Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A Little Bit Of Blocking

I don't know what is wrong with me. I ought to be writing a post most days, there is certainly lots to write about, but I just don't seem to have the time. My excuse is going to be that I have been knitting like mad over the last few weeks in an effort to make all the things that I want to give as Christmas presents. I've even managed to find time to knit a few commissions, a hat and mittens for one of my knitting group friends who is too busy to knit herself because she has started to make beautiful knitting project bags and is inundated with orders, and a lace scarf for her daughter to give to her Mum (she couldn't knit herself because Mum would have seen it and know it was for her).

It is this scarf that caused me to dream up the title for this post. The blocking concerned is not writer's block, but the blocking that is required to get a piece of knitting to its proper size and shape. You should really block all knitting before you start joining seams and doing the finishing touches, but I have never done that, because I know that I knit to tension and I am sure that the various pieces of any garment that I make will fit together easily.

But when it comes to lace knitting then blocking is essential. This is generally because you knit lace on much larger needles than would be expected for the thickness of the yarn. The resultant knitting usually curls around itself and has no real shape whatsoever. In order to block something you have to first soak it for some time so that every fibre of the yarn gets wetted, then you drain the water out of the bowl and squeeze out the excess water from the item to be blocked, first by squeezing it with your hands making sure that it is a squeezing action and not a wringing one, and then wrapping it in an absorbent towel to get rid of as much water as possible.

The scarf that I had to block this morning was knitted in a lovely yarn made from kid mohair and silk. The yarn is a delight to knit with but as anyone who is familiar with mohair will know the yarn has lots of fibres protruding from the yarn; it's these that give mohair its tremendous warmth capability. I put the scarf into the bowl of tepid water and it just floated on the top of it. The water just wasn't getting into the fabric at all. It took a good five minutes of prodding and poking to make sure that every stitch of the scarf had absorbed the water. Half an hour later with the scarf damp and creased from the squeezing action it was time to get the blocking wires and pins out and lay the scarf out on a couple of towels, pull it to shape, then insert the wires and add a few pins to make sure that it was kept stretched to shape while it dried.

Eight hours later I took the pins and wires out and lifted the scarf from the towels. I held up a beautiful scarf with its lace pattern clearly visible and the points at each end of the scarf firmly shaped. It will be going to knitting group with me tomorrow so that I can hand it over to the person who commissioned me to make it.

I have another scarf on the floor now. This one is a far more elaborate lace design and is made from a yarn that is a mix of baby alpaca, cashmere and silk. This one absorbed the water far more readily but I was surprised to find that the water had changed colour when I came to drain it away. Then I remembered that the yarn is from a company that uses natural dyes and so a certain amount of colour should be expected to come out of the yarn when it is first wetted.

This scarf was a little easier to apply the wires to because of the eyelets that are a few stitches in from the edge on all four sides. I'm hoping that it will be dry in the morning and I can block another scarf before I head off for knitting group. I have five scarves and I shawl to block in total and the shawl will require me to move all the furniture around in my room so as to ensure that I have a large enough area on which to lay it out.

I think that in future I will block each item as soon as it is completed so as to not have this blocking frenzy that I am going to have to endure over the next week. But at least it is keeping me busy and I don't have time to think about how difficult the next few weeks are going to be for me.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

It has been three weeks since I last blogged. Every morning I wake up and say to myself that I must write something today but never do. It is perhaps in part because I don't think that anything very exciting has happened to me, but more realistically the reason is that I seem to have been burning the candle at both ends.

I have been frantically knitting during every spare moment to complete the things that are to be Christmas presents. The big pieces are now finished and awaiting blocking, and just a few small items still need to be done. Hopefully they can be completed fairly quickly, but I have been commissioned to knit a few other items so they have to take precedence. The consequence of all this is that I seem to be constantly searching for more hours in the day while getting more and more tired as each day passes. In fact, I have been so busy that I haven't had time to be depressed.

