If you’d told me a few weeks ago that I’d be standing in front of an eminent audience talking about my depression, its impact and how I cope at work, I would have been extremely sceptical.
For just three weeks ago I was feeling very overwhelmed, anxious, mentally and emotionally exhausted and my head felt like eggs being scrambled in a magi-mix.
In fact, to prevent any further deterioration in my mood and general well-being I invoked my work-place adjustments. I don’t like doing this. I try and manage my condition day-to-day but I have to admit that I did lose focus on maintaining my own good health a couple of months ago and, true to form, suffered a relapse arising from the delayed reaction weeks later.
Coincidentally, I had been asked to give a ten-minute talk at the Midlandsability network launch yesterday and had already chosen my topic,my workplace adjustments, never thinking that I would be able to quote from such recent history and experience.
Silver linings. It’s hard to have faith sometimes but I keep reminding myself that there are often silver linings to alleviate my downturn in mood.
But thanks to some amazing friends both old and new, a staggering amount of hard work, passion, dedication and sheer determination, yesterday was pure gold.
We all have mental health. Just like we have physical health and need to look after it, so we should take more care of our mental health. Or so they say.
Whilst all the advice about how to maintain good mental health is undoubtedly useful, my mental state does not depend on how much gentle exercise I do, how healthily I eat or drink or how much work I have on hand. I know this because over the years I have made lifestyle changes and they have made no difference to my mood or outlook. Lately, I have made no changes at all and yet I feel so much better.
I still take my medication, my diet could be better and I could certainly get around and move more yet I feel so much better and more stable emotionally than I have done for years. Not two or three years but maybe 10-15 years. So why is this?
Who knows and I am not saying that people should ignore all holistic advice and let nature take its course but I do believe that not all low mood/depression can be “cured” or alleviated by a healthy diet and exercise regime, mindfulness meditation and CBT sessions. This is something that I feel very strongly about and I get very cross when people assume that this is the case. It’s too simple. That’s also why I still only feel 100% comfortable with my Tribe. They understand and they appreciate the individual nature of mental illness in a way that someone who has never encountered a mental illness cannot possibly do.
There is still a long way to go in helping those with poor mental health and ensuring that they are truly integrated into society.
For me, I’m just grateful I am in a period of remission which is (hopefully) never-ending. It’s something I will never take for granted but will enjoy it whilst it lasts.
Something else that I have read about since becoming interested in Civil War quilts and reproduction fabrics is the Underground Railroad.
Just like Red Rock Cider (It’s not red and there’s no rocks in it) the Underground Railroad is neither underground nor is it a railroad. That’s disappointing but nevertheless still interesting.
I understand that the Underground Railroad grew as a romantic myth describing a network of secret routes used by slaves trying to escape their confines and assisted by abolitionists and freed slaves along the way. I wouldn’t have heard about this unless I was reading about the history of quilting in the US and what initially caught my eye was the story that slaves and abolitionists made quilts which included secret codes and messages enabling escapees to seek out friendly homesteads and safe routes towards freedom. For me, this was a great idea and what a fantastic story. The more I read however, the more evidence I found to render this story invalid.
What a shame. I would much rather think of white abolitionists fighting against the regime to help the slaves gain their rightful freedom, than read about the harsh reality. Slaves were more likely to escape on their own, safe routes were often closed down quickly and those enslaved in the deep south were unlikely to survive the longer journey northwards to the free states.
Personally I can’t grasp the idea of having a slave employed to do my bidding. It is unthinkable. Slavery still exists in some countries and cultures which I find incomprehensible but thankfully it is much less widespread than 200 years ago.
I love all animals and given the choice and funds, I would have a huge animal sanctuary in the countryside catering for all creatures great and small who need a home.
Unless I win the lottery, I have to make do with animals I do have, namely a gorgeous dog called Jasper and a number of hedgehogs who live and/or visit our garden every night now that their hibernation period is over.
I say a lovely dog, but he was less than gorgeous when he came back from a walk with his Daddy last Sunday. When he left, Jasper was a light golden colour, fluffy with a swishy plume of a tail. When he came back 2 hours later he was…… What can I say?
Jasper after his walk
Jasper before his walk
He had certainly changed colour quite dramatically, although he was clever in keeping his favourite ball very clean in comparison!
He is great company and he is also very good at sniffing out the hedgehogs when they appear.
Over the past few weeks, I have spied more and more hedgehogs running around the garden enjoying the warmer, dry weather and the cat food and mealworms which I feed them. I followed one after he finished eating and am thrilled to learn that he has made his nest in the ground-floor space of the insect house which I built last year. Lets hope it becomes a family home this spring and we have some hedgehog babies (urchins)to boost numbers.
