Crochet Saved My Life shares the author’s own mini-memoir about dealing with lifelong depression and a crisis diagnosis of double depression. This is a key part of the book but the book would not be what it is without the stories of the nearly two dozen other women that the author interviewed for the book. Meet them in brief here and get to know them better when you buy the book.
The Women Who Hook to Heal
(Brief bios of the women interviewed for the book and a quote from each)
Aimee O’Neill was a victim of mental abuse in her marriage. Crochet was one tool that helped her on her journey to freedom. It is something that she could do by herself, for herself, independent of anyone else’s control.
“The feeling of the yarn and the rhythmic motions produced by crocheting are very quieting and help me regroup, recharge and become reconnected to my inner self amidst turmoil and confusion.”
Aurore is a French woman with a diagnosis of chronic hallucinatory psychosis, a condition that is comparable to schizophrenia and is characterized by difficulty maintaining a sense of what is real and what is not. This strong woman uses crochet as one tool to help her maintain a connection to reality as she deals with this condition.
“When I’m anxious, the concrete feeling of the yarn against my fingers is something to focus on.”
Carol’s whole life changed when she began to experience the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Her job came to an end. Her mothering changed. The way she lived out her role as a wife changed. It wasn’t an easy thing to cope with. Crochet helped. The craft allowed her to continue to be able to give to others in her life even as her disease took that ability away in some areas.
“Fibromyalgia stole my job and caused me to have to learn to be a different wife and mother. Crocheting is something I can almost always do and I can do it for others.”
Elisabeth Andrée, a blogger who offers many free crochet tutorials, has a progressive inner ear disease called Menière’s disease. It not only makes it difficult for her to hear but also gravely affects her balance and coordination. Over the years this has resulted in a job loss which might have caused her to spiral into depression. However, through sheer self-determination to celebrate her life, and with a little bit of help from crochet, this crafter has managed to learned to enjoy the little things.
“Crochet helps me to calm down and relax, shifts my focus from misery to something interesting and pleasurable, and gives me the ability to create and thereby keep myself mentally healthy.”
Em is a 50+ woman who went through an extended period of unemployment after a layoff caused by the economic downturn. She struggled with depression related to self-esteem issues until she got active selling her crochet work on Etsy. The new job, but more specifically being busy with crochet, helped break her cycle of depression.
“I found out when I did pick up my crochet hook that my mind was so busy counting stitches and figuring out a pattern that it just didn’t have the time to worry. Less worry meant less stress in my life and I began to calm down. I just started to crochet like crazy just to get relief.”
Fran was brutally raped and it left her with both physical and emotional pain that she is still healing from. She always loved to crochet but since the rape it has become a crucial part of her healing process, allowing her to help others as a way of regaining her own personal power and healing herself.
“I remember when Sandie had crocheted me a beautiful prayer shawl after I was raped. I cannot put into words the comfort that that shawl has brought and brings to me to this very day. I hope that the teal scarf will do that for some other victim as the prayer shawl has done for me.”
Jennifer Crutchfield is a Professional Organizer who uses crochet to help her deal with the symptoms of OCD. She enjoys the challenge and excitement of taking on a new project. However, she also appreciates how the meditative process of repetitive crochet can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
“I can carry a granny square with me to work or just about anywhere. The repetitive motion is very calming for me, especially when I’m working on a pattern that is memorized.”
Katherine Dempsey took a bad spill that resulted in torn ankle ligaments and tendons, a torn disc in her back and sciatic pain. This left her bedridden and out of work, making her restless and frustrated in addition to being in terrible pain. She used crochet for pain management and also to deal with depression associated with chronic pain.
“My ankle injury has caused so much upheaval but maybe it will end up very positively changing our lives forever. Crochet has played a huge part in this process.”
Crochet pattern designer Kristine Mullen had several difficult childbirth experiences including the delivery of her fifth child who wasn’t breathing and had shoulder dystocia. Understandably, she was stressed out and fearful when it was time to deliver her next child. She brought crochet to the delivery room with her to reduce her anxiety and take her mind off of the pain. She ended up with a sweater for herself and healthy baby number six!
