Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Day Four

And now for something completely different
This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create. There are no rules of a topic to blog about (though some suggestions are given below) but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog.

At first I thought I’d skip this topic and use the wildcard. Not entirely for a lack of imagination, but also because I’m kind of crazy busy here right now – new job, course in London, buying our first flat – and I couldn’t possibly imagine finding the time to do something different and interesting.

Then I realised there was something different that I’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t quite found the courage or the words for. It possibly doesn’t qualify under the remit of the blog week, but since I feel I need to write it, I’m just going to plough on. Normally, my posts are quite fun, with pictures of what I’m doing, or stock images to express how I’m feeling. I deliberately keep things light around here, because I do craft as a hobby, and as I always used to say when I was writing, “if it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong”. Because of this touches a few nerves for me, I’m afraid it might not make any sense to anyone else. In that case, chalk it up to the ‘experimental’ nature and we’ll get back to the pictures tomorrow.

My experiment today is to be serious for a moment – not a state of mind that comes naturally to me – and talk about something that you don’t hear much about in the crafting world. The D-word: Depression.

Actually, that’s not true. There’s quite a lot out there talking about the benefits of craft as therapy for those who are having mental health difficulties. The satisfaction of teaching someone to create, the sense of achievement that can come from producing something, the sheer joy of working and making and doing. I’m not going to say that any of this is wrong, but I do feel it’s not quite the whole picture. Because the trouble with not having an entirely healthy mind is that sometimes it can take wonderful, positive things and turn them into something deeply unhealthy.

It’s too easy to read blogs or surf Ravelry getting more and more discouraged. By how little you know compared to others. How beautiful their things look compared to yours. How you could never produce as much as they do. How their lives seem to be perfect and wonderful, while yours is a total mess.

Before anyone points it out to me, yes, I know that the main problem with those statements is the word ‘compare’. But that can be a real mindset when you’re struggling – everyone else just seems to be getting on with it, while you just can’t. It can make you bitter and resentful and push you even further down the road of closing up in your own mind, or becoming convinced that you are clearly useless compared (there’s that word again) to everyone else. Obviously you have no useful or even decorative purpose to fulfil, so you might as well not bother.

I feel deeply uncomfortable talking about this, not because I think I’m alone or even because I think I’m wrong, but because it’s talking negatively in a space where everything always seems to be happy and joyful. My aim is really not to guilt-trip people into talking about things that are deeply private, nor is it to make people who don’t experience this feel bad. It’s just that as someone who does struggle, I don’t see much out there for me. I find it hard to engage with people when their lives seem to be perfect, since I’m afraid I’ll spoil it by talking to them (yes, depression does make you think like this).

Since last year, various mental health charities have been encouraging people to talk about their mental health problems, to help Stamp Out Stigma. It’s something I feel quite passionately about (for obvious reasons) and so I choose to talk about my own experiences. I’m not daft enough to think that’s something everyone can or should do. What I do know is that the most common response I get is not fear or discomfort but “oh! I thought that was just me!”

So this is my ‘different’ post. No photos of my work, no witty comment, no funny pictures of cats. Crafting is a great source of comfort to me, but it can also be a great burden. If I’m not careful, I can shift from something I love to do into something I feel I have to do, and I can land myself with a great heap of stress, inadequacy and dissatisfaction. The pleasure of wearing something you’ve made yourself can give way to crushing disappointment at how far short you fall of the ideal you want. Learning to manage those expectations, to ignore the nagging voice that says not good enough is not something I’ve completely mastered yet, and possibly something that will always be with me. With the support and encouragement of friends, it’s getting better, but I wonder if it’s just something I’m going to have to learn to live with and ignore.

Like my crafting, everything is always a work in progress.

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10 thoughts on “Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Day Four

  1. Thank you for sharing. You described exactly how I feel sometimes. Luckily I don’t feel like this all the time but when I do crafting turns from being fun into a chore. I also feel guilty when I spent much more time on one craft than another. Knitting is the thing I do best and most often but I also spin and sew. Not spending time spinning or sewing makes me feel guilty about spending so much money on the wheel and the sewingmachine. The hard part for me is that I realise very well that it’s silly to think like that but I can’t stop it. Which makes me feel more stupid, which makes me more depressed, etc. You’re right this is a topic that should be talked about more freely, so thanks again for sharing.

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    1. Sorry it’s taken me a while to reply – I kind of wiped myself out over the last couple of weeks and it all hit me at the weekend!

      Oh gosh, that sounds so familiar, especially the feeling guilty – feeling stupid – feeling depressed cycle. It’s so easy to do, and I really think it’s only by stopping and recognising what’s going on that helps. Otherwise I just go further and further down. Recognising it doesn’t *stop* it, but I’m at least braced for what might happen.

      Thank you so much for commenting. We need to know that we are not alone!

