Gratituesday

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been hell-for-leather getting ready to run a LARP, and I have to admit, it’s triggered my anxiety. But I’ve learned something very helpful, at least for me. Listing off the things I’m grateful for in my head actually helps reduce my feelings of anxiety. I did it a lot on Saturday. I’m so grateful to have found a technique that works, and also grateful to the Best Beloved for taking good care of me.

Gratitude, people. It’s good for you.

Commuting 

I know, I know, what kind of a crazy person would be grateful to be commuting? The kind of crazy person who has a big-ass crochet project to finish, that’s who. That half an hour or so in the morning and the evening is a great time to fill with crafting. Not only because I’m slowly chipping away at the project- actually, not so slowly when I consider how much it’s grown- but also because it encourages conversations. I’ve met other crafters on the train, or people who’ve wanted to ask about the yarn or the process. My answer is always the same when they express admiration that someone can do that- “it’s easier than it looks.”

Of course, it helps that I have the pattern mostly memorised and I’m not knitting lace. I suspect if I was trying to work on a shawl, as I plan to, my response (in my head) would be “please be quiet, I’m counting”.

Rainbows

One of my favourite things about Auckland weather (yes, I have some) is how often there are rainbows visible here. To me, they always seem like a promise of good things.

Testing out takeaway places

Of which there are many near our new house, so we have quite a few to try. For science, you know. I’m grateful to have so many places near my home that will bring me (or serve me) hot delicious food on the nights where everyone is too knackered to cook (like Sunday night).

Getting out in the sunshine

Yes, in the middle of winter. Sunday was the third Moonbright game, which involved hanging out in Auckland domain. I was shattered from the night before, but being outside and soaking up some warmth and making more vitamin D did me the power of good.

Startitis

More about this on the blog later in the week, but a friend and I are doing a “what the hell were we thinking knitting an entire jumper on tiny needles in fingering weight yarn” knit-a-long, mostly to motivate each other to finish them. I’m excited!

The little things

Hugs, sleep, electric blankets, hot baths, tea, and all the other things that keep you warm in winter!

I have a question about Project Runway All Stars

Having run out of seasons of Project Runway to watch (at least before I start re-watching them again), I moved on to Project Runway All Stars because, well, sewing, and episodes I hadn’t seen.

It’s pretty good. I don’t mind that the host has changed, or that there are different judges. I miss Tim Gunn, but then who wouldn’t? But the mentors they have on the show- both women- really know their stuff. Joanna Cole especially.

There’s one thing, though, that really really bugs me. And that’s the way that the judges are introduced.

“Designer and co-founder of Marchesa, the beautiful Georgina Chapman…one of the most famous names in fashion, designer Isaac Mizrahi”.

The guest judges and male judges are introduced championing their success and accomplishments.

So why is it so important to make a point of Georgina Chapman also being ‘beautiful’.

Being beautiful doesn’t qualify her as a judge for a fashion design show. Her work with Marchesa does. Marchesa is a pretty darned famous name in fashion. She’s hugely successful. She makes beautiful clothes. But what we’re being told, as viewers, makes her a great judge is that she’s also beautiful.

Why does it matter? There are plenty of successful fashion designers who don’t conform to stereotypes of beauty. And a lot of them have been judges on the show. In fact, their non-conformity and bold celebration of who they are AS they are, is why we love them.

Diana Vreeland was very conscious of her not being a conventional beauty, and was one of the most influential women in fashion for years.

It bugs me because yet again, a TV show is suggesting that a woman’s achievements are somehow lessened, somehow not as valuable, if she isn’t also beautiful. Replace that with married, or a mother, and you have way, way too much of the mainstream media.

I guess what I’m hoping is that in my lifetime, we’ll get to the point where being physically attractive isn’t a qualification. For anything.

Monsterful Monday- brought to you by the letter R

Recommendations

I decided to get my ears pierced for my birthday this year. Strangely, with three tattoos (and counting), I’ve still never gotten any piercings so this was my first time. I therefore asked a friend of mine who has MANY holes punched in her where she gets them done, and she pointed me at Streetwise in Newmarket. They were brilliant. I was lucky enough to get Shane Johnston, a Master Piercer who’s been doing piercings for 20 years. He told me what they were doing at each step, explained what everything was for, spent a while fussing to get the position of each pierce just right to look symmetrical (as someone who is weird about symmetry, I really appreciated that).

It’s two counts of gratitude, really- one to the friend who recommended Streetwise, and one to Streetwise themselves for being so good. If you’re in Auckland and want to get a hole punched in you (well, one that involves jewellery), then hit them up.

