[Editor’s Note: Kathryn Vercillo, who blogs at Crochet Concupiscence, recently published a book called Crochet Saved My Life featuring the stories of women who used crochet to get through difficult times. One of the women in the book, Rachel, shares the story of how crochet helped her get through postpartum depression. I’m glad Kathryn is willing to share that chapter with us, because it’s a great example of how doing things you love can help you through a difficult time. -Katherine]
Rachel Brown hadn’t anticipated that becoming a mother would leave her in the grips of postpartum depression.
Rachel comes from a family with a history of depression but she hadn’t expected that she would deal with any form of it. Then her son was born. She explains what happened:
“I hadn’t prepared myself at all for the thought that I might be anything other than blissfully happy when he was born. He was perfect and beautiful and healthy, but he also had awful colic—and combined with my completely inaccurate ideas about what having a baby would be like and the work it would require, I quickly fell into a terrible depression.
Motherhood wasn’t at all what I had expected. I hadn’t known I would be so desperately tired all the time, or that it would take weeks for my body to recover from the labor and birth itself, or that the sweet cherub I had imagined having would scream and cry 23 hours a day, or that it would take months for me to resume a normal lifestyle and schedule and feel ready to tackle even the simplest tasks.
I also found myself struggling with extreme anxiety and insomnia—I simply couldn’t relax, and couldn’t stop my mind from racing with doubts about my mothering abilities, feelings of worthlessness, and even debilitating fears of unlikely events occurring, like SIDS claiming my baby or him being kidnapped or harmed. I started having nervous breakdowns and panic attacks, and was frightened by how helpless I felt in the face of depression.
My husband was as supportive and understanding as he could be, but my PPD was very much my own struggle … his reassurances and support did help me to a degree, but could only make a dent in my problems. I began seeing a therapist and was prescribed an antidepressant, which I felt hesitant to take. I don’t have a problem with people using medication to help with mental or emotional problems (many of my family members use them to help cope with depression), but I felt very scared at the thought of becoming reliant on medication. I had been happy before my son was born, and I felt strongly that I could be happy again without medicating if I could just manage until my son’s colic had passed.
I remember sitting down with my husband and making a list of things that made me feel happy in the midst of my postpartum depression, and deciding that I would experience at least one or two of the things on my list every day. Some of the things on my list were exercising, leaving the house without the baby, even just getting out of my pajamas every day (which felt like such a huge undertaking) … and a big one was crochet. I found that if I crocheted every day, I felt remarkably better.
PPD made me feel terribly anxious, jittery, unable to focus, and worried, but crochet was so comforting and soothing. I could just sit and focus completely on the stitches in my hands and forget about how awful I felt the rest of the time. It was something so simple and ordinary, and I wasn’t creating anything huge or impressive, but it helped to reduce my anxiety and allowed me to relax for the first time since my son’s birth. Even with him crying in the background, I could sit down with my crochet work and feel a bit of peace and calm. I couldn’t obsess over my own thoughts and feelings when I was concentrating on the work in my hands.
I can’t remember an exact moment when I realized how healing crochet was for me (one of the many downsides of not getting enough sleep as a new mom is having a terrible dearth of memories from those months!), but I just remember thinking one day that crochet had saved me in a very real way. I had been sinking deeper and deeper into depression, but the peace and happiness I felt when I was crocheting were enough to lift me out of it for hours afterward. I remember my husband telling me I ought to go crochet something when he could tell I was getting too stressed or depressed—I viewed it as my antidepressant.”
Rachel has made her way through to the other side of postpartum depression but she continues to use crochet as both a form of self-care and an enjoyable hobby. She says:
“Even now, my husband will send me off to crochet if I’m having a bad day, or am in a bad mood. I love to crochet, even if it’s not as ‘therapy,’ and it brings me a lot of joy as a hobby, but I also love knowing that I have that activity to turn to when I need to de-stress.”
If you’re interested in connecting with Rachel, you can find her over at her lovely blog: www.maybematilda.com.
What hobbies or small enjoyments do you have that you have used to help get through PPD? Tell us.