Saturday, November 22, 2014

My therapeutic crafting story...

Ever since I can remember, I've been crafting. When I was younger, I would collect buttons and beads on the playground and glue them together into collages when I got home. Some people disagree and just say I'm a hoarder. There was something about collecting things and piecing them together to create something of my own.  I loved to paint, to sew, to make little villages with clay. It was a way to express myself but more importantly a means of escape.

Growing up, I always struggled with some sort of anxiety. Most of us do. Being a kid isn't easy. There are a number of events that bring big change and transition in our lives. Our first day of school, going to the doctor, giving a presentation, trying out for a sports team. For the most part, I was able to manage my anxiety so I could get through the day and participate in all I wanted to do. Sometimes I would have a little breakdown or panic attack and it was super embarrassing but my mother would tell me to stop crying and then it was all over. Toughen up, let it out and move on. 

I always figured this was something I'd grow out of, something only kids go through. But as I grew older, and as most of us discover, there are many instances that occur that recreate the amount of stress we can go through as a kid. For me, it was situations like going away to a new school, juggling extracurriculars or interviewing for a new job. My anxiety increased with high stress situations and sometimes it got to the point to where I could not control it or explain it. 

Currently, I have been working full time while completing my master's degree in occupational therapy full time. People warned me not to do it, that it would be extremely difficult and you would have to give up every inch of your free time. I figured it was no problem, I was used to working hard and didn't mind giving up happy hour or spending time with friends. I was determined to get my degree and move forward. Also the added pressure most of us 20-something face today to pay off our student loans was weighing on my shoulders, along with a car payment, insurance, textbooks and if I worked full time at my current job, they would reimburse some of my tuition. 

Lets just say this causes loads of stress and anxiety in my life. Theres a point where you think you can do it and you push and push yourself but we are all human, we are not machines and at some point we are going to break down. My old idea of sucking it up and working through it wouldn't cut it. As many of my friends, therapists, doctors and family had always told me, I needed to find a way to make time for myself, time to escape. 

Just as it worked for me as a child, crafting is my escape, my stress reliever, my time for myself. One particular type of crafting that as been a great relief for me is knitting. 

I actually never learned how to knit as a kid. I ended up learning from one of my coworkers who happened to be an occupational therapist. I had stayed over her house during a snowstorm one winter. We were all sitting in the basement where her grandmother lived. Her grandmother is a master knitter. She knits enormous blankets all year long. I told her that her granddaughter was trying to teach me to knit. We had gone to Michael's before the storm so I had some yarn and needles. So that's how I learned how to knit. 

Of course, it takes loads of patience at first and you will most definitely mess up and probably throw out your first few creations. But aside from being able to create beautiful scarves, it serves as a mindless way for me to create and de-stress. There's something about creating something really nice from something simple like a piece of yarn that is so amazing. While I'm knitting, I'm relaxed and my hands are busy. Sometimes people count to ten when they need to calm down, it's something mindless. The repetitive knitting is calming in a similar way. It's a means of escape and way to release all  my anxiety and stress into the stitches of a scarf. 

So whenever I get a chance, I knit. Before a big exam, I knit. Before bedtime when insomnia kicks in, I turn off the tv and I knit. I can't make anything fancy other than a simple scarf and maybe a blanket, but it's something, and if it keeps me from having a panic attack, I'll keep doing it. 

Currently I am making about five scarves as gifts and I really hope I finish by Christmas!

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