May is Mental Health Month, Mental Health, Writing

Knitting, Needling, and Never Saying Never

I’d heard Ann Hood speak at an ASTAL event at Rhode Island College and loved her humor as much as her ability to spin words.  But I still hadn’t read any of her work.  I was excited when I obtained a copy of her book, The Knitting Circle, finally able to experience her written words.  I usually try not to get too much information about a title before I read it myself, even forgoing the author bio on the book jacket until after I’ve finished, because I don’t want to form any preconceived notions.  I want a totally fresh, unexpectant perspective.  I had heard this particular title was heartbreaking, but only whispers.

Really, I figured I had been so low already, why not scratch the bottom of the barrel?  Couldn’t get any lower, right?

“When she opened [her eyes], Scarlet was standing in the center of the living room, looking around, horrified.  Yarn, empty bags of microwave popcorn, scattered mail covered the floor.  And there was Mary herself, in those overalls, wrapped in that blanket.”

This description of the culmination of depression for Mary, who lost her young daughter to a sudden illness, hit a little too close to home.  I never reached a period where I’d stayed like that for more than an afternoon or day, but would I have if I didn’t have three little sets of hands and one big set pulling at me?  Would I skip the shower one more day if I wasn’t going to actually see someone when I left the house?  Would I make dinner if there weren’t four other mouths to feed?

Isn’t everyone who suffers from depression really just a step away from this threshold?  What keeps one from crossing over?  Obligations, yes, but that doesn’t make life any more fulfilling.  Love, yes, but it still hurts even amidst it.  A flippant attitude that it can’t surely can’t get any worse?  That only goes so far; one either ends up being bitter or it does indeed get worse.

And having experienced it once does not make one immune.  I stupidly read this book with some of that flippant attitude and it knocked me back on my keister, which I’d only gotten up off recently.  I read it in the midst of an already tough, low, hormonal spot – right before upping meds.  Good times; perfect timing.

Which makes a question my aunt asked me even more pertinent.

When I floated the idea of using my postpartum experience to develop a writing program to help women suffering from it, she worried whether hearing and vicariously living through participants’ experiences would plunge me back into my own depths.  I guess there’s always that possibly, that threat, if you will.  But, alas, that is a human frailty; being attuned to the feelings and woes of those around us (or a strength – depending on the situation and one’s perspective).  And most certainly an Achilles heel for me, the ubersensitive introspective individual that I am.

But the fact that I have and would feel their suffering so acutely may make me uniquely qualified for such an endeavor.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking for a knitting class to take.  Ann Hood was truly inspirational.


Quoted text taken from:

Hood, Ann.  The Knitting Circle.  New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 2007.  Page 246