A lot has happened and nothing has happened.
Warning, strong language from the start.
Sometime last year, I couldn’t go on. I don’t mean “oh I can’t do this now, let’s take a nap” I mean “I don’t fucking want to be in my skin anymore” and me, being the master avoidant that I am, I threw whatever little energy I had into things that would masquerade the truth.
I am and have always been a very anxious person, but I never actually admitted to myself that I have GAD. That would be like saying that all this nervous energy and frenetic rush is wrong – nah, it’s not wrong, it’s kooky, it’s weird, it’s ok. But the truth is, it’s not ok. I began to be careless and reckless, I detached myself from myself and I thought I could avoid facing myself in the mirror forever.
Fortunately I have someone by my side who isn’t afraid to tell me when my shit stinks and after what I consider the worst comeuppance of my life, I was forced to deal with the fact that I did not like the person I was. From the tippy toes I stand on to the frayed ends of my curls, I was unhappy. I slept. I slept A LOT. Because when you’re asleep nothing can touch you, and when you’re in dreamland you’re not facing the situation that you’re in – perfect avoidance strategy.
I break down the situation into three chunks: myself, my personal life, and my work life.
Myself: This is when you don’t like your own self, from your brain to your appearance. You think “I don’t like my look” and instead of making a change for the better, I choose to let myself go. Because after all, if I don’t like me, who would, and what’s the point, so let’s take a nap. Mentally, dealing with everything became like trying to untangle a delicate chain of jewelry. You try to yank it, to shake it loose, to lay it flat, let it dangle, see what sticks. And you end up making it worse and worse. I needed to strip my own mind of everything in order to recalibrate my priorities and figure out how to untangle the chain without breaking it.
And so I didn’t go to a primary doctor, a GP, or even a counsellor. The truth was there, mental health is dealt by psychiatrists and that’s what I needed. I have had therapy in the past and my techniques are fresh, so I knew that whatever was going on was not a case of talking it out, crying it out – it was a medical situation. And as such, in order to achieve full recovery you need rest, sleep (the good kind, not the avoidant kind), and lots of observation.
I was apprehensive about it. Just making the call and hearing the “if this is a psychiatric emergency dial 911” welcome message was scary enough. But once I met Dr R I was somehow at ease that he could take the reins off my hands and guide the process. So it’s been approximately 9 months of tinkering around. We tapered some medication off, we increased others, we dealt with the hefty side effects (approx 3kg, ugh), the insomnia, the sudden tears, and eventually we seem to have managed to balance things out. For the moment being.
My personal life: This is where your best friend Disassociation and the Push-Pull routine happen. All my life I’ve had abandonment issues, for reasons too long to explain on this already hella long post. The TL;DR of it is: I’ve been dumped and unloved A LOT. So it comes to a point where you think “If I disassociate myself while I am with people, I will not get attached to them and therefore I won’t be hurt.” Disassociation is like this: you’re around people and you decide to space out. Let it go. Your mind wanders while everybody else talks. “You’re quiet today” is what you hear, while “no, I’m trying not to care too much” is what you’re actually doing, because when you care too much you end up loving and when you end up loving and end up getting dumped, you end up hurt. So I take one step ahead and not let people come in. That’s disassociation to the max.
But here’s the deal: until you’re ok with your own company, you can’t enjoy anyone else’s. So I’ve taken my time away from everyone – friends, family – so I could face my own self and force myself to be ok with myself. Some will say “isn’t that only worse?” and for some it may be, but for me it was the only way. I’ve journaled, I’ve written, I’ve started writing my thoughts out – fictional and non-fictional – somewhere else on the internet, I met people with the same issues and we’ve supported each other in ways my real-life people can’t help, because when you tell someone “I can’t see you because I need to be with myself” sometimes that is not understood, and sometimes having all the support in the world can’t help you if you’re not willing to support yourself first.
Basically, until I learnt to be ok with me I couldn’t understand why anyone would be ok with me. And I’ve learnt. I’m still a work in progress, much like a certain sweater I’ve had on cables and stoppers since 2011 (no joke), but eventually I’m resurfacing and facing people. And I hope people in all aspects of my life can forgive my mind for breaking their hearts.
And work… ah work. If I tell you I’ve hated my work for 2 years now, would you understand? I don’t hate the labor aspect of designing and editing. I love spending time with stitch dictionaries, figuring out the maths for a sweater, and finding perfect formulae for the set-in sleeve.
What I hate is the aesthetic hustle. I hate the constant curation of our own lives for instagram likes, youtube comments, and newsletter follows. People talk about those like they mean shit. Like, it’s what people AIM for. I don’t want to curate (what the fuck, censor is the correct word) my life for visual pleasure – I want to make, I want to show it off, and I want you to like what I have to sell, but I sure as fuck don’t do it for follows and to say “I’ve got THIS many likes on this photo”. At the end of the day, I saw my hard work being eaten away by perfect-angle white-background soft-focus no-smile nymph-of-the-forest looks that all feel the boring same. I hate same. I heavily dislike staging things up. I don’t run a lifestyle magazine. I don’t want to change me for people, and I guess if this is what my field has come to, this work is not for me anymore.
So for the last 9 months I stopped reading my emails more than once a week. I have not even logged into ravelry for more than fixing a couple of pattern issues and paying my invoices.
I’ve been discarded by a client for taking a weekend off. I’ve been told my work is subpar when one number is off. I’ve been rushed to work to a deadline at the last minute when they have had months to get work to me. I won’t even bore you with the difference between “pattern support” and “I bought this $6 pattern so now I own you”. I am tired of feeling used.
But am I BEING used? Or is it all just feeding the inner monster that says “you are not liked” “you are going to be dumped” “you are unloved”?
You see the process here, right? Fix Myself, help My Life, figure out My Work. The moments in my life where I’ve felt the strongest were those where I’ve been the loneliest. The first weeks at university, the first weeks moving to London, the first weeks in the USA. Alone I become stronger, because I have to deal with things, and slowly I’ve been making all the changes and rearrangements that I need to be a better person for me, for him, and for everyone.
As for work, at the moment I’m not working. I’ve finished the last of ALL my deadlines and now I’m contemplating what to do. I may go back to school, I may start volunteering at some places, I may just take up fiction writing. I know for a fact rock+purl as a knitwear brand is on a professional hiatus, and as an editor we hit the end of the road. There’s some knits that need to see the light of day, I’ll get around to publishing those when I can, or, actually, when I fucking feel like I want to show them off. I won’t look for “the perfect window between Collection X being released and before the next Knitty goes live” or obsessively watch over sales figures to try and see where it works and doesn’t work. That’s not my job. That’s not me.
For now, I hope you can welcome Ruth the person, not the designer, not the editor, back in your social media lives.
PS: there’ll be a post coming up with what I will do regarding the current line-up of patterns, so watch out for that.