This is a post about the intersection of writing, crafting, and depression in my life. It originally appeared on the Sibel Hodge blog as a guest post. It was intended to promote my then-new book, Crochet Saved My Life. Since it’s no longer available on the original site, I thought I’d re-publish it again here.
Crafting Together a Life One Stitch at a Time
For many years I led parallel lives where the different passions and experiences that I had didn’t seem to intersect much. As I’ve gotten older and grown into myself more, things have begun to converge. I’ve become more fully the person I am meant to be. My book, Crochet Saved My Life, represents the convergence of three parallel parts of my life: writing, crafting, and depression.
My Writing Life
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I started my first journal in elementary school and have been an active journal writer ever since. Of course, I excelled in writing school essays. I also penned long letters to friends and strangers and constantly explored the world through the written word. In my early twenties, I began to turn this into a career, first as a freelance writer and then as an author and professional blogger.
In my writing career, I’ve written across diverse mediums for many different industries. I had success as a tech blogger reporting gadget news and reviewing mobile phones. I have shared personal finance advice, dating ideas, and travel suggestions. Furthermore, I have published two books on the topic of ghosts that haunt the San Francisco Bay Area. All of this writing was a part of me … but it has only been in very recent years that my writing has been all of me.
By that I mean that in recent years I’ve learned to truly write about only those topics that I’m most passionate about. I’ve come to fully believe that each individual person’s story and perspective is a unique one-of-a-kind experience that ought to be shared with the world, my story included. In the past couple of years I have come to see writing as not just my career, but also my tool for connecting to the world and my gift to share with the world. I was surprised to leran that writing, crafting, and depression would all converge in this way.
My Crafting Life
Like with writing, crafting has always been a part of my life. My mother is a creative person with varied interests and she exposed my siblings and I to crafts of all kinds over the years. More importantly, perhaps, she showed a true enthusiasm for any interest we had so when I wanted to draw fashion designs or make friendship bracelets or create collages she was always wholly supportive.
As a teenager, I had a number of pen pals and was introduced to the world of friendship books and mail art, which expanded my view of crafting. Whereas before crafting was something I did for my own enjoyment only, it became something that served as a new way to use self-expression to connect with others. It would be years before I would consider myself an artist but this initial introduction to the power of communication through craft was an important part of that transition.
In my mid-twenties I was going through a very difficult time (more on that in a moment) and that was when I discovered the craft of crochet. I was able to put the worst thoughts of my life aside for a moment as I sat magically with a ball of yarn and an aluminum hook and repetitively pulled one loop through another to create scarves, blankets and garments. Eventually, I started blogging about crochet, and my writing and crafting life began to merge.
My Life with Depression
The third parallel track my mind was on is one that is much less happy. Starting in my very early teens I began suffering from debilitating depression, although I wouldn’t know until more than ten years later what the actual problem was. Depression was this weight dragging me down; I would yearn to be a creative and productive person. I had the intelligence and talent and education and support to be that person. And yet, I’d often take missteps on that path, pausing in my creative career, because I simply couldn’t make myself go through the everyday motions of living a normal life. That was depression.
In my mid-twenties, the depression came to a head. I reached depths below which I would never have thought that I could go. I would consider suicide, opting instead for the difficult but much better option of dragging myself to both a psychologist and a psychiatrist who helped to bring me back off of the ledge. Crochet played a key role in my healing process. This was a craft that I could do at home, affordably, easily. I could do it in short bursts of time, with very little decision-making required of me and it would result in fairly immediate gratification as small, simple projects rolled off of my hook.
Eventually I healed from depression and became an active participant in my life again but in those months when I was at my weakest and most raw, crochet was one of very few things I could do that helped me feel sane, stable, useful. It was a form of self-expression but it didn’t require the pull-it-out-of-thin-air energy of drawing or painting or writing. It was a repetitive motion that helped to calm my anxiety, break up my negative cycle of rumination and relax me into a new state of being and self-acceptance.
As I began to get better, I continued to crochet. I also began that crochet blog I’d mentioned. I would craft, I would heal and then I would write about how the craft was helping me heal … my disparate selves were coming together into a cohesive whole. My story was emerging … and this story became the basis for Crochet Saved My Life.
Crochet Saved My Life
Crochet Saved My Life is a non-fiction account of the mental and physical health benefits of crochet specifically and craft in general. In this book I do share my own story of crafting to heal from depression. I also interviewed almost two dozen other women who have trusted me to share their stories about crocheting to heal from conditions including PTSD, OCD, schizophrenia, trauma, grief, chronic pain and more. The book includes research to support the theory that “handmade heals” but it is the individual stories that really make up the reason that the book has proven to be popular with readers so far.
Crochet Saved My Life is an honest account of the pain and difficulty that life sometimes sends our way but also the strength, creativity and possibility that lies within that life for us. It is a collection of details that combine together to show that there is value in every single individual life, pieced together stitch by stitch, loop by loop, in whatever way we can best do it at the time. And it is the story of my life – the story of a writing, crafting woman who made her way through to the other side of depression and now thrives within a community of crafty story-sharing people.