Sunday, 2 March 2014

Crafting through anxiety and depression

One of the most common pieces of blogging advice for fashion or lifestyle bloggers is always “keep it positive”, and “don’t use your blog as a platform to vent about your sadness”. The idea is that people read your blog for escapism and they don’t need you to deliver your negativity to them, which makes perfect sense. On the other hand, people read fashion and lifestyle blogs because they feel a connection with the blogger, and I think it is easier to form meaningful connections through honest blogging than being 100% chirpy, all the time. Plus, blogging about issues such as depression or anxiety doesn’t necessarily have to be negative.
crafting through depression
I’ve been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. I spent my childhood convinced that I was going to die from some kind of botched operation and I would wake up sweating from nightmares about dying on an operating table. I cried often, and I obsessed over every perceived failure or inadequacy in my schoolwork, in my social life, with regards to my appearance… the list goes on! (This is where I feel like it’s necessary to let you know that this article isn’t going to have some kind of magical turnaround moment, where I go, “BUT NOW I’M FINE!” because that would be a lie).
crochet girl in park
Being a perfectionist doesn’t mean that you are perfect! Somewhere along the line, saying that you’re a perfectionist has become an arrogant statement – I find this unbelievably ironic because it’s my perfectionism that holds me back more than anything else. Sometimes I feel like if I can’t do something perfectly then it isn’t worth doing… or like I want to see results immediately. This is where craft comes in. Or really, any art form for that matter (and I truly believe that craft IS art). Pick up a crochet hook, chain a few stitches, and HEY LOOK – THERE’S YOUR RESULT! You did it! And you did it all by yourself. It’s the same with painting, with knitting, embroidery, and even cooking. The beautiful thing about creating of any kind is that you have something to show for your effort. Even if it’s the smallest thing, there is a measurable achievement there. And as someone who has a very real problem with leaving this planet having made no mark on it, seeing evidence of achievement, however small, is very important.
retro granny square designs
I’m not saying that crochet cured my anxiety – far from it. But I’ve found something about which I don’t have to feel anxious or depressed. I’ve not made any commitments to anyone to make anything. I’m doing it for myself. And if it’s crap, nobody has to know about it – I can unravel it and start again when I’m feeling better about it. As well as having something to show for my efforts, and having an outlet, creative activities such as cooking, crochet and embroidery give me something to occupy my mind in such a way that it gives me space to sort things out in my head a little bit. It takes the ‘edge’ off in such a way that I can see situations a little bit more objectively than I could otherwise. This has allowed me to prevent panic attacks from time to time, although there is no way that knitting or any other craft would be able to stop a panic attack in its tracks altogether.
easy tart and kale salad recipe
The final verse in this love song to crafts and creation is the aspect of ‘self care’ that they can provide. Making a meal gives me an excuse to feed myself, and to think about all of the nutrition I’m getting from my lovingly prepared food. Making a blanket means that ultimately, I’ll have something to snuggle up in when I’m cold. Embroidering and adorning things makes my environment more beautiful. Sometimes, when I’m feeling at my worst, it’s difficult to look after myself in a direct way, which is why framing it in craft or cooking can be really beneficial.
crochet in nature

So here are my tips for crafting through the pain:

  •         Start very small. Don’t try to sew a king-sized quilt if you’ve never quilted before. Just make a coaster or something.
  •         Don’t tell anyone you’re going to do it. Just try it out. Maybe knitting will turn you into a stress cadet. Perhaps it will give you a sense of satisfaction that you’ve never experienced before!
  •         Don’t feel like you have to craft anything for anyone else.
  •         Only craft things that make you happy. Don’t make a dress if you don’t wear dresses. Don’t cook an omelette if you hate eggs!
  •         There is no such thing as failure in craft. Your worst-case scenario is that you end up with a pan full of burnt eggs or a tiny little holey square of knitting. It’s still something you made!  And nobody needs to know, remember?!
geek in embroidered labcoat science embroidery

I’ve not really touched upon the feminist relationship with craft movements in this article, because I think that it merits a whole article of its own. Still, there’s plenty of discourse on the internet already that makes very compelling arguments about these traditionally ‘feminine’ pursuits. Have you made anything recently? Has craft helped you to form a personal weapon against your anxiety or depression? Let me know!


  1. Hello Candy, It's your pseudo Aunt here, Angie. Pseudo is one up from suet Aunt but one down from Judo Aunt, but you can't win them all. Thanks for blogging your thoughts on anxiety and depression. Being able to craft, write or cook certainly helps during those crunch times when future pressures are hurtling towards you at the same velocity as past failures. That is how I would describe my anxiety crash. It's all relative, of course, but I have a happy-clappy approach - I run a mile armed to the teeth with pens, pencils, paper, recipes, fabric and wellington boots. This is my paper-sniffing time, and my 'let's buy another pack of felt-tips' time. Anything really to ride out the mind storm and get some peace in the woods - just like you!

  2. Thank you for writing so eloquently about a topic so deeply personal! PPD is certainly not discussed enough, but I admire your courage to speak out about it. I am left wondering though, where did your husband really go? did he really leave for a year or were you using a rhetorical device? depression,depression symptoms,anxiety.

    1. Not sure what you mean - I never said he went anywhere?

  3. I suffer from anxiety, depression and panic attacks, I have relief in sewing, needle work and crafting too. :-) I just started a blog I like you advise on keeping it upbeat.

    1. I'll definitely check it out - I'm glad you left me a comment! :)

  4. Wow....Ive found you, isn't the internet wonderful sometimes. This time last year i had never picked up a crochet hook and i was in the depths of the most awful anxiety and depression. Like you I was a 'mad' child ( I claim that world 'mad' back from the critics and those that just don't understand). oh my word 'perfectionism' disabling me from being able to move a muscle. 9 months ago i completed a mindfulness course and from out of the blue and for no reason at all I picked up a crochet hook....the rest is history. No, I'm not 'cured' either but Oh Em Gee how much my brain can now be eased and soothed with each loop I pull. Have you read the book "Crochet Saved My life" - I highly recommend it. My favourite quote is " Doctors should prescribe yarn not prozac, and for the really serious cases.......100% cashmere" love it. Thank you for writing your blog - I'll right one - one day, when I learn how to spell and can produce something that is totally perfect!!!!! ha ha

  5. See, I feel this way about my crafting but then I get anxious about the perfectionism. I feel like I immediately have to be great at any new hobby I start and that if everything isn't 'just so' (the best materials, organized, etc.) then I can't create . . . paralyzed in the pursuit of that perfection.