Thursday evenings are taken up with teaching my crochet class. Two groups of students have now completed the course and gone out into the world with new skills and an enthusiasm to continue improving. Another course has been squeezed in before Christmas and like the previous two is completely sold out. It just goes to show that there is a real desire by people to learn the old skills of knitting and crochet because the knitting courses are regularly full too.

I'm going to have a few weeks break from teaching after the New Year so that I can spend some time with the Thursday knitters, something that I miss out on when I am teaching, but a fourth course should begin about the middle of January. The break will also mean that I can do some knitting for myself for a change. I need some new woollies, so I shall be knitting myself a cardigan and a sweater to remedy this situation.

Last week I was asked to move from the building that I have been living in since July to one just around the corner from it. So the bags had to be packed (I couldn't believe how much yarn I had accumulated in my stash) and I moved into my new (temporary) accommodation. I now have a much larger room, my own bathroom, and fantastic kitchen facilities shared with the other residents in the house. I see little of my neighbours, who are all male, nor do I hear much of them when they are in.

Yesterday I decided that I would have a go at making a cake. I'm not a spectacular cook, but I can be quite innovative when I want to be and being someone who really doesn't like Christmas cake because I just don't like currants, sultanas and raisins, I have been mentally developing a cake recipe for some weeks now that would be a tasty replacement for the more traditional cake.
The end result was a quite dark coloured cake (that was the dark brown sugar rather than it being burned) which was filled with glacé cherries, chunks of dark chocolate, walnut pieces, cranberries (okay, so these were dried but I plumped them up again by putting them in saucepan with the juice of two oranges and one lemon and lemon zest and orange rind). I had a slice (or two) last night and while the cake is definitely not repulsive it still needs a little work on the recipe but I think I know what to do to improve it and I will be experimenting with the recipe again in a couple of weeks to hopefully produce something that is a bit closer to what I was trying to achieve. I think that I had better write down the recipe so that I know what I am tweaking as further test cakes are made.

So. having sat in bed with my laptop on my knees, I don't really have any excuses for not writing on a more regular basis again, and that is what I propose to do. I shall write a post before I get up in the morning and woe betide me if I make an excuse not to do so

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Not Enough Hours In The Day

I can't believe that it is nearly three weeks since I wrote a post for this blog. I seem to have been so busy that there are not enough hours in the day for me to do all the things that I both want and need to do.

My first crochet course has been completed and everybody enjoyed themselves including the solitary gentleman who had been booked onto the course by his wife an avid knitter. we certainly had a good time because as 8.30 arrived each week nobody could believe that we had been in the classroom for two hours; the time having flown so quickly. The best thing about as far as I was concerned was that I seem to have included the right amount of work in each class so when the second course, which is also fully booked, begins on Thursday evening I won't have any preparatory work to do; everything is ready for me to pack in my bag on a Thursday morning ready for when I set off to the shop in the afternoon. A third course has already been put up on the website and is starting to fill up so it seems that we have found a real gap in the market.

At the hostel where I am living my handwriting skills have been put to use writing the Christmas cards that will be given to each of the residents of the various hostels/bedsits that the company has in the area. I've also written all the Christmas cards for the professionals and suppliers and later this week I will be given the list of staff for whom Christmas cards are required. I haven't even thought ab0out writing my own Christmas cards but as I am going to send handmade cards I can't do anything about it until I have bought the bits to make the cards. That is a job for this weekend.

However, while the cards are not made and written, the presents are nearing completion. I have made lots of scarves, mittens, and some shawls so everybody is getting something handmade this Christmas. I have one scarf that will be finished tonight and one more to make. I should be able to get that started this evening and then work at it during knitting group tomorrow evening. It's a pattern that I have already completed twice and it is a lovely one to make with lots of beautiful lacework on it. I'm hoping that this scarf will be finished this weekend or the beginning of next week so that I can concentrate on knitting a couple of jumpers for myself; and with the way that it has got so cold over the last few days I am definitely going to need them.

