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Hold On To The Light

Illustration by Toby Allen.

Ironically enough, I was supposed to have had this blog post about PTSD, anxiety, and depression as an author written weeks ago. However, I have been battling just those disorders myself as of late and, thus, my progress was impeded. It is no secret to my readers and social media followers about my battle with anxiety and depression – I have been quite vocal and raw over the years, bleeding all over the internet like a hurricane at times, withdrawing completely at others, and letting those who choose to follow me know the intimate details of my struggles, in one way or another. In a way it has been therapeutic, and in a way, damning. But through the years I have come to realize the vast web of support that is there if one can learn to tune out the demons and allow those who care for you to assist you, which can be the greatest of challenges one can face.

Depression and anxiety can often be labeled as “crazy” by individuals who do not understand the root causes and conditions of these disorders in their many variations. However, those who suffer from these conditions are far from that isolating and demeaning label. As authors, artists, and musicians, we are products of a combination of our genetics and the pressures and horrors of our lives in a society that often does not understand the intricacies of the creative mind and spirit. We feel things too intensely – our responses to existence simply reside too close to the surface of our beings.

While others may be able to “tune it out” or “be strong”, after triggered it can take an inordinate amount of strength to focus enough to work through the sense of doom, gloom, and terror that can fester. Our disorders do not understand the concept of “putting on a brave face”, though our rational mind may beg for it. For us, the “brave face” is our art, our truth. When we create, we are saying to our disorders, and the world, that we shall not be defeated. That we are strong, and unique, and beautiful. That we will not be crushed under the weight of our pasts, the circumstances of our presents, or the anxieties of our uncertain futures.

For me, my writing has been my greatest outlet for overcoming PTSD, anxiety, and depression. It is an extension of me – my characters, mirrors of aspects of myself, and those around me, my stories allegories for the pain, suffering, and triumph we experience in those years between birth and death.

Through my poetry I am able to commit to paper a stream-of-consciousness, in-the-moment account of my emotional reflections. For me, there is perhaps no more unfiltered avenue of self-expression for, while I may add a comma here or there or correct a typo, the sentiment is rarely, if ever, changed. Each poem is like lighting a prayer candle or writing your sin on a piece of paper and tossing it into the ocean. It is raw and unapologetic as if meant for a confessional and not for the masses ears. But, in this, I find peace and solitude – it is a way for me to say to my inner demons that they do not have control over me.

And, speaking of demons, my novel REVENGE is a perfect example an exploration of the depths of depravity depression can drag you down to. I honestly never expected for it, or the novella that spawned it, REGRET, to actually get published. It was too complex, too bitingly raw, I thought, for most readers to be able to stomach. However, it was published and still is received with glowing praise, letting me, and my co-author, know that our story is one that resonates with the human condition. REVENGE is the story of a man, Marcus, who unfortunately, because he allows his anxiety disorder and depression to completely rule him, becomes the Demon of Regret. He is then drawn into a war between the archangels and Lucifer over the rights to govern Purgatory and the strange new species that has evolved from the spiritual detritus of humanity. From the moment I began writing REVENGE I knew it would take me on a painful, yet exciting journey of self-discovery. With each new demonic encounter Marcus begins to understand another aspect of humanity and the rationalizations behind certain impulses, indulgences, and emotions. He comes to understand the source of his anxiety, his depression, and, in a strange and perhaps twisted way, he rediscovers his own power and potential through his suffering…

The ETERNAL VIGILANCE vampire novels are another series in which I have utilized several of the characters to explore my own inner struggles. The main character, Tynan, I always refer to as the male version of myself, in many respects. Throughout the series the reader can see how, not only the character is evolving – first consumed by his PSTD and depression, and then learning to set aside the past in order to gain control of the future – but also my own journey. With each book Tynan becomes stronger and more rational, while in life I work towards my own goals of balance. He is forever aware of his tendencies towards negativity and anxiety, his occasional inability to distance himself from his emotions, but he has learned the importance of his place, his necessity, and strives to overcome those things when he can. It is beyond a doubt that my writing, especially with the ETERNAL VIGILANCE series, has been tremendously therapeutic. I cannot count the number of times I have broken down sobbing while writing a scene only to have a great sense of relief having committed those words to paper. I look forward to seeing just how Tynan continues to evolve over the next two novels, to see what he becomes…

Artists in all medias use their crafts as emotional outlets. Still to this day much of mainstream society has a hard time understanding this need to create or “lose their minds” as some artists put it. But it is a real and necessary need. Personally, if I go more than a couple of weeks without creating my depression worsens to the point where I stop caring and simply want to sleep. My anxiety goes off the rails and even the smallest task in life seems like a threat, both to me and my creative endeavors. But when I write, when I create, when I craft the worlds where my characters live and release them into the wilds of others’ imaginations, there is a sense of relief, of purpose.

I realize this post has been a bit rambling. I suppose my point is this: if you know an author or artist or musician and you hear them express frustration and depression, encourage them to focus on their craft. Do what you can to facilitate the creative process – give them space, time, whatever they need in order to spread the healing salve of self expression over their disorders. It may feel strange and lonely to you. It may not make any sense why a writer “prefers” at time to spend hours with fictional characters and worlds of their own creation. Just know, that they will emerge stronger and more resolute to join the rest of the world after their creative session.

That is all I have to say for now…

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