I’m glad it’s Friday.
After a couple of busy weekends, with Unravel and the video workshop, it’s nice to have a completely free couple of days ahead. I am looking forward to being able to sleep as late as I like both days, spend time knitting and spinning, and pay a visit to Purlescence‘s open day tomorrow and squish some nice yarn (I am very tempted to splurge on Sweet Georgia yarn for their Lush cardigan knitalong, even though I really don’t need another cardigan’s worth of yarn – I’m wondering about Oxblood, or maybe Raspberry). And hopefully I’ll feel much better for a proper rest.
I’m getting bored of boots (though strangely, much more bored of my chunky casual boots than I am of my smart work boots) so I thought I’d wear shoes today for a change.
In today’s mental health update, I have now come out to the other members of the project team I’m working in as having depression (as opposed to coming out about being bisexual, or a recovering alcoholic. How did I end up in so many closets? Is it life having the last laugh in return for my childhood tendency to wander into wardrobes in search of Narnia?), which seemed to go OK. And I have now managed two work days in a row without bursting into tears, which is twice as many days as I managed at all last week, consecutive or not. I’m still depressed, obviously, but maybe the worst of the current crisis is behind me now.
Yesterday’s post was pretty gloomy, so I wanted to reassure you all that while I am very tired of living with depression this acute, and I really do feel as though my brain is trying to talk me into killing myself, I’m not actively suicidal and I’m sure I’ll weather this episode just as I have in the past. It’s just a really hard slog this time.
But look! It was this light at twenty to seven this morning! And the sky was fabulous.
Today hasn’t been an easy day, but I had a good meeting with my boss and talked about how I was feeling and what we might be able to do to help me at work (the result of which is that I’ve agreed that I’ll tell the rest of the project team about my depression and that I might be a bit oversensitive to things, and that that’s OK and if I get upset about things they should just give me a few minutes to pull myself together and not treat me with kid gloves. Which means tomorrow will be a little difficult too, but hopefully it will help in the long run), and I managed not to burst into tears at all (well, I was a bit teary in the meeting with my boss but not full-on tears), and then I went to knit night and had a really nice time, and it wasn’t too bad at all. I think I’ve still got a way to go before the effect of spring really kicks in (though I have bought some high-strength Vitamin D to see if that helps) and my mood is still very low, but I’ve made it through before and I’m sure I can do it again. In the words of Winston Churchill (who managed to win a war despite suffering from depression himself) I just need to keep buggering on.
I’ve been a fan of the Health at Every Size philosophy ever since I came across it on the now-defunct Shapely Prose blog. Basically, HAES focuses on being as healthy as you can be within the body you have and recognising that being fat doesn’t automatically mean being less healthy than someone who is thinner. Learning about HAES radically changed my relationship with my body; instead of constantly worrying about my weight and the fact that I could never manage to stay at a size 12, I stopped weighing myself and started concentrating on eating food that made me feel good and taking exercise that I enjoyed. Instead of putting on a dress size every couple of years, six years on I can still fit into most of the clothes I owned back then (although my body shape has changed because I walk so much more) and, more importantly, I’m happy with how I look and generally feel quite healthy.
I was musing on Twitter the other evening about the possibility of a similar approach to mental health issues. Which I suppose is what I try to do a lot of the time by looking for ways to learn to live with depression, concentrating on self-care and using tools like CBT and mindfulness to try to keep the negative thoughts from becoming overwhelming. Depression is part of who I am and has been for most of my life, so I really don’t think anything is going to fix it. And a lot of the time that’s fine. I use my light box, I get fresh air and exercise, I make time to see friends and do things I enjoy, I surround myself with pretty things that make me smile when I see them.
The trouble is, sometimes all of this isn’t enough and the depression swamps me. For the last couple of weeks I have been struggling to function normally at all. I have been in tears pretty much every day and while I’m not actively suicidal I don’t particularly want to be alive. I think the HAES analogy breaks down here, because while I can live with mild to moderate depression, when it gets worse than that it basically feels as if my brain is trying to kill me, and I don’t think that’s something I can live with or should even be trying to live with.
