’t always constant, and for each person the “rocks” are something different, heck…for the same person the “rocks” can be different each time, but the one consistent factor is the lack of control. The inability to cast those “rocks” aside or get out from under them.

It is akin to someone suffering chronic pain. You might learn to adapt, to function past the pain, but there are times it is just too much for you and no amount of “pain” killer helps. Because it is not the “pain” that is the main problem. It is the sense of hopelessness. The persistent fear that absolutely nothing will ever change to take that “pain” away. The knowledge that people or circumstance—either knowingly or unknowingly—continue to pile on those rocks until you cannot breath.

Until you have no inclination to breath. That you are certain you are a failure at the most basic function – Living.

It is irrational, but unavoidable.

I’m going to share something with you. One rock in my cairn. Something no one would ever guess about me. Something completely at odds with anyone’s perception of me. I do not want to grow old.

Let me ‘splain.

I don’t write poetry very often anymore, but here is one I wrote about five years back that lays out my meaning in implicit detail, so there is no confusion, so there is no doubt, exactly how heavy depression can be, and how hard it can be to recognize from the outside. All but one of my friends will be blindsided by this.

May I die young and quickly
That I may never know
The burden I would be, unwanted
Were I to grow so old
Alone and not what I once was
Needing another’s care
A duty…obligation, to those not e’en my own.

May I die young and quickly
At once here, then gone.
That I be remembered fondly,
Rather than endured.
Better that than linger long,
Unwanted or alone,
Marking time upon this earth until I can go home.

Now if you know me, don’t panic. I don’t believe in suicide. I would not want to cause such trauma, pain, or heartache to those I love—or even the perfect strangers—who would potentially find me or have to deal with the aftermath. I would not be one of their “rocks”. But you know, I truly do not desire a prolonged life. Because I am terrified of being that person someone else is forced to take responsibility for. Someone else’s children, or worse, a stranger overworked and underpaid. I have seen this up close and personal, and terrified may not be a strong enough term for what I feel at the thought of ending up that way.

See, I have no children. I have a loving husband and plenty of family and I have never felt unloved. I have no doubt they will rally around me if needed, but I have always felt different and not quite connected. Always on the outside. Things would be even more uncomfortable if I were to become dependent as I wouldn’t only feel out of place, but a burden. I am sure some of them might read this and be hurt, and I’m sorry if that is the case. It is not my intention. Please recall, depression is nothing if not irrational. Again, I will repeat, I do not and have never felt unloved. That is not what this is about.

Now, I don’t share this with you because I need reassurance. That isn’t what this is about and to go there would be to overlook the importance of our message. Believe it or not I have faith that God will provide for me, though I may not be able to see the how of it right now. At the risk of being repetitive, depression IS irrational. You can’t control it. I am lucky. My depression is not a constant and is mostly hormonally triggered. We only do battle occasionally, and it has a loose enough grip I need only ride through it and remind myself the hopelessness is an illusion. This isn’t true for everyone. They face the darkness every day. Sometimes it can be managed with medication, or therapy, but many people never get help. Maybe they are ashamed, or they do not have the means, or they just don’t know where to turn. Maybe they feel they should be able to handle this on their own, or that they are weak and deserve to suffer. Maybe they just feel it won’t do any good. I know…that’s a lot of maybes, but depression is a very personal thing, each experience unique to the individual. There are as many potential reasons as there are sufferers. For me, I have remained silent to all but a few because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad, or make them uncomfortable, or maybe, if I’m honest, because I didn’t want to appear like a failure. For whatever reason way too many do battle alone until they can battle no more.

That is what this message is about. We need to increase awareness. We need to form ranks around those we care about. The most important weapons against depression is awareness and support. Understanding from friends and loved ones, not admonitions to snap out of it. Not impatience or annoyance or platitudes that do nothing to strike a blow against the darkness. Are you ready to fight?

In the TV show Firefly there is a scene where Tracey, a character who served under Malcolm Reynolds during the Unification Wars, recounts what a soldier must do to go on:

Tracey: “When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that … ”
Zoe: ” … you find someone to carry you.”

danielle-amMake no mistake, depression is something people do battle with every day. Let’s be a part of their support, not a part of the problem.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail is a fantasy author, editor, and publisher of eSpecBooks. Her published works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, A Legacy of Stars, The Literary Handyman, the chapbook, Children of Morpheus, No Longer Dreams, and contributions to numerous anthologies and collections worldwide, including The Defending the Future series, The Fantasy Writer’s Companion: The Author’s Grimoire, For Better or Worse and Passings, Dark Furies, and Hear Them Roar. She is also the senior editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries series, as well as several other anthology projects.