Going through difficult times and wanting to stay at home rather than venture further afield makes it very easy for me to feel guilty that I’m not doing anything. Of course that is nonsensical as it is impossible for me to do nothing except when at my lowest nadir confined to bed and sleeping all day.
So when I look back at the last week or so, although I haven’t been out and about as much as the previous week, I have still achieved a lot and should take pride in that instead of beating myself up. We could all learn that lesson and be kinder to oneself more often.
I finished my mini-quilt swap for my swap partner in the US. I will now be able to put it in the post and wait for her reaction. I just hope she likes it. Likewise, I will be waiting for mine to drop through the letterbox and I am sure I will love mine! Just the thought that someone has spent their precious time and energy on a project for me is warming and I love this idea of quilt swapping.
Mini-quilt swap Spring 2017[/caption
My quilt-swap partner lives in Texas and I therefore settled on a pattern which has one star at the centre as I understand that Texas is known as the “Lone Star State.” I also hand-quilted it with stars. I love how you can personalise even the smallest quilt either by pattern or colour, or both and all quilts are made with love. They are almost living things and each one gifted goes with a piece of me.
I have also started to hand-quilt one for me. It is divided into 4 large squares which I will sash together when quilted. I find it very relaxing to sit and stitch in the evenings whilst watching TV. Good chill-out time and, as I am being creative and making something tangible, it’s all guilt-free.
I am also learning a lot about the history of quilting both in the UK and the US. I have to say that the US wins the “most interesting” award and I am now fascinated with the quilting stories, history and myths which abound. All this in addition to the Civil War quilts and fabrics mentioned previously.
When my love for sewing was reignited and I began to make quilts a couple of years ago, I never thought that I would be learning about US history. It was enough to cope with terms such as jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, in-the-ditch, HSTs (half-square-triangles) and long-arm quilting and I never spared a thought about the history behind quilts.
Here in the UK, I don’t have a great sense of history regarding the making of quilts other than several homes had them; Heirlooms painstakingly hand-made by grandmas to pass away the time rather than fulfil any practical need. Of course, I make this observation from a position of ignorance in that I have never researched the history of the quilt in the UK. It hasn’t been a topic of interest. I like sewing and love making something which is pretty, practical and 100% unique and I piggy-back on the current revived interest in all things home-made.
This all changed a few weeks ago when I joined an on-line quilting group (see previous posts) where most of the members live in the US. Immediately I spotted that the fabrics they tend to use (in general) are different from those available in the UK and in particular, Civil War quilts, reproduction fabrics, colours and patterns are prevalent. I wasn’t sure whether I liked the more muted shades and simple patterns at first but over the weeks they have grown on me. I have therefore started to order fabric which reflects this period and have made some items using these. The mini-quilt shown below is from a pattern in Kathy Tracy’s new book “Small and Scrappy. ” Reading about the history behind these quilts has made me appreciate the hardships faced by many US families during and after the American Civil War and especially the migration of the masses from East to West. It is a fascinating subject and makes history come alive to me.
One of my new “Smallquilttalk” friends pointed me in the direction of Barbara Brackman who writes a great blog not only about the history of quilting in the UK but incorporates national and local history and events with illustrations in her posts. Its a great source of information if you, like me, want to know more.
Anyone who has suffered with depression and/or anxiety knows how difficult it is to face the world. Since starting my annual break back in February I have been quite happy to remain indoors quilting, sewing and even organising my office in preference to venturing outdoors.
It’s a good job therefore that I have plenty of previous experience in dealing with these issues and know myself well enough to kick my own ass into gear. Challenging my negative thoughts I set myself some goals to try and recover some normality;
I arranged to visit Will at University so he could drive me to IKEA for a mosey round the aisles then treat me to lunch. This was my agreed Birthday present carried forward from February and which I had been putting off.
I agreed to go out with the girls for a pasta night-and thoroughly enjoyed myself!
I arranged to go to the local Farm Shop to meet a friend for lunch-this was a big step and it had to be with someone who understands why I am not actively in touch for months but remains supportive and non-judgemental.
I started to join in the Jasper/Feri walks-taking him to the fields for a good run and play in the muddy puddles and found that there is something incredibly uplifting watching a dog enjoy himself so much with total unbounded joy and
Helping Will with distributing and collecting questionnaires in the town for his University dissertation. This involved talking to several strangers about his work and the flooding which affects our town regularly. I found it energising and interesting and it took the attention away from me and my thoughts to thinking about other problems and solutions.
All in all, my objectives were to become less focussed on remaining in my “craft-cave” and to be more interactive. It worked a treat and starting the process with people I trust led to me being more comfortable venturing outside those boundaries.
So over the last couple of weeks I have been busy out and about. A welcome change but, although it’s nice to go out, it’s nicer to come home.