I had an email the other day from a reporter in the UK who wanted to talk to me about knitting as therapy. Apparently the UK Health Board is looking at instituting formalized knitting therapy groups, which I think sounds like an interesting idea. It’s sometimes easier to talk about serious things when you have something safe acting as common ground – when you can be working on something that keeps your hands occupied and your spirit calmed, while you listen to (and maybe participate in) the conversation around you that might venture into some difficult areas.
Hannah, the reporter, was lovely to talk to (she has such an adorable British accent), very easy to speak with and very open.
We talked about the designs in the book, and how I needed to make things that purposely told my story because somehow, it helped me come full circle and think about what needed to be thought about, but at a safe pace ... at the pace of the knitting. Some things really just take quite a bit of time - and you have to give yourself the time to work through it all. I hadn't thought about it before, but maybe the really big projects I worked on were just that - to give me time to do all the thinking I needed to do.
We talked about the Hearts Ease shawl, how it's the one I made in Jessica's memory (my daughter) - to cover that spot on your chest where the heartache feels so physical after grief and loss; and about how now when I wear it and people ask me about it I can say, "yes, I made this - I designed it in memory of my baby girl, isn't it pretty?" and I'm happy to remember her this way.
We talked about the Memory Shawl - which I made in memory of my first husband - how it's easy to knit because in that awful time between a death and the funeral(s) (there was a really long wait when he died, more than a week), you are all at loose ends and can't think but you need something to work on ... and then the finished shawl is appropriate to wear to the services.
We talked about the Comfort Wrap, and how it's got big pockets so that you can keep your Kleenex in there if you're in a place in your life where you need to do a lot of crying. I've been in that place an awful lot, I know you need Kleenex pockets!
We talked about my counsellor saying that knitting is helping me undo my old thought pathways and build new ones - which I believe, though I don't know how that works, because it seems to be working for me.
We talked about using knitting as an outlet for all that anxious energy - instead of pacing or fretting or twisting hair or whatever, you can send the energy into your needles, into your work, and then it's not making you crazy *and* you get to make something! So those of us :ahem: with a bit of an overdose of Protestant Work Ethic can sit and rest when we need to, without feeling like we are 'being unproductive'. And like so many of the knitters I’ve talked to about this have mentioned, you get to be in control of the project - you can choose the colour and what you work on and what it looks like, and if it doesn't work out you can start over!
We talked about how knitting can be so forgiving - how if you make a mistake you can just undo it and start over, how every time you pick up your needles the yarn says 'it's okay, just try it and if it doesn't work we'll try something else' ... it's like a sermon in your hands, every time you pick up your work.
We talked about how knitting is so grounding - in depression or anxiety we are often 'in the past' or 'in the future' in our heads, but the only place we can ever truly be is right here, right now, in the present. One of the skills counselling teaches for dealing with that is to try and get really 'present' in your body - to feel the floor under your feet, your butt in the chair, to be really aware of your current surroundings ... and knitting really helps you do that because it is so tactile, and so much 'right there' in your hands, needing some of your attention ... but not all of it, so that you can still think while you work.
We talked about knitting groups - apparently in the UK, the health boards are looking at setting up actual knitting therapy groups, like, official ones. Here, I said, I think we do that - but unofficially. People get together to knit, and then because we have that in common it's safe ... we can talk about knitting at first and then we become friends, and then we support one another. I do think there'd be a place for knitting groups that have professional support available ... when I said that to The Reluctant Farmer he agreed immediately that knitters need professional help! Goofball. ;)
Hannah was just lovely to talk to, and I hope that the interview material I provided will be helpful to her in making up the final piece. She'll send me the finished work when it's done - and I promise to share!
Okay everybody … keep knitting!