“During one of my last OB appointments my doctor said to try to bring something in the delivery room that would put my focus on something other than childbirth, and maybe that would help. I immediately decided to bring a crochet project. It definitely helped take my mind off of the pain.”
Laurie Wheeler is known as the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front and the founder of Hookey.org, sites that help to bring together crocheters of all skill levels to connect to one another and learn from one another. However, one does not become a Fearless Leader without facing down some struggles. Laurie has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder caused by childhood trauma and she has overcome those conditions through strength, perseverance and yes, crochet.
“If I was sitting, I crocheted. I made things for my friends, my kids, the pets, I made rugs for the floors and doilies and even jam jar cozies. I did this to stay sane; it was a constant, it was predictable, it was a way to be in the here and now.”
Award-winning crochet designer Laurinda Reddig had crocheted for most of her life and so it was naturally something that she turned to when she needed help to get through the grief of losing a child. Her one day old daughter was wrapped in a handmade afghan that Laurinda was able to take home with her. She knew that she wanted to be able to offer the same comfort to other mothers that this blanket offered to her and so she started the Remembering Rowan Project. The project gave her a tangible way to help others and a means to heal through her own grief process.
“Rowan’s Blanket Project gave me something positive to focus on whenever the grief was too much. Telling people about the project, planning, and teaching gave me a way to talk about our loss without feeling guilty that I was burdening others. I had more than one person thank me because naturally they had no idea what to say when I told them about losing Rowan, but talking about my Project helped ease the difficult conversation.”
Liza has an undiagnosed condition, possibly MS, that causes her to periodically experience temporary blindness. Crochet has helped her cope with the anxiety and stress she experiences during those times because she knows that if she can crochet blind then she can do other things blind as well. It gives her a sense of competence and calm that battles the anxiety of the situation.
“I was impressed. Not so much with the fact that I had been able to crochet while blind, but with the fact that those first forty-eight hours just flew by. Crocheting kept me busy counting, feeling the stitches back and forth to make certain that I had not skipped or doubled, and keeping the yarn from knotting. I had no time to feel pity and worry about what was to come.”
M.K. Carroll is the series editor for the Fresh Designs crochet books published by Cooperative Press. She is also a woman who has struggled with depression over the years. Crochet isn’t just her living; it’s her way of life. It helped get her through some tough times and is something she comes back to again and again to stay in touch with her own moods.
“What I didn’t know until fairly recently was how meditative crochet can be. Being able to have a small crochet project to work on anywhere – at home, on the bus, while waiting in line – meant I could create a quiet space in my head whenever I had a few minutes to spare. Those small quiet spaces can add up to a lot over time.
Margaret Mills is a cancer survivor who was just beginning to gain a little bit of strength after chemo treatment when her mother became seriously ill and needed to move in with Margaret and her daughter. This three-generation trio of crafters had plenty of craft supplies on hand including grandma’s hooks and yarn, which proved to be vital in helping Margaret through the difficult period of depression that ensued as she dealt with the stressors of illness within her family.
“I tend to believe the claims made for the health benefits of crocheting – it is good for stress management, strengthening the immune system, regulating blood pressure. I can only testify to its help with depression, but as a cancer survivor, I consider continuing to crochet part of my general health plan.”
Marinke has Asperger’s, which causes her social awkwardness. Crochet has helped to reduce depression and stress around her situation. SIt has also helped her to find a community to connect to thanks to her blog, where she spreads lots of crochet goodness and joy.
“Crochet is basically repeating the same thing over and over again, and for me that flow really helps me get through the day. But at the same time, you have to keep thinking about what you’re doing, so it never gets boring. And you get to be creative while you’re at it – what more can you want?”
Martha Stone was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003 and used medication to help her get through it. However, when the condition came on again eight years later, it took time for the meds to kick in. Martha needed to do something to stay sane in the interim and crochet was what helped her to get through.
