I can’t remember a time when I haven’t suffered from some form of depression and anxiety.
I’ve always felt everything intensely. My highs are really high, and my lows are dangerously low. I love and give of myself intensely. I feel everything so intensely that sometimes my husband jokes that I have no feelings when we watch a sad movie and I’m not crying, because I’ve spent years trying to not be intense.
Elementary school was rough. Middle school was even worse. High school is when the self-harm thoughts began. That stone wall I built into my personality was my attempt to cope and protect myself from the world. I’ve spent decades trying to not show emotion. To be the calm, cool, collected person society wanted me to be because that’s an easier person to understand and deal with. Putting up a strong front to bear the brunt of the hurt I always felt. The world is a cruel, harsh place and I internalized that to my core, doing everything I could to put up a stone facade and pretend that I’m fine.
Except no one is ever fine. At least not for long.
I’ve tried for years to get a handle on it. To figure out what might trigger it, if anything. Sometimes it’s a depression that is hormone-driven (PMDD, in fact). Other times, it just… happens. It starts with feeling overwhelmed. It starts with meeting the needs of those around me while I ignore my own. It’s trying to pour from a bone-dry cup. It’s having a packed-full schedule and a mile-long to-do list with no sign of a break for rest, even though I know that I’m such a sensitive person and that I require lots of breaks, lots of rest, and lots of refueling.
Most times, no one even knows what’s going on save the people inside my cozy four walls at home. Most days I power through. Or I give myself permission to just go with it, knowing that, in a few days when my hormones shift again, I’ll perk back up. It’s just something that we all know – once a month, I’m not myself for a few days.
And then, sometimes, things fall fantastically apart and my world just kind of implodes in some grand way. Major depression sets in. Most people think of depression as someone who can’t bring themselves to get out of bed, or to get dressed or put effort into their appearance, unending sadness, or a myriad of other stereotypes. And, for some, that’s absolutely the case. For me, though? I shut down. I isolate. It becomes impossible for me to do anything other than the literal bare minimum. Or I just drop everything entirely because my sole focus has to be on me. Nursing my wounds and finding literally any way at all to survive day to day.
In those early days of depression, I don’t even know I’m heading for a breakdown. I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to maintain all the things and consistently feeling more and more overwhelmed. It isn’t until a week or two passes that I realize what is going on. I’ll stand there crying on Sean’s shoulder asking what is wrong with me, wondering why I can’t just be normal, asking why I can’t just function like a normal person. Or sometimes it’s Sean that catches it and says that he’s worried about me, and checks in to make sure I’ve been taking my anti-depressants (and they’re helpful but not 100% effective). Or sometimes you can see it on yourself – you try to post a picture or a video to try to fake your way through something only to see for yourself that you’re just not “right” right now.
And usually, around that time, that’s when things get so intense and miserable that I just… can’t do anything anymore. That stone wall falls apart and, if I’m not still in the process of spiraling downward and crying at every little thing because it all feels too damn hard, I’m there, but my brain has literally checked out. Numb might be a good way to describe it. I show up but I’m going through the motions. I don’t follow through on things I should, and I let people down, and I know it – but I can’t do anything about it even if I wanted to. It takes an incredible amount of willpower to do anything when you’re depressed, and a lot of that willpower and energy gets spent taking care of your kid, or making sure you showered so you don’t show up to work looking exactly how you feel. Your human battery is running on 1% and, despite being plugged into a charger, you’re never charging past that 1%.
And, sometimes, things get so bad that you contemplate… other options. Running away from home and creating some new identity because you start to think that maybe if you had a fresh start it would magically fix everything. Closing your business down because maybe that’s what is causing you to drain so quickly. Or… worse, if you know what I mean. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few times in life – especially when I had postpartum depression – that kiddo of mine was the only thing really keeping me here.
Right now, I’m hovering in that post-spiral numbness. I’m just… here. But here is good. Here means I’m (slowly) clawing my way out of the hole I slipped into. Here means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Here means I can feel a bit of warmth again, even if it’s just slight at the moment. Everything about depression sucks. And, at least for today, I’m reminded that it’s not forever.
I never know how long this part of the process will stick around. A few days? A week? A month? And I never know if I’ll fall back in the hole before I ever truly get out, either. Healing isn’t linear, after all. And then, when the sun starts shining again, that’s when you do what I’ve referred to as your “apology tour” – you have to do all of this extra work to catch back up with everything in life and make amends with those around you in hopes they understand that you’re not just flakey or unresponsible or a terrible person and that it’s literally your body and brain chemistry working against you on a daily basis.
