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Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts

Monday, 27 October 2014

On being three dimensional

black and white glasses

Maybe it came from reading too many Enid Blyton school stories as a child, but I spent a large portion of my pre-teen and adolescent years worrying that I hadn't found 'my thing'. Each of the girls at Malory Towers had a special talent or trait for which they were known and which marked them out as distinctive and special. As far as I could see, I didn't have one of those at all. I longed to be 'the musical genius' or 'the beautiful one', and every year before the school year began, I'd make list after list of the traits I'd adopt and the way I would be this year. Time after time, I'd fail to become the two-dimensional character I longed to be, as my own human, multifaceted self could not be suppressed. Part of the problem of course, was that I had so many 'things'. I was musical, I was academic, I was energetic, I was sociable, I was a clown... And I could never decide which one I wanted to be the most. I had to pick one didn't I? Teen magazines were constantly encouraging us to pigeonhole ourselves with flow-charts and quizzes. What 'type' of girl are you?

Looking back, I am saddened to remember the anguish I put myself through as I tried to puzzle out what 'my thing' could be, and as I'd punish myself for failing to fit into whatever arbitrary category I'd chosen to strive for each time. What saddens me even more though, is that I am still prone to this way of thinking, even now as an adult. There are so many things I still want to be, even though the adult world appears to be the ever-narrowing of fields and the closing of doors. Even within the blogging world, we're told to choose a niche for ourselves if we want any chance of becoming successful. Are you a beauty blogger? Are you a fashion blogger? Are you a food blogger? Do you travel enough to really call yourself a travel blogger?

I've become really interested in how we form our identities, during the process of trying to accept myself as a three dimensional individual. Identity is so heavily attached to the idea of 'belonging', and we draw near to those who like what we like, and who do what we do, our identities like magnets. I like to hang out with people who have similar political ideologies as me, and I love the feeling when I meet someone who has read my favourite book or enjoyed my favourite song. It's important to bond with people who are similar to us, but of course there are dangers attached to marking others out as 'different'. Especially if there is a value judgement attached to that assumption.

"Be yourself" is a common thing that adults say to teenagers and young people. While I see what the phrase is trying to say, I have always found it to be vastly naive and incredibly damaging. How on earth can a teenage girl be expected to 'be herself' when she's expected to be so many things all at once, and she doesn't even really know who/what "herself" is? "Be yourself" sounds so absolute, so concrete... as though "yourself" is a fixed concept that can be distilled, put into a glass vial and held up to the light. I wholeheartedly reject that concept, although I am its victim as much as anyone else.

So before this post becomes any more of an essay of existential nonsense, here's a list. If you can figure out who I "am", then do let me know, because I'm almost a quarter of a century old, and I haven't figured it out yet! I'm all of these... I'm none of these... I'm so much more than any of these...

I am

A writer - a diarist - a musician - a feminist - creative - nostalgic - contemplative - anxious - energetic - lethargic - melancholy - vulgar - a redhead - short sighted - fair-skinned - a digital native - a blogger - a wife - a cat-lover - a woman - a Cambridge University graduate - an ex-teacher - shorter than average - green-eyed - half-Australian - an older sister - a tea-drinker - accident prone - self-doubting - magical - an individual with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome - comedic - sociable - a foodie - whimsical - sensible - sensitive - a daughter - a travel obsessive...

So those were just a few of my thoughts. Normal posting shall resume during the week - there's a twee-as-hell banana loaf recipe coming up, so don't worry, guys. I've not completely lost it. Yet.

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!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Things Happen

It has been all summer, and once again, I have been awful at blogging. Why do I do these things? Why do I try so hard to be one of those "I have such an awesome life, and I blog about it" kind of people, when I clearly do NOT have an awesome life, and as you can see, I obviously don't blog about it!

Possibly, if I had more of a specific focus for this blog, then I would be better at maintaining it. Who knows.

I have spent the last few days researching PGCE providers, frantically. Applications have now opened for the Postgraduate teaching qualification that I want to take, and so I have to choose the four to which I would consider going, and then start to work on my application. I can't physically send the application until I have some work experience under my belt, so today has also been spent e-mailing the local State secondary schools, asking them if I can sit in on some English lessons... as if I haven't already sat in enough English lessons.

This year, my feelings of anxiety are overshadowing my excitement to go back to university, in a big way. I can't stop thinking about how big the workload is going to be, and how I have to improve my grade on last year, with an even bigger workload. I also have a dissertation to do, and a course to apply to. I have to read several Greek Tragedies, and Moby Dick, by next week, and I haven't even started the year yet. On top of that, it is potentially my final year in Cambridge (unless I decide to take my PGCE here too), and I want to make it amazing. Last year was distinctly underwhelming in parts, and I have been rather unhappy. There are so many things I want to see, do, cook, read, and take part in this year. How on earth am I going to balance that with my academic work? This is a major worry to me.

I will finish by linking to some of the blogs I have been reading recently:

Smitten Kitchen - a wonderful food blog, that makes me want to be a food blogger.

Pencil Case - the blog of my dear friend Sharon. She writes wonderfully, and she knows about science and shiz. I like her blog. It dwarfs mine.

Fazed Girl
- this blog makes me smile all the time. The best fashion/life blog I have read in a long time, and I like it because it is so understated. Maybe I can just relate to the 'perpetually trying to get dressed' thing.

Sushi Bandit - I don't even know why I look at this blog, but I find it addictive.