Like a circle in a spiral…

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“90% of the public I think now understands depression. But anxiety disorders are never just cottoned on to. Anxiety still has the hangover of ‘pull yourself together’.” – Gary McDonald

I don’t know that they understand depression so much as an acceptance that it is more than just feeling a bit sad all the time. I certainly wouldn’t wish the gaping maw of smothering emptiness on anyone. It’s not just sadness. It’s melancholy deep into your bones like coming in from the cold and feeling like you’ll never bee warm again. It’s hopelessness. It’s a lack of joy or interest in your most favourite things in the world. It’s not caring that your hair is plastered to your head with natural oils, or that you stink from not washing yourself or your clothes in weeks. It’s looking at the dishes in the sink and thinking that eating is too much effort anyway.
You’ve got a good life – happy marriage and family, your own home, a good income, cuddly pets, plenty of food – so you’re left wondering ‘why do I feel like this?’

Trust me, it is far more frustrating for the person with depression than it is to know someone with it. You might look at them and think ‘you’re *still* sad? Why?!’. But they’re thinking the same thing with the added bonus of blaming themselves and knowing they’re making everyone else sad/worried/angry/annoyed and that some people will just walk away from them because they’ve had enough (‘why can’t you just cheer up?!’) and just get over it all ready.

Cause no one with depression has ever thought of that before. We enjoy wallowing in a pit of despair.

That last paragraph was sarcasm by the way. Of course we’ve thought of it. No one with depression wants to feel that way. Well, maybe some do but I’ve never met anyone who enjoys staring unfocused at the wall for hours. I most certainly don’t.

But the general population is starting to understand this. We don’t want it. We aren’t just ‘sad’. We can’t just ‘get over it’.

Anxiety is the real bitch. It’s random. It’s pointless. It’s sudden but sometimes it creeps and you don’t know you’re feeling it until it’s too late to do anything but wait it out.

It’s like that buzz you get before performing on stage but it’s the bad sort of buzz – when you’re going out there unexpectedly and unprepared, and you’re pretty sure they aren’t going to ask you to do something you’re good at, like singing, and you know there will be unkind laughter and taunting from the audience and you‘re blindfolded so you don’t know what you’re wearing but it’s uncomfortable and noisy so you’re pretty sure it’s unflattering and cringeworthy and meant to make you look ridiculous.

The worst part though is that what you are actually doing is sitting on the sofa at home eating breakfast and watching silly cartoons with your kids on a beautiful, sunny day with nothing in your schedule but to enjoy it, so you’re left wondering what’s triggered these feelings and when you can’t think of anything from today, yesterday or tomorrow, you begin to wonder what the hell is wrong with you and then you start feeling anxious with a side order of mild panic because you can’t work out how it started or how to stop it, and maybe a bit sick because your gut is starting to respond to all of this so you can’t eat anymore but you still have to think about your family and looking after them and it all just winds tighter and tighter no matter how many breathing exercises or meditation techniques you try.

And still you spiral more tightly but now you’re getting angry with yourself on top of the anxiety and fear and helplessness because this is ridiculous! You’re an intelligent being, capable of logic and reasoning but this defies all of that and that leaves you clenching your teeth in irritation. And you’re starting to get a tension headache and your jaw is aching along with your tightened gut which is now starting to hurt because you’re taxing the muscles and you’ve put your breakfast aside but now just seeing the bowl is making you feel ill.

And the worry sets in – what are my kids seeing? How are they experiencing this? Am I hurting them in someway? What about my husband? My family? My friends? My pets? So many people you’re dragging along with you and you don’t want this for them because you like them, you love them and you want them to be happy and comfortable and you want to be a positive influence in their lives…

And on and on and on until you can’t tell up from down any more and your vision is starting to tunnel into nothing but you aren’t hyperventilating and it’s all trapped in your head, trapping you in your head and you *still* don’t know why it’s happening and that’s the thing that gets you more than anything else.

How do you stop the cycle when you can’t identify the beginning?

“Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in
The windmills of your mind!”

Songwriters: BERGMAN, MARILYN / LEGRAND, MICHEL / BERGMAN, ALAN
The Windmills Of Your Mind lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Today is my birthday (Well, Sunday was)…

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Since I last wrote, I have been tweaking the Lilia design so all that typing made me think I’d already blogged this week. Obviously, I hadn’t. Oops.

But I finished version 2 of Lilia today and thought I’d share.

Veronica-Lilia2 - collageI’ve named this particular doll Veronica. No particular reason, she just looks like a Veronica.

I made a couple of minor shaping changes and added ears with this version. I doubt anyone else will notice the changes (except for the ears) and that’s good. I’ll make another doll to check that I’ve recorded everything that is needed in the pattern and that my maths works.