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  2. I think it’s the same in any sphere of life – there are times when you feel inadequate compared to the rest of the world. Some of us are just less well equipped to deal well with that. I’ll put my hand up to being one of those for who suffers from depression.

    Actually depression is responsible for all of my crafting – I finally dug myself out of my last funk to do something more positive and it started with some sewing. It’s a real shame my Mum wasn’t around long enough to see me start to enjoy the sewing machine she gave me for my 18th birthday (I was so unimpressed with it at the time and it sat in various cupboards for 20 years). I’ve also dusted off my knitting needles (I used to enjoy knitting as a teenager) and taught myself to crochet (loving it!).

    But yes, I look at what everyone else is doing and think “I can’t sell what I’ve made” or “I’m not good enough to take part in a swap”. It’s hard, but I derive so much pleasure from actually making something that I’m forcing myself to think a bit differently … and my husband keeps going out and selling the bags that I’ve made in his attempt to keep me on track. He realised I wouldn’t believe in myself until people started coming to me and asking for another purse or bag.

    I admire you for having the courage to come out and do a serious blog post on this subject – in blogland everyone else’s lives seem so perfect, don’t they? I’m sure that we all put our best sides forward on our blogs – it’s human nature. But you’re right – it’s not keeping it real.

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    1. Sorry for the late reply – I got hit by a wave of exhaustion over the weekend and am just starting to feel better.

      It really struck me reading your post that I need to focus more on the pleasure of making. I’m very much a process person as the piles of UFOs lying around our flat can testify to, and I think I get so focussed on ‘doing’ that I forget I’m ‘creating’. Remembering that, and seeing the pleasure that others get from what I make, has a real impact on me.

      Thank you so much. As you say, other people’s lives always look so perfect, don’t they? And when I blog, I know I feel that I have to not bring people down, which is just daft. Okay, I don’t want to post a constant stream of gloom, but life happens, and I definitely think it’s important that my writing reflects that.

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  3. I love your “something different” post. I read a blog post a couple of weeks ago about something similiar. I’m afraid I can’t remember who by, but it had the same sort of feel to it. Basically it said something along the lines of how you have remember that the photos you see on blogs are perfect and prettiest pictures and they don’t show you the chaos just out of frame. Because we only see the snippet of the photos we have unreal expectations of what others are actually achieving.

    I think one way in which blog week has been incredibly helpful is by showing people the chaos behind the pretty pictures. Yes there were some very organized and beautiful storage systems when we looked at yarn wrangling – but there were so many other photos of chaos and the glory of tangled creativity. Everyone’s lives are tangled and I think craft blogs, in particular, are all about the pretty little spaces we create for ourselves in amongst the mess and chaos of life.

    Sometimes you have let the mask slip and show the world that you are like a swan on the surface, but underneath you are paddling like crazy just to keep going. I have suffered during a really difficult period with depression and I understand the way it skews your thinking. I am very fortunate to NOT have this as a recurring problem, as I know some people have. I was very lucky to get counselling, support and anti-depressants when I needed them and they helped give me great coping mechanisms for when everything seems a little bit dark at the edges of my vision. It is only through being able to reach out when I need to, knowing there will be no judgement, that lets me shine the torch in the dark places to see there is nothing hiding there but my fear.

    I really hope that people who are suffering as you have find that you have shone a little light in their dark places. This was a brave and wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you so much for this. After writing it, all the tiredness I’d been fighting for the previous fortnight caught up with me at once, and I’m just starting to feel like myself again, hence the late reply!

      You’re dead right about blog week showing us new aspects of people. I think what I really want to work on for me is thinking about people as people rather than ‘people I need to compare myself to’. That’s got to be a healthier state of mind!

      I really appreciate it, thank you. It tooke me a while to work up to writing it, but I think it was worth it in the end 🙂

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  4. I often feel the same – thanks for writing this post, it really resonated and is good to know others (who I admire!) can feel the same. Cx

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    1. Thank you. There are so many of us who struggle, that it’s really important we talk about it. It makes the struggle easier, I think. 🙂

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  5. Thanks for writing this very personal post. I too have been overwhelmed by depression at several times in my life. Things have been a lot better for awhile now due in large part to finding the right medication and staying on it. But for about the last 3 years, crafting has been a large part of my mental health too. I started crocheting again after a long time away from it because I felt in such a rut and needed something creative to do. Crocheting for charity has really been good for me, because no matter how much or how little I have time to do, I know it will be appreciated by the person who receives it.

    Thanks again for having the courage to put yourself “out there” like this, you’re very special you know!

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    1. Thank you 🙂 Making things can be so good, I think it was important to articulate why sometimes it’s not, and hopefully work my way around the problems next time.

      It was hard to work out where to start, but once I got writing, it just sort of came out. I definitely feel better for having written it!

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