The application period to receive a care package is now closed. Thank you to those makers who donated to the care package program and to those who applied!

Every May, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Alive with Purpose commits to sending Care Packages to persons with mental health needs who use the fiber arts to cope with and manage their symptoms.  Included in each package will be hand-dyed yarn from Alive with Purpose, free patterns and fiber arts supplies.

This program has been such a huge success that it is AWP’s intention to continue it each year.   Every May, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Alive with Purpose will commit to sending Care Packages to persons with mental health needs who use the fiber arts to cope with and manage their symptoms.  While the application period is presently closed, I believe it is important for readers to read the partial application responses that were received in the Spring of 2021.   All of the responses below are from actual applicants.   AWP has reviewed each response carefully to ensure as much anonymity as possible for each person, and that is why names, locations, nor any other identifying information has not been revealed.  

An important note – Some of these responses have been edited. While the majority of the edits made were to primarily retain clarity of their stories, AWP ultimately made the decision to remove graphic descriptions of abuse, suicide and self-harm.  AWP does not do this in an effort to gloss over mental health.  The effects of abuse are real and painful.  Abuse, thoughts of suicide (and especially with a plan) and instances of self-harm are indicators of immediate need for intervention.   

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please call 911.

If you or someone you know is engaging in self-harm and/or is endorsing thoughts of suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

Lastly, it is important for the reader to know that mental health is extremely complex.  What works for one person may not work for another and what works for one may not even work for them all the time.  The views of each person are entirely their own and AWP does not promote nor prescribe one specific path for healing over another.   Mental health is indeed a journey; there are often periods of satisfaction in life interspersed with times of great distress.  Relapses and repeated hospitalizations are not indicators of failure, instead they are signals for necessary readjustment(s) to be made. 

If there is one message to ultimately be relayed it is this – if you are struggling with the symptoms of mental illness, ASK FOR HELP!  There is hope in recovery and no diagnosis defines who you are. 

2021 AWP Care Package Recipient’s Messages

Briefly describe your mental health journey and how you use the fiber arts to cope.

“I have treatment resistant depression and chronic fatigue from EBV and fibromyalgia. I had to retire 10 years ago in my late 40’s from it. Prior to learning how to crochet 3 years ago, I filled my days with watching TV and doing puzzles. I was so frustrated being so unproductive. Now I create gifts for family and friends and I feel productive and fulfilled and my brain works! I also use eating to cope and so working with yarn keeps my hands busy and I don’t overeat as much. I had found advice to get in “the flow” as a distraction from pain but I hadn’t found what would get me in the flow until I found crocheting.”

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“I knew I had depression and anxiety since I was 10. Once I found knitting and crochet it helped me calm myself enough to work through my depression and anxiety episodes.”

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“I was diagnosed with persistent depression while I was still in high school and did alright despite that for the next few years. I tend to pick up some yarn at the most stressful times, knitting or crocheting while studying for large exams. But 2019 was a really difficult year and 2020’s isolation didn’t help. I started knitting more regularly because keeping my hands busy helped mitigate some of my anxious habits, and having something tangible to look forward to helped me to keep moving forward.”

__________

“I’ve been dealing with clinical depression, anxiety disorders and C-PTSD since I was a kid. The abuse I grew up with kinda wreaked havoc on my developing brain. As long as I can remember, reading and crafts were the ways that I coped with bad mental health days (even before I had the language to talk about my mental health). I’d lose myself in a good book or a craft project and everything would be okay for that moment. When I became pregnant with my 2nd child my anxiety and depression reached an all-time high with me barely being able to leave my home without having a panic attack. That’s when I started knitting! That was almost 13 years ago! I’ve always had a hard time meditating and quieting my mind but that’s what’s knitting feels like to me: meditation, peace. Since then I’ve had a couple breakdowns/episodes but crafting/specifically knitting has always been something that has helped keep me grounded, helped me remember to breathe and feel my body. I always carry a project with me wherever I go. This pandemic has been especially tough on my mental health and the mental health of my kiddos. One way we’ve managing our mental health is by making time to create; whether it’s drawing, writing, knitting, embroidery, origami, or painting.”

__________

I suffer daily with anxiety and frequently have depressive episodes. I really started getting into crocheting and knitting about a year ago and having something to do with my hands has helped calm my mind immensely. Also the friendships I have made in the yarn community are invaluable. They are there to check on me when I’m feeling depressed and withdrawn. I was able to find a hobby where I can create something that brings me joy that I can then wear when I’m anxious or depressed and it helps to reassure me that I will come out of this phase.

__________

I struggle with mental illness, still, to this day. I am a 25-year-old agender person living in New York City. I left for college at the age of 15 and made my way from Virginia, to North Carolina, back to Virginia, and onward to New York–and my mental illness followed suit. I use fiber arts to cope, especially through knitting. I love fiber; I love textures and the sensory exploring that fiber arts grants me. I also love to share my love of the fiber arts with others. I am a licensed social worker these days and hold a weekly crafting meeting for other folks who experience symptoms and the struggles of mental illness. I even plan to share this opportunity with others.

