I thought I was finished with this blog and with “Coming Out Crazy.” I thought I had turned the page on my mental illness, since I’m so stable. I really never think about it that much, other than when I take my medication, along with the many more pills I take to keep my transplanted kidney stable or at my occasional “oil checks” with my psychiatrist, Dr. Bob, who is about to semi-retire.
Life goes on and now I have other issues and passions to explore. The truth is, I haven’t been writing much at all lately. I’ve joined my local library, though, and I’ve done a lot of reading and much of it good fiction.
So, why am I here, now?
This morning a comment arrived regarding a post I wrote quite a while ago called The Zen of Knitting.
I responded. That was easy. But I was also concerned.
Did I ever say good-bye to you? Did I ever formally close or retire this blog, or did I just let it hang, dangle in the air, awaiting some inspiration, some message I wanted to leave with you, a message that never came?
Instead of saying goodbye, I just walked out and didn’t even bother to close the door. I’ve felt rather guilty about my unexplained disappearance, because Psychcentral and all the people with whom I worked here deserved better. You deserved better.
“Love in every stitch”
So first, for what it’s worth, since this is why I’m here, I want to share a few ideas about knitting.
The note that popped into my inbox this morning was rather sweet. It referred to a blanket I was knitting back then and how the little baby for whom I was knitting it is probably all grown up. Well, not quite. He’s three and a half years old and I’m still knitting for him, mostly sweaters and toys. And now, I’m also knitting for his baby sister, who is growing very quickly, too. And there’s “love in every stitch,” I can assure you.
In my response to this comment, however, I mentioned that knitting has become my “go-to” activity for relaxation and “revving-down,” a symptom of my hypomanic nature.
I love knitting and I rely on it. It’s better than any pill on the planet, for me.
The other day, in an article in The Toronto Star, one of our local newspapers, there was yet another story about the mental health benefits of knitting, how the relatively simple act of knitting “soothed my nerves and was like meditating — but easier,” said a woman quoted in this story. “It gives you something to focus on that’s entirely positive.”
She had joined a knitting circle, as have I, where a small group of women and sometimes a man to two, sit and knit and chat and sip coffee in a wholly luscious environment filled with the most exquisite yarns.
The crux of this story is that there are numerous physical, mental and emotional health benefits to knitting and now there’s science to back this up:
- According to a recent article by Jane E. Brody in The New York Times, The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women ages 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. Even men and schoolchildren are swelling the ranks. (In my own knitting community, where knitting in the round is de rigueur, we are encouraged to donate all our old knitting needles to schools to encourage young children to learn to knit.)
- Last April, the council created a “Stitch Away Stress” campaign in honor of National Stress Awareness Month. Perhaps, this April will be declared “Stitch Away Stress,” again.
April is “Stitch Away Stress Month”
- Brody reports that “Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind/body medicine and author of ‘The Relaxation Response,’ says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
- Knitting is an activity that can help people quit smoking, says Karen Zila Hayes, a Toronto life coach who runs a class called “Knit to Quit,” reports May Warren in The Toronto Star.
- It’s an antidote for anxiety, according to another knitter, who adds that it can transport him away from all of “that ‘what if ‘ dialogue in your head.”
- “Knit to Heal” sessions can also help people deal with grief and trauma. When writer Ann Hood lost her five year old daughter to meningitis, for two years, she struggled with her grief, unable to function, let alone write, until she reluctantly joined a knitting circle at her mother’s insistence. There, she learned to knit and found that, “amid the focused clicking of needles, (there is) a temporary quietness of mind. And in the company of the other knitters, she discovered a camaraderie and gradual sense of safety.” In The Knitting Circle, her autobiographical novel, Hood explores how knitting was the key to her coping with the insurmountable loss of her only child. The group of women in the communal act of knitting, helped her reignite her life, find her voice and her pen again. “By being willing to share our stories, we learn how to live — cannot be dismissed.”
Knitting can heal many ills
- A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences of 1,321 older adults found that knitting and other activities, like reading books, was associated with decreased odds of having mild cognitive impairment, according to Mary Warren in The Toronto Star.
- Brody reports that a “2009 University of British Columbia study of 38 women with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa who were taught to knit found that learning the craft led to significant improvements. Seventy-four percent of the women said the activity lessened their fears and kept them from ruminating about their problem.”
- Although I learned to knit as a child, I returned to it while I was in treatment for an eating disorder. Since then, my weight has not only stabilized, my body image has improved enormously. I have not stepped onto a scale since 2011 and I can honestly say, “I like my body, just the way it is.” For me, this is groundbreaking.
So, that’s why I’ve decided to write to you. I have no idea if or when I’ll post again, but I’ve never forgotten you.
And I wish you all well.