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Friday, June 29, 2007

Fight the black dog - knitters raising awareness of clinical depression

In the past week, someone has made the comment that my blog is, well, lacking in personality. I am certain that this was a comment that was meant to insult, humiliate and shame – but it didn’t.

You see, at times I think that, perhaps, my blog could be lacking in personality. Because, at times, I feel that my personality has up and left.

I happen to suffer a tad bit from mental illness. Well, that would be an understatement. I think the term my GP used at my last medical appointment was “severe depressive disorder” – I think I can understand why Churchill was so fond of the term “The Black Dog!”

When I was first diagnosed, nearly some 3 years ago I walked through life in a fog. Days, weeks, months – even years, all disappeared in a foggy blur. During one such blurry day I found myself in Kmart. I didn’t know they had a haberdashery section, or that they stocked yarn. I bought two balls of Magnum Print (8ply variegated acrylic) and 4mm needles. I went home and cast on as many stitches as I could fit on the needles – and started to knit. I do not know what I was making, but it seems in some way to help with the fidgets. To help with that need to do something, although I was unable to summon energy or focus concentration for anything else.

I didn’t have the energy to cook. The mere thought of having to stand up to shower was exhausting. I couldn’t answer the phone, or leave the house. I was a lump – sitting on the couch and watching television. I couldn’t do anything because of depression – or so I thought.


After a while I realised – I had made four centimetres of fabric from a single thread. I finished one 100 gram ball of yarn, tied on the second ball and kept knitting. It was a simple pattern – knit one, purl one – moss stitch. When I ran out of yarn I left the house to get more. I couldn’t go to the supermarket to buy groceries, but the need for yarn, the need to knit, got me out. I kept knitting, 6 balls in total went into that one project. There was a lot I could not do because of Depression, but somewhere along the way, all in one piece, I knit a blanket large enough for a cot.

I still needed to knit. This time I bought more yarn, cast on more stitches, still not really sure of how, why or what I was doing it for, but kept going in single moss stitch. This time I used 10 balls and had a blanket big enough for a single bed all in one piece. And somewhere, with each stitch and each row, I manage to build up a little hope.

For the next project I had a goal – not only did I have something I wanted to do, I thought it was achievable.

I started this blog, back in August, as a way for me to keep track of time and of my accomplishments, both are so easy to forget when you suffer from Depression. It was never meant to be a way to receive validation from masses of adoring. I have used my blog as a way to escape from this illness – to only focus on the positive. Since August last year (which was my first post) I have lost my job, my career, my relationship – all because of Depression. And not once did I mention this illness on this Blog.

And I think it is wrong. I know many people who have suffered with similar conditions to mine – and know that many find knitting to be a great comfort. I also know that people are afraid to talk about it. I was – but I am not anymore.

And I am starting up an internet campaign to raise awareness for mental health – I am asking anyone who has suffered from an illness like this, or knows someone who has, or even someone who has used knitting or crafting to work though grief and tough times – to take the time to talk about it. If you want to share your story please email me at ginger_nut(at)bigpond(dot)com and I will add it to my “Knit and Fight the Black Dog” posts. If requested I will not share personal details so you can tell your stories anonymously.

Please use the link below to create a button on your blog to link to “Knit and Fight the Black Dog” – I will put all the stories here. And please – feel free to steal my bandwidth with this button.

I am going to be starting “Fight the Black Dog” Friday where I will share links, stories and my own progress with this illness. And hopefully, I will be able to keep things positive around here still.

Please cut and past this code to your blog to create a button: (replace [ and ] with < and >)

[a href="http://pierretheyarnsnob.blogspot.com/search/label/Black%20%20Dog"][img style="margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_YFwMhNC-awU/RoSWtQShXGI/AAAAAAAAAyA/CUf-6qhXWjw/s400/FIGHT-THE-BLACK-DOG.jpg" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5081351983791692898" border="0" />\][/a]


40 comments:

Kristine said...

GREAT POST. I saw your comments (and the ensuing insult) on that other site recently and thought to myself that you were really brave, both in standing up for a friend and for yourself. This... just takes it to a whole new level. I'll be adding your button to my site.

For me, knitting wasn't so much the way out of a depression as the sign that I was in one. For a while last year, I had lost my knitting mojo. Someone asked me what I was working on... and I just couldn't answer. I couldn't muster the energy or confidence to start anything. I was paralyzed with indecision and fatigue every day once I got home. Suddenly I realized that "not getting pleasure out of things you used to enjoy" is a pretty big sign that things aren't right. Not to mention bad sleep patterns and eating habits, and feeling like crying all the time... So I finally got up the nerve to talk to my doctor. He helped me out.

