Why I Keep Talking About “It”

While chatting with someone yesterday, the topic of depression came up. I mentioned (very casually, might I add) something about my own experience, and this person asked me a question that really caught me off-guard.

Why do you keep talking about it?”

The person may not have meant it this way, but their question came across as an attack rather than genuine curiosity. But in case they (and anyone else reading) are actually curious, then I do have a few answers.

– To let others know that they’re not alone.

– To let others know that it’s okay to admit that they’re not okay.

– To let others know that, while depression is a daily battle, there is hope.

– Because it helps me heal.

Prior to my own diagnosis, I had no idea that depression was so widespread. I had no clue that so many people suffered in silence, that there were so many others who felt at war with their own minds. And so I talk about my own experience so that maybe, just maybe, it helps others see that it’s not just them. That there is a light at the end of that excruciatingly long tunnel. And yes, talking about it helps me. Hiding depression is like hiding a secret that eats away at you, slowly, slowly, slowly, until there’s nothing left but the pain, the loneliness, the downright agony. Being a shell of a person with nothing but the ache inside is no way to live. Being honest with myself, and with others, frees me of that.

Sure, the openness makes me vulnerable (especially to people who attack me for speaking out), but it’s also brought me so much closer to others. I’ve received messages from people I’ve known for years, saying, “Yes. This is me. Right now, this is me. Thank you.” And for that, it’s all so very worth it.

To New Beginnings

I’m going to tell you guys a story.

It’s the story of a girl who slowly, slowly, slowly drifted into the darkness of depression–so slowly that she didn’t realize what was happening until she was at the bottom of the pit. This girl struggled. She collapsed onto a cold bathroom floor countless times, wondering if there was more out there for her. She needed to know that there was something beyond the ache of emptiness. The agony of loneliness. She cried, and cried, and cried, until it felt as if there were no possible tears left.

And then, she cried some more.

After a while, the depression convinced this girl that there was nothing more—at least, not for her. That this, this pain, was her destiny.

But the girl was so, so wrong. Because depression is a bold-faced liar.

If I could see that girl again, I’d sit beside her on that cold bathroom floor. I’d take her hand. And I’d tell her that yes, the nights could be so very dark and long, with no end in sight. But I’d also tell her that morning always comes, no matter how dark the night gets. That each sunrise brings new chances. New beginnings. That each breath is a declaration that she’s still here, and that she’s still winning this fight. She may feel beaten and rundown and defeated, but every breath is its own victory. In the battle against depression, we celebrate each and every victory.

I’d tell her that there’s a place for her here. And that while she may not be able to see it just yet, her place in the world cannot be filled by anyone but her. You see, this girl loved to tell stories. I’d let her know that no one could tell her stories better than she could.

If I could see that girl again, I’d tell her that even though things felt like they were falling apart, they were actually falling into place.

If you’re struggling, if your pain is crippling, if the tears just won’t let up, I hope you hear me when I say that while the world can be a beautiful place, it’s so much more beautiful with you in it. The night is dark, but I promise that the morning always comes, bringing with it a new beginning. Life is full of these new beginnings, some being much larger than others. Those beginnings aren’t always easy, but they’re so, so very worth it.

I love National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day, because they bring awareness to silent suffering. But every day is an opportunity to tell someone that we love them. That we’ve got their back. That we’d really miss them if they were gone. And that if they ever needed us to, we’d sit beside them on a cold bathroom floor and hold their hand.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Lifeline (24/7): 1-866-488-7386

 

An Open Letter: To Those Who Fight

To Those Who Fight,

I get it. I know how hard it was to get out of bed this morning. I know how your heart clenched when you glanced in the mirror. I know how taking one step felt like trudging through a mud pit. And people expect you to take step, after step, after step. They expect you to keep going, even when you’re so very tired.

Life’s already hard enough. Depression makes it even harder.

You may be dwelling on the mistakes. On what happened yesterday, or last week, or three years ago. On the what-ifs, the could’ves, the should’ves. For some reason, the negative thoughts are so much louder than the good ones.

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I’m not going to say that life is perfect, that you’ll be surrounded by unicorns and rainbows and glitter. I’m going to tell you that it gets tough. That some parts downright suck. That some days make you wonder why you exist in the first place.

But I’m also going to tell you that there’s a reason you’re here. The beat of your heart and the air in your lungs means that you’re still here, and you’re here for a purpose–your purpose. It’s unique, and it’s meant for you, and you alone. You may not know what that purpose is yet, but you do have one. The catch? You’re the only one who can discover that purpose. Which means you need to stay.

And we want you to stay.

There may be nights when your heart aches and your stomach’s in knots and your head is clouded with the mistakes, with the what-ifs, with the could’ves and the should’ves. But I hope that you hear the voices of others, the voices that are screaming for you to stay. They’re screaming that you matter so very much, that your story is only beginning.