Relaxation

Next weekend is going to be hectic as, so I was very grateful not to have too much to do this weekend beyond mainline Project Runway All Stars (I don’t love it as much as the original, but it’s still sewing crack), unpack more boxes, and knit. And also ask stupid questions while my Best Beloved plays Minecraft. Always fun.

(T) Rex

Lets face it, the T-Rex is the real hero of Jurassic World. We all know it. Even the film-makers know it. I watched it with some friends at the weekend, and it was everything you would hope from a big silly movie with dinosaurs. Including hero shots of the dinosaurs. Also, whoever thought you’d come out of a movie thinking “those velociraptors were adorable”? Certainly not me. And yet.

RuPaul (and Priscilla)

Meet RuPaul and Priscilla, the metal flamingoes who arrived as a gift from a bunch of friends for the housewarming at the magic house. The Best Beloved hid them outside the door, rang the doorbell and legged it around the back of the house while everyone else watched for my reaction. I love them, aren’t they fabulous?

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I’m so grateful to the friends who got together to organise buying them, hiding them (in the garden shed no less) and surprising me with them.

And the Rest

Snuggling, living with the Best Beloved (so far so good), crafting on the train- and fellow crafters on the train, supportive friends, tea, marmalade, Parks and Recreation, co-writers and GMs, Carl’s Jr (the buttermilk ranch chicken burger is so gooooood), working out a quicker route to work, and sleep. Oh, so much sleep.

Never trust a panda

OK, I know, it’s been over a week. And I honestly sat down to write all about what I’m knitting, and what’s been going on in my life (the toran is coming along nicely, and mainly I’ve been cooking all the things because one of my flatmates is ill).

But then I thought ‘hey, I really ought to print out the pattern for Mopsy Bird“, and suddenly I’m being presented with patterns with names like “A beret that is different!”.

beret

 

Which of course led me down the Trove rabbit-hole. Trove, that home of so, so many 4ply jumper patterns. It takes me long enough to knit a pair of socks using 4ply. Knitting an entire jumper? Probably insane. Which is why some time soon I’m totally doing it. But then I found this.

panda

Oh, it’s a panda, yup, totally ordinary stuffed toy panda.

perambulator

Wait, what? Why perambulator?

WHY IS IT STANDING UP UNAIDED? Is it sentient? Are there instructions somewhere in the 8th December 1949 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald explaining how to use your bloodstone circle for animating knitted toys?

Great, now I’m scared that if I make this it’s going to start walking around my house in the middle of the night.

babadook

I’m just saying what we’re all thinking. 

 

 

If nobody needs me I’ll be locking all my black and white yarns in a trunk and then hiding under a blanket.

Thoughts every knitter has on entering a new yarn store

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Where’s the sock yarn? How is this place organised?

Oooh, pretty colour!…oh no, but it’s lace.

Well, I could totally start knitting lace if I wanted to.

Oh man, this is so soft…I wonder if anyone would notice if I rubbed it on my face?

How much is it?…Christ, for ONE skein?

Oh, no wonder, there’s cashmere in it.

I want to put it down, and yet I can’t.

Well, one skein is pretty restrained. Look at me being restrained…oooh, angora!

That colourway…it’s not really my thing, but limited edition!

I should have got a basket. Do they have baskets?

I don’t have any projects that need buttons. But these buttons are so pretty. Maybe I should find a project that needs buttons…

This would be perfect for that sweater, I wonder how many balls I would need…

HOW MANY?

No, don’t you dare start looking at that yarn over there. I may want more of it.

God, I hope they take debit cards…

Oooh, free wool wash!

Oh thank goodness, there’s a swift.

Winding this into a ball is SO much faster with a swift.

I wonder if they sell swifts?

OK, I am totally not buying any more yarn until I’ve finished a project.

That beanie hat I’m nearly done with counts, right?

What’s on the needles Wednesday

Or rather what’s on the crochet hook. Which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Being as I’ve just moved house, and unpacked my yarn and FOUND some of my UFOs, I’ve been working on homey projects.

There is *one* knitting project on the needles, which is a toran for the house, using the Welcome Toran pattern from Jean Muir. Being that I can never leave a pattern alone, however, it’s not going to have the fair isle pattern in the photos. It’s going to have Totoro-themed intarsia from the Norwegian Totoro Mittens pattern. It’s been a while since I’ve done colourwork. We’ll see whether I survive the experience.

There’s also a crochet blanket which I don’t have a photo of because I was too busy cowering underneath it staying warm last night. But there IS one I do have photos of. It’s a gift for someone, so I probably shouldn’t put it online but hey, I don’t mind if they know about it.

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Look at it, it’s skulls all the way down!

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This particular project is actually sat next to me on my desk right now, calling to me. We’ll see how long I can resist…

What about you? What are you working on this week?

