A blog post in support of #HoldOnToTheLight SF/F Authors and Fans for Mental Wellness
One day I changed.
I know when it happened. The exact day.
June 24, 2012.
Five days before my 49th birthday.
My mother died.
We were close. Like best friends close. We told each other everything, shared every moment. She was my greatest cheerleader, my strongest motivation, my ultimate inspiration, my loving mentor, and my adoring mother. She was always strong and yet also kind and generous. Time was always made for her children, listening to us prattle on for hours if need be. Her legacy I carry with me always, her struggle to survive war torn Germany in a mad escape to the United States for freedom and safety. Forged in war like a Valkyrie, she never let that experience mar her positive outlook, her gentle grace, or her undying love for her family.
Two years before that I lost my father. In a family of three girls, I was his tomboy daughter. He taught me how to fish and how to shoot a gun. He showed me how to change the oil in my car, how to hang drywall, how to caulk a sink. He also taught me to how to have fun. Not to take myself so seriously. He showed me it was okay to let others see you cry at sentimental movies.
When I lost them both something inside of me was gutted. And something new emerged.
This new person in my skin wasn’t a bad person. It’s just someone different. Someone I don’t know very well. I feel uncomfortable, like I’m a stranger even to myself. It’s difficult to be the dreamer I once was. It’s hard to focus and find some enthusiasm for whatever I am doing. Nothing feels the same.
Everyday I wanted to be that person I was before, until I began to get angry that I wasn’t anymore.
I hated everything I wrote. None of it held any emotional connection that I was normally so good at developing. Even when I tried, it read as false to me.
How can I give a character emotion if I didn’t feel any?
I’m not an expert on depression. I just know I am in the throes of something. I stopped doing what I loved to do. Reading, watching TV, exercising, church, nothing gave me joy or purpose anymore. I only kept writing because it was a job and I had deadlines. If it weren’t for those deadlines, or my husband Clay, I’d have stopped altogether.
Events in life change us. It’s one of the hardest things we have to do and there’s no avoiding it. It’s going to happen. Whatever we are going through, we must struggle to accept what we become on the other side. Transformations are always difficult. Visceral and ugly. It insidiously begins to seep into all parts of our lives. No one likes change. We all fight it in one way or another, especially if it is forced upon us. But grief isn’t something that you can just shove aside. You don’t get over it. It’s with you always.
Like a new skin.
I still don’t like the new me very much. I’m quicker to anger, easier to shut down. The world is less beautiful and kind. I’m more jaded. But lately, every once in a while, I find myself wanting to read a frivolous book again, talk to people, and to go for a simple walk. I’ve even truly wanted to write again. Stories are slowly bubbling up from somewhere, sometimes about things less dark.
I’m learning who this new person is, and how to make adjustments one day at a time. This is what life is about. Moving forward, accepting who you are now. Never forgetting, but enduring. I’m not that idealistic dreamer anymore, and that’s okay.
Or maybe I still am. It’s just buried under this new skin, waiting.
What happens when more than 90 sci-fi and fantasy authors start a conversation about mental wellness, mental illness, depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD treatment and related issues?
We don’t know, but we’re going to find out.
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in a 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 and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.