I want to thank Gail Z. Martin for putting together the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign.
A friend of mine (I’ll call her D here) killed herself when we were in high school. D was bright and funny and had a sly smile that always made me smile back. I still wish I could see that smiling face, even if just on Facebook, but that smile is gone.
And she was struggling in ways I didn’t know. In fact, I don’t think anyone knows to this day exactly what was going on in her life, and in her head, and that’s the sad part of it all; she was a fairly private person. I knew D and her mom didn’t always get along, I knew that she was frustrated on the girls’ basketball team. I knew she was stressed about school, about being a senior, about graduating that next spring. None of those were unheard of stresses at the time for a teenage girl.
I was younger than she was, and we’d talked about the struggles we’d both had that year. But I never once thought she would do what she had done.
Another friend (I’ll call her L here, as she’s entitled to her own privacy) and I had shown up early for basketball practice that day. When we went into the locker room, we found our friend lying on the floor in front of one of the toilet stalls, where she was unconscious and had vomited. L stayed with D while I ran faster than I think I had ever run in my life, through the gym where the boys were practicing, to the athletic director’s office, where I thought that the coaches might be, and where I knew there was a phone. Luckily both the varsity and the reserve coaches were there; one called an ambulance and the other took off running with me, back into the locker room to see what we could do.
The ambulance arrived, and bundled her into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher. She was still alive at that point. Sometime later in the night, she lost her life. There’s a lot of speculation about how all of that went down among those of us who knew her, but it boils down to one thing; she’d purposely overdosed in the locker room. And within hours, D was dead.
Twenty plus years later, we still don’t have a lot of answers. I will always wish that she had called or talked to someone, anyone, about what was going on in her head, in her emotions, and in her heart.
I haven’t thought about her in a long time. But just in the past year or so, I got word that a fellow writer had taken his own life, and it brought back a lot of emotion from that time. This writer was someone who I had been on multiple panels with over the years, not someone I considered a close friend, but someone I would have been happy to share a drink or a cup of coffee with at a con, someone I knew to be a strong writer, someone who I looked forward to seeing when I traveled for book events. I had no idea that he struggled as he did and had had no idea that things had gotten so bad. I will miss seeing his face smiling from across a convention hall, that small, mischievous grin he had, like he had an idea in his head, an epic idea, one that would twist convention on its head.
I used to hear all the time that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but that’s not true. The truth is that it’s not a permanent solution. For some, it might seem like the only option. I beg of them to seek professional counseling. Suicide leaves survivors, the family and friends, the ones who feel helpless and bereft, the ones who will carry the scar for the rest of their lives. That has led some to proclaim that suicide is selfish, because it only solves the problem for the person who commits it.
My high school friend and my writer friend were neither of them selfish people. On the contrary, they were both kind, funny, friendly, and had so much potential that is gone. I doubt that either of them did what they did to be selfish; on the contrary, I think both of them were probably at a point that they thought the world would be better without them.
The world is not better without them.
Please, if you have thoughts of harming yourself (or others), please seek help. To all of my friends and family, and even if I haven’t met you yet, please remember that even if you believe that suicide will solve all of your problems, remember that it doesn’t solve problems. If you’re being bullied, your suicide does not stop that bully and the bullying is NOT YOUR FAULT. If you’re depressed because you’ve lost a loved one, remember that their loss does not erase your good memories, and their good life. If you’re suffering from depression, it doesn’t solve the reason why you are depressed. Only medication and/or therapy can answer that question. SO GET HELP.
I do not say this to blame those who are victims of depression and suicide; far from it. I only state that suicide is not a solution. It is an end of one person’s suffering, but it does not solve the underlying problem.
You will leave behind friends and family who will ask themselves why, and will always wonder what they could have done to help. Let them help now. Don’t make them wonder. Do you need that extra hand in feeling like you are getting things accomplished? Do you need someone to just provide a hot meal and a warm bed? Do you need a break from your everyday life? Need some babysitting to feel a bit sane again? Feel unappreciated? Ask someone what it means to them that you do as you do.
I’m not trying to be a cheerleader, here. I know life isn’t all rah-rah-sis-boom-bah; I’ve had to seek out medication and therapy to deal with a time in my life that things were not all roses. I was glad that I was cogent enough to realize that there was a problem and look for a solution. Life did get better. In those darkest days, I needed friends and family to be there to tell me that I was worth something. I am. They did. It helped enough for me to see through the fog and reach out for the help I needed at the time.
Now, some people have a thicker fog to fight through. Let’s all agree to keep fighting for our loved ones, and ourselves, to fight through that fog of depression and silence, keep from withdrawing into the shadows, and continue to work on the self-worth of ourselves and others.
And remind ourselves on a daily basis that we are all worth it.
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 initiative, 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 oens 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), SNAE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To fine 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