Mental Health Awareness Month

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month in the States. As the Bloggess pointed out, wouldn’t it be nice to only have to be aware of mental illness for a month a year? Yes, it would. For many people, though, it’s not that simple. On her blog, the Bloggess put a call out to people to share their experiences, and what they’ve learned that’s helped them. I think it’s a great idea, and part of something very important: we need to start talking about mental health. We need to remove the stigma about people discussing their own experiences with it. It removes one of the obstacles to people getting help- actually feeling able to say “I have a problem and it’s not going away”. She posted two questions for people to answer. Here are my answers. I hope they help someone.

How has mental illness affected you personally?

I’ve suffered from depression for a long time. I’ve been on antidepressants for the past 2 years, and have had to take them previously. I also suffer from anxiety, which is situational in origin.  I’m one of the lucky ones. I know that compared to what others have to deal with, my own mental health issues aren’t nearly as bad. I once had to take- and by take I mean frogmarch- a severely, clinically depressed flatmate to A&E because they were planning to commit suicide, which I only found out about because I read their blog. I’ve been to therapy, read books.

I remember the first time I was prescribed antidepressants, it took me several weeks to start taking them. I sat looking at the packet of pills, and then at the dose sitting in my hand, for several minutes, knowing what it would mean if I started taking them. I didn’t come off them right the first time I took them, in part because the doctor I had at the time hadn’t given me any information about coming off them. He had, in fact, told me that I should take them for the rest of my life “to save my marriage” (they didn’t save it, thank goodness).

What did you learn from it that might help others?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is this: not all doctors are created equal. This is not to denigrate anyone who works in general practice, it’s a damned hard job. But some GPs are better than others. We all know this. With mental health issues, that goes triple. Some GPs are better at understanding and treating patients with mental health issues than others- just like some are better with kids, or with elderly relatives who don’t WANT to go into a home, or with minor surgical procedures. It’s just the way it is. But that does mean it’s worth it, if you’re looking for help, to try and find a doctor who’s good at helping people with depression, anxiety, addiction, or the illness you have.

The first doctor who prescribed me antidepressants was appalling. He had already made me feel guilty about physical illnesses (not kidding). He didn’t titrate my dose of antidepressants up. He prescribed me a sleeping pill to go with the antidepressants, and failed to tell me that the pill he prescribed me could be habit-forming. Ie, he didn’t tell me I risked becoming addicted to the pills he was giving me if I took them every day. He told me to take one every day. He showed no empathy, and little understanding of the situation.

The second doctor who prescribed me antidepressants was the complete opposite. She explained about titrating the dose of antidepressants up, told me I would need to take them for at least a year, and then there would be a slow process of coming off them. She made sure I felt comfortable about taking them, explaining that they were medicine to get me into the right headspace so that I could do the mental/therapy work I needed to do to get myself right. “Get yourself well so you can get yourself well”. She prescribed a sleeping pill but advised that I only take it when I had a sleep deficit to catch up on. She was practical and kind. She didn’t make me feel judged, or guilty.

Like I said, not all doctors are created equal. If you have the option to choose a doctor (which isn’t the case in the UK with the NHS, though you could try a different doctor in your surgery, or ask for a referral), then ask around, if you can. Maybe talk to a local mental health charity and see if they know of a good GP in your area. It really is worth it to go to someone who’s good with mental health.

Not all medicines are created equal either

And just like a particular antibiotic or painkiller may not work for you, and you need to take a different one, the same goes for antidepressants. I’ve had various friends struggle to get the right mix, or to find one that doesn’t have bad side effects. It can be a difficult process finding the right medicine to take- that’s why working with a doctor who’s good at this stuff is important. If the medication they prescribe isn’t working, go back and talk to them about it. They know their stuff. They can help.

Mental illness is just that- an illness

There’s no shame in seeking help. And there’s no shame in having a mental illness. It’s just a different organ- your brain- that has the issue. It took me a while to finally start taking antidepressants because I was ashamed of what it would mean. I know others who have suffered from depression who’ve got worse instead of better because they tried to think their way out of being sick. Yes, willpower has a role to play. But you can’t think your way out of being depressed or anxious (or out of any other mental health issue) any more than you can think your way out of having the flu, or a cold. It’s an illness. Get some kind of treatment.

If you have situational depression or anxiety, a therapist is really helpful

They can talk about what’s going on in your life and help you look at things in new ways. If your depression or anxiety is situational, a therapist can help you identify the triggers for it, and the reasons behind it. This is REALLY useful. Like doctors, not all therapists are the same. They also won’t be offended if you visit them and find they’re not the right person for you. If you don’t click with one therapist, keep looking. Finding the right one is worth the effort.

So that’s the main things I’ve learned. I hope they help someone out there.