A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post that explained how having a mental illness is not like having a broken leg. I was referring to an article in The Guardian, in which Hannah Jane Parkinson writes:
“I will admit that I am not well. That writing this, right now, I am not well. This will colour the writing.
But it is part of why I want to write, because another part of the problem is that we write about it when we are out the other side, better. And I understand: it’s ugly up close; you can see right into the burst vessels of the thing. (Also, on a practical level, it is difficult to write when one is unwell.) But then what we end up with has the substance of secondary sources. When we do see it in its rawness…who among us does not wince?”
I will admit, as I write this, that I am not well. Of course, as Parkinson notes, this will colour my writing. Which I have struggled with today.
On Saturday I had a workshop down in Victoria, on Building Indigenous Relationships when doing science writing/science communication. I co-organized the event with two of my colleagues with whom I organized a similar session at the April Science Writers and Communicators of Canada conference, and with whom I organized a science communication night at the Royal BC Museum last fall.
The workshop was great. Our presenters, Michelle Washington and Lou-ann Neel, were fabulous and really set us up to succeed when working on building relationships with Indigenous groups and people. The attendees were interested, engaged, and participated eagerly in the breakout sessions. And most of the group stayed for lunch afterwards, which we hadn’t expected.
I enjoyed the workshop and lunch. But the trip to and from Victoria, plus the massive expenditure of brain power, has taken a toll.
On Sunday I was mostly in a fog, feeling not quite “all there.” Since then things have progressed to me having to sleep most of today. In between I’ve been watching (for the Nth time – I can’t even remember how many times I’ve watched it!) The Lord of the Rings. This usually happens when I’m not feeling well.
Now that it’s November, we’ve passed daylight savings and the days end earlier. Every year at this time I feel the same pressing weight of depression, as my bipolar interacts with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to bury me deep in darkness.
We’ve been lucky that the last week or so has been fairly sunny. Yesterday we went for a walk at the estuary and it was sunny and frosty all at the same time. Great for photography.
But these days represent small blips of brightness in the dark, like pearls on a black satin ribbon. I have ideas for essays I’d like to write, books I’d like to review. But the impetus to write them slowly drains out of me as the days get shorter and shorter.
As I wrote in a previous post, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve managed to write every day except yesterday. Even last week, when I’d also spent a day in bed, I still managed to do my writing. Yesterday I excused myself, however, as I wrote this blog post and also outlined my NaNoWriMo project on my new-to-me whiteboard. I also read my latest book review for Science magazine, of Lauren Oakes’ In Search of the Canary Tree, which I submitted back in September. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.
So what’s the point of this blog post?
To share how things can go from very good to very bad in a short period of time. To share what happens after a stimulating workshop spent interacting with many people and travelling back and forth to Victoria. To share what I expect each November as we head into winter. To share that I have my SAD lamp ready for my morning NaNoWriMo sessions, to banish some of the darkness – the external darkness, at least.
I want to “admit that I am not well. That writing this, right now, I am not well. This will colour the writing.”
But I also want to say that we must write when we are not well because, as Parkinson says, we need to look “right into the burst vessels of the thing…When we do see [our illness] in its rawness…who among us does not wince?”
Note: I took the cover photo on Monday – it’s the path into the Cowichan estuary.