I’ve spent the last two days taking part in a participatory video workshop as part of a project aimed at reducing stigma around mental health issues run by a local charity with funding from Time to Change. There were seven of us involved; we all had some form of mental health problem but other than that we were a very diverse group (well, as diverse as you are likely to find in Oxford, which is not a very diverse city). Our ages ranged from mid-20s to retirement age and while affluent educated Oxford was certainly represented there were also people from less privileged backgrounds. We spent the weekend getting to know each other, learning how to use the camcorders, sharing some of our experiences of mental health problems and finally recording 30 seconds each of talking to camera as well as some shorter clips to show more about us as people and make the point that we are far more than just our mental health issues. (No prizes for guessing what got filmed for me there…) I had thought that I would talk about my experience of depression, and maybe about how crafting helps me, but in the end I chickened out of that because I’m currently in a place where sharing a hopeful, optimistic story about how I fill my life with things that make it easier to live with depression felt too much like a lie, but given how small Oxford is (one of the other volunteers mentioned that she used to follow me on Twitter and read my outfit posts, that’s how small it is) and that one of the ideas is that the video might be shown in workplaces I wasn’t brave enough to say what I’m really feeling right now, that after five years of trying so many different things I don’t feel that my depression has got any better and am very short on hope for the future. Not where someone from work might see it, maybe in a few months’ time when (hopefully) I will be feeling better because it won’t be winter anymore and some of the other stuff that’s putting me under stress will have been sorted out. Because yes, there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, and while I am increasingly open about mine because I am tired of not being I’m still wary of admitting to feeling suicidal, especially in something where there isn’t a timestamp and a string of other posts to show how the negative emotions ebb and flow. Anyway, 30 seconds isn’t very long so I just talked about how important I think it is to talk about mental health, and how talking has helped me to build up my support network but other people have also told me that my openness has helped them to be more open as well.
It was a really interesting weekend, and the other volunteers were a lovely group of people who I’m really pleased to have had the chance to meet, but I also found it very, very tiring to spend so much time with people I didn’t know well, in a fairly small space, never mind the emotional drain of sharing some deeply personal things, and I ended up having to leave a couple of hours before the end of today’s session because I was exhausted and had got to the point where I really, really needed to be home and have peace and quiet (and a nap, which is what I did once I got in). I was sorry to miss the end, but I think it was the right decision for me, especially as I have work tomorrow.
Obviously, all this means that I don’t have a lot of crafting to share this weekend; I’ve been too tired to knit anything complicated like the edging of the Ysolda shawl, let alone spin or sew. On the other hand, I did finish my second pair of Regia 6-ply walking socks, which are pretty much the same as the first except for having contrast ribbing and toes because the first pair took slightly more than half the yarn.
This is a good thing, because the canal towpath is very muddy at the moment and the first pair really did need a wash!
I have been taking outfit photos several days a week, but somehow due to a combination of tiredness and still not really being able to work my new camera (why oh why do three out of four of my self-timer pics come out blurred?) I don’t actually seem to have blogged them. Yesterday I had a good photo, but no words to go with it; some words seem to have turned up this morning so I’m writing this post on my phone on the bus to work (excuse any autocorrect weirdnesses!).
So anyway, it’s February, so I shouldn’t be surprised that energy and inspiration are in short supply. It probably is better than it would have been if I’d stayed in my old job, which was insanely stressful, but starting a new job is hardly a stress-free activity and working as part of a very small team, with almost no contact with people outside the team, is hard work for me, especially as the others are all about the same age, about eight years younger than me, and were working in the same team for a couple of years prior to joining this project. I have got much better at dealing with people over the years but this is a huge challenge and constantly leaves me feeling awkward and inadequate and like the outsider in the team, and that only exacerbates my depression. A friend on Twitter yesterday mentioned that she was thinking of seeking a diagnosis of Asperger’s, and I do sometimes wonder about this myself. It might explain a lot, although then again I don’t know whether an explanation would actually make it any easier to deal with and these days my main focus is just trying to deal with day-to-day existence.
The rainbow hat I made last weekend is now blocked and has its pompom sewn on.
I love it, it’s such a fun hat and the pompom makes me smile.
I wore it yesterday when I went to Unravel for the day, but sadly it was far too warm inside the hall to wear a woolly hat. Luckily I was still wearing a handknitted cardigan (my Cria, which got a lot of compliments) and a shawl, so my credentials as a knitter were never in any doubt. I had a lovely day catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages, and even though it was so busy it was sometimes quite difficult to get at the stalls I seem to have managed to spend all the money I took with me without too much trouble!
I was also very impressed with the signage that had been put up along the road from the station to Farnham Maltings where the event was held!
Given that I was out all day yesterday, it’s not that surprising that I don’t have much crafting to talk about. I am knitting more walking socks, which I took with me yesterday and made good progress on; today I finally started the final clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl, and also spun a bit more of the batt from the Hilltop Cloud learn to spin kit. It’s coming out much finer than I’ve managed to spin before, though I’m always getting quite enough twist into it. I’m pleased with my progress, though.