As a lot of you might know, I lost my only son last year. For a long time, it was just me and Kyle. I very reluctantly let my husband into our lives when Kyle was around 12 months old and it took me a very long time to be comfortable enough to leave my boy in Dries’s care. Kyle’s death somehow felt intensely personal. As if everybody else and everybody that has known him doesn’t quite share the same level of intense grief I was experiencing. I also realised that although I’ve always seen our little family as a unit (just as background so you can understand our family dynamic… my husband raised my boykie as if he was his own. Kyle worshiped the ground Dries walked on and his most fervent wish was to be just like his pops…. and Dries only ever saw Kyle as his own; DNA was inconsequential to their father/son relationship). Yet, I now see for the first time that I always saw Kyle and myself as a unit within a unit.
As you can imagine, I completely fell apart when he died. I was an emotional wreck, I lost a ton of weight and a great deal of my hair (the remaining hair turned grey within a few weeks.) Through it all, I focused my meager capabilities on Jaarn. When I opened the online shop back in 2018, I sat down and decided on the tenets I wanted to run my business on. I decided that the bedrock of Jaarn will always be service, backed by exceptional products. Every single product that is sold at Jaarn has my personal stamp of approval. I work with products before listing them, making sure that they handle well, then I wash, dry (and sometimes tumble dry) them for additional quality control. As my private life fell apart, I made sure that everything at Jaarn was running as smoothly as possible, but in terms of my own projects, nothing much was happening.
At some point last year, I simply couldn’t cope anymore. I wasn’t sleeping, had insane nightmares every night and was incredibly depressed. I went to my GP, he gave me some sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. Things went well for a few weeks, then it didn’t. I went back, and he doubled the dose on my anti-depressants. Two weeks later all hell broke loose. I was shaking, incredibly anxious, jittery, panicky. You name it, I had it. It was at this point that I realised I needed a specialist and went to see a psychiatrist. He wanted to book me off for 3 months (which was a no-go for me), and diagnosed me as having severe PTSD. He changed my medication, and told me that I had every single contra-indication one could possibly get on the particular anti-depressant I was on. With the new meds things changed for the better, I could focus on my business and crochet and knit moderately ok, if I focused only on the task at hand. A couple of weeks later, I was back at the doc. All my earlier negative emotional and physical feelings had returned and the medication he gave me didn’t do its job anymore. He changed my dose on the anti-depressants, and then wanted to prescribe an anti-psychotic that doubles as a potent sleeping tablet. For them to do that, they have to change my diagnosis from severe PTSD to bipolar, or the anti-psychotics couldn’t be dispensed. It was as if someone threw a bucket of ice water in my face.
I went home and had a long hard think about the predicament I was facing. Will this now be my life? Stronger and stronger chemicals when the old ones don’t work anymore? I used to be that person that never, ever took medication. Not even for a headache. And it just felt to me that I had reached a point where I needed medication to wake up, to cope, to go to sleep. My drug regimen would have had any Hollywood star drooling with envy. As my thoughts trailed along, it dawned on me that I’ve been preaching all my life about the health benefits of fibre arts. I have repeatedly told anyone that would listen (and those that didn’t) that they would find peace in a piece of knitting or crochet. Yet, here I was. Ignoring my own advice. And that is when it hit me. I needed to stop taking all these pills and take control of my own healing process. It took me about 2 days to build up the courage to not take a pill. It’s funny how these little things become such a crutch over time, and you reach a point where you convince yourself that you can’t do life without them.
I walked to my yarn cupboard with my tablet open to Ravelry. Looking through my stash I felt a very unfamiliar feeling of excitement… something I hadn’t felt since 28 January 2019. I started obsessively queuing projects on Ravelry. I re-organised my yarn cupboard according to yarn weights and colours and started dreaming about projects instead of focusing on the chaos in my life. I decided to go cold turkey and experienced two weeks of severe withdrawal symptoms. It was brutal and excruciating. Through it all, I started one WIP after another. It’s now been a couple of weeks and I feel a lot better. I’m still devastated by my son’s death; make no mistake, but I cope better. Working with exquisite natural fibres had an enormous impact on my well-being. It nurtures, without speaking. It comforts. It allows you to dream. It brings a sense of accomplishment to your life. When you’ve suffered the type of trauma I did, a prevalent feeling is failure. Your child is dead and you didn’t protect him. You feel worthless as a mother, and when those feeling manifest, it very easily becomes part of your daily narrative. If you can’t keep your kid alive, then surely there are many other things that you are also incapable of doing. This snowballs to such an extent, that doing the simplest of tasks becomes this huge thing.
Fibre, pattern, hooks and needles bring you back to earth. It centres you. All you have to do is focus on what the designer tells you to do, and you end up with something beautiful. My WIP’s have now reached epic proportions. I have easy WIP’s, for days when it is hard to concentrate, I have difficult WIP’s, for when I only want to think about the pattern and what I am doing right now. I have WIP’s in every conceivable shape and size. Delicate lace patterns, chunky knits. Happy bright colours, elegant colours. Cottons, merino’s, linen blends. A project for every mood and feeling. I’m slowly hooking and knitting myself back to life. Sitting with a project on my lap, especially when it is the easier ones, helps me remember. Long forgotten memories of my son. All the laughs, tears and exasperation that accompanies raising a boy-child. I work through my memories of his last day on this earth. His last weekend. His last week. I remember conversations, and his dreams and plans. I remember our silly secrets. Giggling about people we know. Bonding. The love we shared.
Yarn has brought more healing to me and my soul than any amount of therapy and pills could ever do. I’m finally able to really confront my loss, to work through this horrific and unfair thing that happened to me in a healthy sustainable manner. I honestly, with my heart and soul, believe that crochet and knitting should be prescribed to patients suffering from loss, depression and related conditions. If the patient can’t knit or crochet, they should be prescribed lessons. Health care professionals should do this first and foremost before reaching for their prescription pads. Nothing, but nothing, heals the soul as deeply as a piece of handwork does. (Disclaimer: This post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty about taking medication. Nor do I suggest that you stop taking your medication without your doctor’s consent. Each person and each situation is different & you need to do what is right for you. Consult with your doctor before you stop taking your meds… I was probably reckless and the withdrawal was brutal! All I’m saying is that there are alternative ways to deal with trauma & in my case my hobby provided much better relief than the meds I was taking.)