I wrote this post a few months back as a guest post for another blog but it was never published, so I’m using it here instead. It’s particularly important for me at the moment as my mental health has been a little rocky (you can usually tell, if I’m quiet on social media, then it’s likely I’m not feeling great) but I want to be open about it and also talk about how being creative has helped me through in the past. Reading this back again has also made me think that perhaps it’s time to start another crochet blanket! Ownership of the blanket I talk about below has been transferred to Tony, my cat (not through choice!).
There are also some links at the bottom of the post if you feel you’d like to know more about mental health issues, or seek support.
Let’s face it, modern life can be tough. We work more, sleep less and struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance. With financial and status pressures all around us it can be difficult to switch off and do something enjoyable simply for yourself.
I found myself in this position a few years back – I’d been working as an IT contractor for a year and, although the pay was great, the hours and atmosphere were most certainly not. The office was open plan and had huge floor to ceiling windows, which might sound great in the summer but were certainly not at 7am in the depths of winter. Looking out in to the black abyss whilst the rest of the world was just waking up was pretty depressing.
I don’t remember exactly when the thought hit me, if it was a slow realisation or a slap-in-the-face wake up call, but after 12 long months I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to find creativity and meaning in my life. I wanted to work for a company whose values I could believe in and for a boss who would let me sleep in past 5.30am. And so I quit. I saw out the rest of my contract, used my final precious pay check to buy a sewing machine and started working part time at a University.
Sadly the love affair with my sewing machine didn’t last long but it sparked a creative side in me which led me to join a knitting group on campus. It was here that my real creative love affair was born.
(Before I go any further, I know this is a blog post about crafting for stress relief but I want to clarify that those first couple of months were far from stress free! Learning a new skill is hard. It takes time, dedication and maybe a few tantrums but if you stick with it I can guarantee it’s worth it. On with the story…)
Over the following years I learnt to both knit and crochet and I do feel that in some ways it saved me from myself. In November 2009 I was diagnosed with depression. Looking back it should have come as no surprise. My life was a constant existential crisis and I was searching for love and meaning in all the wrong places. Just before the diagnosis I had started crocheting a blanket and it was this project that was with me throughout those first difficult months. Each stitch and loop was like a meditation, taking me away from worries of the now and of the future. Months later I was in a much better place and I had a fabulous 6 foot squared blanket to call my own. These days I still continue to knit and crochet for myself and for other people, even though I now have a full time day job and a yarn business! The joy and satisfaction of being creative helps to clear my mind of the stresses and strains of the daily grind and gives me a finished object to admire and perhaps even to give to someone, enabling me to share little pieces of happiness with the people I love.
Rethink: Rethink provides expert advice to people affected by mental health issues (either you or a family member/friend) and works tirelessly to challenge attitudes and change lives.
Mind: Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They also have local branches across the UK and offer courses, counseling, drop in centres and more.
Samaritans: 24 hour a day phone and email availability, providing confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts