Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Could knitting be bad for you (or can you have too much of a goodthing?)

A short while ago a friend posted a link on Facebook to a blog post about fighting depression.  Now some of my lovely regulars will know that this is an interest of mine.  From time to time I succumb to an attack by the black dog and most recently I wrote on here that it had been particularly bad this winter past and that the dog had brought along the grey donkey of futility.

Getting out more on the Helford river (thank goodness spring is here at last)

Before I dig deep into my view of this blog post, a little word about 'fighting illness'. Generally I don't like the term as it can carry with it the suggestion that all illness is potentially beatable, and almost single handedly to boot, by the person under attack.  True a positive attitude goes a long way, as well as eating healthily, getting enough sleep and excercise along with persuading your doctor to treat you as a partner in your treatment. But it is my belief that we should not suggest to someone that they alone are fighting the illness.  For surely it is cruel to imply that chronic illness or worse, a terminal stage is because they did not fight hard enough.  Nor would I ever suggest to a doctor that many hours googling my condition plus regular bouts of positive thinking replaces his or her seven years in medical school and another  seven post graduate training

But there is a lot we can do and one thing I have learned is that while I was working at an intellectually challenging job involving writing, campaigning, lobbying and the occasional public speaking, knitting was my panacea for almost all my ills.  However, once I was retired and free to knit all day I believe it was threatening to be the cause of a prolonged visit from the black dog, a feeling of uselessness and even agoraphobia.

Soon after writing this post I took stock and decided that rather than sit around waiting for things to happen, for people to ask me to do things that would make me feel  more useful, I would get out and just DO SOMETHING.  I applied to be a volunteer at a local charity and local school. It couldn't do any harm to be more busy could it? To have to fit my selfish life into someone else's time table? Now I'm not saying everything is now brilliant, that I have not looked back since I returned to the world of work (albeit unpaid) but it has helped me not to dwell so much.

St Michaels Mount at Marazion always lifts the spirits

So I ask myself, while there are plenty of articles out there telling us how knitting helped people get over bereavement, a stress related illness or even lowered blood pressure can we actually have too much of a good thing, in fact can knitting be bad for you?

We all know the physical risks, hours of knitting with the same size needles and yarn can risk RSI in the hands and neck problems but what about the psychological?  I'm certainly not saying we should give up knitting but, something that is pretty much true in most aspects of our lives,  I needed to get the balance right.

Taking a break from work for a few weeks just to sit and knit worked well for me in short bursts but hibernating and knitting for days on end was turning me into a recluse.  While not an actual hermit style recluse I had begun to resent anything that took me away from my sofa and my latest project.

Of course I haven't given up knitting totally, while I am now committed two days a week to volunteering (in addition to a couple of forays out to an exercise class) I still have the odd afternoon and many evenings to knit and now I look forward to that time as a treat, not a time when I sit and plough through a project while dwelling on the futility of life.

I have still finished quite a few things in the last couple of months, here are some of them...

A little red, white, and blue hat for Glori to wear to a birthday party for the Queen (pattern coming soon)

The Lattice shawl, a KAL at my local knitting group

Sweet William knitted (and steeked!!) as a cardigan for Isabella to wear at her first birthday party

Vanilla socks using up all my Islington by Kettle yarns leftovers

What do others think?  I would love to know



PS I have been sewing a bit lately but more of that later


Sarah Moore said...

I think it may be about striking the right balance in how you spend your time - between structured and unstructured activity. A few years back I spent some time out of work, and spent a lot of that time knitting. So I think I know what you mean. Right now I have no time to knit. I perform futile tasks at work all day then get home as quickly as possible and do DIY until I collapse. The end is in sight - a new job and a finished flat both beckon. But in the meantime I'm anxious, irritable and tearful.

My mum is still working, annual contract by annual contract. She mentioned possibly retiring next year but I know she likes her time mostly structured, and that if she's going to be busy she may as well be busy earning money (money she doesn't need, by the way). Selfishly I hope she does retire next year (she'll be 69) so we can spend more time together.

Catherine said...

It's so nice to hear from you Sarah, I hope you come back to visit here and read my reply. I think you are one of my earliest readers and commentators, it's good to know people like you are out there. I hope you get through your difficult time and enjoy the new job. I'm sorry you are not feeling good at the moment. I can understand how your mother holds on to her work, perhaps she can find a way to let go gradually so that she can adjust and also see more of you

kristieinbc said...

This was a very interesting post. Back when I had kids still living at home and life was crazy busy I used to dream of the time I would be able to knit all day long. However, I have found that isn't the best balance for me either. For one thing, my hands get sore if I do too much knitting. For another, I can't sit still for long periods of time. What has slowly evolved since they have left home is I tend to knit in the evenings. I make exceptions if we have had days and days of rainy weather, making it hard to do outdoor things. Or if I'm not feeling well, or need to finish up a project to gift to someone. And now that I'm trying my hand at sewing I tend to do it in the afternoons, but usually only for about an hour. Then my frustration levels rise to the point I'm no longer enjoying it, so I walk away.

Mary Lou said...

I, too, get visits from the black dog, and early this spring went to get some help for a recent bout. It was good for me. I do find that I want to isolate when the dog is visiting, which can lead to ruminating, and that isn't so good. So I think that knitting endlessly in isolation is a problem, rather than the knitting itself. At least for me. Glad you are feeling a bit lighter.