A-a-a-a Stayling Aliveeeeee…

Have you ever wondered if the amount of pain you are in can kill you? Because goodness knows I have. Some days I’m close to vomiting and passing out from pain, and it crosses my mind: could this kill me? 

Whilst being in agony full time may not be lethal on its own, it does become a battle to function as the pain erodes your sense of self, to make more space for PAIN (capital letters essential), and this in turn can lead to depression, from the weight of the world dragging you down. Pain, especially chronic pain, is a nasty hideous creature who can only be held at bay for periods of time at a turn, rather than conquered and defeated. 

And sometimes making the choice to stay alive when everything in you knows you will be in pain forever more is the bravest thing to do. 

I’m no teacher. I’m not wise, not an I even clever. But I have my life and the experiences that has given me to show me certain things, and I am always in awe of people who are in pain constantly and still put all they have into their days. That doesn’t change whether they run a marathon or can’t get out of bed; if you have given all you have, despite everything holding you back, you are my hero. 

Deeper share of blue

So am possibly proving my age bracket but this song will not get out of my head.

I like to break the stereotypically enforced rules of fashion where I can; purple lipstick, coloured mascara, and mail varnish in various colours. I’m a big fan of bright red make up, but have found myself trying more and more “not red or pink” items as I’ve aged. Sounds like a ridiculous thing when it is written down but fighting against all those little rules of being a woman is sometimes all I can achieve. 

I’m trying to keep light, but my mood is blue. My PTSD is reeling. My pain is spiralling. I’m terrified of handling the summer holidays being as ill  as I am. This time last year I was a bit less ill – I won’t say “better” because that’s not really accurate to my health – than I am now, and so managed to tick by, just about. Today is the second day of our holidays and I am already broken from lack of naps. And just knowing that makes me feel worse.

There are times where being severely ill is harder than others, and moments where I can’t find a way to pretend, to myself or others, that I am not as well as I want to be are the hardest. It makes me vulnerable, at risk and ashamed. It shouldn’t, not any more, but I will be honest, even if I’m not proud of what is shown via my honesty. I spend time and energy telling others they have nothing to be ashamed of, being ill, and yet here I am with my feelings, not matching what I advocate. I’d love to, always, in an ideal world, but life isn’t ideal and I am only human.

However.

The cardigan is back on the hook as the yarn to finish it arrived, and goodness knows I want it to be wearable by… Yesterday. 

I have an important hospital appointment this Friday which I’m hoping will be as positive as I need it to be.

AND Little Crafter declared that today would be a spa day, and you know what? It’s the best damn spa day and partner I could have wished for. 

Cardigan Update! 

As I shared on Facebook yesterday, the cardigan is becoming something that is starting to look like… A cardigan! I am genuinely so excited as to how this is going.  It is wearable already or at least it would be if I was in the business of wearing cardigans. I can picture how it will be, and I am itching for the rest of the yarn to arrive.

But it’s about so much more than a waistcoat-will-be-cardigan. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a longtime, something I’ve been aiming for since I started yarn craft, and FINALLY here I am; brave enough to try. 

Linked in with my PTSD I have massive fears of imperfections and making mistakes (whilst also being terrified as something across as arrogant, it’s a fun balance!), so to decide to do something where there is a fair chance of errors is a huge thing for me. Silly as I’m aware that may sound, my mental illness gets in the way of so many things, and holds me back in ways you wouldn’t initially guess. I am now so proud of myself for managing to even try this, and I will be writing up the pattern for myself and others if it is wanted here. 

It might not be the most complicated cardigan pattern ever but it will be something I treasure always. 

Another yarn cake – Sidar Colourwheel

Due to the crafting crisis of being out of yarn for my cardigan, I’ve had (yes ‘had’, didn’t have a choice) to start another project. I decided to try out a third different yarn cake – Sidar Colourwheel.

Like Stylecraft Candy Swirl, this is double knit, and I’d say the thinner end of that category. It’s another acrylic wool combination (80% acrylic, 20% wool), 150g, and 520m. There is a slight fuzz to its appearance which compliments the rainbow of colours I’m working with.