“I think for me, this was really the best craft to have served as my distraction. It took a minimum of supplies that were readily available to me, I could do it in my living room on my comfy couch, and I was making something for someone I loved.”
Nessa began to suffer from depression as a teenager and later learned that the depression was linked to Multiple Sclerosis. She often felt like her body was lying to her and she needed to find things in her life that did not lie. Although she was living thousands of miles away from home, she found truth in the handcrafted American way of life that had surrounded her as a child and so she began to crochet. The crochet was meditative and relaxing and helped her through not only the depression but the need to constantly reinvent or reenvision herself with each new disability that the MS brought on.
“The pleasant click of my favorite red, aluminum hook against my wedding ring as I hook the yarn that weaves through my fingers is audible, tactile and grounding. There is no room for worry, for grieving, for regret, for analyzing when I focus on one stitch at a time. The process of healing takes precedence.”
Rachel Brown hadn’t anticipated that becoming a mother would leave her in the grips of postpartum depression. When it did she found herself struggling with anxiety and depression, debilitating feelings of being jittery, panicked and worthless. She made a list of the few things that still made her feel calm and happy and one of those things was crochet so she crocheted her way into better days. Rachel shares lots of fun tutorials and projects on her blog.
“I can’t remember an exact moment when I realized how healing crochet was for me (one of the many downsides of not getting enough sleep as a new mom is having a terrible dearth of memories from those months!), but I just remember thinking one day that crochet had saved me in a very real way.”
Sara-Jane suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). She has found that crochet stops her painful leg twitching and helps her to relax. This allows her to do things that she wouldn’t be able to do if her RLS wasn’t under control, things such as going on annual Washington D.C. trips with her students.
“When I sit at night, or in the car, if I’m at all tired – the legs start twitching. I will pick up my crocheting and the legs stop. I’m not sure if the same part of my brain that tells my legs to twitch also tells my fingers to move in a certain way, but that’s the way I think about it. Just knowing that I can alleviate the wiggles gives me great emotional relief.”
Shelli Steadman was 30 when she started experiencing health problems that her doctors had trouble diagnosing and which turned out to be due to hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. She couldn’t be as active as she once was and found crochet helped her spirits remain uplifted as she adjusted to a new “normal”.
“Crochet helps me put my pain on the back burner for a while. It takes my focus away from how I’m feeling and puts it in a more productive place. As I’m sure anyone who ever felt any kind of pain can tell you, if you are distracted from focusing on that pain it seems lessened somehow.”
Writer Sherri A. Stanczak had to undergo spinal surgery that has left her coping with a significant amount of pain even half a dozen years later. Crochet helps Sherri to manage the pain. It also helps her to battle the feelings of depression that are frequently a byproduct of living with chronic pain.
“Crocheting is a great stress reliever. When I crochet, it relaxes me and helps gets my mind off of my own problems. When I am upset, for some reason, my fingers work even faster; however, completing the project calms me down and makes me feel so much better.”
Tammy Hildebrand is well-established crochet designer, the professional development chairperson for the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and is on the CGOA board of directors. Crochet is her life. It has also been an important healing tool in her battle with Chronic Lyme Disease. Crochet helped her deal with depression around her illness. Once she became a Lyme activist, teaching and sharing crochet served as a way she could help others who were going through a similar situation.
“It can become pretty depressing when you can’t walk or take care of your family or do anything you did in your “normal life”. Crochet was the only thing that didn’t change. My crochet was my constant companion.”
Vicki Sulfaro never goes a day without pain since the day that a car accident left her with spinal injuries. Nevertheless, she maintains an upbeat attitude about her situation and uses crochet as a healing tool to cope with the new difficulties of everyday life mostly by crocheting to give back to others and find purpose in her new world.
“When I crochet I don’t think about how my body is now broken; I think about how I can create something beautiful and useful with my hook and either yarn or thread.”
Kathryn Vercillo fervently believes that each individual in this world has their own unique story and that sharing that story is valauble for both the person and those who hear the tale. She continues to provide a safe space for people who want to share their stories about how crafting has helped them. Learn more here.