I write all this partly for the therapeutic side of writing and getting all these feelings and thoughts out, but also because I know I’m not alone – even when it feels like I am. Depression isn’t your fault, or my fault, or anyone else’s fault. It’s just something that happens to us. It’s something we live with on a regular basis. Our brains lie to us and tell us we’re things we aren’t.
And it’s OK if you, like me, are not OK right now. It’ll eventually be OK again, even if your world is dark and stormy right now.
I’m going to go bake a loaf of bread after this.
The weather has turned, and autumn is decidedly on the way. It’s a cool, gray, dreary day in the best kind of way. Declan and I are both home sick today, embracing a day of rest for our infection-fighting bodies instead of feeling the need to power through the day for the sake of productivity.
The weather change has me craving soup and homemade bread, wanting to shift away from all the outside activities and turn more inward to focus on home as we begin to go into a period of more indoor living. I’ve canned large batches of tomatoes for winter, jams have been added to the pantry over summer as they come in season, and apple picking will be happening in the next week or two and I’ll be dehydrating apple slices, making apple pie filling, and soaking up all that fall brings before everything gets cold and barren. I’ve even taken up my paintbrushes again to practice some art, painting some fall leaves just for fun. I wouldn’t call myself an artist, by any means, but for my first attempt at a new technique I’m pretty pleased with it, and it’s now framed and sitting on a shelf in my home office for the season.
It’s an almost thrilling feeling, knowing that my life right now gets to be lived more by the seasons and embrace some of the things I’ve always known and felt. We’re not meant to be productive every day of our lives, just as our gardens aren’t always in bloom year-round. We go in spurts of growth and rest, too.
What’s new, boo?
Apparently, it has been since 2019 that I’ve really and truly blogged. Oops. I don’t need to tell you that a lot has happened since 2019… we’ve all lived with the ‘rona and *waves hand* all of this.
I did something super crazy during it all, I’ll admit. Maybe it was just the whole pandemic gave me a fresh perspective on what’s really important in my life, or maybe it was the burnout of working in public health as part of the response team combined with the constant turnover in my department (not to mention feeling completely unappreciated and certainly underpaid)… but I made a leap and opened my own yarn shop in town! I’m sitting a year and a half in and while it hasn’t been without its challenges and growing pains, I’m so thankful to be in a new place in life. A place where I can put my family first over some illusion of a career. A place where I feel genuinely fulfilled, and I get to meet and hang out with the coolest people in the world: the makers in my community.
It’s a weird thing, being my own boss now. It was always a huge dream for years and years, but it felt like opportunities never really were there. And now, looking back, I can see that all those years of trying on different “hats” career-wise have all lent themselves perfectly toward running my own business in something I’m passionate about. And I can’t even begin to tell you just how happy my soul is that I get to spend my days doing all these bits and pieces of jobs that I loved, except they’re all combined into this *one* job.
The downside to turning your passion and creative outlet into a full-time job, though, is that you need some *other* hobby. If it’s all yarn and business all the time, I will 100% burn out. So I’ve taken up learning to do new things. I spent nearly all summer learning to draw. I invested in myself and took some online lessons. I bought art supplies, including some nicer watercolors and brushes, and allowed myself to use them. That might sound silly, but I literally had to give myself permission to just play. To use the good items and make a mess with them and make mistakes instead of saving them for that magical day where I feel good enough at what I’m attempting to use them. Because, friends, if I’ve learned anything over the years with my yarn and knitting addiction it is that that magical day never comes. You always feel not good enough, or like the yarns (or paints, markers, etc) are too precious to use right now. But life is short and those “nice” supplies do not give a shit about your skill level and whether you’re good or bad at what you’re doing. They’re just inanimate objects, after all. So use them. Use them with joy and throw caution to the wind!
For the record, I ruined that lovely watercolor painting posted above when I tried to copy a piece I saw on Pinterest with power lines drawn in over the watercolor sky. And you know what? I’m fine with it!
This season I am working on slowing down. Simplifying. Buying less, baking less, and just – on the whole – putting far less pressure on myself to create the “perfect” holiday season. Most days I am ok with it. Other days, like today, I find myself jumping in and going overboard again.
So far, today, I have baked a gingerbread house for decorating later, baked gingerbread cakelets, made birdseed ornaments for the birds for Solstice, and am currently working on baking through a batch of my great grandma’s chocolate chip cookies. I still have decorating of this gingerbread house to do, and some mint Oreos to dip in chocolate.
This is, to be fair, a far cry from my usual holiday treat making. I have attempted to tone everything down. In the middle of all of this, though, I realized I’m still trying to do too much. Or, at least, too much for a single day. Maybe if I had spread out the cookie baking earlier in the season? Or maybe scheduled a day kid-free to bake in peace instead of feeling like I’m fighting constantly in the kitchen to bake? Maybe next year will be better?