And I hope that you realize how strong you are. That you are here. And that someone out there loves you–dear goodness, they love you.

It still won’t be easy–climbing up a mountain never is. But when you get to the top of the mountain? It’s so very worth it. And the view is breathtaking.

Hope is possible.

Healing is possible.

Forgiveness is possible.

A future is possible.

Your story is far from over. And I can’t wait to hear that story.

~ Michelle

National Suicide Prevention Week begins September 8th, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you or someone you know is suffering, there are people who care, and who want to listen, and who want to help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7)

To Write Love on Her Arms

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Lifeline:  1-866-488-7386 (available 24/7)

What a Stray Dog Taught Me About Hope

We were eating lunch when I spotted her outside my window. I went outside, hoping to get a closer look at the pup wandering in my yard. (My neighbors have dubbed me the “neighborhood dog catcher” for good reason.) This has always ended one of two ways: finding a collar and calling the dog’s owner, or delivering the dog back to one of my neighbors.

I stepped onto the porch and got a better look as she sniffed the grass in my yard. No collar. Even from my distance I could tell she’d been on the loose for a while–she was extremely skinny, and her fur was covered with dirt. I called out to her softly. Her head popped up. And the moment those wide eyes landed on me, I saw it.

Hope.

Her tail wagged as she trotted over to me, a stranger who held no food or water. I knelt down and offered my hand for her to inspect. She looked me in the eyes and nudged my hand, begging to be rubbed. So I scratched her ears (where I immediately found a tick). I rubbed her fur (which was covered in fleas). She licked my nose. I didn’t stop her.

My phone was in my pocket, so I called my husband, who was inside the house, and asked him to bring a bowl of water and a treat. He did and became the dog’s new best friend (seriously, she tried to follow him into the house). As he headed back inside, I asked him to bring my car keys and shoes. I knew where she needed to go. I didn’t want to take her there, but I also knew we couldn’t keep her. We have a 6-year-old pup who’s very much a one-dog dog.

She held my gaze the entire time I petted her. When I told her she’d be okay, she licked me again. And again, I didn’t stop her. (I know this might sound disgusting to some people. But my own dog is super affectionate and does the same thing all day, every day. I’m used to it.)

I threw a blanket over the backseat of my car and helped her inside. She immediately tensed. I couldn’t blame her. But as we began the 20-minute drive across town to the SPCA, she relaxed. And my heart broke a little more with each of those twenty minutes. By the time we reached the shelter, I was in tears.

Throughout the entire ride, I repeated, “You’re going to be okay, sweet girl.” I’m not sure why I kept saying that to a dog who probably didn’t understand me. Maybe because it’s something that we all need to hear sometimes. That even when we’re dirty, and a little smelly, and we’ve been lost for God only knows how long, things will be okay.

I had a talk with my girl before taking her inside the shelter. I told her she’d have food, and water, and a roof over her head. I told her that these were good people, people who wanted the best for her.

The shelter worker took her from me, and I’m fairly certain I’ll never see that sweet girl again. I cried the entire drive home because she trusted me, and I somehow felt that I’d let her down. That I’d abandoned her. But now that it’s been a few hours, I can see that it was the best choice. She’ll have better care at that shelter than she would’ve had on the road.

She was so tired. Now she has a place to rest her head.

I was reminded of something today. That sweet, trusting, hopeful girl reminded me that many of us have felt like her. We’ve felt lost. Eager for someone to find us. To love us. To tell us we’ll be okay.

And I have a secret: you will be okay.

*I have to give a shout-out to the SPCA of Northeastern NC. There are phenomenal people there, workers and volunteers alike who have a passion for animals and go out of their way to take care of our furry friends. Thank you for being there. Thank you for caring.

When All You Can Do is Sit

Today was rough.

One of the sucky things about depression is that it doesn’t care if the sun is shining, or if you’ve had a great morning, or if you just don’t have the energy to fight it off that day. Actually, I think if depression were a person, it’d be a jerk who loves to kick others when they’re down.

For me, days like these can go a number of ways. Sometimes a walk helps. Sometimes a scroll through Pinterest will brighten me up. Sometimes all it takes is the perfect song. Today wasn’t so easy, though it wasn’t nearly my worst–it ended with me sitting on the kitchen floor, listening to my kiddo play happily in his room and watching the dog sling around his stuffed dinosaur while dinner cooked. It’s been a while since I’ve hit a moment like that, when all I was capable of doing was sitting there, staring.

Moments later, my kiddo ran into the kitchen, a huge grin on his face, and plopped into my lap. Within minutes, I was smiling and laughing along with him.

And then I realized that, while it’s great to have someone help you to your feet, having someone who’ll sit with you on the kitchen floor is even more powerful.

