I am here today to write a guest post for the wonderful readers of Tickle The Sun. The motivation is slightly selfish, I admit, as I want to reach more people to share the news about my recently published book called Crochet Saved My Life. But it’s not entirely selfish … I want to reach people because I believe it is important to share the stories that we each have about the difficulties in our own lives and the small things that help us through those difficulties. I believe that sharing and hearing those stories helps us in ways both small and large as we navigate our own tough times.
As I sit down to write this guest post, I have several thoughts in mind about how to approach it. I have been a freelance writer and professional blogger for more than ten years so I’ve written a diverse range of different types of articles for different audiences and I have a few ideas in mind for what would work stylistically for the article. I could do a “top ten” post because those are always popular with readers. I could do a basic overview of my book. I could get creative and share an image-only article to intrigue you as readers of a blog that already has great photography on it. But none of that seems right for this blog or this topic. The only thing that seems right is to sit here in the first person penning the truth of my thoughts out to you exactly as they are coming to mind. The only thing that seems right on this blog, where the blogger has been so honest and open and truthful herself, is to just be myself.
There are many things that I am enjoying as a fairly new reader of Tickle The Sun, but let me draw your attention to one thing that I noticed specifically which is written in the “about” section here:
“Seeking balance daily is an imperative when living with mental illness yourself or when caring for an emotionally fragile loved one.”
I have been both of those people – a person with a mental illness and a loved one to multiple people with mental health issues. I could not agree more wholeheartedly with the statement that we must constantly strive for daily balance in our lives. Life can all too often seem overwhelming and difficult and impossible to handle. Taking the actions every day that help reduce those feelings and restore balance is an absolute must for us. It is a key part of loving ourselves and staying well. Staying healthy ourselves is the only way we can be of help to anyone else.
So who am I and how do I find that daily balance in my own life? My name is Kathryn and I am an author, a daydreamer, a maker, a San Francisco resident, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am also a woman who has struggled with lifelong depression and who, a few short years ago, was just on the verge of slitting my wrists and ending it all because the pain of just having to wake up and experience another day of life was so awful as to seem unbearable. I am also the woman who made her way through that darkest of times. I am not cured of depression – after 15 years of battling it I doubt I’ll ever be “cured” and believe I’ll always be at risk of falling back into a dark space. But I’m doing well these days. I’m productive and creative and kind to myself and – dare I say it? – I am often optimistic and happy.
It was a long journey to get to this place. It was in large part thanks to finding a terrific therapist who helped me through the worst year of my life. It helped to get my brain under control with a light anti-depressant. It was crucial that I had a loving support system of friends and family members that I could call in the middle of the night and literally just sob to because there were no words to say what I was feeling. All of that was what got me out of the crisis. But it is the small daily actions I take now to maintain a sense of balance in my life that keep me healthy and happy today.
As a freelance writer who works from home I could have any schedule I wanted to have. I could sleep until noon, stay in pajamas all day, dance all night, skip lunch … whatever. But as someone who needs to stay sane and healthy, I must have a stricter and more organized schedule than that so that’s what I’ve done for myself; I’ve created structure in my life. There are certain things that I do each and every day to help bring me back to a state of balance and calm. Every day I eat healthy foods in moderation. Every day I take a moment, just a moment, to immerse myself fully in a great scent or sound as a practice of mindfulness and a way to embrace the “be here now” mentality. Every day I make a gesture of connection towards someone that I love. And every day, I crochet.
Crochet is a craft that I started to do in the midst of my depression. I didn’t know that it would help to save my life, but it did. The calming and repetitive stitches of the craft helped reduce my anxiety, possibly even releasing the natural anti-depressant of serotonin in my body. The ability to visualize, start and complete a project made me feel useful, creative and productive during a period of my life when I otherwise felt entirely worthless and hopeless. I may not be able to get anything else in life right but I could crochet and that was something.
I eventually started my crochet blog, Crochet Concupiscence, where I began to write about my experiences (along with all other things crochet). Women began to reach out to me to share how crochet had also helped them heal from mental health issues as well as physical health issues. I listened to these stories, interviewed the women, researched what everyone was saying and put it together into a book called Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet. The book is a testimony to the idea that “handmade heals”.
Crochet did save my life but what’s important to me now is that it helps me keep that life stable and calm. Each day, for just a short period of time, I pause from whatever else is going on and I crochet. Honoring this commitment to myself gives me time each day to celebrate my own place on this earth. This time is a form of meditation or prayer for me. The physical experience of stitching brings me into the present moment where it feels like things will be okay. The art of crafting something for myself or someone else confirms that I am useful and my life has purpose. We must have balance in our lives. For many of us, that means we must also have craft.