How knitting helped chef and food writer James McIntosh overcome depression
When you look at a stitch, what do you see? Some see we are one step closer to a finished garment, others are beam with pride that it’s their first stitch, others may see a design starting to take shape. For me I see a breath and a moment.
The high life
I was never the sort of person to be stuck in bed for a year, unable to move my body and su ering from very black sadness in my head. I was a life-loving 30-something flying around the world. Being a food writer who specialised in Aga cookery was a joy and my dream job since I was a child.The jet set life was what I thrived on. Always surrounded by people, my life was airport toTV sets to book signings to product launches. I was wined and dined and won many international awards for my work. I thought this was a good life; I was living o the energy of my youth without realising that the stitches of my inner strength were dropping.
A year in bed
Then it happened. Like a dropped stitch 15 rows down, my life started to untangle. A year in bed with severe depression, on anti-depressants and unable to function.The depth of pain and sadness in my head was nearly too much to bear.The tender little flame that is my soul seemed to be oxidising in the naked air and it was deeply painful as it was kicked constantly by sadness. My little inner candle flame that was my soul, all I was and held dear, was nearly blown out.
One side e ect of depression is an inability to sleep. I spent many months lying in bed next to my partner watching movies on my tablet through my earphones. Counting sheep did not work for me. I taught myself to knit, I realised the rhythm of my needles was actually my inner body’s rhythm. I would knit all night long, counting my stitches.
My confidence grew
That one stitch, and then another allowed me to have a sense of calm. A creation growing that I had made, a reason for me to be proud, to find my circadian rhythm with my knitting needles. Each stitch became a breath, each breath a feeling, each feeling acknowledged and understood. I was in the moment, a mindful practice. Acknowledging each stitch and every thought. Slowly, as the knitted items grew from my needles, my confidence was growing too.The tatters of my mind were being knitted back together. I was able to leave our home again, I was able to have a life. Like the snowdrops in February, I was starting to emerge again, a living functional creature. I learned to talk about my feelings.To realise that they were valid, they were mine and they needed to be understood. A stitch in time, saved my mind. Knitting allowed me to enjoy the sensations of my body as a way out of depression. I call this knititation. Read more about James and his journey here: www.knitnibble.com, or pick up a copy of his new book, Knit and Nibble: life’s patterns, recipes and games, £24.99, by McIntosh Publishing