Hello everyone (kim here). Today I've got a really special post for you. As most of you will know- I suffer with a chronic illness that debilitates me everyday of my life. Not only physically but it affects my emotions and mental functions. When I'm having a particularly tough day, I gravitate to repetitive activities that give my mind and body a chance to rest while still keeping me from going crazy with frustration at not being up to my usual shenanigans.
Gege, here, has her own set of frustrations and has bravely and honestly and admirably written about how craft helps her though those times. This subject is very dear to my heart, and after doing a 3 month project (last year) on trying to motivate girls like us- hearing stories like this makes it all worth it. Enjoy.
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Well hello there friends of Kim. My name is Gege, and I live over at GegeBrownAgain. I write about pretty much everything that comes into my life, including my rather prevalent mental illness’ and my constant strive to keep on top of them.
I have been struggling with anxiety and depression for six years now, almost all of my adolescent and adult life, and have been constantly at battle with them, trying not to let them rule my life. Of course there have been times when I have absolutely failed, and times when I have absolutely triumphed. For the most part, I was convinced that treatment was only necessary when things got bad, but of late I have come to realise that taking that approach means only treating half of what is going on in my mind.
And that is where crafts come in. While I do take medications, and see counsellors, and do all of the normal things that people do when faced with this sort of challenge, I am also trying to develop some personal therapies that I am able to use whenever I need them, independent of the timetables of psychologists and psychiatrists and doctors. I live in a small town, an hour and a half away from the city, which is where my doctors are. Which is why it is quite important that I am able to effectively treat myself.
I have always been interested in craftiness, and, while I am generally terrible at things that require actual talent, I have found that just doing something with my hands really helps to bring things back into perspective. Although it took me a good long time to be able to knit at all, and then even longer to be able to knit properly, there is something very, very calming about being able to sit, by myself, and do something that will occupy my mind, without taking up so much attention that I allow myself to get frustrated. Having something to focus my attention on is critical. Something that is exterior to myself, which doesn’t have my feelings and frustrations all tangled up in it. As long as I follow the steps, insert my needle, bring the yarn around, under and off, then it will work for me.
Of course, the upside of taking up a new hobby is that it takes up time. It gives you something to do, and to think about even when you aren’t actually doing it. One of the major upsides I have found to knitting is that there is so very much to learn about, that, even when I finally master one part of it, there is always, always, something else to know. I don’t pretend that I am a very good knitter. I have only just learnt how to swap from one colour to another, and purl stitch is still beyond me.
I have found lately that my panic attacks, and periods of crippling depression are really starting to diminish, but I do not fool myself that I am getting better. After more than six years of this, I know that this period is just a lull in a much bigger, more powerful storm. If you visit my blog, you might notice that there is not much on there about depression and anxiety very often. I go through periods where I want to tell everyone about it, let people know who I really am, and then periods where I don’t want anyone to know, and curse myself for letting people see that I am not ‘normal’. However, there is almost always a clue to my mental illness hidden in there, a little arrow pointing towards how I am feeling as I write the post. And that, above all is what my crafting is about.Through very long term study I have been able to recognise my moods through my behaviours. The words I use, the photographs I take, the colour of yarn that I use, all of it is indicative of my mood. Or the last couple of weeks I have been gravitating towards grey yarn for pretty much all of my projects. At first I thought it was because they were calming colours, not harsh to look at, incredibly comfortable. The last couple of days though have shown me that it is because my mood has been in decline. I was only able to see this by re-reading my posts, and comparing my words to what i have been making, what I have been doing around my house.
While I might not be using knitting to deal with explicit symptoms of my illness, panic attacks, or suicidal episodes, it is still helping me, everyday. I am now better able to go back to my psychologists and psychiatrists and doctors and tell them how I have been going. While previously a downturn in my mood would take me utterly by surprise when I was already at the bottom, I am now able to recognise, readjust and recover, in much shorter periods of time. Sure, there are still nights when nothing will do but to sit at my desk and sob until I can sob no more, but even then knitting comes in handy. Wool is much softer than tissues to wipe your eyes on.
I would hate for y’all to walk away with the wrong impression of me so I must finish on a happy note. There are many wonderful things about my life. I live in Australia, which everybody knows is the most amazing country in the world. I have a fantastic family, I live with the many of my dreams in a very nice (if somewhat small) town, and we have an absolutely gorgeous cat. I am very lucky. While sometimes I wish I could change everything about my life, in reality there isn’t one thing which I would actually change. While there is some bad in my life, there is a lot of good. A stable job. A nice home. A lot of beautiful, amazing people.
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I'm going to be adding 'A Ghostly Illness' to my sidebar soon, and I'm going to be more focused when I talk about CFS/ME and the troubles I face. It's a big part of my life so I reckon it's about time it became an official small part of this blog. Getting through the rough times means more enjoyment in the good times.
Big loves. Hope you're doing well!