And now? Now I have to rub Voltarin on my arms at night because I'm doing so much knitting!

- Kris at web-goddess.org

Kate said...

Love the button and support the cause. On the ABC the other day I heard a fascinating interview about Depression with Graeme Cowan, author of "Back from the Brink", and former politician John Brogden.It is "Australia’s most preventable but prevalent debilitating illness". To ridicule or denigrate people who suffer from it is both heartless and pitiful so I'll show your button with pride.

M-H said...

Thanks Meg. I have been lucky - the few depressions that I have suffered have been related to hormonal life stages, or to depressing things happening to me (what's called exogenous depression - it generally gets better when other things in your life improve.) But my ex-husband had a depressive illness, and one of my sons does too. I'll take your button with pleasure.

2paw said...

Good on you. Depression is an illness, it's not all in your mind. What serendipity that you found knitting!!

SallyO said...

Wonderful post, Meg! Thank you for doing this. This is an illness that gets either swept under the carpet, or fills people with too much shame to admit they have a problem. Incidentally I think you have a beautiful personality, both on and off your blog. So stuff 'em!

EnnaVic said...

I will be grabbing the button off you - I've lived with serious clinical depression for over 20 years now. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Sometimes I catch it in time, sometimes I don't.
And I do talk about it to people. I believe it is really important to talk about it because it is no different to any other debilitating illness but still has a stigma about it.

Anyway, good on you for being so public - and the button is great!

Emma in France said...

Although I wouldn't wish this illness on another person, it's also good to see I'm not alone. I've suffered from it since my early teens or perhaps earlier.

I find it makes me a very passive person. I find it hard to engage in a conversation even via email. I put off replying to people until it's often too late.

I am coming out of it very slowly but it's taken 18 months of various medications to get to this point.

I do try to talk about it when possible but it's not always easy.

Taphophile said...

I never thought your blog lacked personality. I think it shows the intelligent and generous woman you are.

And now is shows your courage.

gemma said...

See, Meg, we all love your blog, and wish you every good thing for your move back home. your photos are bright and cheerful, no matter how you feel.

Never forget you are not alone, lots of us look for you, and miss it when you don't post. hugs and all warm thoughts

jussi said...

I'll take your button and share it with pride too! My daughter's family all battle the Black dog - so I have been prepared from the start - knowledge and awareness are key I feel, thanks for being open and honest,and being brave enough to talk about your experiences, there are many who deny the existence of their own black dog - to their detriment.

Lynne said...

Been there myself and am very close to some one else who has it, therefore I applaud you for standing up and attempting to make mental illness as 'normal' a topic as physical illness.

I remember when I had chronic fatigue, people called me a "yuppie" and told me that it was "all in my head" - they should have lived 24 hours in my body!! The same lack of understanding is shown to those with mental illnesses.

In regards to your blog, I'm still fairly new (6 months or so) in the blogging world, and yours was one of the first blogs I added to my 'must read' list. I love your intelligent, well thought out and well-written reviews. I agree with Gemma, we miss you when you don't post.

You are not alone; I'll gladly put your button on my blog.

Jejune said...

Good heavens, Ginger_Nut... the things some people write. I think they forget real people with actual feelings are at the ends of all these Blogs. I've always loved what you write, and Pierre, and meeting you in person too!

The Black Dog resides at our house too - for me, over many years, including a full 'breakdown' 7 years ago, when I would have gladly driven my car into a tree. It still comes and goes. My husband cycles into deep depression regularly. I'm sorry that you're doing battle too - and very impressed at the stance you're taking. I'll gladly put your button on my Blog. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I think you are helping a lot of people. I enjoy your blog.

Punkin in Oregon

Jan said...

I'm happy to add this to my blog too. Am feeling very down at the moment and on the edge of sliding further. Brought to the surface by some personal events. I'm hesitant to call it depression, but know that's what it really is.

However, I would raise the matter for one of my sons who suffers from bipolar, the type which plunges to dreadful depths. medication helps him, but it's hard to get dose right and it takes a long time.

I found your blog some time ago and enjoy it.

knitabulous said...

I loved this post, I have my own depression story to tell also. Mine involves being prescribed the wrong medication and suffering the most horrific of withdrawal symptoms when I try to stop (even with tapering). I haven't posted about it because I'm ashamed of being a drug addict from it, but you're right. We should raise the awareness of depression and remove the stigma. And knitting (and blogging) does help.

