On January 28, I’ll be participating…. Let’s Talk

It isn’t easy to engage in a real dialogue about ‘depression’.

First, there’s the stigma that attaches itself to mental illness.

Assumptions are often made about those who suffer chronic depression. Sometimes those assumptions are founded in reality. Often they are not.

Long ago, in the checkered landscape of my own past, I learned that problems tend grow in the darkness of ignorance.

Open discussion, honesty and dialogue… these are the tools available to us in learning to live well with mental illness.

The Noon GOdIn my books, The Noon God and The First Excellence, I explore the harshest effects of long-term depression, most notably suicide. In The Noon God, my protagonist Desdemona Fortune experiences ‘survivor’s guilt’ after not one, but two, close family members end their own lives.

The FIrst ExcellenceIn The First Excellence, the story opens with Min-xi, the soon-to-be mother of a second born daughter, who finds herself under tremendous pressure to kill her daughters in hopes of later conceiving a son. Unable to hurt her daughters, she instead abandons them in a popular tourist area, knowing they will be found and hoping they will make their way to a better life. After leaving them on a park bench, she takes her own life.

I have an intimate understanding of the kind of depression that can lead to such a tragic outcome.

DebbieLike Desdemona, I am a survivor of ‘sibling suicide’. A long time ago — a lifetime ago, it often seems — I lost my older sister, Debbie. As a teen suffering from an intense and long-term state of depression, one dark night she chose to throw herself through the window of a 12-storey apartment.

I’d like to pretend that I don’t understand. Sadly, I do.

I am also a survivor of chronic depression, and like many such survivors, I remain alert to the triggers that can bring about a spiral into darkness.

There is one thing that seems to help stave off the ravages of depression, in my experience. That ‘one thing’ is honesty.

When I pretend everything is ‘OK’, that’s when I’m in danger.

On the other hand, when I accept that this illness is part of who I am, and when I am honest with myself and others, then I can find a way to not only survive, but to live well, to enjoy this gift I’ve been given.

Depression hurts.

If my words can help even one other person to cope, and more, to live well beyond the scope of that pain, then I will feel this dialogue has been worth the effort.

So come on, world, let’s get together on January 28 and remove the stigma!

Join me in Tweeting and Texting to support @Bell_LetsTalk.

Keep the journey alive! Tweet with me, or feel free to copy and paste the following Tweet:

#EndTheStigma with @Bell_LetsTalk on Jan.28/14 http://tinyurl.com/kj8ws5s TweetOrText #BellLetsTalk about #Depression & #MentalIllness

Runaway ~ the reality of homeless youth in fiction.

troubled teenI was a teenage runaway.

There, I’ve said it.

I left my parental home at the age of fifteen. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was still early spring, so it would have been right around my 15th birthday.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of being young. I’d never really felt like a child, anyway. I suppose you might say I was born an ‘old soul’.

I have no photos of myself from that time period. The closest is this Metropass picture, taken after I found my feet again. As I recall, I was painfully thin; full of bravado, but truthfully more than a little fragile.

A year later, just two weeks short of my sixteenth birthday, I married my first husband. I won’t mention his name. I doubt anyone I know would know him, but hey, why take a chance?

Suffice it to say, the marriage didn’t sing.

Gritty is the word that comes to mind when I remember those years. A writerly word, don’t you think? Captures the mood of a teen living on the edge, desperately trying to clutch hold of society’s fringes and hang on for dear life.

I seldom talk about specifics. Why bother? Things happened. I survived. That was then. This is now.

But I remember.

Maybe that’s the reason I so often find myself writing about young people — the abused, the neglected and forgotten… the teens we secretly wish would just ‘go away’.

My news for 2014: I have a new novel underway.

It’s in the early planning stages, so I can’t say much about it, except that it will draw on those teen-experiences of mine.

The best of art comes directly from the soul. First you live it — then you express it.

Wish me luck!

Donna Carrick – January 8, 2014