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.