Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rebecca's Story

Hello, my name is Rebecca and I can’t sit still. When I'm not reading, knitting or making jewelry, I spend a lot of hours dancing in my own living room, my den, my kitchen, with my earbuds in and the volume on my iPod turned up. My wife is always tickled to catch me doing it. Our dog and two cats are perpetually confused and I can only imagine what my neighbors think.
I wonder what they all would think if they knew I do it so that the energy inside doesn't build up and push me around the bend.
Like a lot of people, my history with depression precedes my birth: two of my great-aunts were in psychotherapy for most of their adult lives. My father was formally diagnosed with clinical depression in 1991 and had been hospitalized when he was in high school. My childhood was filled with hugs goodbye and "see you later, sweetie. Daddy's got a doctor's appointment." No one told me until I was much older that the doctor he was seeing was a therapist.
My own symptoms began when I was fifteen – I couldn’t get to sleep at night. For the majority of my high school years, I attended class on between one or two hours of sleep every day. Food issues soon followed – I would become nauseated and purge everything I'd eaten. I’ve never called it insomnia or bulimia because, to me, they were merely recurring symptoms of a much larger problem. It's normal for adolescents to experience high energy and low self-esteem, but children with depression suffer everything in the extreme. On a good day, my energy could have kept Paris lit for a week and my self-esteem hovered somewhere around -50. I felt absolutely worthless.

I stowed my depression away where no one could see it. It helped that there was always another crisis going on nearby to hide behind: a friend who was having a manic episode and needed rescuing, another friend who was having a sexuality crisis and needed comforting, a sibling with autism who was being bullied, a parent who was leaving, a parent who was dying. I invested myself completely in caretaking duties – being a bulwark for the people in my life who were swept up in their own turmoil - and, for a time, it helped me to forget my own just under the surface.
Later, chasing scholastic success replaced the crises and I poured all of the dark energy I’d been trying to ignore into getting a good education. Finally, when I graduated with my B.A. in Journalism and came out to a rapidly shrinking job market, there was no place left to hide it.
Crafting came into my life at this time. After graduation, I had a seasonal job at a metaphysical shop which also sold beads and bead findings. When I wasn't scanning online ads for reporters or writing freelance pieces, I started making my own pearl and jade jewelry to wear on job interviews.
From necklaces, I made the leap to malas -- long strands of Buddhist prayer beads I would wear around my neck or wrist. After I spotted several "wearable collage" necklaces for sale in one of my favorite coffee shops, I made another jump to decoupaging wooden pendants for myself and my family and friends. After I met my wife and moved to Chicago, I taught myself to knit partly inspired by communities like Geek Crafts, partly to have something in common with my new mother-in-law and also to give myself something to do on the long train rides between home, school and work. I also think I wanted the challenge of mastering something new when the old feelings were so hard to master alone.
I've made a lot of progress in the past year. I've been seeing a counselor first through my university and then through a center downtown. Having an objective third party to talk with on a regular basis has done me a world of good. I've also found that when I have a project in mind and am working on it -- whether it's beading, painting, hunting for sticker sheets and charms or just imagining a certain concept in my head -- it pushes my demons into the background.

Rebecca has shared her story with Close Knit  readers but writes about her own experiences mostly over at her blog Black Mood Craft.

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