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 https://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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The Ship ‘Cruelty’–a #HoldOnToTheLight post by Wendy S. Delmater

holdontothelight

The ship “Cruelty”

Leaves selfishness as its wake

It swamps your boat. Swim.

 

In 1989 I was diagnosed with chronic depression. And I had no idea I was depressed. I just thought I was sad, and lonely, and lazy.

My mother was ill most of the time I was growing up. As the eldest, I bore the brunt of the extra housework she could not handle and childcare for my sisters and brother.  My father was a teacher, who tutored in the evenings—and he got mad a lot. He drank a six-pack of beer every night,  an alcoholic who kept a steady job but terrorized his family on the emotional downswings of that addiction cycle. He’d moved us away from when I was a toddler. The move hid his addiction from family members. It isolated us.

So my mother slid further into depression. And we children were not only terrorized and abused by an active drinker but could not get what we needed from a depressed mother. I think it would have been enough to trigger depression in a healthy person.

Of course, I had no friends. When I played over another  child’s house I was expected to eventually ask them over my place. But I could not bring them home: Mom was sick and dad worked two jobs and was tired was my excuse.  We were also poor—“debt poor.” Much of that was the fault of my father’s inadequate  insurance, but even more of it was due to my parents’ overspending. Mom bough clothes to make herself “feel better,” and dad bought big-ticket items we could not afford, like new cars.         

At an early age I found I could not make my parents happy, and I could not make my peers happy. So I stopped caring what anyone thought of me.

   Shell-Shocked

You can’t do a good job

When you are constantly panicked

Always looking over your shoulder

For the next shoe to drop.

 

Shoes were dropping

The whole time you grew up

Paranoid defenses were a necessity then

But they get in your way now

And old habits die hard.

 

Constantly worried

Hyper-listening

“Did I do something wrong?

Will I be yelled at?”

Probably not,

But that’s what you’re used to.

 

The hell of it is

That you feel more at home

In abusive companies

Than in ones that treat you well.

The more unpleasant the circumstances

The better your coping skills work.

 

You can set yourself up,

Thinking you heard what you didn’t hear

Worried that the rug will be

Pulled out from under you.

(But it always has been before)

 

Emotional paraplegic—

You haven’t a leg to stand on.

 

My isolation got worse when I hit puberty. And I wonder how differently my life would have gone if I had gotten a straight answer out of the Sunday School teacher when we were studying the 10 Commandments and I asked, “What’s adultery?” She was too embarrassed to tell me. I was 12.

I was a victim of sexual abuse by a relative for three years.

You stole my smile, and

Left staggering darkness,

Then blamed me for it.

 

All of this caused me to shut down, to sleepwalk through the motions of living and be emotionally “dead.”  We lived in constant fear of my father’s temper. Dad would break things to hurt our feelings and control us. I learned not to tell my parents when I wanted something because it would get used against me. (Eventually, I learned to stop wanting things at all.)

My parents’ chaos still infiltrated my life; I managed to get away from them for a year of college, but dad lost his tutoring due to a bad economy and mom nearly died, so I came home and paid their grocery bills and nursed her back to health. I cried every September—school meant so much to me. But I was unable to get back to college for 20 years.

I was still damaged by my past, and it mostly manifested itself in my relationships. I carried this into my first marriage, where I married a man who had been raised by the daughter of two alcoholics. My ex-husband was not Darth Vader, but he taught me that the opposite of love was not hate, it was apathy.

Then my ex abandoned us. My doctor finally diagnosed depression. I  spent about seven years using Prozac, and then Zoloft, until 1996 when I finally beat depression and my body started making the correct neurotransmitters on its own. And counselor finally told me that my father dinking a six pack of beer a night was not normal. He had been an alcoholic, and I should join Al-Annon’s Adult Child program because I needed to deal with something called codependency.

