Knitting Away Depression and Anxiety
Last week I dissed a story that I read online about self-care for bipolar disorder, which consisted of praise for sleep, pets, and creativity, things which anyone with bipolar already knows are good for their mental health.
It was pointed out to me by someone who should know that I was wrong to make fun of the researchers, since they were students learning valuable lessons about how to conduct research studies in the first place. Which led me to believe that it was all the reporter’s fault for presenting their results as news.
Anyway, as an apology to researchers and grad students everywhere, I’m now going to praise a research study that would otherwise get a “well, duh” from me.
Huffington Post (UK) shared the good news:
Knitting could save the NHS [National Health Service] vital funds because it leads to a healthier population, reducing depression and anxiety, slowing the onset of dementia and distracting from chronic pain, a new report has found.
The study was primarily focused on the benefits of knitting for the aging, but since depression and anxiety were two of the conditions that it reportedly relieves, I thought it might be relevant to bipolar disorder too. Now someone can do a study to confirm or deny this idea.
The report added that knitting “is a sociable activity that helps overcome isolation and loneliness, too often a feature of old age,” and, I might note, of mental illness.
There are many, many articles that extol the benefits of creative pursuits for those with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Although the notion of “basket-weaving” is outmoded and stigmatizing, other creative activities are commonly suggested as part of self-care. (I discussed this in a post called “Tools for Tackling Bipolar Disorder.”)
Coloring seems to be the most popular recent trend, but drawing, painting, collages, and all sorts of needlework are well thought of too. (I would certainly put crocheting in the same category as knitting.)
But then there’s the other side of bipolar – mania. I don’t know a lot about creativity and mania because I only get hypomania. But I do know that when I’m hypomanic I can get a lot of writing done. (Whether it’s good writing is another question.)
However, if you’ll forgive anecdotal evidence, I once knew a woman who did experience full-blown mania as part of her disorder and was not well controlled on medication. One year at Christmas she decided to make green velvet dresses for all three of her daughters.
As she spoke of her progress over the ensuing weeks, however, it was clear that the project was not going well. She kept rethinking – and redoing – all the sewing. She didn’t like the design, or she didn’t think they’d fit right, or she saw some other flaw. She never finished the dresses.
Other people may have better experiences with mania and creativity, of course. I hope you’ll share with me if you have.
The idea of creativity as a way to be sociable intrigues me. Sewing circles are a time-honored tradition among neurotypical people as well as those with mental disorders. (A friend of mine and her cronies had what they called the “Stitch and Bitch Club.”) Needlepoint, quilting, and indeed all of the fabric arts can be group activities.
For those who aren’t into those kinds of needle-centric activities, there are classes in scrapbooking, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, or other creative art forms, often available through local adult education programs, museums, or shops that sell arts and crafts supplies. And of course, writers’ groups abound at bookstores and other venues (though presenting one’s own work at such a gathering may be too daunting for some with self-esteem issues).
I should probably get involved with a writer’s group myself. I’ve had to give up needlework because of my eyesight and shaking hands. But I’m all for doing something for my brain. Lord knows, it needs all the help it can get.
“Tools for Tackling Bipolar Disorder” https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-uT