An author has praised a Chester writing group as being a ‘lifeline’ for her when she was battling a serious mental health condition.
Hazel Butler sought out Chester’s group of writers in 2013 while struggling to recover from bipolar disorder. In 2014 she released her debut novel, Chasing Azrael, an urban fantasy tale exploring themes of mental health, depression and suicide through a thrilling murder mystery plot and an eclectic cast of characters.
Since then she has taken part in National Novel Writing Month every November, as well as completing a summer Camp Nano last year. Last month she celebrated her 30th birthday – a day she was, at one point, convinced she would never live to see.
First diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a long period of extreme depression in 2010, Hazel had spent four years isolated by her condition and suffering from anxiety and panic disorders whenever she attempted to go out in public.
Road to recovery
Already a keen writer, she began working on a new novel as a means of understanding her diagnosis and how she might find a road to recovery. Suicide is a central theme of Hazel’s first novel, Chasing Azrael, as she was recovering from one of several suicide attempts when she began to write it.
The author and archaeologist said: “The suicide attempt that was the driving force behind Chasing Azrael was just one of many instances over the last 15 years when my illness drove me to hurt myself and for a long time, I honestly believed the illness would kill me long before I turned 30.”
Hazel has nothing but the highest praise for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which challenges writers from all over the world to pen at least 50,000 words of a novel in a single month.
Writing group became lifeline
“The Chester group for NaNoWriMo have been an absolute life line for me,” says Hazel.
“It was amazing to find like-minded people after so long on my own. They are incredibly supportive, and have been amazingly understanding about my condition, especially group leaders Linda Vikaune and Steve Harper.”
The group meets several times a week throughout each NaNo month, and regularly throughout the rest of the year at The Forest House, on Love Street in Chester.
Death Becomes Me
Hazel is now penning the next book in her urban fantasy series, Death Becomes Me, which continues to explore themes concerning death and mental health.
Hazel said: “Writing Chasing Azrael was incredibly cathartic. Writing is a powerful form of therapy that allows you to truly explore and exorcise your demons.”
For more information visit Hazel’s website at www.hazel-butler.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HazelJaneButler. For details on National Novel Writing Month, visit www.nanowrimo.org.