Bad maths in patterns is a pet peeve so I make an extra effort to be sure it’s right, no matter how simple the pattern. Having worked with a friend on a knitting project recently, I realised that not everyone even bothers with the numbers. I don’t get that. I don’t want to rip back so I count to make sure I have the right number of stitches as per the instructions. I am grateful that I have enough experience with patterns to be able to make corrections when things don’t add up.

It’s been a peculiar week, emotionally. Sunday was my birthday and for the first time I can remember, I spent most of the day asleep. I love my birthday – it’s the one day in the year I can justify insisting everyone pay flattering attention to me. Husband and Son were here and there was yummy breakfast and a roast for dinner and presents (one of which was delayed and only arrived today).

I got a Derwent Carry-All and a pair of extra leaves taking the potential capacity from 132 pencils to 220. Because some of my pencils are extra thick I have fewer than that but all my favourites are in there.

derwentcarryall3Well, they were until my delayed present arrived today.

I lovelovelove Crayola pencils. The colours are vibrant, the coverage is good, they sharpen well, the ‘lead’ can take a lot of abuse before shattering in the pencil, and they aren’t expensive. I already have a set of 36 but several of the colours are more rapidly shrinking than the others (red, green, pine green and black in particular). So today Hubby brings home a set of 50 new Crayola pencils!!! Sooooooo happy!!

crayola50

Of course, now I have to reshuffle the pencils in my case. It’s such a chore to play with organise my colouring pencils.

So, emotionally peculiar week. 6 years ago, our dogs produced a litter of puppies. All but one of them went to friends and family. Late last week I was told that one of them had been taken to a shelter because his family couldn’t keep him anymore. Then on Monday I was told that he had been put down because it had been decided that they wouldn’t be able to rehome him. He was only 6 and there was nothing wrong with him and I’m struggling with irrational guilt. He was one of my fur-babies.

My human son is 13 nearly 14 now. It’s starting to show. I don’t do shouting but trying to get him to wash or eat or go out… well, I’d rather have teeth pulled. It’s emotionally taxing. He’s awesome and the worst I can say about him is that he’s stubborn. It’d be nice if he could be stubborn about things I don’t ask him to do though 😉

It may not seem like much but it’s been an unpleasant rollercoaster. For example, finishing the doll feels awesome, but then I crash hard because it’s done and now I have to choose a new project. Birthday = high, no phone calls = low. This is among the worst I’ve been. The highs are so short, and the lows are so deep. I’m ok and I can get through each ‘episode’ but it wears me out. I’m doing the things that help – colouring, meditation, crocheting – and they do help so I’m doing something right.

On the subject of things that help me feel better, this week I coloured one of my most favourite pages in the ‘One Year Wiser’ book.

the mountains are calling

Green, and blue, and purple too

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So, today has been productive. Actually, the last 48 hours has been productive. I’m feeling really good as this week comes to an end.

Lilia is finished!Lilia

She stands about 20cm tall (just shy of 8″). I’m planning to make her some more clothes, although not all of them will be seperate from her body like this dress and shoes. Trousers would be almost impossible to get on over the feet, the same can be said of sleeves and the hands. That’s not to say I’m not going to try it at some point…

Anyway, I am delighted with how she has turned out. I’m going to try the pattern with larger yarn and needles to see if it scales well then I plan to release this pattern. I think I am going to make some pirates with this basic pattern so feel free to prod me in the comments occasionally.

I have 3 nieces. The eldest is in her 20’s. She is a writer, and a photographer, and an artist. You can find some of her work in the Australian Geographic – photos and articles (the link is to 1 article on the website).  She’s very awesome.

She has begun drawing again and today shared a stylised feather she had done.

I got to colour it! I’m very pleased with this too.

Antipodean Feather2

I limited myself to a red, an orange and all the greens, blues and purples in my pencil box. There were many.

It was really refreshing actually. I haven’t done any colouring for a few days. It was nice to return to it.

Now for the best part!

Charlotte Heilling  Brave the Shave - Google Chrome 14082015 221914.bmp

Do you see that?! It says we’ve raised £500 for Macmillan!!!!! Thank you again to everyone who has donated.

If you can, please share the page address. They fill an ever growing need in our society and need as much help as we can give them.

Now to return to my pencils, but this time to put them away….

antipodean feather pencils

My week in review

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So I had an idea for what I wanted to blog about today but it skitters away every time I go to write it. So let’s have some shameless self-promotion and a recap of some of my week.

Firstly, you may know that I crochet but did you know that I also design crochet toys?

‘Cause I do. And today I finally got around to sorting out some things with my Ravelry pattern store, so I’m celebrating with a week-long sale.

crochetdolls

No coupon codes needed, just buy one individual pattern and get one free. (There are 3 pattern collections which are not included.)

