#HoldOnToTheLight and shine it into the darkness of our minds

holdontothelightToday I’d like to tell you a story. It happened to me, and parts of it are still happening to me.

Two and a half years ago I happened my way into one of the best jobs in the world. I was doing sales for a web development company, and one day my boss asked me if I wanted to join his new endeavor–a non-profit teaching kids how to make cool stuff. Things like woodworking, tech, web design, and much more. And I would start by photographing a collaboration with the TDSB, a working model of the Ontario power system.

I jumped at the chance, and for roughly 10 months I worked there three days a week. I poured my soul into everything from basic set up to photography to overarching marketing strategies. And I loved every minute of it (well, okay, not EVERY minute but most of them). Most of the time I go out of my way to avoid kids, but watching them discover their creative potential was incredible. Seeing how well my coworkers taught and worked with those kids was even better.

I imagined a bright, wonderful future for myself there. Maybe not forever, but for a few years at least. I would help them reach out to kids in the suburbs and expand their programming into all kinds of arts. Eventually I would teach my own courses there, once I established my skills.

At the end of ten months–a couple weeks before Christmas–I was let go. The conversation was long and difficult, so I won’t get into the details here. All I’ll say is that it ended with us on good terms, but I was still totally heartbroken. And the farewell bonus I received didn’t do much to make it better.

I sank into the deepest depression of my adult life. I knew I needed to find new work right away–the hubby was quitting to retrain in film–but I was incredibly discouraged. What could I possibly do that would be anywhere near as awesome? Where could I find as many opportunities to flourish? I’ve always enjoyed my freelance work, but that job was something more. When I worked there I actually felt like I was making a difference in the world.

Things went downhill from there. There were gaps, two or three weeks long, between work for both of my major freelance clients. I found all kinds of little side work, but it didn’t nearly replace the income. I burned through all of my savings in a matter of months, and with the hubby still retraining, I began climbing into debt.

Of course I kept looking for things, but my confidence and mental health were shattered. I can’t express the number of times I almost turned myself away from an opportunity, thanks to an inherent belief that I didn’t deserve it. Or the number of underpaid, soul draining gigs I took because I didn’t have the energy to search for anything better. I was exhausted by both my hunt for work and my depression.

Every moment of every day I was painfully aware of how broke I was becoming, but I still buried my head in the sand as best I could. And I certainly didn’t talk about it, or the stress it caused me.

This spring things began to even out. My first book, Keeper of the Dawn, came out in April. I haven’t gotten my first royalty check yet, but it’s sold both consistently and well since it went up for pre-order. I’ve got some new, well paid freelance work. There are other exciting things happening in the background, including a couple co-writing projects I can’t really talk about yet. Oh, and I’m writing a setting for the tabletop RPG some of my darkest tales before. I talk readily and openly about the struggles I faced as a teenager. It’s time to do the same with my current struggles.

I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get out of my current problems, but I know one thing: when we let our darkness hide in silence, we give it strength. If we want to defeat it, we must expose it to light, to scrutiny. We must admit our struggles before we can overcome them.

Most importantly, we must face the darkness together. No one person can make it alone.

#Holdontothelight Awareness 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 Facebook.

You can also check out my #HoldOnToTheLight post from last year.

Have you ever struggled with depression? Financial woes? I want to hear your stories (if you’re willing to share) in the comments section below!