Stress-Knitting and NaNoWriMo

Stress-Knitting and NaNoWriMo

I was hoping to be able to carry on my last post’s positivity, but unfortunately it’s been a pretty crappy week and a half for me, which is why I haven’t been posting anything. Both my mental health and my physical health have taken a downturn, in different ways and for different reasons, so I’ve been struggling to get work done — or anything else, for that matter.

I mean, my mental health wasn’t great before, because as I mentioned, I was having a bunch of anxiety attacks. And then I started seeing a counsellor for the first time in quite a while, and it dredged up a lot of bad feelings, and it’s also not a great time of year for me because it brings up bad memories, so I’ve just been somewhat emotionally fragile and prone to randomly bursting into tears, and/or doing nothing for 24 hours but stress-knitting.

The stress-knitting is sort of helping. I’m using a very brightly coloured yarn and making a series of squares (when I finish the fourth one, which I’m currently knitting, I’m going to change to a different brightly coloured yarn) that will eventually form a hideous unsubtle brightly coloured blanket, and I intend to stitch them all together with my awful neon orange practice yarn, just for optimum brightness. It’s going to be deliberately loud and terrible, and I’m looking forward to it. Mostly, though, I just knit because it gives me something to do with my hands when I’m anxious, and helps distract me from anxiety attacks. It’s particularly good at night when I need something to do to calm me down enough to sleep.

However, it’s been aggravating my shoulders and neck, and I think is part of the reason I’ve been having awful headaches again this week, when I had thought the new meds I was on had put paid to them. I had to miss a class today for the first time this term, because I honestly just couldn’t face being upright anymore and needed to sleep. The other day I even had the fun side effect of flashing lights across my vision every time I stood up; that’s passed now, but the headache itself is proving stubborn.

I’ve also been eating too much sugar, though, and possibly not enough real food, so I don’t think that’s helping. I’m making a resolution to try and change that, but I told myself that last week as well, and then there were discounted post-Hallowe’en sweets everywhere, so we ended up right back where I started. Sigh.

Because I’ve been so non-functional and struggling with basic tasks like sending emails due to overwhelming anxiety, when yesterday came around and NaNoWriMo began, I was seriously doubting my decision to participate. I mean, if I’m not managing everyday life stuff, adding writing on top of that is probably too much, right? But I decided I’d try anyway, because I needed to give my brain a creative airing.

I started at midnight, because after having a series of panic attacks that evening there was no way I was going to be able to sleep for at least a couple of more hours, and managed to write about 3.5k before I went to bed. And honestly? My biggest feeling was one of relief.

There are so many things I can’t consistently do right now (work, sleep, making food, looking after myself, communicating my feelings, socialising, exercise, etc etc) that realising I could still write, no matter how crappy everything else got, was a massive comfort. It was a reminder that I’m not useless. That if all else fails, somewhere in my brain there’s writing.

I made a mock-up cover to put on the NaNo website, just to make the novel page a bit prettier.

And sure, I’ve fixated on this a little bit. I know that if things go downhill and I ultimately fail to write a meaningful amount of this book during this month I’ll probably start thinking bad thoughts about how I am useless, because it has now taken on a greater significance than just a fun hobby; it may be the only thing keeping me sane right now. But right now, it’s going okay. I have about 8k of this novel. Admittedly, these opening chapters are effectively just a rewrite of my last failed attempt to write this particular book, so they’re easier than creating completely new material, but as I rewrite them I’m trying to see the threads of where the plot is going and how things are going to carry on once I run out of previously-written material. (There’s only 14k of it, so that’ll be fairly soon.)

Anyway. However silly an idea it is to do NaNo with all the other stuff I’ve got going on, I need it. I need it to remind me that there’s more to me than my ability to complete work at the ridiculous speed required by Cambridge. That hopefully this can be my future and it hasn’t disappeared, however, little time I’ve been able to dedicate to it recently.

Also I realised that one of my protagonist’s major issues (an issue that’s been present in previous attempts to write the book) is actually also one of my major issues, one that I only really pinned down about myself in the last couple of weeks. I wrote a scene earlier on paper, one that’ll go later in the book, and halfway through it realised that even though I was talking about my character and their circumstances, I was really talking about myself and mine. Welp.

I’ve been increasingly aware that my books are all reflections of my own anxieties and fears (I mean, the entire Death and Fairies series relies on a premise about the inevitable mortality of everyone you care about and an endless cycle of being left behind, so like, hello greatest fear), but I usually don’t realise what issue it is until I’ve finished writing it. With this one, I’m conscious of it even while drafting, and I don’t know how that’ll affect the writing process. But I guess it’s good to know what it’s about, on a psychological and emotional level, even if I haven’t entirely figured out the plot yet.

So. That’s what’s happening over here. What about you guys? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year — how’s that going? Anyone got any tips for relentless headaches that won’t go away and seem unaffected by painkillers? I could use those as well.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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