For fear of being both repetitive and predictable, I have a confession to make. Having finished my Lizard Shawl just the other day, I was genuinely missing the pattern already, having found it soothing and enjoyable, and so when I ran out of cardigan yarn, I found must immediately thinking of making another. Colourwheel was also a decision based on both love and comfort; I could picture in my head how the design would look already. So it is another Lizard Shawl in another yarn cake, and I have no apologies for it! 

This has been on of the yarn cakes, and one of the colourways, I have been keen to try since the wonderful things first started appearing. This far there has only been one colour change, so I couldn’t give a fair opinion of how it’s making up, but the yarn is relatively nice to work with; not my favourite I must say but that opinion may change further on. There are lots of kinks in the yarn, but again it has to be considered this is the center of the cake and once we get a bit further out that might decrease. It’s also a bit splitty. I am aware my VI makes me more keenly aware of this fact though. 

That sounds a bit negative, so maybe it will sound a bit surprising to say I’m really loving this yarn! I can’t wait to get a bit further along, see how the yarn progresses and how the Shawl starts to show off the colours. 

Flower keyring pattern

I whipped up these cute little keyrings yesterday as end of year presents for Little Crafter’s teacher and teaching assistant, and thought I’d share the pattern I came up with here. 

Not that I’m biased but they’re really sweet! And they only took a few minutes to whip up. 

What you need

  • 3mm crochet hook, or hook 1mm below advised for yarn you’re using
  • Small amounts of two colours of DK yarn
  • Keyring loop (without chain)
  • Wool needle

Pattern (UK crochet terms)

  1. Ch1, 10 DC into magic ring. SS into last stitch to make circle.
  2. Ch1, 2DC into every stitch. SS into last. Finish off first yarn. Join second on the opposite side of the  circle.
  3. Using a standing DC, start round. DC in every stitch around. Bring the tail of the new yarn around to the front of the staning DC, and crochet over it to the other side of the circle. Here drop the second yarn and pick up the first, continuing to crochet over it until you reach the beginning of the round again. SS to finish. 
  4. DC in first stitch. *CH3, DC in next* around. The first few “petals” will look too short with only ch3, but I promise this length is correct! SS into first DC to finish. Fasten off.
  5. Weave in ends. Attach keyring loop into any chain space – not the chain itself or risk pulling it. 

And done! Enjoy.

Making a cardigan

So this year, I set a series of crafting goals for myself to try and expand my crafting knowledge. Some of these were for crafts I’ve already tried, and some were to try out new crafts. On the list was The Big Goal:

Make a cardigan or jumper.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but have been terrified of for even longer. When I first started out with yarn, it was with knitting, and so many people would joke, “so when are you making me a jumper?”. All very amusing, except it scared me. I couldn’t manage that! And so I always felt like a very inadequate knitter from the beginning. When I began to crochet, I became aware of how it was much more versatile, and some of the things which had seemed impossible with knitting became accessible. And the idea of a jumper came and sat on the edge of my yarn and whistled at me occasionally to get my attention.

Some lovely yarnie friends bought me a book about making tops and jumpers earlier this year after I’d expressed this goal, and receiving this book did two things. Firstly, it gave me the tools to go about achieving this goal. Secondly, it gave me no way to back out it, so my natural deer-in-headlights feeling had to be quashed. This is most certainly a good thing, otherwise I would almost certainly convince myself I couldn’t do it, and it was a silly goal in the first place.

I devoured the book, as it was just so interesting, regardless of my goal, and it left me with an itching to get started. I decided to make a little cape / cardigan as practice for making the yoke if nothing else, but a few rows in a little voice whispered, “you could add arms into this…”, and I wondered – could I?

I knew I’d need to expand further than the pattern called for anyway, thanks to the size of the boobs I’ve been landed with, and have now changed the original pattern so much it more inspiration than basis. Last night I found the part in my book confirming I’d done the right thing for preparing for arms, today comes what feels like the big step – separating the yoke up for the front, arms and back. I am absolutely terrified of getting it wrong, but in reality, that’s the worst that happens. It goes wrong, I undo it, and try again.

