I've been reading lately about depression, and how it affects the brain. One chapter struck a chord when it described how parts of the brain shrink, and certain functions, such as memory, become impaired. Depression changes the brain, and it isn't just negativity that kicks in. This particular book then goes on to say that these functions normally repair and everything gets back to normal once the depression is beaten.
After what I refer to as my major breakdown (about 9 and a half years ago), my memory was shot to pieces. I was living on my own at the time and even now it surprises me that I didn't burn the flat down; I lost count of amount of times I put something on to grill/boil/roast and then forget about it, only to be reminded when I smelt the burning.
But it wasn't just memory that suffered. I wasn't able to problem solve as easily, calculations took longer and my judgement had gone. My mental arithmetic had been pretty good up to that point and that went, too. Sentences would be left unfinished as I struggled to express myself verbally; words were lost. Thinking of anything other than the negative thoughts that circulated in my head was almost impossible... try and the result was what is best described as a dull white noise that brings stress and a headache.
Pattern writing and blogging started as an exercise for me. Firstly, blogging served as a record of what I was doing; mostly creatively but creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum. Whilst off work I had too much time on my hands and experimenting with wool and structures and textiles for my own pleasure (rather than work; I was still the Art & Textiles teacher then) was the way out of that rut. The blog helped me remember what I was making, and allowed me to build upon that, creatively.
Alongside that, having found creating Hats ticked all the necessary boxes (and actually made me feel content, useful) pattern writing became a way to keep the other side of my brain happy. Prior to doing my Textiles Ba and then becoming an Art & Textiles teacher, I'd been an Electronics engineer. I'd had a pretty good balance of left & right side brain function. I've a tendency to want to analyse anything I create, to find out why; to understand it's structure, and how to repeat it. Pattern writing did just that for me. However my post breakdown brain was slow and struggled, and starting at the beginning was the exercise my brain needed.
(and in short, that's how I got into this game, but that's not the reason for this blether)
My brain never fully recovered, though. Mental arithmetic never really returned. I also found myself reading more things literally, written or verbal - anything that isn't logical and tends to be more representative becomes a problem. This is particularly apparent with chart symbols for instance - a blank square to many is a knit stitch but to me it's a blank square, a non-stitch, and it short circuits my brain to try and tell myself that it's anything other than that (hence I use the dash family of symbols for charts). And my memory has remained pretty poor.
Despite this though I consider myself lucky. I met many people during that time who never recovered from their breakdowns. At least I'm still up and about and functioning. But maybe I never fully recovered because I never really beat the depression... aside a period of a few months a couple of years ago, I can't recall not dealing with the black dog on some level. And the memories that aren't drowned out in a haze are those of when I wasn't depressed.
And so I'm back at that point again, where I was 9 and a half years ago. I've been here a few months, really. I struggle to articulate and long conversations lose me. Creative ideas are occurring, but they're hazy, and I struggle to bring them to reality. Grading calculations or construction elements are proving challenging, even those aspects that I've done so many times before and used to be habit. Trying to think or problem solve is like trying to wade knee deep through quick sand. There are days when I can't handle talking to anyone. And there are days when the noise and dark thoughts are so strong that it takes every ounce of energy to resist them.
And it terrifies me.
Losing the things that make you feel like you is frightening. Feeling unable to fulfill ideas or make your materials bend in the way you always have, or not being able to calculate in the same way, always meeting a hurdle in your head. None of us want to feel less clever, or as if we've lost a huge chunk of ourselves to the abyss.
The problem this time though is that my previous recovery aid has now become my job. I don't have the luxury of experimenting and following tangents. We can't afford for me to take the necessary months off and indulge myself in whatever it is that I need to do to make things work again.
This added pressure is the real problem. In my worry to keep our heads above water and keep us fed, and to try and earn enough spare pennies to work towards a dream, I've put business before creativity. And this is where I've been going wrong. This may be a natural order for some, but it isn't for me. And trying to make things that people like or that will sell, or trying to work to a design brief or simply worrying about someone else's time frame or rules is slowly killing me.
I can't stop the wheel and jump off for a while, but I can make some much needed changes.
This time around I'm indulging every creative need through my work, through my job. It'll be me digging my heels in, and not allowing myself to get swamped or drowned out by what the industry or anyone thinks you should be doing. Confidence and contentment don't come from peer approval. Although it may not seem like it on the surface, I've been compromising for too long. I'm having words with myself about time and reminding myself that there isn't a rush. I'm trying to assure myself that despite hardly publishing anything over the last 8 months, we haven't starved. For too long now I've been saying that things need to change but I've been hesitant, mostly through fear of either losing income, or failing creatively.
I don't expect the journey to be an easy one but I don't really see that I have a choice any more. It's do or die time.
A blank canvas awaits. Let the fun begin!