And now I can breathe
The semester is FINALLY over, which means I can now go back to a somewhat normal life for the holidays. I’m still awaiting the grade for my final project for the class, but I nailed my final exam with a 98/100 score, so I’m just going to put school out of my mind for a good while and take some time to get caught up on housework, my non-education-related reading, knitting, etc.
I am… struggling with the holidays this season. I love the glitter and the lights and the cozy nights with family and friends and the food… and I have found myself outright hating the commercial aspect with gift-giving and such. Everything is so loud and overwhelming. I saw an ad while watching Hulu that implied giving a GAP-branded hooded sweatshirt every year was like a tradition and that it implied love and thought. It’s. Just. A. Sweatshirt. And one that was probably made by small children in some 3rd world country for that matter.
The thing is… no one I buy for actually needs anything. We all have houses that are full of stuff, and we’re just going to be adding more stuff to those houses. Or maybe we’ll be replacing our perfectly fine stuff with brand new stuff just because it’s new and we have to get rid of something to make room for it… which, either way, just means we’re contributing more to landfills and waste and and and… the amount of stress I feel when I think about all of this is probably ridiculous, but this is what I’m going through this year.
I am pushing through some of it this year, because it was already too late for me to really plan anything different, but I think next year we’re going to approach the holidays much differently. A far more reasonable, less commercialized holiday is what I’d love to try.
Speaking of gifts… Sean has requested a knit hat for Christmas, so that has been my latest project. He rarely asks me to knit him anything, so when he asked for a hat I had to immediately get started on it. He specifically requested I use stash yarn because, in his words, “you already have plenty of yarn to choose from” so that’s what he’s getting – a hat knit out of the leftovers from a sweater I knitted a few years ago. I’m not going to lie – I’m disappointed by not being able to go yarn shopping for this gift. But I can’t fault him – I did have yarn to use for it, AND it helps me with my stash down numbers so I can end the year with less yarn than I started with. And I know he will appreciate that I didn’t spend extra money on yarn lol.
Tonight we’re baking Gingerbread houses. I ordered this cute little mold set from Pampered Chef because I’m all about shortcuts when my kid is involved in helping. So we’re going to try baking those tonight and see how it goes. We don’t normally do gingerbread houses so maybe it’ll become a nice little tradition for us.
Random things on a Sunday
November is the pearl-grey month, the changeling between warm crimson October and cold white December, the month when the leaves fall in slow drifting whirls, and the shapes of the trees are revealed, when the earth imperceptibly wakes, and stretches her bare limbs and displays her stubborn unconquerable strength before she settles uneasily into winter. November is secret and silent.Alison Uttley
Daylight savings today, and thus begins the slow decline into seasonal depression on top of my regular anxiety and depression. It’s somewhat hard to believe that November is already here – it feels like October was such a blur and, yet, dragged on.
This was, in part, because I spent the month of October dealing with some things I had been ignoring. Diet was the first thing to come up thanks to what I’m pretty sure was food poisoning, and, since the beginning of the month, I’ve basically been eating vegan-ish and avoiding animal products where I can. Life is busy and stressful and it isn’t something I am aiming to go 100% on (not yet, at least). I don’t want to be out with friends and refuse to eat something because it isn’t vegan. I’ll eat some chicken if/when I want it. But I’m aiming to have the bulk of my food intake be plant-based, with a heavier focus on lots of green veggies, and it seems to have really helped over these last few weeks.
The second thing, which was really the biggest and most difficult, was that I decided to quit drinking alcohol for the month. Quitting drinking was something I’ve off-and-on tried (and failed). It isn’t so much something I want to do so much as something I know I need to do along with the rest of my self-care. Over the last few years – since having Declan, actually – my relationship with alcohol has become poorly managed and, probably not coincidentally, hasn’t helped my anxiety and depression any.
I’m not going to pretend this month has been easy because it hasn’t. At all. I’ve always been the type of person to feel things deeply and intensely. I’ve never really been taught how to deal with that, however. I’ve never learned how to acknowledge those feelings and then let them go instead of wallowing in them. I don’t like feelings. I don’t like to feel like I do. Alcohol became the perfect tool to numb that – an escape to dull the intensity. It provided a temporary bliss that made the world tolerable. And, then, it became a problem.
Quitting drinking isn’t just hard because of the cravings and the desire to run away from my feelings. It is hard because of having to face those feelings. To sit alone at home, night after night, and feel how lonely I am. How frustrated or sad or angry I am. I don’t have any answers, still, about how to even manage this. I have spent a good portion of the month just kind of surviving. Trying to take each day as it comes and push through.