I'll happily link, but I wish you hadn't used that particular metaphor on your button. I know that Churchill used the term 'black dog' to describe his own depression, but there's an undeniable second meaning to your button 'fight the black dog', whether intentional or not.

I know you were insulted - not cool. The other side has been insulted also - again not cool. As a bystander I really don't know the truth behind what really happened to start this - there has been bad behaviour on both sides. Both feel justified in their positions, I don't know if that's even relevant any more. Anyone can see that piles of mud on each side aren't equal, but that won't be solved by continuing in the same vein. (It is obvious that one side is a much better at slinging mud than the other, such a dubious honour).

So, even though I love your campaign, I'm sorry I can't in all conscience take your button. A shame because I would have liked to.

SallyO said...

The term "Black Dog" has become synonymous with depression. The Black Dog Institute in Sydney is I think Australia's foremost research facility on the subject. See www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Elvira said...

Ah, the dreaded black dog. Depression is something I think we all suffer from, in one form or another. Sometimes you don't even realise it, until you come out the other side and look back.

Wicked sense of humour lurks within you too! Wicked, but appropriate I think.

shula said...

I'm with Elvira.

Grandma Flea said...

I just left you a long post about depression, Meg, but somehow lost it when publishing it. I can't write it all again just now - but will one day. Keep up the good work - you are not alone in your illness - there are many of us out there. I respect your courage in speaking about your own experience.
I'd like to have your button, but what does" replace [and] with the other and "mean? (it seems that's why I lost the post - it won't accept the tag)
Cheers

Anonymous said...

Yea for you. It takes a lot of courage to be open about mental illness. I have a child, a young adult, who has suffered from borderline personality and depression for most of her life. Her suffering is very real, and frightening (for her and all who love her).

I have suffered from mild to moderate depression for years and knitting has been an excellent antidote.

I hope you responded to critics of your blog/personality by recommending they do their blogging elsewhere.

Good luck to you.

Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

I've fought my personal fight with the Black Dog off and on for years. Knitting is amazing therapy. Now I am fighting on behalf of my teenage son--it's a heartbreaking thing. I talk about it on my blog often and the support that has come my way is amazing. Good for you for bringing it up.

Bex said...

Very clever button. Knitting has kept me sane through many a hard time - button stolen!

Vanessa said...

Whenever I "come out" about my depression to other people, I'm astounded by the number of others who've also been diagnosed with it. Good for you. I have nicked the button and will link accordingly :)

mehitabel said...

Button's going on my blog, and I linked to you on Ravelry as well. I have fought depression for years and it's still a day-to-day fight.

Lauren said...

I heard about you on Sticks and String. Thanks for sharing your story! I love your image with Winston Churchill!

Patty said...

Hang in there, and kudos to you! I, too, suffer from depression and have for many, many years. There are ups and downs, but there is always a certain level of it just under the surface. It paralyzes me at times. There is still such an unfortunate stigma attached to it. The general public simply doesn't understand. "You look fine." Oy! Good thing you can't see me on the inside. A dark storm indeed.

Anonymous said...

you go girl! (that's all i have to say)

chocolatetrudi said...

Wow. What a great blog entry. My first thought was "lacking in personality? You're kidding. This is one of my favourite blogs!"

And then I thought "Yep. Black dog. Been there. Thankfully only the once, and only for about a year."

Then "Yep. Knitting is great therapy. It was about the only thing I could do when I had chronic fatigue. I couldn't concentrate enough to read, but I could knit. It probably kept me from getting more depressed about not being able to do anything."

And "Yay, Ginger_nut!"

Now I'm thinking I should put that button up on my blog...

Anonymous said...

I wish you well! Keep on knitting.

Kaisakaisa said...

I came here through Whip up and can only say that this sounds very familiar. I took the button to my blog, and will be e-mailing my story to you later.

I think this is a great idea, since I have found great comfort in other people's stories about depression, it sort of helped me to understand that it wasn't my own fault, that it can happen to anyone.

At some point the only things I could do were knitting and sleeping, but I think that's a way better option than just sleeping.
Take care!

shelley said...

Hi Meg,
How wonderful of you to choose this subject and to reveal it to the world.
I have suffered from bipolar illness for most of my life and have been diagnosed for 23 of my 50 years.
You may save a life. Sometimes you never know when that person who is isolating themselves (as we depressed people do) finds you and hangs on for another day.
I have had some awesome meds for the past 10 years and been very stable until March of this year when I lost my dad. I have been spiraling since. My doctor is trying new "magic bullet" to help me.
I think that my illness has had a good side to it as well. I am a very creative individual.
I look forward to hearing more about your journey.
Sweetest Regards,
Shelley

Irene Johnston said...

