Truthfully, this article is mainly meant as an exercise in blogging. Nonetheless, I will tell you a bit about how knitting helps me 'cope.'
Long before actually being diagnosed with a mental illness, I enjoyed knitting. I enjoy the creative qualities inherent in knitting -- everything from choosing a pattern to picking out the yarn to the actual process of knitting (and completing) a chosen item or garment. Knitting is a practical skill that I have wanted to learn ever since watching my paternal grandmother make slippers and mittens for each and every one of her grandchildren at Christmas.
I was first introduced to knitting needles in HomeEc in Grade 10. (Remember the days when Home Economics was a "must" for every girl? No, probably not. Those days were coming to an end even as I was going through my classes!) Anyway, my first project in HomeEc was to make a scarf. I was delighted to choose some yarn and to get started. Well, as is typical for anything for a young person, this process turned out to be much more difficult and frustrating than I ever expected. I got half-way through my scarf and it was left as a UFO, complete with holes and dropped stitches.
I actually did not pick up knitting needles again until I was in my early twenties. I was invited to a crafts home party and it was there that I was re-introduced to the art and craft of knitting by a new friend I met . The hostess, Linda, was a knitter and so I told her about how I was wanting to learn to knit. And so it happened that Linda was the wonderful angel who got me going again. She explained that scarves are very boring to make and that I would do much better with knitting a sweater. I was dubious of this but I went along with her suggestion. With Linda's help, I picked out a pattern for knitting a Nordic sweater along with the required yarn. I decided the sweater would be a gift for my boyfriend, Andrew (who became my husband).
The sweater project actually did go very well, despite that I had to learn how to weave threads of different colours in the yolk and wrists. This took a great deal of patience on my part but I was determined to complete the project. Linda assisted me when necessary but for the most part, I did just fine. The nordic sweater took me close to a year to make and I was proud of how striking the gray and black patterning was against the solid bright red I had chosen for the main colour.
So, once I had an actual garment completed, I was eager to knit more. Thus began a journey of learning to make vests, baby blankets, afgans, more sweaters and yes, even scarves. Moreover, I learned that if I kept my hands busy knitting, then it was easier to keep my lips shut and not to overtalk others (as I had a habit of doing from time to time). So, already, knitting was therapy and this was long before I had even heard of the concept.
Knitting truly became therapy after I was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I learned, without anyone even telling me, that if I picked up my knitting needles during times when my mind was either racing or unfocussed and/or if I was experiencing distressing or stressful thoughts then I calmed down and was able to focus on this practical, physical activity. Later on, I understood that knitting is very much a meditative thing to do as well. Stitch by stitch, row by row, it allowed me to productively use my time. And I learned that just as prayer connects me to God, knitting connects me to my inner self.
Knitting is not only a calming activity, it is stimulating as well. When I pick out brightly-coloured yarn for a desired project, then this 'picks up my spirits.' When I find a pattern that excites me, then I know that I have further purpose in my life. When I complete a knitted item for a loved one, I know that I have done something that is pleasing to God.
I recognize that there are many different therapies for everyone, of which knitting is only one. However, knitting is my therapy and for that reason, I more and more am to be found with a knitting bag containing my newest project no matter where I am at, be it a guild meeting or a concert or visiting with friends. I find people are very accepting of this and are getting used to my knitting bag as part of my persona. This is good as I long ago told people that I expected to be a "bag lady" one day and here I am!
I wish you well with your knitting and I hope it is therapeutic for you in some way too! Please feel free to share your experiences if you wish.