Crocheting Anxiety to Sleep

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Having anxiety is like having spiders infest your brain.

Brain Spiders

This week was a particularly bad one for me. Anxiety-wise, that is. I don’t know how it started but my anxiety attacks had a cascade effect, one tumbling into another. It was only when I picked up my crochet that the anxiety was lulled into a near-slumber like a cranky 2 year old who’s finally crashed from too much sugar.

There is a rhythm to crochet that, if you let it take over you, will create a diversion from the anxiety. It’s soothing and the texture of the yarn gives your brain something to focus on.

So, my week went something like this;

Brain: WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!
Me: *crochets quietly*
Brain: WE’RE ALL GONNA… ooo… look at that color… DIE!!
Me: *yarn over, pull through*
Brain: We’re all… the yarn feels nice… we’re all gonna…
Me: *yarn over, pull through*
Brain: We’re all gonna die, you know. That’s pretty.

Eventually it gets quiet in my head and I can start to think again. The logical half of my brain can take over for the anxiety-ridden, cracked half and I can function for a while. The respite is sometimes short before that half is up and destroying the house again. Don’t get me wrong. I still love that half of my brain even when it’s keeping me up half the night with screams of terror. It’s trying to do its job of keeping me safe, even if it’s doing that job a little too enthusiastically.

I’m beginning to train myself that crochet means relaxation. It’s taken me some time and determination but I’m getting there. The repetitive rhythm of crochet is the key to it, I think. I look at other techniques used to get people into a different state of mind and repetitive rhythm is a hallmark of all of them. Just look at prayer beads or the rosary. Saying the same words while massaging the beads. Instead of saying words, I’m feeling yarn and moving the yarn through a pattern. Similar ideas, different actions.

My anxiety won’t go away. It can’t be cured or pushed down. It’s here to stay, I’m afraid, so I have to learn to live with it and use it to my advantage. Sometimes, though, it can be soothed with a bit of crochet.

A Blanket to Remember Me By

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A lapghan I made for my mother's birthday

A lapghan I made for my mother’s birthday

When I took up crochet in the past year, I had no idea the benefits I could get from it. Yet, they creep into my life like small, unexpected gifts. I treasure these gifts and keep them safe in my heart.

In the past two weeks I’ve suffered badly from a bout of anxiety and depression attacks that I was helpless to defend myself against. These times come and there’s really nothing I can do except wait them out. Crochet was crucial at this time. My thoughts spin around my head and focusing on stitches or watching the craft come to life lets me get out of that space. Even for a short time.

I love giving away my finished works. I consider them art and the look of joy on someone’s face as they hold my work is golden. I live in poverty so I can’t afford store bought items like other people can. I get yarn for cheap at thrift stores, yard sales or it’s given to me by people who simply found a store and don’t know what to do with it. As a result of this hodge-podge of yarn, I’ve gotten very good at creating scrap items or items made from bits and bobs of different yarns.

I’m also a huge fan of Michael Sellick of the Crochet Crowd┬áhe understands the hidden power of crochet and it’s ability to create healing. Mikey, as he’s called by his fans, has the best crochet tutorials going and obviously loves what he’s doing. He also holds challenges and it’s here that my story this week begins.

This summer, the Crochet Crowd held “Stitch-cation”, a challenge to create an afghan out of a mish-mash of different patterns. Perfect for my scrap style. When I was finished my work, I was proud. It was colorful and had a lot of me in it. I could see my battle with anxiety in the clash of colors but I could also see my triumph over it. There, in the whole of it was my need to create beautiful things and there, in the stitches, was my love of the small things that make up our lives. I decided to give it to my mother for her birthday.

My mother has her own battles to fight. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and, while she is still lucid and keen now, that will not always last. I wanted to give her something she could touch and, even if her mind couldn’t remember me as her Alzheimer’s progressed, perhaps her hands will remember me when they touched the afghan. When I presented it to her, her first words were, “it’s so colorful!” She loved it. I don’t get out to see her as much as I’d like so I’d hoped the afghan would be a way for me to connect to her. Perhaps I was being a dreamer. I don’t know.

Last week I called my mother to say hello. Our conversations rarely last more than a minute or two, she’d rather watch her game shows on television, but it’s a chance to hear my voice. I was about to let her go when suddenly she said to me, “you made the blanket for me, didn’t you?” I assured her I did. Then, she said, “I like it a lot. It’s very colorful.”

It’s just an afghan made out of scraps of yarn from a challenge on a website. It’s a connection between a daughter to a mother who is slowly losing herself bit by bit.

And it’s very colorful.

Crocheting Anxiety

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My attempt at crocheting a tiger.

Derf

In this past year I took up crochet. Some of my efforts have been… well… we call him Derf. Other efforts, though, have been amazing and, encouraged, I’m working on a sweater for my mother for Christmas.

I originally took up crochet as a means to help me control the shaking in my hands. I’ve always had tremors in my hands and it sometimes makes life difficult. During an anxiety attack, the shaking can get so bad I can’t hold a glass of water. I thought crochet would help me deal with that and it has.

However, there has been an unexpected side effect; it calms me. I suffer from anxiety and sometimes it gets so bad you can’t even remember how to breathe. Thoughts race in your head, each one worse than the last. I can go from the thought that someone’s fine to they’re dead in under a minute during an anxiety attack. It’s not fun.

Baby Christmas Outfit

Baby Christmas Outfit

There is something soothing, though, in the repetition of crochet that helps calm me. I’m not sure what it is or how it works. I do know that I can work through a few rows of crochet and my brain starts to slow down. It’s as though my thoughts start to mesh with the rhythm of the knots I’m creating. Eventually I simply lose myself in the project and all that anxiety melts away.

I’ve gotten to a point in my crochet where I’m starting to try and sell it. I’m getting better at it and love the more artistic side of it. I’ll never be that person you see at the Farmer’s Market selling one of 300 dishcloths she’s made. However, I will keep creating one of a kind items

Baby Blanket in Purple

Baby Blanket

that can be treasured for years to come. And, meanwhile, I’ll use my crochet to give me a solid foundation when my world seems to shatter around me.

That is the true beauty of crochet.

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