Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Facing the Enemy Within

By now, most of my readers know that I am a huge Rush fan. From my first introduction to them at Presto to their last tour, I have been an avid listener of their music. Their music has always been something that helps me put words to feelings. From “Cold Fire” to “Roll the Bones”, from “Totem” to “Dreamline,” (go listen!), the lyrics help ground and center me - I keep lines from all of those songs on my desk at work.

The lyricist of Rush - also their drummer, Neil Peart - has a way with language that I truly admire. And so whenever I find myself faced with a difficult situation or trying to find words to describe what I am feeling, I fall back on Rush.

A few months ago, I was asked to be a part of #HoldOnToTheLight, a movement of authors designed to bring awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues.  As both a sufferer of depression and anxiety and an author, I volunteered to take part.

And so, as I tried to think of words to talk about how I felt, Rush came to the rescue again, with "The Enemy Within."

Things crawl in the darkness
That imagination spins
Needles at your nerve ends
Crawl like spiders on your skin
Pounding in your temples
And a surge of adrenaline
Every muscle tense to fence the enemy within

I can't remember the first time I had a panic attack or the first time I felt truly depressed. For me both had been a part of my life for so long that it wasn't until I was speaking with my general practitioner about always feeling tired and stressed, that she started asking questions. And eventually diagnosed me.  It's an interesting feeling when you suddenly have words that define a part of you.  Anxiety. Depression. That feeling of always being tired, of going through the motions of the day - Depression.  Or being faced with a task that seems so daunting, so overwhelming, that it makes your head hurt just thinking about it.  Even when the task is as easy as making dinner – Anxiety.

So after being diagnosed and, to quote a friend, with "better living through chemistry," I find that I am not always tired, or always stressed.  It may come in waves - some days are worse than others. But for the most part, since I started taking medicine, my brain has been much more neutral than it was in my high school and college years.

That being said, medicine isn't a magic cure-all and doesn't work for everyone.  I know people who can’t take the same medicines I take because it makes their skin crawl.  It took conversations with my Doctor to find the right balance.  I also rely on my support system - family and friends when things get to be too much.

Every breath a static charge
A tongue that tastes like tin
Steely-eyed outside to hide the enemy within 

Now I realize that for a lot of people who know me in person, this may come as a surprise.  Because I am frequently seen as the happy, bouncy “Minnie Mouse on Speed.”  But one of the things I learned, probably way too early in my life, was that people needed me to be the upbeat one, the one who held it together, the one who could get things done.  And so for the longest time, I hid that Enemy Within.

But I am learning that I can’t be afraid to talk about the fact that I suffer from a mental illness and that medicine helps balance my brain.  That balance means I am able to focus on things like writing (and not feel overwhelmed that my writing sucks) or run a con (and not feel like I'm constantly being judged as not good enough).  For me, medicine is what helps me feel the world around me but in a good way – not overwhelming or lost.

For some reason, between work, child, con-running, writing, gaming, cleaning the house, etc - sometimes my life gets a little crazy and I start to feel like the world is crashing in around me - there is too much to do, too much going on, too many feelings, too many of everything. That's when I know it's time for me to take a step back and slow down.  It's usually in those moments, that I take a little extra help for my brain, and then find a book or a CD and disappear into another world for a little bit.

To you, is it movement or is it action?
Is it contact or just reaction?
And you, revolution or just resistance?
Is it living, or just existence?
Yeah, you, it takes a little more persistence
To get up and go the distance

For me, I have realized that fighting depression and anxiety is a daily thing.  Some days I win, sometimes the medicine helps, and sometimes, things are so bad that I really do just want to go hide in my bed and not get up.

But, one of the things that I realized very early on, was that I wasn't going to let the Enemy Within keep me from doing the things I love - writing, gaming, running cons.

It can be hard sometimes to remind myself not to listen to the anxiety or depression when I am writing, but I try to keep things in mind like Jenny Lawson's “Depression Lies.” And the belief that I can do all the things I want to do with my life, including the implausible dreams.

I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams
Experience to extremes
Experience to extremes

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