It’s not as simple as dusting yourself off and getting back up. So if you’re reading this and you’re suffering from the ruthless depression jerk, I hope you have someone who will sit with you during your rough moments.

Do Something Challenge – Week 5

It’s the final week of the Do Something challenge! Honestly, I’m a little sad. I’ve had a blast this month, and I hope you guys have, too! Since we’re winding down, let’s review the previous four challenges:

– Perform two acts of kindness.

– Ask someone how they’re doing, and then listen. Really listen.

– Leave an inspirational sticky note in a public place.

– Write a letter to someone who inspires you.

And now, it’s time for number five:

Don’t forget the things you’ve practiced this month.

Despite what you may be thinking, yes, this is a challenge. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of something new, especially as it’s ongoing. But as time passes, your passion dwindles. And while that’s normal, that’s not what we want to happen.

My parting challenge for you guys is to make kindness a daily act. Do you care about someone? Show them. Do you love someone? Tell them. The little things we do can make all the difference. You never know the lives you can change.

Do Something Challenge – Week 4

It’s Monday! And do you know what that means? Do ya?

It’s time for another Do Something challenge!

Last week, we decorated our towns with inspirational sticky notes. I don’t know about you guys, but I had a BLAST. We learned that a well-timed message can bring a smile to someone’s face. This week, we’re making that message a little more personal:

Write a letter to someone who inspires you.

This can be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even a favorite author, singer, musician, etc. It doesn’t have to be three pages long–it can be as short as a few sentences. The point is to let this person know that they’ve made a difference in your life.

(And if you don’t have this person’s address to mail their letter, an e-mail is perfectly fine. However, if you do have their mailing address, a handwritten letter never goes out of style!)

As always, I’d love to hear how your challenge is going! Feel free to reach me on Twitter @MichelleA_Smith.

Interview with Dahlia Adler

Happy Tuesday, folks! I have a super-special guest on the blog today. The fabulous and oh-so-lovely Dahlia Adler answered a few questions about her upcoming novel BEHIND THE SCENES, which is releasing next week from Spencer Hill Contemporary!

Hi, Dahlia! Thanks so much for swinging by my little ol’ blog. I’m SO stinkin’ excited for BEHIND THE SCENES. Now, I’m sure you knew this question would pop up: can you give us a quick rundown of the story?

Yay, I’m glad you’re excited! I am too 😉 BEHIND THE SCENES is about a girl named Ally who’s sort of surrounded by Hollywood but wants nothing to do with it, until working in the industry as her actress best friend’s assistant becomes the only way to do what she does want – leave LA behind. When she falls for her best friend’s co-star, she finds a lot more to hate about the industry, but she also learns why it’s so compelling and important to these people she loves.

I’m currently in the middle of edits for my book, and I’ve shed a tear or fifty for a few darlings that had to be slashed. Did you have to say goodbye to any favorite characters, scenes, or even a line during your editing process?

Amazingly, no. BEHIND THE SCENES went through some massive edits, but they were entirely additions. After my betas ripped it apart, I added 10K words, and then during the first round of edits at Spencer Hill, I added another 11K. Literally the only thing that I can recall trashing was a, uh, particularly graphic occurrence, that’s now more…interruptus than it was originally.
 

I’m a super visual person, so I love casting my characters. Have you seen anyone and thought, “Oh hey, I’m gonna borrow your face for my Pinterest board. ‘Kay thanks bye.”

Oh God, yes. I don’t usually base characters on celebrities but this entire book was written with Matt Lanter in mind for Liam. In fact, I have to confess that I’m pretty sure I even subconsciously stole his character’s name on 90210 for Liam. I don’t really have an image for anyone else in the book, but for Liam…yeah. Hi, Matt Lanter. Thanks for your face. And body. All of it. Thanks.
 

You’re trapped on a deserted island with one of your characters. Who is it, and why?

Oh God, that’s a tough call. I’m definitely the most like Ally, but I think that would make us both crazy after about a day. Liam’s reallllly pretty, so that’s tempting, but it’d probably have to be Vanessa. She’s definitely the one I can most guarantee would make it a fun experience.

 You’re my go-to when I need a YA rec (and seriously, one can never go wrong with a Dahlia rec). What is it about YA that makes you say, “THIS is why I love it”?

Aw, thanks! There are two huge things for me when it comes to book love. One is if a book makes me laugh, not necessarily out loud, but if I just think, “God, that’s witty.” The first YA I really remember falling in love with as an adult is CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers, and even though Parker is theoretically the paradigm of “unlikeable MC,” I just remember thinking she’s such a freaking clever, witty trip that I could never not want to hang out with her. The other biggie is just doing something different. I was blown away by the way AS King plays with perspectives in PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. I still can’t get over the way Corey Ann Haydu’s OCD LOVE STORY burrowed into my brain and changed the way I think. I can’t remember an ending making my mouth drop open like DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas’s did. Those are the books I can’t wait to shove into someone’s hands.
 