This afternoon I went to visit the building site that is my new home. Some of the flats on the top floor are approaching completion and hopefully the rest will be completed in the next month. Once all the flats have had their kitchens and bathrooms completed and it is just a case of furniture to be moved in, I can go and visit again with a view to picking which flat I want. I'm going to have to sit down in a week or so and make a list of things that I want to buy to make whichever flat I choose into my home.

I have so many things going on in my life these days that I have had to buy myself a new Filofax to keep a check on everything. I have a diary that is filling up by the day and it doesn't seem to be letting up. I can honestly say that I have not been this busy since I had to give up work and I think that I am going to have to start thinking about what I am going to do in the New Year. Hopefully things will have calmed down a bit and I can think about getting back to studying with the Open University. I have to admit that I do miss the studying and it would be nice to get back into it again.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Tonight's The Night

Tonight sees the start of my first crochet class. My bag is packed with two different lots of knitting (neither of them very taxing) that I will work on this afternoon until it is time for the class to begin, and my batch of samples so that the lovely ladies (I am assuming that they are all ladies although more gentlemen are starting to knit and crochet) can see what the same series of rows produce when using the different stitches.

I didn't sleep very well last night so after having a cup of tea and some toast for breakfast, I climbed back into bed and slept for another couple of hours. Then it was time for a lovely long shower and I'm now sitting waiting for lunch to be served. One thing is certain about this hostel; the staff are determined that no-one will go hungry. There is always a cooked breakfast of some sort for those who want it (I usually stick to a couple of slices of toast and the staff all know of my love of a toasted crust so that is what I get most mornings), a hot lunch (today's is chicken curry and rice), a hot evening meal (beef hotpot tonight, although I will miss that but if I wanted they would put some aside for me to heat up when I get back from knitting group) and sandwiches at 8pm and 10pm.

I'll let you know how things go with the class.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

News Flash!

My crochet class which begins on Thursday is full. I must sit down and finish the samples tonight (there's just one left to do for the first class) and if I get the chance tomorrow I will do a few differnt shapes to show what can be achieved.

Now I can start to get really nervous.

Housing News

Last week I had a proposition made to me. It was something that I couldn't talk to anyone else about because it needed to be approved by "Head Office" before it could become general knowledge. I was asked to think about the proposition, and today I was asked if I had come to a decision. I have, and because "Head Office" have approved it, I can tell you all about it.

As you know I have been living in a hostel for the last few months. I had hoped to have moved into rented accommodation but because I was so depressed the mental health team that look after me felt that it would not be a good idea to contemplate such a move until my mood had stabilized and I was able to cope with things a bit better. The lovely lady who has management responsibility for a number of properties that the company has in this part of London (each facility has its own manager, but she oversees all of them) asked me to consider moving into a property that is being refurbished to provide 27 bedsits for people with mental health problems and acting as caretaker of the facility. There would be professional help Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and the facilities for me to summon help if needed after these hours.

And what do I get out of this? Free accommodation. Yes, that's right; I get a little flat of my own and don't have to pay for it. Could things actually be going right for a change?

Monday, 18 October 2010

New Horizons

I've had a busy weekend turning hanks of wool into usable balls for knitting. I am going to knit a garment for a change and it was necessary to spend a few hours getting the lovely yarn ready for me to begin knitting. It was all in preparation for knitting a jumper for myself and requires eight different colours to produce a very striking effect. I can't wait to get started on it now but I have a few Christmas presents to finish before I move on to this project.

I have also spend quite a few hours making samples of crochet stitches ready for the course that I am going to start teaching on Thursday. I still have a few samples to create and then I must take some photographs of them so as to create a couple of handouts for the students.

Nervousness is starting to creep in because this is a new string to my bow. I learnt to crochet when I was in my teens and have created some really stunning work over the years, but I have never really taught a class to crochet before. I have my lesson plans drawn up guiding me about what we hope to achieve during each of the three lessons but I know that there is a big difference between what you think can be achieved in a couple of hours and what happens in reality.

