Practical Light: A #HoldOnToTheLight Post

In previous posts for the Hold On To The Light campaign, I’ve talked about my own misery; the pain of my mom dying, my lifelong battles with depression, my stubborn refusal to quit. I think I’ve covered those angles pretty comprehensively, so I’m moving on to concrete strategies this time.

Picking out which strategy to use on any given day, at any given moment, is a complete crap shoot for me. It’s like trying to seat a screw without knowing anything about it; all you can do is haul tools from the box one by one until finally something works. “Go for a walk” or “get out in the sun” sounds like great advice–except when just wobbling to the bathroom is a major challenge. There needs to be a section in our tool kits for those “barely able to leave bed” days.

I pause here to note that I’m working within a limited scope of physical capability by assuming that you can use your hands and feet and voice. I know that leaves a segment of the population out. I’m not qualified to speak on that angle. I welcome specific input related to depression and permanent physical restrictions.

What can you do from bed, when it seems like there’s no hope at all and tomorrow is just too damn far away to even think about? Well…

Sing. Go through the scales. Croak the notes out. Tell anyone who complains to fuck off.

Look at your hands. Really, really look at them. SO. COMPLICATED. No matter if they’re scarred up, bent, wrinkled, spotted, the nail beds are all tore up–hands are amazing. The mechanics. The structure. The potential. The uniqueness. Don’t let yourself or anyone else diss your hands, ever.

Put a pillow on your lap and type a story out on it. You don’t have to be a pro writer to do this. Yes, it feels bizarre at first. Yes, you look like a lunatic if anyone’s watching. So what? Mutter the words out loud if you have to. Start with “Once upon a time” and see where you go from there. If you happen across a fabulous idea that you just have to capture permanently–don’t. This is play time. This is intangible, transient, drifting and freewheeling time. Let your subconscious trust that anything typed on a pillow will never be recorded. To be perfectly honest, I often use this trick to lull myself to sleep. Try typing while lying on your side. Now that’s a strange feeling!

Read. Keep a stack of books by the bed that you just absolutely utterly adore. Your feel good faves, your deep thought faves, that author whose work just lights you up inside. If you’re a writer, stack up books by people whose writing you want to emulate. Read and analyze every sentence. Make notes if you want. (Brightly colored Post-it notes are an excellent investment!)

Stay away from social media. Right now, the world fucking sucks, across the board. I won’t be so arrogant as to say Americans have it worst these days, but we sure are dealing with a deluge and a half of late. Many of us aren’t used to that kind of pressure. Schedule a day or two each week during which you do not look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever. If you absolutely have to be on social media for your job, do only what your job requires and stay away from everything else. Not just politics; I’m talking about no birthday greetings. No reposts of funny cat pictures. None of it. Catch it all up the following day, with apologies as needed.

Send a text to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while (but you’re still on good terms with! no stalking please!). It can be “random hug attack!” or a heart symbol or a goofy picture of your cat. The content of the text doesn’t matter, as long as it’s succinct and cheerful. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it also doesn’t matter if they reply. Send the greeting and move on. No need for an entire conversation.

Wiggle your toes. Watch your toes as they wiggle. See if you can bend one toe without bending the others. Do the same with your fingers. Work at stretching the various muscles to train all of your fingers and toes to bend independently. It can be done. (I think. Still working on proving that theory, myself.)

Alphabet games. Starting with “A”, create lists. For instance, flowers. Asters, begonia, canna lilies, daisy, echinacea. See if you can get all the way to “Z”. Don’t consult the internet for help. If you get stuck, skip that letter and move on. List people: authors, artists, actors. List colors. Book titles. Movies. Unusual words that you’d only find in really comprehensive specialty dictionaries. Run through lists until you feel better or you fall asleep. (For me, usually it’s the latter, which suits me perfectly fine.)

Blow bubbles. Keep a bottle of bubbles by the bedside, one with a silly label on it and a strangely shaped wand inside, and fill your room with soapy goodness. Bonus points if you get your cats or dogs chasing the bubbles.

Some of the above ideas doubtless sound goofy or stupid. Well … they are! So what? Being paralyzed by depression is a flat out shitty experience. I’ll take goofy and stupid over agonizing shittiness any day of the week and twice on Mondays, thank you.

Above all, hold on for one more day. It gets better. It gets worse. But it gets better again, always.

Just keep on holding on.

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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