I am sitting here stunned, shocked, saddened, scared … Feeling a world’s worth of emotions that don’t have a proper place in my brain. Marinke, known to many as Wink, of A Creative Being, has succumbed to the depths of depression and taken her own life.
I first met Wink when I interviewed her for Crochet Saved My Life. She shared her story with me of living on the autism spectrum and how tough it was to make her way in the world with the social awkwardness that it caused. She shared the depression that she went through post-diagnosis, how it caused her to be hospitalized and how crochet was one of the things that helped her to heal.
I didn’t know her personally, in the real world, but I communicated with her many times over the years through various online channels. I was proud and cheered her on as I watched her world expand because of crochet. I know that the craft brought a brightness to her life despite continued dark days.
I watched as she became the first presence online to really develop and celebrate the crochet mandala. Before Wink, there were only a few of these designs available to us. She really brought that design into the forefront, publishing patterns on her site and eventually getting them placed into magazines.
It was beautiful to see this journey, her creations so filled with color and intensity and vibrancy and joy and how those designs touched so many lives and really sparked the growth of an area of our craft.
I watched last year as she created the first Sheepjes CAL. This crochet-a-long brought so many people together to create beautiful works of art. She helped strengthen our community in this way and inspired people in ways both big and small. I cheered silently for her as she developed her work into crochet books to reach an even wider audience. She began with Boho Crochet: 30 Hip and Happy Projects and later this year we’ll see the release of her second book, Crochet Mandalas.
Just a week or so ago I named Wink one of 5 Awesome Crochet Designers. When I did that, I looked back on her work as it’s been shared here on my blog. How each December when I did my Awesome Crochet Blog Awards I’d recognized her – for her Sheepjes CAL, her awesome crochet giveaways, her weekly mandala project.
Last week, I heard from Flo who asked if I’d seen the post from Wink saying that she was back in depression. I immediately checked it out and felt my heart skip a beat. I sent her an email, telling her that it sounded like she was doing the right things, getting back to the basics of self-care. I said she should reach out if she needed anything. I don’t know if she read that email.
Her little sister posted saying that Wink hadn’t survived this struggle with depression. She writes:
“It’s funny because when Wink started crocheting she got all her friends and family addicted. During her stay at the hospital even other patients started crocheting and some of them even bought her book! But not me, it just wasn’t something for me to do. I said; “When we get a baby you can crochet a pair of socks or a stuffed animal. But that’s the only crocheted thing in our house!” Last Christmas she gave me a ‘how to crochet’ book, yarn and some hooks. I tried it, I made a square! But that was all. Now, I can’t wait to hang one of her Mandala’s on my wall. It’s Wink! Sadly this had to happen to make me do that.”
Her sister’s post is touching and lovely and makes me think of Wink. It shares hard news while celebrating Wink’s accomplishments and relationships, bringing us both sadness and a sense of humor. And it acknowledges the reach that Wink had across this huge community. You can see this in the many loving, shocked comments that people have already posted over on that blog.
I don’t know how to describe what I am feeling today. In 2009, I was inches away from taking my own life. I have gotten “better” but I believe that depression is a lifelong condition and although I’m currently in remission it could return at any time. (I recently wrote about this on Diary of a Smart Chick.)
Wink’s suicide makes me feel so many things and I have to acknowledge that one of them is fear. Fear that this could happen to anyone I know, anyone else who shared their story in my book, anyone else who I know has been through depression, anyone else like me. Wink, on the surface, seemed to be doing great. She has a loving family, a boyfriend, a huge online community that is so inspired by her … and depression still came back and it got her.
I feel like I’m doing all of the right things and yet depression always lurks just around the corner, creating this constant low level hum of anxiety in me. No matter how many books I publish, how many people I connect with online and in person, how much love I have in my life, how right I eat or how properly scheduled my life is or how balanced I keep things, depression can come back.
It’s scary. It’s sad.
When I read the news this morning, so many emotions coursed through me. I immediately reached out to talk to my mom, my dad, my beaux, my school friends. I realized in the midst of one of those conversations that what was happening was that my brain was trying to make sense of where this fits in my own life. The brain sees patterns and tries to put things into their place. And it doesn’t have a place for this. Wink was my friend but I didn’t really know her. She shared some of her deepest truths with me in our interview and yet we never met in person. She had so many similarities to me and yet she was very different from me. My brain wondered if she had received my email and if there was more that I could have done to help and then immediately chastised itself because all of my personal and academic knowledge says that this is precisely how everyone reacts and there usually isn’t anything more we could have done. It’s not about us. It’s not about me. And yet it’s deeply affecting me.
I’m sad, but not in the kind of way where I need to cry (yet?). I’m feeling so much empathy and compassion for her family and friends. I’m feeling a huge connection to my crochet community and wanting to reach out to each of you because I know that this news might affect some of you in various ways as well. I want to do something for Wink, in Wink’s honor, something related to crochet. I don’t know what yet. This news is too new for me to process it. But I’m thinking that we can do something collaborative, perhaps creating mandalas in her honor to be placed somewhere. I’ll organize something soon, something that can bring us together and give us a channel for our feelings and honor the amazing, wonderful, creative, special woman that Wink was. UPDATE: The project has been established. It’s called #MandalasForMarinke. Read about it here. You’ll find FAQ here. Please share!
Back in 2013, Wink named me as one of her crochet heroes. No, Wink, you are the hero. I am so, so sorry that depression grasped you and pulled you under. I hope that in the years since your diagnosis you had more good days than bad. I hope that you realized, at least some of the time, the stunning reach that you had to inspire people across the globe with the beauty of your crafting.
I have created a topic in her memory on Crochet Saved My Life’s Ravelry group. Please feel free to join and comment in any way that you need to. I want this to be a safe space where we can connect around the topics of depression and suicide. I am personally feeling adrift and in need of connection around this.