I'm very glad that you have used your time and energy to create Black Dog Fridays. I have been looking for a knitting forum that also includes sharing of our journeys with mental illness. I don't have a blog as yet but I will email you my story when I can condense it into a smaller version rather than the one I have used in workshops on depression. I have just read your entire blog and I have found it very well written and very informative. Your pictures are great and your dog is a sweetie. You have a wonderful attitude despite your battle with depression and this is probably the most important weapon for living a meaningful and joyful life in spite of painful and sometimes prolonged interruptions. My biggest problem with depression is my feeling of uselessness because of extreme exhaustion and loss of purpose. Also, the constant need to explain where I have been and what I have been doing during long absenses has made me somewhat of a hermit. Fortunately for me, I rather enjoy my own company....I never argue with myself and I am always entertaining and fun to hang out with..LOL (okay, now you know that I'm really crazy)! Anyway, thanks for your efforts to educate people about mental illness(I found your post on a craft blog). Hopefully we can make this a positive and healing experience. Irene in Wpg. Mb. Canada email....irene@2-bags-full.com

Piglottie said...

What a wonderful and brave post! I've always found it difficult to know whether to mention my mental health problems on my blog or not, and have only done so occasionally, worried that people come to read "fun" stuff or just knitting stuff and dont want to hear my complaints. Your post has helped me a lot and I shall be joining the "Knit and Fight the Black Dog" campaign. Thank you :)

sue said...

Your post was so familiar to me. I suffered from PND after my daughter was born in August 2001, and watching the bombings in the USA bought it on severely. I could not even pick my daughter up to hold her, or even cook dinner, or drive my car. I had severe panic attacks too, which I still suffer from if I dont take my medication. 5 yrs later I am still on medication but am coping with day to day life much easier now than I was. I know when I am tired that it still affects me, or if I am stressed about something then it will bring it on as well. Depression is such a hard disease to deal with because people have so many different reasons for it happening to them, and there are so many different levels too. I am so glad that you shared your story with me, and in knowing you are not the only one trying to cope with this does make someone else feel better about it too.

Craftydramaqueen said...

This is my first visit to your blog. Well done! I too have suffered PND and it's flipping hard just getting out of bed most days. Knitting has kept me going for the last year and a half. I'm a redhead too!!!
Keep up the good work. I'll be taking the button.
Hugs :D

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Oh wow, I surfed over here via JerseyKnitter's blog. I'll be taking the button. I taught myself to knit in 2002/2003 during a completely horrible depressive episode that lasted nearly a year. Compounded with all manner of medication arsemarmotry. It was horrible. Knitting saved my life. I don't talk about it much but it is *never* far away. I'm always "managing" it.

I don't call it my black dog though. I call it my purple squid. Either/or, I'll be taking the button

Irish Clover said...

Wonderful post and campaign, Ginger Nut! I'm shocked someone would make such a comment regarding your blog and I admire your bravery in standing up against it and bringing awareness to depression and mental health. Good luck, and I thoroughly enjoy your blog.

Drewzel said...

I'm new to your blog, but I loved that post. I have clinical depression and have found crafting (I sew more than I knit) and swapping to be one of the things that actually make me feel good these days. I can relate. Soo much.
So thankyou thankyou thankyou.
I'm adding your buttons to my blog(s).
Steph

Anonymous said...

Hello Ginger Nut and friends! I just stumbled upon this blog page and have found all the comments very touching. i agree with Piglottie - what a wonderful and brave post! I actually work for a mental health organisation that specialises in depression and bipolar disorder, called the Black Dog Institute!, so i've found the comments particularly interesting...(I've also just started knitting, although i can only do plain stitch - does that still help?). I will definitely pass on to my bosses what you've been discussing about how knitting has been so helpful in dealing with the illness. People always contact us asking for strategies to help cope, so THANK YOU, it's been very useful. The Institute has actually just released a book on how to deal with depression that you guys might find helpful: 'Journeys with the Black Dog' - it includes many inspiring strategies of how to manage the beast; looks like they should have added knitting to the list! http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/media/newsdesk/index.cfm#reviews
All the best, T

jen said...

I'm new here, and found my way to you via "Stacie's getting loopy". I'm glad I did.

I think this was a fantastic post (as are the rest), and I can absolutely relate... though to a less-severe extent.

I'll be adding your button to my blog as soon as I have a spare moment. I'll also be adding you to my blogroll.

All the best.