Wednesday, October 19, 2016

You have to reach out: a #HoldOnToTheLight post

I never thought I could survive depression until I found the courage to reach out and ask for help.  I spent years and years of my life wondering why my brain would quit working, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time.  I didn't want to tell anyone--I couldn't admit weakness.  When I was a lawyer, the bar associations would ask, as part of the process of admitting us to practice law in a state, about any instances of "mental illness."

Think about that.  Mental Illness.

The words conjure up images culled from nightmares and terrifying movies.  Glassy-eyed maniacs screaming and pulling their own hair, caged in mental institutions that could double for torture sites.

I wasn't mentally ill.  I wasn't crazy.  I just needed a little help sometime to force myself through patches of dark gray nothingness.

And then, in early 2014, I realized it wasn't getting better.  I couldn't figure this thing out on my own.  I needed to REACH OUT.  To my family, to my friends, and--most important--to my doctor.

It was scary as hell.

But I did it.  I reached out and admitted what I'd been going through.  I told everyone that I was tired of stumbling through the dark--that I wanted to find and hold on to the light.

And it helped.  It helped SO MUCH.  I started therapy.  I found meds that helped me.  Life started to look like something worth fighting for.

I told my readers.   I was scared to do that; scared to be seen as a failure.  No longer superwoman.  But you know what?  They rallied around me.  They shared their stories and their love.  We built a community together, through my Facebook Friday mental health check ins, and we learned that it's okay to be different.  It's okay to need help.

It's more than okay--it's crucial--to reach out.  

So if you're suffering, if you're alone and afraid to admit you need help--please remember:

                                      YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

We're here with you.  We GET you. And we want you to reach out--we want you to hold on to the light with us.

All my love,

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 and join us on Facebook

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This week's tragedies and practicing self-care

For my people - the slightly crazy, slightly broken, slightly outside of normal: This has been a bad, bad week. I want to talk a little bit about how it's okay to practice some self-care in times of horrible tragedy. We who have depression or other forms of mental illness don't always have the same filters that other people do--we can't watch a news report about a horrible tragedy like the mass shooting in Orlando and think "That's so awful" and yet then be able to go on with our day. Instead, we have a tendency to sink far, far below the surface, drowning in waves of pain and empathy.

Last night, when the news about the toddler at Disney came through, after Christina Grimmie, after the Pulse nightclub tragedy, it was that one final thing that sent me reeling into the cumulative pain of all of it. I started to cry and I couldn't breathe. I literally could not catch my breath, to the point where I started to hyperventilate. And then I had to go and hide in bed with the covers wrapped around me like a fragile cotton shield from the week's horrors.

If the news is making it hard for you to breathe--to live--to stay out of the black pit, then please, please take a step back. Declare a No Watch/No LIsten Zone in your house and car. It's okay to need a buffer from soaking up so much pain. If you are standing on shaky ground, you need a lifeline, not to jump into the quicksand.

When you're stronger, you can step up and take a stand. Do your part to help stop these tragedies from happening again. Speak out. But please take care of yourself first. Be gentle with yourself. And remember the Friend Rule: You wouldn't say to me, "Alyssa, shake it off, you big baby. Be tough!" So please, please, don't say it to yourself.

Tonight I will go to a rally/memorial service near me for the victims of Pulse. Tomorrow I will go donate blood. But today? Today I will keep my TV and radio off, and stay away from internet news. Today I need to learn to breathe again. Take care of yourselves, please.