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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?!