I am a perfectionist by nature, and this works both for and against me depending on the situation. It may well work in both with this one.

I’m working in Caron Simply Soft again, as the pattern called for Aran weight, and I already had several skeins here. If it turns out well, I think I might adapt it again to make in DK weight, probably Stylecraft Special, as I’ll want to stick to acrylic and of course gorgeous colours are essential. I’m working on a Crochet Along in Stylecraft at the moment after a period of working mainly in other yarns and it is a reminder of how lovely it is to work with. I can picture this pattern working in DK for a better drape, should it turn out as I’m hoping.

There is something about making a proper item of clothing which feels like almost entering the grown up worth of crochet, and I think that’s why it scares me. I don’t feel talented or experienced enough to be doing it. I’ve made countless blankets, endless hats, scarves to drown in, numerous teddies, a granny square cardigan and a poncho, but none of that is persuading me to think that I am able to do this. How much of this is down to my PTSD leaving me not believing in myself, and how much of it is natural crafting anxiety, I’m unsure, but it needs to be hurdled nonetheless.

Tonight I suppose I’ll either feel accomplished or in need of gin. Possibly both. But maybe follow the age old wisdom of don’t yarn and drink at the same time!

The Language of Pain

When you tell a medical professional you are in pain, they normally ask you to describe it using two methods; “where is it between one and ten?”, “what kind of pain is it; sharp or dull?”. I do understand there has to be some kind of measure, and some form of description, but neither of these do pain – severe pain – justice.

Thinking about the pain I am in today, relatively low pain by my standards but still agony, there is a weight to each of my limbs as if they are stone, or waterlogged sponges. Moving them grinds my joints, and draws my body closer to the ground. The bones throughout my body feel as if they are burning hot metal, burning inside of me with every movement. My head feels as though there is an axe sticking out of it, like it’s been cleaved in half across the middle, the pain is so strong; it stays there forever, but also comes in waves so harsh I have to fight back vomit and hold onto something to stay upright. My skin hurts as though razors are being drawn across it, stinging, itching, aching. Any pressure on any part and you feel it on the point and the other side, as if it is clay you are pushing a finger through. The throbbing of knives throughout my womb and ovaries make me double over and clutch at my body, as if it will make a difference, as if it can stop those knives. The overall pain throughout my body stays, and I keep movement to a minimum, to try and keep the irritation of it as low as possible.

And this is just a brief summary. How would – how could – I mark that out of ten? A number does not do my existence justice, and for me there is no existence without pain so again, how could I rate it out of ten, when my seven will be the next persons twenty three? Because whilst it is not a competition or comparison between patients, there is still at the back of your mind wondering if you are ‘right’ with your answer, and uncertainty as to whether you will be believed. My migraines can easily reach a ten, with pain so bad I feel I am going to die from it, but because of misconceptions surrounding migraine and pain in general, this is not always easy to get across to anyone.

I don’t know what the solution is with better communication surrounding pain, other than more education for medical professionals, and more easily accessible pain information for members of the public. There are so many people dealing with chronic pain that, whilst everyone doesn’t need to be an expert, it would be beneficial for everyone if there was more understanding out there. With all the different ways to be in chronic pain, and all the people suffering with them, it would be fantastic if society as a whole was more empathetic towards this position. Yes, I’m a little bit of a “spread the love around” type person, but I really do think that a little bit more love for everyone, from everyone, could never be a bad thing.

Articulating being in pain is a really difficult thing to do. On top of the pain you end up doubting yourself, and wondering if you are doing yourself justice, then worrying you’re making too much of a fuss. This second point is possibly the most British factor of being chronically ill, and we really need to cut it out in all honesty. I’m more towards not being bothered if people think I’m being dramatic now, because I trust myself to know my body as well as I do, but it’s taken a decade of illness to get to that point. Next to mental health, chronic pain is probably the next thing on the list of things that aren’t taken seriously, and that’s a real bugbear of mine. I can’t MAKE someone take my pain seriously, or make them understand it, but if descriptions like the I gave above surrounding my pain levels today start to make things more widely understood, I think we should talk unfaltering about it at every opportunity.

