Count­ing stitches

How knit­ting helped chef and food writer James McIn­tosh over­come de­pres­sion

Simply Knitting - - Contents -

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.knit­nib­, or pick up a copy of his new book, Knit and Nib­ble: life’s pat­terns, recipes and games, £24.99, by McIn­tosh Pub­lish­ing

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