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I want to thank Gail Z. Martin for inviting me to be a part of #HoldOnToTheLight. Information about this campaign can be found at the bottom of this post.

I've been meaning to write this post for some time, and the irony hasn't escaped me that much of the delay has been related to a deep, persistent depression I'd found myself settling into. As a normally optimistic and upbeat person, I found this disconcerting, but it's more than that; depression is a haunting specter from my past, and I'm loath to revisit bad memories. I'm also reminded of the times I worked a suicide hotline after having relied on that very hotline in my time of need. I remember the people I talked with, some of whom were distraught, others were lonely or afraid.

About that phone call... In 1988, I was sixteen, I'd just gotten my driver's license and my first pickup truck, and for the fist time in my life, I was popular. It was all going great until one day I fell ill. I thought I had the flu, but three days later my appendix ruptured, nearly killing me. While I survived, the effects were lasting, and weeks of being treated with Demerol and morphine left their mark. For the next two years, I struggled with persistent depression and suicidal thoughts. I leaned on friends, sought counseling, and called for help when I needed it. It was the most difficult time of my life and I will never forget it. I am grateful for those who helped me and to those who've since allowed me to help them.

I have experienced different kinds of depression in my life related to bullying, work stress, relationship troubles, tragedy, mourning, and yes, chemical imbalances. Over some of these, I have gained a higher level of control over the years, but some were simply beyond my ability to control. No amount of "cheering up" or "getting over it" would fix it. With grief, I have found that the pain changes over time; perhaps not lessened, but eased. Had it not been for my chemical imbalance related depression, I might not understand what some people go through. I might think their depression is just that general malaise that life's stresses can bring. I might think that counseling and treatment for mental health were wastes of time and money. I might not know what it's like to feel as if things will never get better, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I desperately wanted to be happy, no matter how hard my family and friends tried to help me. If there is one silver lining from this experience, it's that I understand. I don't blame those who don't understand; in some ways, I envy them and wouldn't wish the experience on them, but I do want them to know that depression is real, it's insidious, and those who suffer from it are neither weak nor at fault.

The fact that everyone experiences some level of depression makes it easy to dismiss what others might be going through. My message is to those who are having trouble understanding what a loved one or friend is experiencing, take it from me, not all depression is the same. If someone you know is suffering, even if it seems they have no reason to be unhappy, do not judge or blame them--help them. Your support might be the very thing they need most.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

With wholehearted compassion and empathy,
Brian Rathbone

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