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Mental Health

Bulimia Nervosa

Hazel’s battles with food and body-image have plagued her since childhood. By the age of thirteen she was suffering badly from bulimia nervosa, which was eventually diagnosed when she was twenty and studying for her undergraduate degree at Manchester University. It is a condition which continues to affect her life and is difficult for others to understand, especially as she is currently so overweight, as a result of her bipolar disorder, depression, and the medication she takes for both.

Bipolar Disorder

Although she was unaware of it until her eventual diagnosis at the age of twenty-five, Hazel has also suffered from Bipolar Disorder I since her teens. The condition appears to have manifested at roughly the same time as her bulimia, and became progressively worse as she got older. By the age of fourteen she was self-harming and often suicidal. By sixteen she was having regular, although relatively brief, periods of depression and mania, and by eighteen these moods were becoming more unpredictable and prolonged. She was eventually diagnosed after a very severe period of mania, followed by a prolonged period of extreme depression. Hazel has attempted suicide on several occasions, the last of which was extremely bad and led to her writing the novel that would become her debut novel, Chasing Azrael.

Mental Health in Fiction

Chasing Azrael Mental Health In FictionHazel is extremely conscious of mental health issues and often uses her writing to explore her feelings concerning her own illnesses. One of her goals is to raise awareness of mental health through her writing, and it is her hope that her fiction will give people a means of relating to characters with mental health conditions in a manner that is not always possible in real life. In particular she favours writing in first person, as it really plunges the reader into the mind of a character and allows them to see the world through that character’s eyes. In the case of the characters in Hazel’s Deathly Insanity series those eyes often see and experience life with one or more mental health concerns.

Chasing Azrael, Hazel’s debut novel and the first in the Deathly Insanity series, was written as a means of coming to terms with her diagnosis with bipolar disorder and a recent suicide attempt. At the time Hazel was struggling to find enough information on her condition to help her understand what it meant for her. She found many medical explanations and lists of symptoms, case studies of patients, and memoirs, but nothing in-depth enough to help her truly get a handle on what the condition meant for her going forward, and how she might find a means of recovering from an illness that at the time was very close to killing her. Hazel also wanted to explore the theme of suicide and what it would mean, not only to her, but also to her friends and family, were she to every actually succeed in taking her own life. The result of this was a novel with two central characters dealing with mental health conditions. The protagonist, Andee, is suffering from depression, something she has experience on and off since she was a teen. Her husband, James, is bipolar, a fact which leads him to take his own life two years prior to the start of the novel. Andee’s preturnatural abilities allow her to see and communicate with ghosts, and so James, while dead, is still very much a presence in her life. This leaves her in the unusual position of being able to contemplate her own suicidal impulses with a view from both sides – she knows what it’s like to lose someone that way, but she also knows, from both James’ and her own experiences, how strong that pull can be.

Hazel found the experience of writing Chasing Azrael to be extremely cathartic, and came to a much deeper understanding of her condition and how to manage it through the writing of the book. It is her hope that, by coming to know Andee and James, her readers will come to a deeper understanding of bipolar disorder and depression, and what it is to feel and think some of the things associated with these conditions. It is also her hope that anyone reading the book who is, as she was, contemplating suicide, will find some solace, and the courage to reach out and ask for help before it is too late.

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