I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I struggle with anxiety and depression. Last fall I had an especially hard time as I began having severe panic attacks and what basically can only be described as a nervous breakdown. This resulted in my losing my job, as well as struggling to be able to do mundane tasks like walking down to get the mail or going grocery shopping.
Of course I sought professional help… and I would encourage anyone who is struggling with depression and/or anxiety to talk to their doctor and find a therapist to help them. What I’m about to say does NOT take the place of actual therapy and medications! I am currently taking medications for the anxiety and depression and have a therapist.
I learned a while ago that crochet and video games are wonderful (for me personally at least) at helping with my mental health. Let me explain…
When I am crocheting with a mindless repetition of stitches, I find that it is a wonderful way for me to work out my feelings in my head. I am working on a physical task that I can turn my attention and focus to when I need, but it is also automatic enough that I can let my mind work through some of the thoughts that have been swirling around. I have learned from my therapist about rumination and am careful to stay away from that, but it is also important to be able to follow some trains of thoughts so you can tell yourself why those thoughts are wrong and reaffirm positive statements to yourself in your mind to end the cycle. The motions of crochet are also soothing. When I am anxious or having a panic attack I feel a need to be doing something- even just rocking or clenching my fists. So having the yarn moving through my fingers and the movement of the stitches is very soothing. Especially if I am in a situation such as sitting in the doctors waiting room, crocheting gives me something to turn my focus to and keeps me calm in a situation which would otherwise cause me to have a panic attack.
Also, when you are crocheting you are creating something (hopefully) beautiful. Something you can be proud of. Something that can replace some of your feelings of self-doubt and show that while you are hurting you are still amazing.
When I was in the lowest point of my breakdown with depression and anxiety I found that I couldn’t handle simple things like Doctor Who or games like Skyrim. They are things I love, but the darker themes that can appear in them (and lots of shows and games in those categories) caused me severe anxiety. It was like my brain couldn’t tell the difference between fictional television or games and reality. In fact, I still can struggle with this when it comes to television- on bad days I don’t even watch Big Bang Theory!
However, other games such as Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley, Force of Elements, and several puzzle games or relaxing apps on the phone (Butterfly Sanctuary) became a safe haven for my brain. The games were literally prescribed to me by a very wise therapist who knew I had enjoyed games previously. He told me that when I was having a panic attack or in severe depression and could not control my thoughts (rumination)… when I was having what I call the downward spiral… that video games were really a good thing to do. Sometimes I had to force myself to get up and go to the computer and turn one on, but he was right: once I did, I was able to forget about my thoughts and focus on a happy game. My thoughts were turned away from my ruminations and dark brooding and instead thinking about harvesting eggplants in a video game. My therapist did add that I should use a timer when I am playing games and play for 30 minutes and step away to see how I am feeling, then either play for another 30 minutes or get up and do something else if I am feeling well enough. Otherwise the games could become addictive as an escape and cause me to not want to face reality. I still play games for fun when I’m not having a mental downward spiral of course, but this is a useful tactic when things are extra hard.
I’m not saying these things will work for everyone. But they help me.
If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, please know that you are not alone. You may feel like nobody understands and that it’s not worth reaching out to anyone… but please give others and yourself a chance. If you need someone to talk to, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on twitter as @CraftingRogue.