My prize money has all been spent now on things for myself. There were two hanks of silk in magical colours which will be turned into scarves and shawls; a book of Andean inspired knits which I would probably never have bought ordinarily, but the prize money made it possible and there are a couple of things in the book that I hope to be knitting in the not to distant future; a set of blocking wires to aid me in blocking out the shawls and scarves that I make (much easier to use a few wires than hundreds of pins); a beautiful folder which allows me, with the aid of some magnets, to more easily follow the complicated charts which are needed for knitting lace; and a beautiful set of wooden needles in a lovely fabric case that matches the folder.

With all this going in my life, depression seems to have finally taken a back seat again. Life is still not easy, but I no longer go to sleep at night dreading tomorrow and what it will bring. I am starting to make plans again and actually carrying some of them out, but there is still some way to go before I can say that this period of depression is behind me. I have set myself a few goals for this week, including applying for a new passport, and I am definitely thinking about going to Canada some time over the winter or perhaps a trip to South Africa to visit my aunt who is also my Godmother. Perhaps the sun of South Africa would be more welcoming than the snow of Canada, but we will have to wait and see how things go over the next month.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Connected

After several months of sporadic Internet access requiring me to make my way to the library with my laptop to make use of the library's free wi-fi access, I have this afternoon bought myself a dongle and can blog whenever I want to again. This means that I shall be able to pass news on as soon as it happens and keep you up to date with my goings on.

When I had to leave the house and move into respite care, I had to start paying for this accommodation. Unfortunately, the sum that I have to pay on a weekly basis actually meant that I had little or no money to spend on things for myself. That is now no longer a problem as I decided to dip into some of the money that I invested after my husband died and now have a little spare cash, hence the purchase of the dongle and my return to the Internet.

I have lots to write about, some of which will appear under the "Tackling the Mental Health Minefield" banner as it relates to that area. This time it will not be about my being in hospital but about some of the other areas that those with mental health problems will find themselves interacting with.

This has been one of my shorter posts, but it is now time for me to head off to the dining room for my evening meal. Something like normal blogging will be back from tomorrow. You have no idea how happy saying that has made me.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Some Good News At Last!

I hate not having instant Internet access because it means that sometimes it can take a great deal of willpower to load my laptop into its bag and get on a bus to make a trip to the library to use the free wi-fi access there. My blog has been a great comfort to me over the last couple of years and has proved to be a beneficial means of me pouring out my innermost thoughts instead of keeping them bottled up inside and I hate not being able to just sit down at the computer and write a post when the urge comes upon me.

Mental illness can make one selfish; it is so easy to think that you are the only person in the world feeling as you do, but sitting down and writing about those feelings and the darkness within, allows you to meet other sufferers in cyberspace and together you can work through the difficult times. I have always been heartened by the comments that I receive and have only ever rejected one comment (apart from those that the writer has asked me not to publish) because I truly believe in free speech and allowing other people to have their say. But if you were to look through all the comments that I have received over the last two years you would probably find that they have been nothing but supportive and for that I can never fully express my gratitude to those who bother to read the blog and to comment on it.

When I had to move out of my home I was already in a very depressed state. Life was crowding in on me and suicidal thoughts were invading my brain increasingly. Having a long period of respite care has made a difference to how I have been able to recover. My consultant psychiatrist decided to make a change to some of my medication and having the support of the staff at my respite accommodation when I was going through the difficult period of weaning myself from one drug and building up to a therapeutic dose of the new one meant that I had support on the bad days.

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that I am beginning to feel significantly better than I did a couple of months ago. I have lots of knitting projects on the go and have already shown you some of the lovely items that I have made recently. On Wednesday I received the news that I was runner-up in the 'accessories' section of the design competition which brought with it a voucher for £100 of goods from I Knit. It suddenly made worthwhile all the time that I had spent on knitting sample socks and creating and then adjusting the charts until I got exactly what I wanted. My book of knitting patterns now seems a reality because as well as the six sock patterns that I have already created, I have several ideas for lace scarves and I am looking forward to trying to create the charts for them in the new year.

