What Buffy the Vampire Slayer can teach us about mental illness

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

I’ve been thinking of those words a lot lately. With the recent losses of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, a general sense of darkness in the world as we’ve come to know it, and my own ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety, struggles that ebb and flow from still and calm to crashing, crushing waves, those famous words uttered by Buffy Summers in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 episode “The Gift” are etched in that part of my gut where I most feel my own mental illness.

Courtesy of Syfy Wire.

Look for the Magic: a #HoldOntoTheLight Post


You’ve never been suicidal. You’ve never wanted to cut yourself or even felt the urge to do it. You’ve never been on medication. You’ve tried counseling once or twice, but you didn’t really get anything out of it. You feel guilty even using the word depression because you know other people have it so much worse, but when you hear them talk about it, you know exactly what they’re describing. You know the anger, the frustration, the self-doubt, the fear, the shame. You know the voice that whispers in your ear that you’re worthless, that you don’t belong, that you’re wrong somehow. It tells you no one likes you. They only pretend. They barely tolerate you.

The guilt isn’t the only reason you don’t talk about it much. You learned at an early age, when you were a nerdy kid who couldn’t relate to any of the other kids, that no one cared what you had to say. And so you don’t say anything at all. You work hard to be normal and perfect, even though you know deep down there’s no such thing as normal or perfect. Most of the time, you enjoy the life you’ve built. Most of the time you’re what you’d call happy, or at least content.

But just a little nudge—cancelled plans, an offhanded comment from a friend, a critical remark from a coworker—and the house of cards comes tumbling down. The depression hollows you out. The voice is too loud to ignore, too insistent to push away. You go through the motions for a day or a week because you’re stubborn and you do what you have to do, but you’re not there, not really.


At some point you manage to remember something you forgot, something important. You remember that the world is a beautiful, wonderful awe-inspiring place full of magic, if you know where to look.

You go looking for the magic.

And you find it.

You find it in the rhythm of your feet and the beating of your heart as you run. You find it sharing a meal and laughter with friends. You find it in the pages of a book, in the notes of a song, in the lines from a movie. You find it making art. You find it holding someone’s hand.

You think that maybe you should talk about it more, that you shouldn’t feel guilty, because your pain is real, and maybe there are others who need to know they’re not alone, who hear the voice that whispers poison, and who need another voice that says, louder, “There’s magic in the world. Go find it.”

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 http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight.