As you know, I came up with a great, grand plan for how I was going to survive the inevitable winter blues. The plan was relatively simple, albeit in four parts. One aspect of this plan was to ensure I kept myself distracted and occupied. To that end, I resolved to take part in National Novel Writing Month. This is something that takes place every year, in November, and is something I have always wanted to do but never quite got around to.
My efforts—despite the best of intentions—got off to a poor start as the first day of this particular month is also the anniversary of my Nanny’s death. So, while budding writers up and down the country were chugging coffee and refusing to detach themselves from their computers for longer than it took to go to the toilet or re-fill their mugs, I was with my family. My word count at the end of the day was a measly 84. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll make up for it at the weekend. Saturday passed with only a few more words written, while Sunday saw no progress at all. A slight improvement was made on Monday and I managed to inch my way up to 2720 words, but progress then stopped.
Having resolved to actually do this thing, and even asked for sponsorship towards it, watching the days tick by without any progress being made was rapidly ceasing to be something which improved my mood and becoming something which only served to worsen it. NaNoWriMo was becoming just another thing at which I was failing.
On Saturday I became annoyed about this, and I said to myself “Self, this simply will not do.”
I have been getting emails since signing up for NaNoWriMo and my regional group (Chester), to come to their ‘Write-Ins’—basically a load of people sitting in a pub, all writing together, instead of sitting alone, at home, distracting themselves with Facebook, Twitter, and whatever happens to be currently trending on YouTube. The aim of these events is to encourage people to keep writing, to give them a little moral support, and also to meet like-minded people. I did not think for one second when I signed up my online account that I would ever being doing this thing in the ‘real world’. To me it was just another virtual activity I would conduct over the internet and I was perfectly happy with that idea, until last night.
Saturday night I decided (against all logic and normal behaviour) that the solution to the problem was to go to one of these write-ins and spend a whole afternoon in the presence of real people who would encourage me to write.
I found this quite a shocking decision.
More astonishing still was the fact that Sunday dawned and I hadn’t changed my mind. In fact, I did all my jobs with alarming speed hopped in the shower with peculiar gusto (yes, really, enthused about a shower!) and even, dried my hair. With a hair dryer. This is unheard of; the effort it takes is phenomenal, plus it’s always too hot and gives me a headache. Not only that, I applied makeup.
So, wearing my nicest dress (and actually feeling nice in it, despite having re-gained some weight) I toddled off to Chester (bit of a trek) and tracked down the location of this social event. Now, despite many hurdles (it wasn’t where I thought it was, when I finally did find it there was nowhere to park, when I finally did park there was a long walk to the place, when I finally got there I realised it was a Weatherspoons I had at one point actually frequented with my (now ex) fiancé, once I convinced myself to go in any way I couldn’t find the people I was looking for, once I did find them there were only two small tables and I was forced to actually sit next to people and … you know … talk), once I’d got over all that, I found the strangest thing happening. I had a GREAT time. Not only that, I wrote about five thousand words. I met some new people who were both amusing and very nice, I’m fairly convinced I managed to interact with them without doing anything that screamed ‘I’m a total head case, RUN while you still have chance’, and better still I found myself asking when the next one was. Tuesday you say? Great, see you then.
To fully understand the importance of this please let me explain something. For the past two years I have not had any interactions with new people, with the exception of those met during group therapy, once last year and once this year, and the various people with dogs I pass while walking Dexter. I may nod to the latter occasionally and talk to their dogs, but I rarely make eye contact with the human half of the pair, and even less frequently manage to actually talk.
The only other people I have seen are family and two friends so close they may as well be family.
So, for me, this was quite a big deal. I think the strangest thing about it is that I expected to get home and have a total panic attack about it. I expected to be hit with the usual merry-go-round of ‘did I sound stupid when I said this’, ‘what did they mean when they said that’, ‘how could I possibly have allowed myself to go out in public while I’m this fat’.
It never happened.
It still hasn’t.
There is another one tomorrow which I am fully intending to go to. What’s more, I’m looking forward to it.
As I’ve mentioned before I’m currently attending group therapy. Last year I did the same thing, and while I met a couple of nice people with whom I’m still in touch, I didn’t really feel I got anything from the group itself. I was told an awful lot about bipolar disorder which I had already found out for myself. It gave me no deeper understanding of why I reacted to certain things in certain ways. It did nothing to help me identify my own trouble areas and try to find ways to break the bad patterns I’ve been stuck in for years. This year, group is very different. It’s very difficult, it’s emotionally draining, often has me in tears, it is physically and mentally exhausting however, it also appears to be working.
For those of you looking to get any kind of therapy, take my advice. Unless you know absolutely nothing about bipolar, avoid CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), it will frustrate you, demoralise you, and generally leave you with the impression that therapy is pointless. It took some convincing and the threat of lithium for me to try again. Instead, opt for CAT. No, I’m not referring to the fluffy feline, although they make great companions if you’re a loner like I am and don’t like dogs. I’m talking about Cognitive Analytic Therapy.
I’m halfway through my treatment, and I’m actually finding myself able to go out, try new things, meet new people, and above all enjoy doing so.
This is, in my opinion, a minor miracle.