I have already spent almost three-quarters of my prize money on some beautiful yarn, a book, and a few other items that I probably wouldn't have bought for myself if I hadn't had this windfall. The yarn is the most beautiful silk laceweight yarn in two exciting colourways. this yarn is definitely going to be used for items for myself so I can now start looking for patterns to knit with them or try creating something for myself.

Wednesday also brought another bit of good news. I Knit already offers regular knitting courses for beginners and over recent weeks there have been increasing requests for a beginners' crochet course and I have been asked to be the tutor for it. With a provisional start date for the course pencilled in for 21st October, I am going to have to devote some time this weekend in working some samples for the course so that I can show the students the different stitches and what can be achieved with them.

With a bit of luck I may soon be blogging on a more regular basis and will be keep you up to date with my adventures. thank you for staying with me during this difficult period and I promise you lots of news and photographs of my works of art in the weeks and months to come.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Busy Fingers

The last few months have been pretty horrific in one way or another, but even during my darkest periods I have tried to keep myself busy. In my last post I included a photograph of the socks that I was entering in the design competition and I appreciate all the lovely comments that you sent about them. The competition was supposed to have been judged at the knitting exhibition weekend, but due to various problems the judging didn't take place. However, I am assured that the competition entries will be judged in the next few days and hopefully I will soon find out whether I have won a prize or not.

I have mentioned before that I learnt how to do Sudoku puzzles while I was in hospital last year and I have spent some of my time working my way through two books of these puzzles (one with 350 individual puzzles and the other 500). I still have problems completing them all because of the way that my brain seems to turn to mush when I am faced with numbers but I must be getting better at working them out because I can now complete almost all the easy ones at the first attempt, the medium ones are completed more often than not, and I have even managed to complete the occasional hard puzzles, something that would have been impossible this time last year.

But doing these puzzles requires a fair level of concentration, and as other sufferers will know, when you really severely depressed, a long period of concentration is something very difficult to manage. However, knitting tends to take care of this for me. I have several projects on the go at any one time, so there might be a couple of lace projects (one large, one small, and requiring differing levels of concentration), and a couple of other small projects such as socks or hats (things that require little concentration above keeping a check on the number of rows that have been completed).

This being the case, I have succeeded in completing a number of projects over the last couple of months and I thought that you might like to see some of the things that I have made.
This shawl was completed over a weekend; I think that it was the novelty of knitting with not only much thicker yarn and needles than I have been using in recent months but also it was such an easy pattern to follow. The yarn itself is Manos del Uruguay's Silk Blend (a blend of merino wool and silk) and not only are the colourways in this yarn fabulous, it is also a very economical yarn to knit with, especially when one considers that it is produced by small cooperatives in
Uruguay.

This photograph shows the three parts that the shawl is knitted in. At the top is the triangle that forms the basis of the shawl, then a border is worked on two sides of the triangle and the shawl is finished with a lace edging which is knitted sideways and joined to the shawl on alternate rows. It sounds very complicated and when I first started tackling lace knitting I didn't think that I would be able to follow the instructions even though I had years of knitting experience but now I think nothing of it and just get the needles out and get on with it.


This shawl has been knitted in 100% silk and is as light as a feather. Well perhaps not quite as light as a feather, but it seems to weigh nothing at all having taken approximately 900 metres of yarn to complete and it weighs in just a few grams short of 100 grams. This is the first triangular shawl that I have knitted that has not been started from either the top or the bottom. Instead it is worked from one side, increasing as you work towards the middle and then the stitch count decreasing back to nothing as you get to the other side. The resultant shawl has very long points at the sides which make it a very delicate shawl to throw across one's shoulders.
I have also knitted a lace scarf in this same yarn, but haven't as yet taken a photograph of it.

I think that I mentioned that I received some special yarn as a birthday present from a couple of my friends at the knitting group. I knew as soon as I saw it what I would make with it and the photograph below shows two of the three items that will form part of my winter wardrobe.