There’s even some patterns that are always free!

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So, go and download a freebie and if you like it, snag a couple of patterns cheaper than they usually are!

An update on the Brave the Shave campaign – I set my goal low to avoid disappointment and have been astounded by the response!

Charlotte Heilling  Brave the Shave - Google Chrome 06082015 171410.bmp

I would love to see the amount raised reach £500. If you are able to donate, please do so. I am not able to touch that money and Macmillan are a genuine organisation. Please share the link if you are able to.

We all know someone who has had to deal with a cancer diagnosis – whether they were diagnosed or someone they are related to is diagnosed. Macmillan picks up where medicine leaves off whether the patient is still in hospital or at home, whether they will live or the cancer will take them from the living world.

Since my post on Tuesday, I received 3 new colouring books and determined, after looking through the stack of books that I already own, that I need to finish a few pages before I start anything new. I only made this determination on Friday but it means that I have added 6 finished pieces to my gallery this week alone.

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These are up on my Deviant Art gallery if you want a better look at them. If you haven’t been over there, I also have a zentangle gallery.

Lastly, I discovered an incredible series of mandalas for colouring on a website called Black & White Mustard. The best part, other than the mandalas themselves, is that they are free! So far there are 37 and yes, I have downloaded them all. The artist is Helsinki-based Maria Ljungeld. The first sentence on her ‘About’ page is ‘Drawing is my meditation, let colouring be yours!’ Her designs were a major factor in my seeking out better printer paper for colouring on and I hope to have a completed picture from her designs next week.

So, overall, I would say that I have had a good and positive week. It’s been a week since I shaved my head and I still love it. I even got to add to my colouring book and pencil collections!

By the way, this is what 300 pencils looks like…

300 pencils

(Yes, that is one of my dogs acting as a prop. She was mostly gracious about it but she can turning grumpy sighing into an Olympic sport!)

All The Things!!! or I am a Collector of Crafts.

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I obsess. It is something I do unwillingly. I obsess over my family. I obsess over my thoughts. I obsess over actors and movies. I obsess over crafts. I think even my anxiety could be deemed obsessing in some ways.

It happens when I am mentally well. Sometimes it causes the lows. Sometimes I can exert some sensibility over my behaviour and thoughts. Other times I have to ride it out.

For example, I will watch a movie I like until I never even what to look at some of the actors again (or friends and family want to choke me with the dvd). After the 3 months in hospital last year, I obsess over what certain pain means. When I take up a new craft I must have ALL THE THINGS!!!!!

You saw the spinning fibre, the pencils, the colouring books. You haven’t seen the yarn stash yet. When it comes to crafts, I am a collector.

Though I didn’t need the additions, I got three new colouring books this week and they’re lovely but I am trying to finish some incomplete pages before I start on anything new but I have collected a lot of downloaded pages and will be printing them out soon so really, it’s moot.

The thing is, I do eventually get through these obsessions. The heat of obsession will cool off and the new crafting collection will slot itself into the ever expanding rotation – beading, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, loom bands, colouring, bobbin lace, spinning, sewing, etc. (You’d be surprised how often the materials for these crafts cross boundaries.)

The downside to this personality trait is that I go through extended periods of not wanting to do any of them, which is accompanied by a weighty feeling of dissatisfaction because I have all these things, and I’m good at them, and I don’t want any of them but I don’t know what I want. I just know that I don’t want to do the things I’ve done before and I don’t want to seek out something new.

It’s a whirlpool of irritation. I don’t like these feelings. I don’t like being unhappy and I don’t understand why it happens.

Maybe it’s a control thing. I don’t know.

Right now, I have some knitting and crochet need to finish and I don’t even want to look at my yarn; my electric spinner is finished and I’d rather use my handmade (chopstick and bathroom sink stopper) handspindle; I want to colour but there are too many lines on the page to make sense them.

I’m planning to go into town tomorrow (for heavier printer paper), maybe that will help get this under control a little. Sometimes it’s just restlessness.

I don’t really know where I was going with this. Sorry.

All the colours! I must have them.

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idlikemycrayonsbackplease

I have never understood why I had to give up my crayons. In fact, most people who know me will tell you that I didn’t. I knit, crochet, cut, glue, pin, sew, colour, and glitter, because it is within me to create. It always has been. My mother tells of how easy I was to occupy with paper, pencils, glue and scissors.

I haven’t gone far really but I suppose that when you find the thing that sings in your heart, you hold onto it no matter what. Or maybe we don’t because the voices of ‘others’ tell us the things we’re supposed to want. I think that is one of the roots of depression – no one wants to be wrong or strange or peculiar so we put away the things we love to fit our round peg into the square hole of social acceptance.