__________

I picked up fiber arts again after a mental health crisis in 2015. It gave me a way to feel in control of my body and my life in some way. It continues to be a very positive thing for my mental health as it is something that helps me focus during classes, gives me an easy way to see progress I’ve made, and a tangible physical finished object. My favorite thing that fiber arts has done has helped connect me to other neuro-divergent people who use their craft in the same way. It makes me feel less alone and more supported.

__________

I learned to crochet when I was young and got back into it two years ago. I struggle with coping to grow into an adult having not seen my toxic family on almost 10 years. When I crochet it instantly calms my mind and when I make things it makes me feel good about myself and proud to be alive and well and share my craft with others. I grew up under my alcoholic dad’s wings and never knew my mom until I was 19. I don’t have family and struggle a lot with that near the holidays. I’m thankful for my craft friend and husband who help me cope and shower me with unconditional love and acceptance. I’ve gone through many big events that still traumatize me and use crochet as an alley to get through those hard times. Every day is a battle in my mind but working with special needs adults as a job coach and sharing my craft on social media helps me get through my days sanely. I mostly thrift shop my yarn to practice sustainability and help save my money. Crocheting and knitting is my passion and I can’t live without it or go a day without crafting.

__________

In 2019, after several years of gentle and not so gentle encouragement from my roommate and loved ones, I finally sought out mental health treatment and was unsurprisingly diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Starting treatment was life changing — I remember sitting in bed one day, wishing I could just sit up. And then I did. No hours of struggle, of forcing myself to move, of wishing I could just sit up and not doing it. I remember thinking ‘Wow, neurotypical people must be so POWERFUL’. Throughout all of this, crochet has been a rock for me. If I can’t focus, I can work on a simple c2c blanket. If I need something to focus on, I can work on a plushie. And what I create is /good/. I’m not a world class fiber artist, not by any means, but when I crochet, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Like I’ve put something beautiful in the world. By no means am I ‘cured’ of my anxiety or my (admittedly worsening) depression. It’s a struggle every day, and there are ups and downs. But when I can look at something I created and think ‘Hey, that actually looks pretty good’, that’s something to be proud of.

__________

I am currently on the toughest part of my journey which is accepting all of my mental health diagnoses and getting the help I need. This means trialing new medications, getting into therapy, talking with my loved ones about my real needs to cope. Knitting has always been my safe space, where I can create, pour my emotions into my making and see something beautiful at the end. I find the journey through a project so amazing, as I can lean on my craft on a good day or a bad day.

__________

I’ve struggled with anxiety for 14 years. This past year has really put me on edge. Everything seems to trigger an attack. My knitting has helped me focus on something other than all of the outside noise that I can’t control. Making socks is something that has really helped. I’m making something that usually takes about a week so I can try to have something new and pretty every week.

What words of encouragement would you give to others who are experiencing mental health needs?

Please reach out to doctors and therapists and try different treatments and medications and supplements. Try to find an activity that brings you in the flow so you aren’t so consumed by pain and feelings. Connect to others that will understand what you are going through. I do this with Facebook groups. Take a break from issues by walking, some kind of workout and a creative outlet like crocheting. Never ever quit!

__________

Don’t continue to suffer, choose to work through, move through and talk through your issues. Your life and happiness matter.

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I know it sounds cheesy but if you’re feeling overwhelmed or really low, call someone, a parent, a friend, a hotline, your doctor. There’s always someone who’s willing to lend you a shoulder or an ear.

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I always tell myself that I’ve made it through 100% percent of my worst days. Days when I thought that there was no way I could on, but here I am. That’s pretty amazing and a pretty damn good track record.

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Share your feelings! I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that I have friends that are going through similar emotions and that I’m not alone. One of the worst things about depression is that you feel completely isolated. Building a community of people that will check on you when you stop responding and just hold space for you to talk when you need to is incredibly valuable and comforting.

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You deserve comfort. In your interactions, in your space, in your body–you deserve to feel comfortable.

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Needing help with mental health doesn’t make you a bad or a weak person. You deserve to get the help you need. It really does make a positive difference. There is a community here for you, so you won’t be doing this alone.

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Find something you love and practice it every day! By doing what you love you fill your heart and mind with wholesome feelings and that can help bring up your awareness. Always be good to your body and surround yourself with people who love you and want to see you succeed!

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There is no such thing as too little effort or too little progress. Even if you can only pick up one sock on the ground, you worked on the laundry. Even if you can only wash one dish, that’s progress to be proud of. Your effort does not have to be perfect, or even large. The smallest steps count, and they count for a lot.

__________

I would encourage those to remember that mental health needs are essential. if you’re going through the bad, it’s okay to ask for help, if you’re in the good it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments. It’s important to continue normalizing the needs for mental health, because there’s still so much work to be done within communities to understand, accept and embrace the needs that those with mental health require.

__________

I know this is a really tough time for so many. You can get through this. It may not seem like it now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. Know you’re not alone and that you have people who love you and are in your corner.