21 March 2021

As it turns out, quarantine is great for blogging. This is my fourth post in twice as many days.

I’m not sure why my attention has turned to this blog more often. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions resulting in both fewer options and more time. Maybe it’s the introspective nature of the activity that matches well with the nature of quarantine. But I’ll take it.

While in quarantine, I’ve also worked on my book. I really should have spent more time on it, and for a few days right at the start the aspiration was to write a little every day. But in the end I only managed to get around to it yesterday, a Saturday, which is usually the day I work on it.

I’ve had the idea to write this book for a really long time. I can’t tell you with certainty when it began, but my guess is probably around 2015 when I left the psychiatric ward after being briefly institutionalised for a manic outbreak. The intention behind the book is to share my story, to give a peak into the minds of someone who suffered, first, from depression, and then from bipolar disorder. To show that these mental conditions are treatable and if properly treated can be a blessing in disguise.

That’s the idea. But as I began writing the book this year, I’ve begun to have misgivings. The book will refer to a lot of people, and I’m not sure how they’ll take it. Since beginning the book, I’ve toyed with the idea of reaching out to key personalities and giving them a heads-up, and maybe also asking them for permission to mention them in a specific way. I’m not too keen on the latter as I see it as an editorial decision, and I want to tell the story from my perspective. But I’m not dead set either way.

And then I was having coffee with my dad, and he was talking about how he thinks Meghan and Harry shouldn’t have spoken out against the British royal family, how he disapproves of how they’re airing the dirty laundry in public. At the time I just expressed my disagreement and we didn’t get into a long discussion about it. But later when my thoughts drifted to the book, I began to wonder how my parents would take it. They feature quite prominently in the book (as would be expected), and I wondered if my dad would be hurt by our dirty laundry being aired in public.

And then a few days ago, a friend innocently asked if I’m writing the book for myself, or for the public. And that got me wondering whether it’s enough just to write the book for myself as a therapeutic exercise. That merely gathering and transmitting my thoughts onto the pages would make the exercise worthwhile. Maybe I can help others in a different way. In fact, I’m already helping others in my day job. There’s no reason why I’d have to have the book as a medium.

And then, yesterday as I was writing the book, I realised how one-sided and deeply inaccurate my account of my life story is. Yes, it’s my life. Yes, I’m putting it to paper exactly how I remember it. But memories are a fickle thing, and we will weave events into the narrative that we choose.

For years, I’ve told myself that I didn’t know how to make friends as a child. That people were drawn to me because of my academic abilities, not because of me as a person. But before I moved to Vietnam, just mere weeks ago, I was sorting through old belongings at home and found notes written for me by my school friends. Notes which showed genuine care and interest in me. Notes which proclaimed my humour and interestingness as a person. Notes which are completely incongruent with my perception of my high school days.

So yesterday, as I was writing a section on my theory of why I didn’t have any friends at university, I was constantly questioning myself. I was having to put in a proviso that my story is a biased account. But even with that proviso, I didn’t really believe the words I was writing. It felt like I was telling a lie that I want to believe about myself, but that anyone who knows me would immediately expose for its laughable falsehood.

If even I am doubting the veracity of my memory, of the narrative of destruction and re-birth that I’m using to describe my mental health history, then how can I put pen to paper and share that narrative with the world?

This is where my head is at right now with my book. I’ll continue writing it, that’s for sure. But what I’ll do with it once finished—that’s a different matter.

I guess, as with all things in life, we’ll find out in time.

Love,

Val

p.s. The quarantine is still going well by the way. On Day 9 now. I’m 5 days and a negative test result away from freedom and reunion with my partner! Waheeee!

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