Celebrating Me Knitting Mental Health

What Knitting Means For Me: Thoughts From A PTSD Warrior

NOTE: Yes, a warrior. I refuse to be a victim. It is hard, but I battle PTSD everyday. I own warrior status for that alone.

Knitting means to me the world. That is even more pronounced after the day I had yesterday.

I didn’t see it coming.
Yesterday, while eating perogies and drinking tea, I had an acute PTSD attack. My eyes were open. My fork suspended half way to my mouth.

I was looking at my sunny kitchen but what I was actually seeing was an overlay of the view, standing outside my crumpled minivan, my toddler in my arms, watching the smoke roll through the cabin, my other baby girl in the back, illuminated by the dome light, her little arms outstretched for me, crying for me. Cars were whizzing by on the highway. At that time, I thought I was watching my baby being burned to death.

Why the flashback? Why the now? I’m not sure. So today I am carefully sifting through thoughts, picking up each one to study it, while watching for hidden trip wires. It is not something I want to do. I’m scared, but I do it.

For those wondering what PTSD is, it’s an acronym for “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Inability to recall critical features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hyper-vigilance (overreacting to a perceived threat)
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Ten years ago I was a victim. Not in the line of duty, as in a “hero” occupation. An auto accident with me, my toddlers and unborn baby.
A drunk driver hit us head-on. The children were okay, I was not.

As you can imagine, life was turned upside down. Re-learning to knit was a significant part of the healing process. For dexterity in my hands, for focusing, and to help quiet the thoughts in my head.

For the knitters reading this post, you know what I mean. Knitting is a hand and eye coordination activity and mental activity. You must stay engaged as you work each stitch, else suffer the awful fate of the dropped stitch or forget to do what the pattern tells you. You must go back to where the mistake is and start again. It feels a bit like playing the board game “chutes and ladders.” Fun while you are climbing to the finish but hitting a chute? Rats!

I love knitting for the calming effect it has. The senses it makes you aware of. Like the soft rhythmic click of the needles. The feel of yarn drawing through your hand. The weight of the project as it grows. The wonder of seeing a garment and textures forming under your hands. And the scent of glorious colored yarn. Stress melts away. Unless you are designing and it is NOT going as you expected. (laughing)

There is studies about knitting and its affect on stressed people. I reference as small piece of the article at Stress.org:

Surveys show that there has been a surprising resurgence in the popularity of knitting and other sewing activities in recent years. More than one in three American women, (some 56 million) now knit or crochet, a 51% increase over the past ten years. Even more impressive is that in the past five years, participation in these crafts increased more than 150% in the 25-34 age group and 100% for those 18-years-old and under. This revival in these hobbies is attributed to their stress reduction rewards.

Others agree that the repetitive actions needed for knitting and crochet can induce a “relaxation response” much like that experienced with meditation, Tai Chi, yoga and other relaxation techniques. One study at Harvard’s Medical School Mind/Body Institute found a reduction in heart rate of 11 beats/minute and a fall in blood pressure during knitting. Many institutions are taking advantage of these health benefits by incorporating knitting and crochet into their activities.

Grade schools from Oregon to New Jersey have incorporated knitting into their curriculum, not only for the health benefits, but to help build creativity and improve math skills.

Many consider knitting to be the “new yoga”, since it provides similar benefits but can be practiced anywhere, whenever you want, and for any length of time. Like yoga, knitting forces those who practice it to slow down, take a break from the rush of everyday tasks, to look at the parts that make the whole, and to expand themselves both mentally and physically.

Many may be surprised to learn that there has also been a recent increase in male knitting clubs that tend to be frequented by those in stressful occupations not only to relieve tension but because of the social support that group activities provide. In addition to making clothing, knitting also tends to smooth things out, as Macbeth noted, when he described, “sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.”

Paul J. Rosch, M.D.,
Chairman of the Board, The American Institute of Stress

So why the flashback?

After taking careful stock of my activities this past week I realized two major triggers. My sleep schedule is totally messed up. As in not sleeping. And as Shakespeare wrote “…sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.”

And I don’t have anything on the needles. As in zip.

These two elements must and will change. I’m getting the hankering of knitting some socks, so I’m digging in the stash for self-patterning yarn. Keeping it simple and satisfying. And I am instituting a “get the ‘Hell-o’ to bed” rule for me too. After I do an hour of winding down self pampering care.

What knitting means to me? The ability to continue on. Moments of quietness in me. Life and fun

If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work by buying me a “virtual stitch marker” over on my Ko-fi page! If that’s not possible, I’d love for you to share my content. It means so much to me ♥︎

1 thought on “What Knitting Means For Me: Thoughts From A PTSD Warrior”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. PTSD is invasive and cruel and I hope you someday find freedom from it.

    Knitting is crucial for my mental health, too, and I completely identify with what you quoted: “…knitting forces those who practice it to slow down…”

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