All of you know the crafting keeps us sane. To an extent.
We use it to keep our hands busy. We use it as a meditation. We use it to connect with beautiful textiles and craft wonderous things for those whom we love.
I know that crafting is deeply connected to my mental health.
I use knitting so I have a soft sound to focus on, so my tinnitus doesn’t drive me to distraction. When I piece together a new garment on the sewing machine I feel a sense on accomplishment which builds my self esteem. When I no longer feel like crafting, I know that I need looking after.
My mental health battles
I’m doubly blessed. HA! I have both anxiety and depression.
I feel like my depression is falling into a hole, being covered with a wet achey blanket. Everything is impossible. All facial expressions are too hard. I just don’t care anymore.
But wait, anxiety! I can run mental laps in the bottom of that hole totally unable to climb out. In fact, wearing in deeper tracks at the bottom of that hole. I can find bottom quicker than most, I jest, because anxiety can throw you down there so fast.
Every task I have ever done comes under scrutiny, to be relived and judged. Everything I should be doing becomes a dead weight.
When I’m well, anxiety actually keeps me going. I agree with Sarah Wilson to an extent that well managed anxiety can be a superpower.
It’s just utterly shitful when it’s not managed.
This is a bit of an insight into how important crafting is to me.
You will have all seen my two beautiful babies, Essie and Finn, on our social media accounts. But not many of you will know what a terrible sleeper Essie was, or how I was on bed rest for nearly two months with Finn.
I think we can all agree that they’re pretty cute.
Essie arrived into the world needing more reassurance than I knew how to give. She needed to be held 24/7 by me. And only me. She needed to suck and then fall asleep on me. As someone who loves their personal space and me time (a true introvert!) I found this so challenging. And in the days before Netflix, and only a very newly licensed driver (I took my test at 36 weeks pregnant!) I found myself regularly housebound.
So I had her in the ergobaby and knitted. A lot. I sewed with her in the ergo. And when she got a little bit bigger I had her in the bouncer under one foot, bouncing away as I made all the things. She’s grown up squooshing yarn.
When I learned to deal with the enormous amount of screaming she’d deal out at being put in the car seat or pram, we started to leave the house again. But for that fourth trimester my sanity was in making stitches. Having something I could show at the end of the day that I had ‘done’ meant the world to me.
I know there are some who will say, “keeping them alive is enough! That’s your job and accomplishment!”.
But I was falling apart and stitches kept me together.
Things got better.
She got bigger and more independent. We travelled the world, made stuff together, and then came number two. My pregnancy with Essie was pretty good, so why not this one?
A pang of pain at 20 or so weeks had me nearly on the floor worrying that the baby was coming. When my vision cleared I realised it was the pain my chiro had warned me of: diastasis symphysis pubis. I had probably not looked after myself as well as I could have, exercised too much, looked sideways at someone incorrectly. I dunno.
All I know is that I could no longer engage my glutes when I stood. Or walk more than a few footsteps at a time. Or use steps. Or pick up my two year old who had an intense need for hugs from mummy.
Sure, I could really do those things if I wanted to collapse in pain or sacrifice my sleep. And, by the way, I had busted my ankle getting off the couch. My foot fell asleep underneath me while I was knitting. I stood up and stood on the top of my foot instead of the bottom. Totally possible when you’re preggo, foot asleep, rushing to get a 2 year old up from her nap because she all of a sudden started screaming.
Then I got put on rest for the final nearly two months, unable to work or look after Essie. That was super fun. But I could knit. And watch the entire back catalogue of Arrow, Grimm, and Vampire Diaries (except for the final episode because, seriously, that show turned to shit!).
The birth was awesome, and Finley has a sense of ease and happiness the nearly makes up for the pain.
I had to have antidepressants after Finn. I couldn’t exercise or eat the way I needed to to get my brain back on track. It took me 18 months to get back to running. But I knitted in my hospital bed.
And I continue to make stitches to stay sane. I make pretty good models, what can I say!
But sometimes, my love of craft simply evaporates. I just cant.
And that’s when I know my mental health needs immediate attention.
creativity and artisry are joyful and necessary
I totally disagree with the tortured artist thing our western upbringing says in necessary for creativity.
Fuck you, depression.
I choose the terms of my creativity. And I cherish it. I will not suffer to ‘enjoy’ the outlet that creativity and craft can be.
If you struggle with creativity and depression like I do, go read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love how she says that great ideas don’t come knocking until you’re dressed and ready. We get to choose to be joyful in creativity, and at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence.
So, when there are large gaps on our social media just know I need my quiet time. I’ll be back when I have the energy to interact. I’m looking after myself. I’ll be back then that spark reignites and I can work and create again.