And last, but most certainly not least, what’s up next for you in the authorly world?

A lot, thankfully! BEHIND THE SCENES has a companion coming out next June called UNDER THE LIGHTS. It takes place about a year after BtS ends, and is told from the alternating perspectives of two of the secondary characters in BEHIND THE SCENES. Then, the following November, I’ll be releasing a standalone, currently called MY NAME IS EVERETT. That one’s the original “book of my heart,” so I’m really excited to see it go out into the world! Meanwhile, I’m working on a few other YA and NA books with currently indeterminate futures, so stay tuned!

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA writer and blogger at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and Barnes & Noble at every spare moment in between. Her debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24, 2014. 

Do Something Challenge – Week 3

Hi guys!

We’re now in Week 3 of the Do Something challenge! I hope these past two weeks have been as awesome for y’all as they have been for me. Are you ready for this week’s challenge?

Leave an inspirational sticky note in a public place.

This can be at the grocery store, or the library, or even on a bathroom mirror. It may sound silly, and you may think that there’s no way this can make an impact, but a kind word can move mountains for someone. A well-timed message could be the exact thing that they need to make it through the day.

We all need a little inspiration sometimes. This week, be the reason for someone’s smile.

As always, I’d love to hear how your challenge is going! Feel free to give me a shout on Twitter @MichelleA_Smith.

My Writing Process Blog Hop

Hi guys! The fabulous Valerie Cole has tagged me in the My Writing Process blog hop.

1) What am I working on?

A lot! I’m currently in between edits for my April 2015 release, PLAY ON. While waiting for the next round, I’m revising another YA Contemporary.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This is a toughie. I’d have to say it’s different because, well, they’re my stories. And these stories draw from my experiences and the way I see the world. For example, you’ll find bits and pieces of me scattered throughout PLAY ON. That’s the great thing about the world of books: all authors bring different life experiences to the page!

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write YA because there’s something magical about the teenage years (seriously. Go with me here.). Emotions are heightened, passions are intensified, the voices are louder and more distinct. There’s something about that first kiss, first love, and even that first heartbreak. I adore capturing those moments on the page.

4) How does my writing process work?

Every manuscript’s been different. Heck, each revision has been approached a different way. It’s kind of scary when you realize that a proven “routine” doesn’t work for the next manuscript, but hey, it keeps things interesting. The one thing that remains the same is where it all goes down.

 

MyWritingProcess

Where the magic happens! The only thing missing is my actual laptop. I’m giving the poor thing a breather for a few days.

Who’s up next?

I’m going against the tagging norm, but a group of awesome ladies are up next–and you can find all their answers in one place! Look for the post next week on the Revision Warriors blog.

Cheryl A. Ham

Hi! I’m Cheryl. I write YA Fantasy and am in love with all things SpecFic. Stories that combine speculative elements with lyrical prose blow my mind. Hello, Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo, I’m looking at you.

Random facts: I’m a dog lover and have two fur babies, Zeke and Ollie. Coffee fuels my soul–chocolate soothes it. I hate the cold (read: New England winters), but holy crap do I love ALL THINGS Christmas. I love wine and martinis. I’m an audiobook addict, enthusiastic sleeper, and lover of warm weather, socks, and cozy blankets.

Diane Bohannan

Hi! I’m Diane and I absolutely love to write. I can’t imagine not doing it. In the last two years, I’ve gotten serious about writing, rolled up my sleeves, joined critique groups, and visited conferences to hone my craft. I’m hoping to query my YA fantasy next year! Some of my favorite craft books are Plot versus Character, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, and The First 50 Pages. Books that make me fall in love with words even more are: Cinder, Shadow and Bone, The Maze Runner, and Divergent.

Marlana Antifit

Hello! I’m Marlana. My non-stop imagination concerned family and friends until I began jotting down my made-up worlds, added some pretend friends and called myself a writer. I read a vast variety of genres but for creating, I lean toward science fiction and fantasy for MG/YA.

I’m a member of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators aka ScaBeeWee. My writing heroes include JK Rowling, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook, Beth Revis, James Patterson, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Stephen King. I also find inspiration from movies and television. If you look up sci-fi geek, you just might see my picture.

Rina Heisel

Hello! I’m Rina. I write middle grade novels, and more often than not, something furry or fantastical works its way into way into my pages.  I’ve been crazy for middle grade since those early reading years, when books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Julie of the Wolves delivered whole new worlds right to my cozy reading couch. Books like Ender’s Game, Watership Down, and the ghost stories of Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright were like rocket fuel to my imagination and made me want to write! I’m currently represented by the amazing Danielle M. Smith of Red Fox Literary and trying to make my publishing dreams a reality. I’m also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.