I’ve never been very good at staying with the proverbial pack. I never saw the point. Obviously this does not silence their voices or stop my own insecurities but it does give me something to come back to, and time and again I have seen society learn what I already knew – arts and crafts are good for the soul!

books

You have no idea how much I love that colouring for grown-ups has become so popular. So many books and no one thinks it’s weird when I buy the biggest box of Crayola colouring pencils I can find then buy a second, smaller set for my son.

ALL THE PENCILS

I have a lot of pencils. No, really. I even dug out the Duct tape and old cardboard boxes to make a container to sort them into colours. I think I hit the 500 mark this week though I have thinned out the ones I keep in my box to just the ones that I use (the ones that produce good colour and coverage) so there’s only about 200 in the box. But with this many colours I needed to catalogue them.

bigbookofcolour

Yes, I am this OCD.

And just like with my yarn, I think I have more colouring books than I have years enough to complete but that’s ok. Some of the pages are too ‘busy’ and just looking at them makes me feel tense so those don’t get coloured. Other pages I just don’t like. The vast majority of the pages in each book will get coloured but I have so many for a reason.

handbagbooks

There’s even a couple just for my handbag.

So far, I use coloured pencils exclusively though I do have some markers/pens. I’m still experimenting with them though.

Psychologists and psychiatrists recommend colouring as therapy. Even Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, recommended it.

An npr.org article titled ‘For Adults, coloring invites creativity and brings comfort‘ quotes clinical psychologist Kimberley Wulfert (everydayhealth.com):

“In coloring, you’ve got this physical sensation of the tool you’re using touching on the paper. You also have the feeling in your hands and fingers holding this tool, and moving in different rhythms as you fill in the space,” she says, adding that “you’re being mindful, and when you move in a rhythmic fashion for an extended period of time, that becomes a meditation.” 

To fill in the space, you have to think about it even if you treat the lines as optional. While you’re thinking about it – the individual colours, the overall look – you can’t be thinking about something else. Colouring takes you away from yourself for a little while and when you’re done, you’ve got something to show for it.

butterfly maze

In the last few months I have created a gallery I like well enough to want to put some of them up in my house. Find my virtual gallery is at deviantart.

For the betterment of my mind

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Three months is a long time to spend in hospital and it messes with your head. Since coming home in January, I have faced a deeper type of depression than ever before as I try to reestablish myself. I will likely always be susceptible to pain in my abdomen from the damage my pancreas took. I will likely always live with the fear of the return of the indescribable pain that sent me back to the hospital. But in the more immediate future I am dealing with the frustration of waiting for my gall bladder to be removed. I have heard nothing from the doctors since February, despite my efforts to the contrary and this is amping up the fear that I will end up in hospital again with the same problem. It also means that despite increasing discomfort in my back, I won’t be going to the osteopath to get it sorted (it was immediately after my last appointment that this all started and though I’m not saying the treatment was the cause, I do worry that it shifted something that acted as a catalyst).

Logically, I know that I’m giving this all too much space in my head but emotionally… well, it’s not great. I find myself staring for hours at blank walls on bad days and there are more of those than ever. I find that often, any positive event is followed by a disproportionately low period. My ability to focus and concentrate is sporadic and very short. And worst of all, I find it difficult to enjoy my crafting in the same way which takes away most of my personal productivity.

I’m working with a therapist on CBT but I’m not sure, in fact I’m fairly certain that now is not the best time for this. I am already vulnerable and unsettled, and the trigger is something that I cannot resolve on my own.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this, or even what it all means but I’m hoping that venting here will help me some.

I have a new long-term project. A friend in my knitting group showed us a crocheted blanket she was working on and my friend G and I decided to get the kit and make our own. She’ll need some crochet lessons but it’s a simple pattern repeated several times on every row so the paper pattern is really only needed for the colour order. It’s this pattern/kit by Attic24 (I have no affiliation with Wool Warehouse but can tell you that my order with them was a smooth transaction and arrived quickly).

I’m 2 rows in but have crocheted as much as three – I missed a stitch at the beginning of the first row but didn’t notice until I’d reached the end and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. 200 stitches is a lot more than I usually work with.

Things I’m trying to do to regain some control over my scatter brain :

* daily journal/planner that allows me to record mood, craft/education, tasks, cleaning and eating/medication.

* limiting the number of projects I work on for any given craft. For example, in my work bag I have 1 knitted shawl (Solar Flare), 1 knitting design (a headband and it’s variations), 1 art therapy colouring page, 1 large crochet project (ripple blanket). This is enough to keep me entertained and give me some choices but doesn’t overwhelm me (and some days, just choosing which coloured pencil to use is too much).

* going to therapy

* going to my knitting groups

* spending time with my friends outside those groups.

It probably looks like a pretty regular sort of plan to most of you. It’s a lot of hard work for me. Trying to rein in my attention is exhausting.