Crochet Mandala for Marinke by Treble Stitch + ME/CFS Depression

treblestitch crochet mandala

This love crochet contribution to Mandalas for Marinke is an openwork crochet mandala made with cotton yarn. It makes great use of chain stitches in the design. And I love the color choices here, which remind me a little bit of the desert or the beach in a storm – the whites and browns of the sand and the whites, greys and blues of the sky.

treble stitch crochet mandalasformarinke

Today’s beautiful crochet mandala comes from Treble Stitch in Melbourne, Australia who shares:

I found Marinke’s blog while bedridden with ME/ CFS. Crochet (the little I can do, making gifts for family and friends) gave me a focus, a purpose, a creative pullet. Crochet has been a lifeline during this time … it has saved me from sinking into depression.

From the minute I found Wink’s blog, I loved it! Wink’s creativity shone brightly and was an inspiration. I’ve loved her mandalas especially. Her loss is feels by many, but none more so than her loved ones. My deepest sympathy is with those who loved Marinke.”

Connect with Treble Stitch on Facebook. Since she mentioned ME/ CFS, I thought I’d share a little bit more about it today as it relates to depression as well as crochet.

treble_stitch crochet mandala

ME/ CFS refers to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The core symptom of the condition is post-exertion malaise, which is basically extreme exhaustion following any mental or physical exertion, a tiredness that can last for more than twenty four hours. Other symptoms include unrefreshing sleep, pain including muscle, joint and headache pain, concentration issues and “brain fog”, extreme allergies, and irritability. This isn’t just being tired. It’s a chronic condition that can be seriously debilitating.

treblestitch crochet mandala for marinke

And like depression, it’s an “invisible disease” with stigma attached. Friends, coworkers, family and others might accuse the person of being lazy or having nothing “really” wrong with them because they don’t understand the condition. They say, “but we all get tired” just like people who don’t understand depression say, “but we all get sad”.

And there can be a co-existing condition of depression with a diagnosis of CFS. Constantly being tired and in pain, not being able to get any kind of rest from sleep, and having your self-esteem take a hit because you want to be more productive than your body will let you be are all things that can lead to depression. The depression makes these things worse – depression itself can cause pain, sleep issue and self-esteem problems, so it can be a vicious cycle. The CDC says that about half of patients diagnosed with CFS will experience depression that needs to be treated. One research article says that at least one million Americans have CFS but “CFS is underdiagnosed in more than 80% of the people who have it; at the same time, it is often misdiagnosed as depression.”

crochet mandala by treble stitch for wink

Treating the depression does not cure the CFS; CFS has no known cure at this time. However, relieving the symptoms of depression can go a long way towards making it easier to live with CFS. Notably, in some cases, a diagnosis of depression is made when the actual condition is the physical condition of ME/ CFS. Doctor Myhill explains some differences including that exercise, alcohol and anti-depressants all tend to make CFS patients worse while they typically help people in depression feel at least slightly or temporarily better. (I’m not sure how I personally feel about that alcohol comment; more research required). Additionally, insomnia in depression tends towards early morning wakefulness whereas late nights and sleeping in would be more common in CFS.

cotton crochet mandala by treble stitch

There are currently four stories here on Crochet Concupiscence from women who live with CFS and share how crochet has helped them:

  1. Susan says, “Whilst you are crocheting you can switch off, relax and you are stimulating both your brain and your nerves.”
  2. Debbie who shares, “Thankfully, my crocheting gives me something to focus on and when I 
feel the need to sleep, I grab my hook and wool and off I go. I push
 myself to do another half hour, another hour … until a day has
 passed that I haven’t slept away.”
  3. Jodie of Lupey Loops who says that crochet saved her sanity and is definitely a form of therapy. Jodie also contributed to Mandalas for Marinke.
  4. Ineke who says, “Crochet helps me because it keeps me occupied. I have a result to look at, so it seems like I have acomplished something. I feel less useless, and it’s just fun to do.”

Some of the benefits of crochet for coping with CFS include distraction from pain, calming the brain, providing focus for relaxation, meditative benefits that can assist with concentration and brain fog, and boosting self-esteem because it offers a way to be productive despite chronic fatigue.

See all Mandalas for Marinke here

Kathryn

San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!

5 Comments:

  1. Gee, thanks for the mention, Kathryn (I am blushing). Regardless of receiving a mention, I was going to comment here anyway because this topic is close to me (as you already know! )
    CFS was my initial diagnosis after I suffered extreme exhaustion. I am so glad that you were able to clarify that the ‘fatigue’ we talk about here is more than ‘just feeling tired’. I LOVE your comparison with depression which makes it clearer for a society that is beginning to grasp that depression is not ‘just feeling sad’.
    Further investigation diagnosed various autoimmune issues, the processes of which all gave valid physical cause for my fatigue. Out of all my symptoms, including severe pain, the fatigue was the most debilitating and life-interrupting, leaving me unable to move or think. I want people to realise that fatigue is not to be taken lightly and its consequences for long term health (physical and mental) are profound.

    Regarding depression, CFS presents a complex scenario – a combination of ‘reactive depression’ caused by the situational effects of long-term illness and physiological depression due to brain changes caused by the illness itself. Kathryn, you have explained the ‘chicken & egg’ conundrum of CFS excellently.

    My heart goes out to anyone suffering with CFS as there still is a stigma, especially from medical people who should know better. How dare they try to invalidate an experience that is very real for CFS sufferers! I am certain that there must be some underlying physical component causing CFS waiting to be discovered.

    I noticed a marked improvement in the way medical people treated me once they had an understandable diagnosis for my fatigue, which had been an invisible mystery up until then.

    Regardless of diagnosis, extreme fatigue is extreme fatigue and one must find a way to get through each day. Hang in there, everyone, and do what works for you!

    Thanks again for a useful post, Kathryn.

  2. I suffer from Fybromyalgia, which is similar to CFS. I also began crocheting to give me something to do when I can’t do anything else. There are days when I can’t even do that, as my poor foggy brain can’t remember how to do any stitches, or follow a pattern. Last night I was unable to cook dinner as I couldn’t figure out how to follow the recipe I have used many times before. I am undergoing counselling to help me with the severe pains which I experience almost every day.

    When I was diagnosed, frends and family would refer to their own aches and pains or general tiredness at the end of a long day and wonder if they had this condition. I explain that the pains are like having flu every day, and the tiredness is so absolute that I often collapse from fatigue. Thanks for such a clear and informative post.

    • Hi Emma F,
      It is interesting that you describe your pains as ‘like having the flu every day’. For many people with conditions like ours, they are often misdiagnosed or dismissed as “the flu” in the first instance because a lot of the symptoms are the same. Anyone who has ever truly had the real flu will know how severely ill it can make them – quite a difference to ‘aches and pains’ and ‘tiredness’ as you so rightly pointed out.
      I sincerely hope you can find some relief!

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