I tell you all this so you will not dismiss the symptoms of depression as mere “sadness.” You or the person you love may not have been through things like this, but I want to state that the biochemical disease is the same. It’s an invisible illness, but an illness nonetheless. Just like a diabetic lacks insulin, depressed people have neurotransmitter chemicals out of whack. Telling a depressed person to cheer up is like telling a quadriplegic to stand. But you can get better, and life will go on, beautifully.

(All poems from Plant a Garden Around Your Life, by Wendy S. Delmater.) Wendy S. Delmater is the long-time editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction. Poetry quoted is from her chapbook about dealing with depression, Plant a Garden Around Your Life.

 

 

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Starting the Conversation—A #HoldOnToTheLight Update

By Gail Z. Martin

100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#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.

We’ve also been talking with conventions to encourage them to add, expand or promote their panel programming about mental wellness issues. ConCarolinas, GenCon, Capricon and ContraFlow have let us know that panels are in the works for 2017, and both Capclave and Atomacon are looking at options!

How can you help spread the message and broaden the conversation?

  • Read the blog posts by our participating authors and share on your own blogs and social media
  • The links below to the newest author blog posts double as tweets you can cut and paste. Easy!
  • Visit the authors’ blogs and like, comment
  • Tweet or email about the campaign and tag bloggers, podcasters and genre media
  • Ask your favorite genre convention to add panels on mental wellness
  • Volunteer with or donate to one of the campaign charities listed at the bottom of this post
  • Join the #HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group.

Latest blog posts/Tweets to share

One step at a time #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by RowenaCoryDaniells https://bit.ly/2c49ZTW @Rebellionpub

Gaslighting myself #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness. @LAGilman on #PTSD https://bit.ly/2ciIOlu

Ride the storm surge #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness. @JimMacAuth #PTSD https://bit.ly/2cFvUgN

#HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @GailZMartin on #PTSD in epic fantasy https://bit.ly/2cqrXvq

Helping a loved one cope #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @Emily_Leverett  https://bit.ly/2cqrmtE

Becoming the mean girl #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness @Jean_Marie_Ward https://bit.ly/2cqTqka

Fighting the urge to jump #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @ChrisKennedy110 https://bit.ly/2cCL2jd

Anxiety & asking for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @JoshVogt https://bit.ly/2c6qMRo

The black dog of depression #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @MistyMassey  https://bit.ly/2c6PqRU

Suicide leaves scars. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @Mudepoz https://bit.ly/2cIdvmd

The bittersweet sustains. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by  @bishopmoconnell https://bit.ly/2cMaAKw

Focus on the good, and fight for that. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness  post by @LS_Taylor https://bit.ly/2chroqC

How do you tell someone what it feels like? #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SFF authors blog on #MentalWellness @JenniferBrozek https://bit.ly/2d3jl2e

Identity and masks. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @RickGaultieri https://bit.ly/2cBrfM2

Fandom takes care of its own. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @GailZMartin https://bit.ly/2crcdOs

I wrote my way out until I couldn’t. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @nataniabarron https://bit.ly/2cCnNCi

You are not alone #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @almaalexander https://bit.ly/2cPeEKe

The courage to ask for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @jreizes https://bit.ly/2cuoHVA

Among the authors participating so far are: Robin Hobb, Jody Lynn Nye, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Laura Anne Gilman, Chuck Gannon, Kameron Hurley, Catherine Asaro, Gaie Siebold, Karen Miller, Rowena Cory Daniels, David B. Coe, Marc Tassin, Jonathan Oliver, Jeanne Adams, Nancy Northcott, Aaron Rosenberg, Jennifer St. Giles, Mark Van Name, Juliet McKenna, Jennifer Brozek, Darynda Jones, Christopher Golden, Clay and Susan Griffith, Gregory Wilson, Josh Vogt, Darin Kennedy, Jon Sprunk, James Maxey, Karen E. Taylor, Justin Gustainis, Misty Massey, John G. Hartness, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Jaym Gates, Laura Taylor, Weston Ochse, Ron Garner, Kathy Lyons, Mari Mancusi, Leanna Renee Hieber, Davey Beauchamp, Cheryl Wilson, Rod Belcher, Travis Heermann, Cara Santa Maria, Michael J. Allen, Trisha Wooldridge, Alyssa Day, J. F. Lewis, Joshua Palmatier, Keith DeCandido Mindy Mimudes, Emily Leverett, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Tera Fulbright, Tamsin Silver, Stuart Jaffe, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Eric Asher, Rick Gualtieri, Chris Kennedy, Ken Schrader, Samantha Dunaway Bryant, Valerie Willis, Alexandra Christian, Jake Bible, Matthew Saunders, Jay Requard, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly Harmon, Sascha Illyvich, Kelly Swails, Bishop O’Connell, Sherwood Smith, Peter Prellwitz, Tracy Chowdhury, Trevor Curtis, Leo Champion, Alma Alexander, Natania Barron, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Addie J. King, Joelle Reizes, Gabrielle Faust, Selah Janel, Whitney Evans, Tom Leveen Deborah J. Ross, Tally Johnson, Calandra Usher, Jada Diaz, Harry Markov, Brian Rathbone, Robert Greenberger, Linda Robertson and more.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/. Recaps will also be posted on https://www.MagicalWords.net and https://www.DisquietingVisions.com

