Today I thought I would talk about something very personal, and I’m actually dreading every minute of it. However, it’s an important subject, so I’m going to ignore my fears and push on. In “A Little Bit About Me” section on the menu, I’ve mentioned that I’m diagnosed with chronic depression, and how (among a few things) knitting has helped me get through the days. There are so many people out there who suffers from what I call “invisible illnesses” in dire need of help, support and purpose. So I’m going to share some of my life story with whoever reads my blog. And I do apologize in advance. This might be a long post before I get to the point. I hope you bare with me and read until the end.
For the better part of my life I’ve struggled to find my place in this world, to find my identity. Mostly because there was no room for me. When I was a little girl my mother told me that the reason why I was made, was to be a big sister for my brother. He was my responsibility, I had to take care of him (play with him, be with him etc). That was my purpose. Mother was always busy with her own things, at first with re-education, later with work and drinking. She’s a full on alcoholic who denies it (both my parents are alcoholics). So from as early as I can remember I was taught that mother’s needs came first, then my brother’s, and by the time that was done it was bed time.
I also had a shitty time at school, the majority of kids would bully me on a daily basis. I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone. And although hardly anyone lives up it to, most of them call themselves Christian. My parents never married, so in other people’s eyes I was a bastard child. So the fact is, because the so called Christian parents saw me as a bastard, their kids bullied me (there were other reasons for the bullying too, the bastard thing was just one). It’s amazing how ignorant people can be.
When I was 12 we moved to the city where mother had a job at the hospital. Mother got a boyfriend after a year who also drank heavily, and for 3 years we lived in a home with physical and mental abuse. The guy never laid a hand on me, but he scared the shit out of me on several occasions. He did however beat mother senseless more than I want to remember, and he laid his hands (and feet) on my bother. By the time I was 16, I left.
I’ve always been a little strange, not full on weird, just a little bit strange. I’ve been told on several occasions that when I was little and played with my toys, I wouldn’t make any kind of sounds. You see, I’ve always lived inside my head, created my own private world where no one may enter. I never really let anyone in to see the real me, and because of that no one has ever really known me or how bad I’ve had it. Because of this, and my life experience, I’ve never really had any friends. At least not any close friends. I can count on one hand how many friends I’ve had in my life, before I started therapy.
Because my childhood and teenage years were as they were, my adult years have been quite the struggle. For years I couldn’t really sleep. I could stay up for 2-3 days, then sleep for 3 hours, and then stay up again 2-3 days. I’ve struggled with anorexia and binge eating disorder. I’ve made more mistakes than I want to admit. For years I self medicated and got addicted to drugs. I’ve been in 2 abusive relationships. At one point I was even homeless (for 8 months). I’ve tried to kill myself so many times, I’ve lost count. When I was barely 20 years old, I made myself a pact. If my life was still a living nightmare by the time I was 29, I would end it, go out like all the rock stars and movie stars who didn’t live to see their thirtieth birthday. That was my plan.
Luckily, by the time I was 29, I had been in a relationship with the nicest person I had ever met, and because of him I finally got into therapy. I owe him my life, and today we are good friends. I spent 4 years in therapy, 3 years individual therapy and 2 years in group therapy (yes they overlapped). During those years I learned that most things I was taught as a kid and teenager from my mother, was wrong. Being an adult and having to rearrange what you thought was right, is difficult and at times shameful. I’ve never excepted to be “healthy” in a short amount of time, I’ve always had the notion that if I’ve lived one way for 29 years, it’ll probably take me 29 years to undo it (hopefully it won’t). I’m in a much better place now than I’ve ever been in my life (my worst days are when I have flashbacks or I wake up feeling sad for an unknown reason).
I finally have a safety net if I fall, I have people around me who understands what it is to be mentally ill (and of course there are people in my life who still doesn’t understand that although I might look fine, I’m not fine). I have an identity, I know who I am and what I want. I try to be selfish, because I need to be. Having spent so many years putting aside my needs for my immediate family (mother and brother), I really do need to be selfish. It’s not easy though, it’s programmed in my head that other people’s needs should come first. But I’m learning, and I’m trying.
Through group therapy I learned to actually speak, to talk about what’s in my head. I implode because I keep everything so close to my heart, which is very unhealthy. Today I talk about what bothers me. Not everything though, and not to anyone. But I do talk. I still have things I need to unlearn, to learn the right way.
I’ve tried a few different kinds of medication since I started therapy, but I’m not on any now. My two main reasons for this is that I can’t stand the side effects (I’ve always gotten at least one side effect I can’t live with), and my drug addiction. I don’t want to be addicted to drugs, prescription or otherwise.
I also have the most wonderful boyfriend, who lets me be as silly as I can be when I’m feeling bad. I have days when I’m so low and so sad, and still fully aware that what I’m doing and saying comes from the parts of me that’s ill. My boyfriend lets me be exactly who I am, and I love him dearly for it.
The one thing that really gets me through the days, specially the difficult ones, is knitting. Therapy has helped me in ways I cannot even explain, and so has knitting. The main reasons why knitting helps me is:
It keeps me focused, instead of drifting off into my own private dark world.
The feeling of accomplishment when I’ve made something, especially if it’s my own design.
It fills my time when I have nothing to do. I suffer from social anxiety, knitting gives me a purpose when I’m home alone.
It calms me down, when I’m stressed or angry.
It sharpens my brain, knitting involves math and reading patterns. This is good for brain exercise (this also helps me remember the past as it really happened, instead of remembering the dark moments of my past).
It gives me something constructive to do, instead of something destructive.
There have been several studies saying that knitting is good for you/us, not only for those suffering from depression, but any number of illnesses. I did a quick google search on therapeutic knitting, and found a number of articles and studies. And I also found this site: Stitchlinks. It is absolutely worth a look. There are also other helpful sites to look at, depending on your illness/diagnoses.
I know that knitting isn’t for everyone. But for those who feel they need something in their lives (for whatever reason) who thinks knitting could be an option, please start knitting! For those of you who couldn’t give a flying monkey’s butt about knitting, I encourage you to find something. Any hobby at all. Anything to give you a feeling of purpose, self worth, ego boost. Suffering from illnesses that no one can really see and often can’t understand (unless they go through something similar), is so lonely. We need to fill the loneliness with good things, otherwise we doom ourselves. I’m not saying you have to do this, I’m letting you know that this has helped me and countless of other people. There’s no harm in trying =).