Today’s beautiful crochet mandala for the Mandalas for Marinke project comes from Annie Webster. She “is a fiber artist with a background in graphic design. She enjoys crochet, hand embroidery, and dyeing fabric and yarns”. We see her beautiful dye work in this project. Annie’s website is Webster Fiber Arts; you can connect with her on Twitter @WebsterFiber and on Instagram @websterfiberarts.
Mini mandala also sent!
“I read the blog post about Wink’s death while I was in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. I’ve dealt with a lot of issues through my treatment, one of them period of pretty deep depression. It was a bad time for me, but I am doing very well now. I feel stories like Wink’s deeply because while I don’t know the specifics of her depression. I know what wrestling with depression is like. It sucks. A lot. It is also scary for me to see someone who seemed, at least to me, to be doing ok have depression come back in such an aggressive and tragic way.
Even before I saw posts about the #MandalasForMarinke project, I knew I would be making one of her mandalas as a reminder to check in with myself how I’m doing. It is so much easier to say, “Hey, something feels off,” when those feelings are starting than when you’ve been feeling them for awhile.
I have made two identical mandalas: one for me, and one for the project. I dyed the yarn in bright colors that make me really happy, and used the first mandala pattern of Wink’s I ever saw. I wish the circumstances surrounding this piece were different, but I’m proud of the mandala I have made, and that I am able to write all of these things and sign my name to it!”
Beautiful letter (and mandala!) from Annie, and it made me want to add a couple thoughts of my own. First that I agree that it’s so scary to see someone like Wink relapse into depression so tragically. I know that for me, when it seems like depression is coming back in my own life, there are two competing things that happen with my thoughts … the first is automatic self-care mode: “okay, this is happening again, I know what I need to do, my safety plan is place, I’ll handle this”. That comes from having lived through depression and survived and gathered a lot of skills and support for coping with it since I know it’s something I’ll risk having again throughout my life. But the second opposite feeling that comes up is, “f-ck, this is happening again, and I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can survive it this time”. And that comes from having lived through depression and knowing how terribly awful it feels. There’s this feeling that can happen that quickly spirals down into, “it’s always going to be this way, no matter how good I’ve been feeling it’s always going to come back to this, it’s never going to get better, I don’t want to do this”.
I don’t know if this is what Wink felt. I’m saying that it’s something I deal with during depression relapse and I doubt that I’m the only one. And this relates directly to the second point in Annie’s letter that I want to address, which is her excellent point that it’s best to constantly check in with yourself and see what’s going on rather than let the depression get bad again … because it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that you’re going to get through it when the warning signs are caught early on, before you’ve gotten to that place where it seems so hopeless.
It helps a lot to have a safety plan in place, one that’s not just about emergencies (although it includes that). I know I’ve mentioned the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) that I learned in school but I want to give a little bit more information about it now. This plan, developed by Mary Ellen Copeland in the mid 1990’s, is something you can do in part or in whole, alone or in therapy, to help uncover and remember what “well” looks like for you and what “not doing so well” looks like and what “crisis” looks like. Some of the things you explore in WRAP:
- What you look like when you’re well. For example, when I’m well, I’m going outside regularly, I’m sleeping fairly well, I’m eating right but not berating myself when I don’t, I’m seeing friends occasionally but without a ton of pressure on myself and I’m excited about the work that I’m doing.
- Early warning signs that you might not be so well. For example, when I start eating sugar almost every day and going multiple days in a row without going outside, it might be a sign that I’m headed downwards. It might not be, but it often is, so it’s good for me to notice these things and ask myself what’s going on.
- Signs that you’re definitely headed downwards. If I’m super irritable, my sleep is off most nights and I feel like every decision is a life-changing decision that I simply can’t make then it’s a big sign that things are breaking down for me.
It’s been helpful for me to just think about and write down what I look like in these stages. It’s different for each person. Sometimes canceling plans to stay in bed is actually totally normal and healthy for me but if I hadn’t explored this I might assume it’s always a sign of depression. For some people, it would be.
In addition to these things, your WRAP plan helps you identify what triggers you, what your resources are that you can turn to as things begin to not go so well, what daily activities you should be doing to keep yourself well and what your crisis plan is. (One of my daily wellness activities is crochet!) You can share all of this, if you choose, with the people in your support system who can help you recognize when you’re not doing so well and remind you what might help.