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Jumper–A #HoldOnToTheLight post by Chris Kennedy

holdontothelight

I watched in horror as the girl slid between the rails of the 10th floor balcony, looking at the ground far, far below.

It was my third year of college at the University of North Carolina, and I had come back to school early after the summer break to be an orientation counsellor for the new freshman class. I had just gone to bed when one of my counselees started banging on my door. “You’ve got to help me!” the guy outside the door exclaimed when I opened it. “Sarah was drinking at one of the parties, and now she’s up on the 10th floor talking about killing herself.”

We ran up the six flights of stairs (I was in much better shape then) to find one of my other counselees forcing herself between the rails of the railing. As I raced to her, she made it the rest of the way through. I don’t know if she would have jumped or not, and looking into her eyes as her head turned back to us, I’m not sure she did either, but I could tell she was seriously contemplating it (as if being on the wrong side of the railing wasn’t giveaway enough.) It was probably the scariest moment of my life.

I grabbed her through the rails, pinning her to the railing, and after several minutes of talking convinced her to come back through to our side. While the other counselee ran to call the hospital, I talked with her to find out what drove her to step outside the rails.

She was alone at school, away from home for the first time, and her boyfriend of several years had broken up with her. She didn’t have anyone she thought she could talk to and she had several drinks at one of the parties that were being held that night. It was a bad combination, and almost a fatal one for her.

At the time, I didn’t understand why she would want to throw it all away. She was just starting college and was an attractive young lady; she would have had a number of folks interested in her. Back then, I didn’t know anything about depression…how it eats away at you from the inside, causing you to think that no one cares until you finally believe it. How the world would be better off without you. How it would be better to end it all and make the pain go away.

Having had a serious bout of depression since then, though, I do understand those things, and here’s what I know. Depression isolates you from everyone else. You don’t think that anyone else could ever understand what you’re going through. This deprives you of the one thing you need: someone to talk to. I didn’t have anyone I thought I could talk to, for a number of reasons, so I kept my problems bottled up. I could deal with them myself, I thought; better that than worrying anyone else. And that’s when the first tendrils of depression started working their way into my mind. And once they’re in, they strangle off all reason and eat you from the inside out, until you give up hope.

Alcohol is no help. As Sarah found out, it only removes that last bit of rational thought keeping you from doing something really stupid. Having seen it in action once, I knew better than to drink…even though I wanted to really badly. That kept me together, barely, until things changed a little and I found someone to talk to. Just the simple act of talking about part of my problems let me release enough of the stress to start on the way to recovery. I survived, but it was a lot closer than I liked. I heard the voices…whispering, urging…but was able to keep them at bay. I still hear them, sometimes, when things aren’t going well. Once they’re in, they never completely go away.

Not everyone is able to keep the voices at bay, though, and the only way they’re going to get better is to talk to someone. A professional, if possible, but any outlet helps. If you see a friend withdraw from society, be there for him or her; talk to them. You never know, you just may save their life.

chris-kennedyChris Kennedy is a  bestselling Science Fiction/Fantasy author and speaker, a former naval aviator and elementary school principal. Chris’ stories include the “Occupied Seattle” military fiction duology, “The Theogony” and “Codex Regius” science fiction trilogies, and the “War for Dominance” fantasy trilogy.

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/.

 

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