I'm Back And I'm Writing A Book During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)!


Illustration courtesy of Andrea Floren

You may have noticed that I have gone AWOL from the blog over the past few months. Or maybe a little longer than the past few months. I hope that I have not caused anyone any worry or disappointment.

My moods got the better of me back in April and I decided that the best course of action would be to completely isolate myself from the world, or at least far as was possible, whilst still living on a busy main road, near a busy junction with many shops, and in the middle of a busy city with millions of people in it!

Isolation in the city looks quite different to living in a log cabin in the middle of the woods (which would be my dream come true). My version of "total isolation" essentially meant falling out with or losing touch with all of the people in my life (not the biggest feat as this is a very tiny number that I can count on one hand); avoiding local shops where people might know and want to stop me for an unwanted chat; and drawing up a number of as-isolated-as-possible dog walking routes along the backstreets of the city, and visiting all local parks on a rotating schedule so as to avoid being spotted by the same people walking their dogs and having to engage in dog-related conversation.

I know it sounds awfully antisocial, but that was the point. I needed space to be by myself. And do you know what? It really did help! I was able to begin to hear myself think again. I decided that it was also the perfect time to come off the medication I was taking. I know I haven't written anything on the blog about the medication I was taking, but the gist of it is that it wasn't working for me, so I was glad to come off it. If you are interested in hearing more about the meds let me know in the comments.

So I spent a glorious three months all by myself, with my dog, my cat, and the cast of Eastenders for company, and by the time I was ready to start talking to people again, I felt beautifully refreshed and completely balanced. In fact, I might go as far as to say... cured?

Alas, since returning to the realities and demands of people and of normal life I have also had to welcome back the mood swings. They have been small and manageable so far. I am currently referring to them as "micro-mood-swings", but I am keeping my eye on them. I have come to the conclusion that out-of-sight-out-of-mind really is a thing! It is being around other people and having to respond to the stresses of everyday life and daily interactions that brings attention to my disorder. I probably had ups and downs whilst living in my little bubble, but I didn't really notice them because society wasn't holding up a mirror to my mood swings. There was really nothing in my life to react to, and so the fluctuations in my mood could come and go without having an impact on anything or anyone.

I also stopped tracking my moods so I really had no idea what was going on. I tend to remember my ups and downs in a very subjective way relative to the current mood I am in, which means that if I have been feeling down I probably won't automatically recall recently having felt up, and if I am currently up then I am unlikely to recall feeling down the week before. I am usually reminded of changes in my moods by other people, journal entries, events recorded in my diary, my mood tracking charts, or catastrophes that have occurred as a direct result of my symptoms. At the end of my three-month isolation, when I got back in touch with my sister, she was unconvinced as I tried to tell her that I didn't recall having a single symptom of depression or hypomania. The silence on the other end of the phone was one of heavy disbelief.

Despite loving the freedom of enjoying only the company and the lack of judgement from my pets, I am back now, fully functioning once more, and I wanted to let you know that I have decided to take part in NaNoWriMo 2021. For anyone who isn't familiar with it, "National Novel Writing Month" is a fun, but somewhat crazy challenge where aspiring writers from all over the world come together to sign up on the website and try to complete writing a whole novel during the month of November. The minimum word count goal is 50,000 words, and while for many the challenge is ridiculously unattainable, it serves to provide wannabe writers with a sense of community and the opportunity to kickstart their personal projects. By the end of the month, many people will have at the very least a very rough first draft or the start of a story to continue working on the following year, which is what I hope to achieve.

The book I have decided to write is a narrative nonfiction memoir sharing my journey of self-discovery after I was diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. This is something I have had on my mind to write ever since starting this blog. I feel like there are plenty of information books, memoir novels, blogs and even films and documentaries out there exploring and documenting the experiences of people who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, but it is very difficult to find anything that represents the specific experiences of the sufferer of cyclothymic disorder. 

After I received my diagnosis my first instinct was to track down as much information as I could, but it wasn't easy to find authentic, detailed, raw, gritty insight into what the experience of living with this disorder can be like for people like me. Instead, I had to make do with the memoirs and films about bipolar disorder, which is really quite different from cyclothymia, although we might relate to some of it. I want to write a book that represents our disorder, a first-hand account, a full book and not just a chapter in a book about bipolar disorder. So wish me luck!

I will try to keep you updated on the blog as to how I am getting along with the writing. I'll also try to set aside some time to write about topics on the blog that I have meaning to cover. If you are new, you can subscribe to the blog via email and receive automatic notifications in your inbox every time I publish something new. I also welcome comments under the posts, so if you would like to say hello I would love to say hello back and answer any questions you might have, or just natter about our ups and downs. And if you are taking part in NaNoWriMo I would love to buddy up with you on the site!

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  1. I suggested this a while back. You write well and you've got a very interesting story to tell.

    I’m glad you’re doing better. You make a valid point about journaling all your events.. doing so may keep you focused on this and it’s all you end up thinking about. Get out in the world.. there’s so much beauty to behold. Do kind things for others. Try new things (foods, travel spots, etc). Let the sun work have a chance to soak into your soul.

    1. Hi Dave,

      It is good to hear from you.

      I know it probably sounds like I live a small, miserable, and perhaps self-absorbed life, and that all I think about is my mental health and how much I struggle, but I assure you it's not the case at all.

      This blog probably gives a biased impression of me because of the nature of its content, but it's really just the place I come to when I want to express myself in terms of what it is like to suffer from poor mental health. The blog is also a place where I can write about the difficult stuff freely, that's the whole point, along with helping to raise awareness about cyclothymic disorder.

      Aside from what I write about on here though, I am a very pleasant, fun, interesting, attractive, ambitious, adventurous, kind and grateful person who always takes the opportunity to enjoy and embrace what life has to offer, when I am well enough to do so.

      I know that you don't mean to sound patronising in your message, but I don't want you to think I lead a life full of darkness and inner turmoil. I know that the world has many beautiful things to offer, and I'm all about trying and learning new things.

      I think the mistake that people often make when trying to "help" or "inspire" someone out of a state of depression, anxiety, or poor mental health, is to state the obvious, perhaps feeling that the person should be doing more to help themselves, when the truth is that if a person is not doing all of these things of their own accord, it's probably because they can't. Bringing a person's attention to all of the things that may not be doing due to their mental illness only serves to increase levels of guilt and self-loathing.

      I think you risk sounding like you are telling me that I am self-absorbed and wallowing in an unnecessary gloom when you tell me to "Get out in the world... there's so much beauty to behold. Do kind things for others. Try new things (...) Let the sun work have a chance to soak into your soul." It's a bit dismissive, presumptuous, and not really very thoughtful.

      I am sure you meant well, but this is a prime example of how unhelpful so many "helpful" suggestions from mentally sound minds can be.

      I hope you are not offended and take this in the way it is intended, because my blog is, after all, all about raising awareness of the reality of mental illness. So thank you for your comment as it has given me the opportunity to highlight something important.

      Zara x


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I write about a variety of topics, including mental disorders (like bipolar, cyclothymia, depression and anxiety) but also everyday mental health challenges and self-care tips. Subscribe to my mailing list and never miss a post...