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Being the Light – A #HoldOnToTheLight Post

November 1, 2016 Leave a comment

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Depression has been a part of my life for so long that I don’t know if I’d recognize life without its shadow. It’s affected so many people I’ve been close to, and sometimes shaped the relationship I’ve had with them. Including myself. While I’ve never been diagnosed, I recognize myself in articles about functional depression. But this post isn’t about that. There are other people braver than I writing about their personal experiences and I’m going to let them carry that part of the conversation for now. Instead, I want to talk about it from another perspective.

I’ve watched the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign grow and expand to encompass many aspects of depression, bullying prevention, mental health-related issues and more. From the beginning, I knew I had plenty to say, but I avoided writing about my experiences. Familiarity, you see, doesn’t make this an easier topic. It’s hard to talk about from every angle, though we can all agree it’s imperative we talk about it.

Holding on to the light is a theme of this campaign, but “the light” can be different for each person. Sometimes, it’s the magic in another day, or hope for the future, or simply the intellectual understanding that no matter how grim things seem, life will rebound and it will get better. For some people, “the light” might be another person. Sometimes, there’s that one person that stands by their side and helps them through the dark parts. Ideally, there’s more than one, but for some people, reaching out is hard, and that one light is hard won.

These are the people I want to talk to today.

You. Yes, you. The one that knows they’re the rock for a person who’s struggling. The one who’s lost sleep to shepherd a loved one through to the next day. The one who’s raced home mid-shift at work, who’s made random check-ins throughout the day, the one who’s stashed all the sharps and meds in the house in the trunk of your car to keep someone else safe. You’re the one who might be making the household run on one paycheck, preventing it all from falling apart in a spectacular mess.

You’re amazing. Being the light is a big deal, even if all you can do is sit in silence at their side to show support. You’re the beacon they can aim for when all else is dark.

You’re a guardian angel. Your consciousness expands to almost parental awareness and sensitivity. Few are so truly loyal as to persevere through the nasty stew depression brews for your loved one, whether that includes suicidal thoughts or actions, negative self-talk, tears, rages or just silence. And that’s all before you start on the med-go-round and side effects roller coaster until the doctor lands on the right cocktail.You’re the protector, the safe haven.

You’re their defender. Whether it’s late night talks, taking care of household chores or stepping up to take action on their behalf, you fight for them and keep them safe, even when you’re protecting them from themselves.  You’re the keeper of and chaperone for doctor’s appointments, dispensers of meds, and observer of progress, and that is an act of valor and courage.

You’re a rock. You’re steadfast in the midst of that person’s whirlwind just to keep them anchored to this world when their tether might be fraying. You’re the lifeline in deep water and that is powerful.

But you’re not made of stone and no matter how strong you are, you cannot go through this alone.

When you are a support system for someone who’s struggling with mental illness, you need a support system of your own and you need to practice self-care. Strength does not mean shouldering the stress, the anxiety and the worry in silence. Bravery is not fighting alone or secretly soldiering on in the face of the adversity these illnesses bring. Courage does not mean making excuses to hide their condition or avoiding asking for help from friends, medical professionals or other support systems to protect their secret struggle.

In order to burn bright and be the light, you need support.

Remember that even superheroes ask for help. Reach out to friends and loved ones you trust to bolster your strength and help manage responsibilities. Grab coffee with a good friend or family member who will listen to your story and offer the kind of support you need (whether that’s just a shoulder, an ear, or some advice). Share as much as you feel comfortable with, or ask for help without sharing details. If you’ve always taken on the family Christmas party, ask someone else to take a turn. If you need some help around the house, ask a close friend to come over and give you a hand. Reach out, share and connect with people who bolster and renew you. You cannot give of yourself if you don’t take time to replenish your well.

Remember that depression lies. Loved ones who fear others being involved are speaking out of an illness that thrives and self-perpetuates in isolation. Reach out to medical professionals on behalf of your loved ones when you know they are not themselves. You are a key perspective that can help a doctor make the right diagnosis, monitor treatment progress and effectiveness of medicines. Speak out when something isn’t right, when something isn’t working and advocate for your loved one. Your support can help them return to themselves.

Remember that the stigma of mental illness exists because we don’t talk about it. You can respect a family member’s privacy while still establishing a support network for yourself. If you don’t have a close friend or family member you want to get involved, look for online support groups of people going through the same things with loved ones. The internet can be a fantastic resource when you need discrete support. Monitor your own mental well-being and ask for help. You might need to talk to a therapist to help you develop coping strategies, and learn how to effectively help your loved one. There are innovative new ways of getting that support, including online counseling and text chat support.

You are amazing. Never forget that. You are making the difference in the life of someone who doesn’t have the resources to fight for themselves.

Thank you.

They will thank you, too, when they can. But, on their behalf, let me remind you that you are human. You can’t sacrifice yourself to help them, so please practice self care as you do battle. When they return to themselves, they will want you to be here, too.

Carry on being their light, but make sure you’ve got the fuel to keep burning even after they come home.

 

 

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.

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