I write this on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. I remember that morning all too well. I was supposed to be on site, but had a short week to volunteer for an event that weekend, so I had stayed home. I had a small TV in my office in the house, that I rarely turned on.
I’d scheduled myself a pretty light week, and flipped on the news for background noise a couple of minutes before 9 AM that morning, and the first cameras were reaching the Trade Towers. I sent messages to a few people in the office as we serviced several companies in the area around the towers, and activated some of our internal business continuity processes.
Like so many people, I was locked on the news, and saw the second plane hit. At first, I thought someone had found footage of the first crash, but no. It was the second hit, live.
I’d lived in Charlotte for less than a year at that time, but being a financial center, business around town began evacuating downtown except for critical personnel. It didn’t affect me as I didn’t work except out of my house when I moved here, as I was on the road most of the time, but it was all over the local news.
Before long, we had cleared out most of our offices as soon as we realized the United States was under attack. People were traumatized.
As I reflect on that day, and every day since, I look at where we are. We are still a nation existing in fear. We are in a fifteen year old global war with no end in sight. We entrust huge bureaucracies to keep us “safe” by treating every single one of us as a criminal.
And that’s before we get to our own personal lives.
I have had many friends in military service come back from their second, third, fourth deployments or more. So many of them show the signs of stress, of PTSD.
I then look at the people I know who have never been deployed. The friends I have going through the stresses of life – Illness, divorce, unemployment, trauma and so much more. I’ve had my issues with depression. With stress. With no longer giving a damn. I’ve always been able to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.
Unfortunately I have enough friends that can’t get that far. Friends for whom the burden holds them down. Or in some cases pushes them to a permanent solution. I just work every day to make sure I don’t let myself go down that path.
I think all of this has built to lead us to where we are now. We are a wounded and traumatized nation. We have had economic upheaval, riots in the streets, extreme fear and mistrust of our political and law enforcement institutions, and we barely trust our neighbor any more. We have emptied our packs of the tools that helped us thrive to load them with the burdens and stresses of the world.
It is no wonder so many of us live on the edge of paralysis.
I write all of this not to push you over the edge, but to say it’s time to get your shit together. Me too.
It’s easy to say, but hard as hell to do.
It can be easy to live in our pain, to revel in it, cherish it, and nurture it. When you do, you are building a time bomb that will take you with it when it goes off. You’re feeding that inner demon a buffet. It may be fast, or it could be slow, but either way it’s destructive. Nothing good can come of it. And at some point, even your closest loved ones either run away to protect themselves, or get sucked in and go down with you. I sometimes wonder if we nationally aren’t bathing in our collective pain.
It’s time for us to all own up to our problems, and work on them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you. You are made up of all of your experiences – good and bad, ecstasy and trauma. Just like me, and everyone else. Learning to deal with your problems and accept your traumas in life take time. It takes having help.
Sometimes it’s a beer and wings. Sometimes that help comes in the form of calling a friend at 2 AM, and talking your problems through. Sometimes it comes in the form of a therapist or other professional.
Life won’t always be easy. Sometimes it down right sucks. Just don’t try to do it alone.
The other morning, I was having a hell of a time getting motivated, and something popped up in my Facebook feed.
These mountains you are carrying, you were only meant to climb. – Najwa Zebian
Since the first time I ever saw this, it seems to appear as a mantra for me when I need it. For me, it reminds me to drop all of the bullshit that weighs me down, and there’s plenty I carry with me every day. And as long as you put one foot in front of the other going upwards, you’re getting closer to the top.
I believe we all have a possible point of greatness, which few of us will ever fully realize. I also don’t believe there is an apex, just peaks we can reach to discover there is a taller mountain next. Like a mountain climber, you never can succeed alone. There are always sherpas (mentors) to guide you along parts of the path and help carry the burden. You travel with other climbers who can pick you up when you slip, and you do the same for them.
We have to help ourselves first to help those around us.
I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m up for the journey, and there’s still an occasional hurricane even when you’re just hanging out on the beach. Grab a surfboard, ride the storm surge, and have your lifeguards for the times you wipe out. And be ready, when you have a friend in need.
More contributors can be found by following ##holdontothelight and through:
The National Center for PTSD
Anxiety and Depression Society of America
#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, Home 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 and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOntoTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.