PTSD – Trauma Therapy

I’ve been going through trauma therapy for the last few months. It’s been a wobbly, difficult, fascinating experience. There is still so much more to do, and I’m positively anxious to engage in it. The last few weeks, I’ve been tracking some of my PTSD experiences in the following worksheet. 

Again, it’s been a really interesting exercise as much as an upsetting one. I’ve been of the habbit in the last few years of doing something of this automatically, by my own design, mentally tracking where things that have triggered me stem from. That has been both interesting and useful, seeing where things come from, and I believe it has been a good basis for this task.

One of the reasons I was asked to do this was to try and see if any particular trauma appeared more than others. I think it can safely be said that the multiple traumas I’ve been through he appeared in the forms in a fairly equal measure, which, from an emotionally detached view, has been quite intriguing, as it has certainly made me pay more attention to things I hadn’t considered to be such large issues in my life. Things like the bullying I endured at school, for example, is still haunting me more than I had appreciated; surrounding by people, loud noises, certain words and actions have all appeared as triggers rooted in bullying. 

I’ve been keen to engage in trauma therapy for a while; in fact it was a request from me that first started the ball rolling with treating the trauma side of things. It was a hard request to make and yet so easy. The reality is always different from the request, and whilst it has been difficult, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

My next appointment is in a few weeks, and as I’ve become accustomed to, there is a mixture of nerves, anticipation and excitement about the next movement forward. I am keeping everything in mind with sessions, that it is always two steps forward, one step back, but you can always hop a bit after. Life throws curve balls, but the whole point of therapy is learning how to catch those balls rather than taking them as knocks on the head. 

Craft Sanctuary

Our rental contract is yearly, and upon finding out we were safe for another year, we set about doing another years worth of personalizing the house. It’s odd when you’re in a rented house; it’s your home, but not your property. Just like everyone, there’s ‘big’ things we’d change about the house if we had the opportunity, but we’re never going to be home owners unless we win the lottery (how interesting that it is now such a goal to own your home, but more musings on the political side of living when I’ve had more gin) so we are lucky to have a house which suits nearly all our needs.

As I’ve said before, I’m lucky that the spare room has been crafted into a craft room, full of happy things, and of all I need to be a happy crafter. It’s taken a little bit of work and time (surprisingly little money) but it’s now almost perfect. I do, however, need a new desk chair. Because as of TODAY, I have a new desk… <drumrolls>

 

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If you ask Ikea it’s supposed to be a dining table, but apparently they neither have need for a craft desk, not a need to eat without your plate falling on the floor, but there we are. Regardless of what it’s “supposed” to be, it’s perfect for what I need, with enough space for almost anything I could imagine using it for. The sewing machine table is going for another life via a charity furniture shop, hopefully to someone who will love it and treat it well, and although I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss it, this is much better designed for what I will use my space for.

Having this place is not just wonderful for my crafting love but for my mental health. Having a little retreat I can come and hide in when my head is exploding is a really beautiful thing, and makes such a difference on the tough PTSD days. It also gives me something to focus on when I am feeling overwhelmed, and somewhere safe to remind myself of when the world is scary.

It is such a lucky thing, and I don’t take it for granted, that I have this space for me and for the things I love to create. It really is my sanctuary, and a happy place. As I touched on in Division of arts time I’ve been writing more lately, and again, this desk will be perfect to sit and type, with space for a cup of tea or glass of wine next to me, or to be writing in my journals, updating my craft projects to make and completed. All in all, it really is a huge privilege to have this space to myself. It’s also become somewhere Little Crafter likes to come and sit with me in, and those are becoming lovely little memories; me crocheting, Little Crafter reading next to me, both of us chatting as we do, and just spending some time “being” with each other, which is highly underrated.

Other Half hasn’t yet invaded.