sewing mends

Sewing Mends the Soul

 

For years my family has harassed me for disappearing to my sewing room for hours at a time. I’ve been known to lap quilt during sporting events which always raises an eyebrow. Some call me a nitwit but I will not be dissuaded! It’s good for my mental health!

 

Lately I’ve been on a Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens kick. As I read through the pages women are thoughtfully engaged in problem-solving as they stitch patiently. I can do that.  My grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and needlepoint as a child and I have since enjoyed the sense of accomplishment as well as the therapeutic value of my labors. I feel better as I stitch and I’m not alone. Today, health professionals back me up.

 

Keep Calm and Sew On

 

Pain specialist Monica Baird says that knitting is only one form of handwork that actually changes our brain chemistry. Stress hormones, known to be destructive throughout the body, decrease as serotonin and dopamine are released to do their magic.

 

My Soul is Fed with Needle and Thread

 

Some studies have shown that needlework activates the same area of the brain as yoga or meditation.

Dr. Herbert Bendon – director of the Institute for mind, body and medicine at Massachusetts General and Associate  Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School asserts-

 

“Rhythmic repetitive needlework helps to prevent the disruptive influences of stress, chronic pain and depression”. (PRLog.org)

 

 

Oh, by the way, the computerized monogramming machine I bought actually stressed me out. Sewing the old-fashioned way seems to be the ticket. Maybe it’s just me.

 

Quilting…It IS Cheaper than Therapy

 

Honestly, before I knew that I needed therapy, I perceived that needle work soothed me. In the swirl of raising five children, driving endless carpool miles and attending ballet and sporting events, needlepoint, cross-stitch or quilting accompanied me at no charge.  And yes, therapy can be quite expensive ranging from $50-$300 an hour.

 

Creative Mess is Better than Tidy Idleness

 

“Needlework forms the tiny balancing point between being able to cope and not being able to cope. “Shared one chronically depressed woman after engaging in sewing therapy. (Bura.brunel.ac.ak)I have personally witnessed this. This example stands out.

 

A dear friend fought and slowly lost her battle with bone cancer. The paralyzing pain was tempered as we by took a quilting class together. Once we got over the awkwardness of accommodating for wheelchair, fatigue, etc. our imagination took wings and we pieced a quilt for her young son.  We found joy in the shared endeavor.

 

Being creative is not a hobby, it is a way of life

 

As women age we experience increased discomfort that can lead to inactivity. . Occupational therapist Theresa Leto from the Findley University UK suggests an athletic approach to needlework.

1.Begin by warming up the hands and stretching.

2.Invest in quality equipment (clip on magnifier, special lighting, needle threaders etc.)

3.consider each needlework session to be a sprint and not a marathon.

4.Don’t get discouraged.

 

When life throws you scraps, make a quilt

 

OK, you may not even know what a fat quarter of fabric is. Your hands may never have threaded a needle. You made disdain Victorian embroidery but none are exempt from life’s disturbances and assaults. Creativity is the answer! Use your hands to make something useful. Take the time to make something beautiful. At the very least, make something and share it!

 

Grow an herb garden

Take a needlepoint class

Join a sewing guild

Cultivate flowerbeds for inner-city schools

Crochet throws for cancer victims

 

A stitch in time can become sublime! Give it a try.

 

 

mentalhealthdesign

Speaking of Mental Health….

My brain chemistry is wacky and I’m not alone. Will you help?

 

Great! So I was leaving the psychiatrists office yesterday gripped by the memory of how embarrassed I used to be coming and going from a mental health facility. I’ve always hated to appear weak or to be THAT “depressed” person people kindly avoid in the grocery store. Even my husband has encouraged me to keep “it” to myself at times. Not anymore! The crazy cat’s out of the bag.

 

I guess I’ve always known myself to be a bit flaky. As a young girl I often heard, “Kim, you are just too sensitive” and “She’s prone to tears” or “Oh don’t mind her. She can be overly dramatic at times. ” It wasn’t until my family endured multiple episodes of weeping and hopelessness that I was diagnosed and treated for a depressive disorder. Honestly, stigma is nothing compared to medicated relief!

 

I remember when Pastor Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life) and his wife, Kay lost their son Matthew, to suicide and 2013. Matthew’s lifelong battle with mental illness compelled his parents to launch “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church”, a three-day conference to promote refuge, love and compassion for the millions of people suffering from mental illness. Last October, Saddleback Church began a proactive movement to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Now THAT’S encouraging!

 

I love these words delivered by Rick Warren,

 

“The chemistry in your brain is not your character, and your illness is not your identity. If you are a follower of Christ who struggles with mental illness, your struggle does not define you. Jesus defines you!”

 

As one who struggles with mental illness and is aware of so many more like me, I am encouraged to hear people talking about it. I am grateful to have the full support of my husband and family to speak publicly about my personal experiences with mental illness. Since 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness this year, chances are that we are rubbing shoulders with those who suffer in isolation.

 

So what can you do?

 

  1. Educate yourself on the various types of mental illness. Seek out resources like hope4mentalhealth.com or National alliance on mental illness (NAMI.org)

 

  1. Recognize that many families affected by mental illness struggle fear of exposure, guilt and shame. Seek ways to gently help and encourage. I.e. Listen, affirm, accompany to appointments, babysit, etc.

 

  1. Have realistic expectations. Sometimes life gets messy. Remain calm and available.

 

  1. Convey hope. Perhaps begin a support program at your church.

 

Hope for Mental Health Ministry

Starter Kit. ( store.pastors.com)

 

If you or someone you love has a story to share, let me know. We need to keep talking about it!