Today I’m thrilled to share a guest post from Cari Nadeau of Good Fortune Girl. Cari has been a generous volunteer moderator for the Crochet Saved My Life Ravelry Group where people can connect around their journeys of crafting to heal. In this post, Cari shares her own story about how chronic illness and depression brought her down and crochet brought her back up, giving her the confidence to be creative again in ways that help herself and others.
I wanted to learn to crochet for a long time, but I had serious problems with depression and anxiety so I couldn’t focus enough to teach myself. Crochet seemed too hard to learn without being taught by a person directly so I filed it away in the ‘tomorrow’ folder, along with all of my other dreams and wishes. I didn’t think that things could get much harder, but I was wrong. Because I was not listening to the messages of depression and anxiety, I got a very serious illness and things did get a whole lot worse. As often is the case, it turns out that this illness has been my teacher, providing me with a bridge to a new life and a new me.
After about a year into treatment for Lyme disease, I started to feel decent enough to need some kind of pastime besides watching movies and sleeping. I had to leave my job, could only do the bare minimum to keep my home in one piece and I desperately needed something to make me feel productive…and alive. After having losing years of my life and feeling lost, sick and broken, I needed to feel like I had a reason to be here, a reason to exist.
I decided to buy some yarn and hooks and learn to crochet even if it was difficult. After all, I had all of the time in the world. I took an introductory crochet class on Craftsy and it was the best $20 I ever spent. I learned the simple stitches and made a glorious lopsided potholder! Hmmm…this isn’t so hard. I wondered how long it would take to get my crochet looking even and beautiful like all of those amazing ladies on their beautiful blogs and Pinterest boards. I learned more stitches and started to learn how to read patterns, which felt very intimidating at first. As I learned this new language a whole new world opened up to me.
I started to feel productive. I had a purpose, albeit a simple one. I had no idea that I would fall in love with crochet. I had to do it; I was addicted. I realized the repetitive motion of the hook and yarn was meditative and I was calm with a hook in my hand. Even when my nervous system was going haywire, crochet helped relax me and keep me centered. I had one thing in my life that I looked forward to at that point…yarn shopping. I needed the textures, the colors, the project planning. Many days my only outing was to the yarn store, where I remember being so sick I could barely get to the cash register without needing to ask for help to my car. Then I would go home and lay on the couch for hours, crocheting and trying to recuperate the energy I had expended on my yarn gathering expedition.
Slowly, I started to care about beauty again. I actually felt like my only purpose at this point in my life was to crochet. I was working on healing but it was very slow and really required me to get out of my own way more than to do anything in particular. As time went on, I became more opened up to my creative self, which had been dormant for many years. When I was younger I loved to paint, draw and write poetry. At some point I became cut off from that part of myself and felt like I just wasn’t a creative person anymore, like I lost it somewhere in the haze of depression.
Crochet flipped my creative switch back on. I started loving art again. I bought a loom. I’m learning to sew. And I write again.
For years, I had been thinking about how I could use my health experiences to benefit others. How could I share what I’d learned over the years? Could I help people on a healing path by supporting and inspiring them? Could I give back the amazing support that so many have given me? I funneled this creative energy into a huge new project. I made a website to support others on their emotional journey through chronic illness. I don’t think I ever would have had the confidence to start or succeed with such a big project without the lessons crochet has taught me. A hidden symptom of serious illness is the suppression of any confidence that once existed. A chronically ill person can easily start to think they can’t do anything at all in the world because sometimes they literally can’t. Producing crochet projects helped me build confidence that I had value and purpose in the world, a world I had not participated in for quite some time.
I consider crochet to be the catalyst to the new me. It has taught me that I am an able, confident, creative person that needs beauty in her life to feel alive. And at a year in, it is just the beginning of our relationship. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!