I love knitting.
No, let me rephrase that… I NEED knitting.
As someone who lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I struggle everyday with the imbalanced chemicals in my brain. I also have these fun (insert sarcasm here) compulsions called Body Focused Repetitive Behavior.
According to bfrb.org, “Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) is a general term for a group of related disorders that includes hair pulling, skin picking, and nail-biting, affected at least 5% of the population. These behaviors are not habits or tics; rather, they are complex disorders that cause people to repeatedly touch their hair and body in ways that result in physical damage.”
It is exhausting, it makes my arms and fingers ache, and its something I do without even thinking about it.
And, of course, it is always worse when I am anxious.
The year 2020 was a bad year for anxiety disorders.
However, with all the extra time on my hands during months of quarantine last year, I decided to take up knitting.
Let me tell you, it has changed my life.
The repetitive motions of the stitches mimic my previously harmful behavior. The soft yarn feels comforting in my hands and laying on my lap, like a warm safety blanket. The amount of mental focus needed to follow a knitting pattern allow me to keep my thoughts on the present moment, better than any amount of yoga or guided meditation ever has.
As a person with anxiety, I can tell you that we tend to struggle with many of life’s most important lessons. The thought of a long, difficult project fills our minds with “what ifs” and paralyzes us with fear. We get so caught up in our own mistakes, that we have a hard time getting past them. We concern ourselves so much with what might happen, that we forget to enjoy the present.
Knitting can teach us how to deal with these feelings.
How to persevere through a long and arduous task without giving up.
How to be brave enough to “unravel” something that isn’t working and stitch it back together again.
How to enjoy the journey on the way to your destination.
Because knitting isn’t just about the product, it’s about the experience along the way.
I can’t think of a more perfect analogy for life than that.
So, if you are feeling anxious, pick up a pair of knitting needles and give it a try. You might learn more than you ever expected.
You might be with me this far but wondering to yourself, “Where do I start?”
First, you’re going to need a pair of needles. I recommend starting with one of the larger sizes, as they are easier to control. Bamboo is also easier to use than plastic or metal as the wood creates more “drag” on the yarn, keeping it from slipping off the needle when you don’t want it to!
You will need some yarn. A heavy weight wool is, again, nice and big so its easy to see and work with. It also doesn’t “slip” off of the needle as easily as say a silk or cotton would, so it is easier to control.
Finally, you will need to learn three different techniques. The long tail cast on, and the knit stitch, and the bind off.
With just these three techniques, you can create your first flat piece. I recommend starting with a scarf! There is very little counting involved (you can pretty much just eyeball the width and length you want), so it is low stress and super simple.
Keep your knitting nearby, and teach yourself to reach for it whenever you are feeling anxious, or when you are most likely to fidget, for example when watching TV.
As a bonus this has also greatly reduced the amount of junk food I eat while watching shows in the evening!
Make something beautiful for yourself, or someone you love.
I can’t wait to see what you create!