I’m pretty sure Buttercup can sense all of this because he’s been close by my side more than usual these last few weeks. Also, we have achieved belly rubs! He likes flop down next to me at night while I’m reading and let me rub his belly. Silver linings, I suppose.
November is National Knit a Sweater Month, so I decided to cast on for a Throwback cardigan to give myself something to turn my attention to. With my annual knitting weekend coming up, I figured it would be perfect timing to try to knock out a sweater and feel some sense of accomplishment. So far, two days in, I’ve managed to almost complete the yoke. As quick as this is going, I’m going to guess that I will be able to knit the bulk of this in the upcoming weekend. Hopefully, at least.
My Boy Lollipop
Hey look, I finally finished a thing. It only sat for over a month simply needing the seed stitch on the sleeves. Took hardly any time at all, which I knew but just… kept putting off.
Now to search for the perfect black skirt or dress to layer this over.
Pattern is My Boy Lollipop, knit in Ritual Dyes Priestess in the Cancer zodiac colorway.
I swear I’ll show something finished one of these days
I do not need to start a new project. I certainly didn’t necessarily NEED to buy more yarn. To be fair, I didn’t actually buy a sweater quantity of yarn today – I had purchased that Tartan color back in July when we were in Michigan. And I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO START A NEW PROJECT.
But when my sweet friend Ellis drove down from Cleveland to visit before she moves clear across the country, I took us on a little field trip to one of my favorite little stores in Columbus, Sew to Speak, and decided I needed a Throwback sweater. And given that I already had enough of the Brooklyn Tweed for the base color, I just needed to choose my contrasting colors for the colorwork. Embers, Tent, and Woodsmoke turned out to be the perfect colorways to accent the Tartan color. And because I know if I don’t start this sweater now, it probably won’t get made until next year (if even then), and I’d rather wear it this year rather than next.
Nevermind that I picked up a bunch of yarn at Wool Gathering this year, which was all destined for more summery knits. That’s a good enough excuse anyway, isn’t it? I’m not going to want to wear a fingering weight cardigan when it’s 0 degrees outside anyway. So I’m just going to cooly pretend that I’ll get to that yarn after I knit up this lovely sweater, which might actually be true at the rate I’ve been knitting and actually finishing projects… it’s entirely possible that by the time this sweater ends up completed it will be March and I’ll be dying for summer and looking at knitting more lightweight tops and cardigans.
I should probably finish that My Boy Lollipop top that has been sitting waiting for just a few spare rows of sleeve edging before I can officially call it complete. And no, I have no idea why I keep putting it off… it would literally take me maybe an hour to call it done but I just… can’t be bothered to start them. It feels like far more work than I know it really is.
I have castonitis
Well, we’re back into school season and I didn’t do pretty much anything on my summer break to do list. I didn’t finish a single book despite my pile of them, nor did I finish any knits other than a sock project I had in the works for too long. I may have been hoping for a relaxed summer, but what we actually had was lots of random stuff going on that didn’t lend itself to much time to just slow down and just… be.
I did start a Crumb cardigan earlier in the summer but it turns out I loathe the CoBaSi yarn I bought for it. I have been forcing myself to knit on it in an attempt to finish it but it languishes in my knitting bag still waiting for sleeves. I had this BEAUTIFUL “Cancer” zodiac-themed yarn from Ritual Dyes I recently acquired from my Michigan trip visit to Wool & Honey that I was itching to knit, and ended up casting on for a My Boy Lollipop for some knitting I actually enjoy. And it has not disappointed – this yarn is DELICIOUS. SO soft, so wonderful to work with, and just such a pretty shade of blue that my Cancerian little heart adores.
This little project has been toting around with me everywhere lately. I have opted to knit on my lunch breaks at work instead of doing homework, as I’m trying to work on balancing my life better this semester, which has meant this project going along pretty swimmingly. It helps that it’s such an easy, straightforward pattern to follow so there’s no need to spend most of my lunch break trying to follow charts and only finish a row a day.
I’m trying hard to finish this make before I start anything else, but with winter approaching I’m feeling the pull to cast on all the things. Declan needs a new winter hat, this bike commuting thing means needing some new gloves and maybe some cute legwarmers for the chilly morning bike ride to work, there’s a few sweaters I want to knit… that’s not even counting the sewing I want to do. I have another Fen Dress in progress in some Carolina Gingham, some black linen for a sleeved Hinterland… plus there’s always knitting accessories to go with those dresses. So much I want to do!