The last time I tried to do NaNoWriMo …

by , under books and reading, depression, illness, photos, writing

… I basically crashed and burned. It was last year, November 2015. I started out fairly well, as far as my word count and trying to do some amount of writing every day. I started writing¬†the second book in what I’m hoping will be a three-book series. I had been trying to write the first book in said series from late March through October, with sidesteps to put together and publish (at least in ebook format) my collection of poems, and the kind of delays that one encounters when one also has a family and a full-time job. To do National Novel Writing Month “correctly,” the writer can do all kinds of planning before November, but no actual writing until November 1. So, I put aside my work-in-progress and started writing the follow-up. At the end of November 2015, I had two incomplete novels instead of only one!

What happened last year was basically the same thing that happens to me every November: I had several days when I was seriously depressed. Don’t get me wrong: depression can hit me any day or week of the year, in any kind of weather, with no regard for whatever else I might have had planned. But for many years, perhaps as far back as my teenage years, November has been my most difficult month.

The following paragraphs are what I posted on Facebook (where I’d also been posting updates about my NaNoWriMo efforts) on November 22, 2015.

If you don’t like to think about depression, just skip this one.

I had planned to go to a write-in yesterday afternoon at the library, to try to add a few thousand more words to my November work-in-progress (for National Novel Writing Month). A lot of the morning and early afternoon, I was roped into trying to fix Ryan’s laptop — which had frozen Friday night, but had also just been returned to us Thursday before last with a brand new hard drive. Seriously, EIGHT DAYS after getting it back, it has some DIFFERENT but still MAJOR problem that makes it unusable??? And I don’t know a lot about fixing computers, and no matter what I tried it didn’t work.

A little before 2pm, instead of getting in the shower, I got into bed. (I was still in my pajamas.) Before long, I was crying. I cried off and on for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I got a headache that wouldn’t quit, and my eyes were sore. Much like last Sunday, not only was I too depressed to write, I was too depressed to read. I watched some Hallmark Channel in between bouts of crying. Later, the four of us watched an episode of The Middle, but I quickly started to feel sick. I felt sweat all over me — my arms were resting on the table, and the table was noticeably DAMP under my arms, it was wild. I tried hard not to vomit, but it didn’t work. I’ve continued to be intermittently nauseated since then, but only threw up the one time, thank God.

So, the headache. It’s only the last couple hours that it seems to be gone. The headache and my busy crazy mind kept me up most of the night. I didn’t go to sleep until between 10 and 11, but I was awake again by 1230am, and slept little from then until 630 or 7am. I ate a little, drank some water, took Tylenol for my headache, and read this old novel I had read as a teenager and just recently figured out the title and author again. I couldn’t sleep, but at least I could read.

I recently started reading the new book by Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: a Funny Book about Horrible Things. I won’t finish it soon: it is due back to the library today, but since I am *still* in my pajamas, it might be slightly overdue. Anyway, Lawson is mostly very funny, but a lot of the book (based on my understanding of it, and the little I read) is about her experiences with depression and other mental illnesses. There’s one sentence in the Author’s Note that particularly struck me: “Imagine having a disease so overwhelming that your mind causes you to want to murder yourself.”

If you want to read that last sentence again, please feel free.

And yet, so many of us also feel ashamed, a sense of personal weakness and failure, and hopelessness. I’m not supposed to be writing any of this, right? I’m not supposed to admit that I feel like garbage sometimes, that 30 years after I spent a couple of months in a psychiatric hospital, I *still* think sometimes about hurting myself, and wonder if I have the strength to go on.

And November is THE WORST. The idea that I would try to write a novel during November, when really, any day that I shower and get out of the house should count as a damn victory in my personal battle of life, is basically a fantasy goal that is doomed to fail. (The only time I didn’t have episodes of Seasonal Affective Disorder during November was when I lived in Arizona. I might win NaNoWriMo someday if I live in AZ again.) I’ve accepted that, and I don’t plan to write today. I will keep writing, but not to that November deadline. I just can’t deal.

Ryan’s laptop. I don’t know. It ain’t happening today.

Today. Today, Jeff and I have been married for 18 years. We were supposed to have some kid-free time today, to probably go out to dinner, maybe watch a movie. Did I mention that I’m writing this in bed, and that I haven’t showered all weekend?!? Jeff has been so helpful and sympathetic since my mood went south yesterday. I know I’m not easy to live with a lot of the time, and yet he keeps me around. He’s also encouraged the boys to behave themselves, and not add to my stress level, and they’ve mostly complied. For these things, I am thankful.

I hope your weekend has been better than mine. I hope tomorrow will be better for me, too. I hope I can sleep tonight. I’m looking forward to the long Thanksgiving weekend … and soon after that, to the end of another November.

Happy holiday week. May you all have reasons to smile. If you can’t think of any, then you might want to read some Jenny Lawson.

[And now, back to the present day, when I remember that my blog doesn’t have enough photos. Here’s the profile picture that accompanies that Facebook post. It is me with my late cat Mia, taken an incredibly long time ago, but even though Mia’s been gone over two years now, I still haven’t wanted to change my FB photo.]


This year, my only goal for NaNoWriMo is to finish a mostly coherent draft of that ever-changing first novel. I’m only counting my “new” words, but instead of 50K, I only need to write 15-20K. I’m currently at 6578, and I’m off from work tomorrow, and the marathon write-in is the day after that. Tomorrow, I’m going to get my existing scenes in order, and make a short list/outline of the scenes I need to write to finish a solid draft.

But also, you might be wondering, how is my mood? It seems strange to say, but … and I don’t want to say it too loud … it’s not too bad. Actually, for November, it’s been pretty great — knock on wood! The first couple days of the month were kind of blue, but other than that, it’s been okay. (I will not talk about the election, and other signs that the apocalypse might be coming sooner than we thought. Sometimes, having an entertaining fictional world as a retreat is a real blessing!) I’m not sure why it’s been easier this year — though probably our above-average temperatures have played some part in it — but mostly I want to enjoy it, and be as productive as my mood lets me be.

Onward, and maybe upward!

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