A matching scarf is on the needles at the moment and will probably be completed when I am trying to knit and watch television at the same time. The yarn is from one of my favourite American dyers, Cheryl Potter at Cherry Tree Hill, and is really a sock yarn, but it is far too beautiful to use for socks that will be hidden inside shoes so using it for winter warmers seemed the perfect solution.

My needles are full of work as usual although even for me I have rather a lot of projects on the go. I am almost halfway to completing a poncho which is being created by adapting a shawl pattern (I'm nothing if not adventurous when it comes to what I try), I have started a waistcoat using a new knitting technique (it's knitted in one piece and uses special casting off techniques to ensure that there is no sewing up at the end of the knitting process and as you know I really hate sewing things together after I have knitted them), then there is the scarf to match my hat and mittens, a lace scarf that it going to be a Christmas present for a friend, a pair of fingerless mittens which will also be a Christmas present, a really fantastic shawl in the most incredible chocolate brown silk, and a beautiful kingfisher blue stole which has required me to try two new techniques for the first time. On top of all that, I am really dying to have a go at starting a shawl which will probably take me best part of a year to complete and which is to be knitted in yarn that it is barely thicker than the cotton you use to sew a button on a shirt.

There is also a definite possibility that I may be doing some teaching of both knitting and crocheting in the coming months too. And I have been asked to become a 'service user' representative (how I hate that term) at various meetings between the local council and the companies that provide hostels and supported housing for people with mental health problems. Many of the users of these services are impaired mentally through the use of alcohol and/or drugs, and it seems that I am considered 'normal' and not 'routinely negative' about the services that are provided. I'm beginning to wonder how I am going to fit it all in.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Reporting In

Okay, so it has been a long time since I blogged, but I am still in the land of the living (just). I have been weaned off one of my medications and had a new one to replace it so I started to feel really low while the transition was taking place. One unwanted side effect has been that I get very giddy when I stand up so I now have to make sure that I have something to hang on to when I stand. It doesn't happen all the time, and because I am aware of it possibly happening I tend to be really careful.

My socks were submitted with one day to spare, but as I thought that I might have to make a special journey up to the shop on deadline day because of the problems that I was encountering translating the pattern onto the computer, being able to drop them off on a knitting group day was great. My pattern told the story of how I came to create the design and had various examples of the variations that could be achieved by adapting the pattern as well as the actual competition pair.

I'm going to cheat a little and give you a look at the finished socks. The competition is going to be judged at the Iknit Weekender which takes place this coming Friday and Saturday, so keep your fingers crossed for me.The photograph was taken before I had pressed the socks so it's not perfect but if you click on the image it should enable you to see it in a larger format and hopefully you will get a better idea of how the finished product looked.

I have been doing a lot of knitting over the last couple of months, it being one of the few things that I can manage in my depressed state. Photographs have yet to be taken but once they are on my computer I will add them to the blog.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Have You Missed Me?

I seem to be spending my life apologising for not blogging these days but when you don't have easy access to the blogosphere and you are feeling desperately depressed with a whole raft of birthdays and significant anniversaries looming I guess that it is excusable.

This will be a quick update because I have some really important work to do on the computer today. I have finally finished creating all my sample socks for the design competition and I now need to spend all my free time writing the pattern and the rationale behind my design. I have decided to enter just one design, but to show that it can be used in many different ways to create different effects.

The difficult part will not be writing the actual pattern; that is quite simple. However, transferring my charts from graph paper to the computer in the form of tables is going to be both time-consuming and fraught with the possibility of errors creeping in. I intend to spend this afternoon creating the charts and then type up the knitting pattern and the background to my creation.

I have knitted the pattern in a variety of yarns, on different size needles so as to achieve different sized socks while not having to change the number of stitches needed, variations in the positioning of the design, and showing the different effect gained by the design element being created in reverse stocking stitch on a stocking stitch background and a stocking stitch design on a reverse stocking stitch background.

I am hoping that the versatility of the pattern will gain me bonus points when it comes to the judging of the design competition entries. I know that at least one of the judges is a very well-known name in the knitting world so I am hoping they will appreciate the work that has gone into my entry. I have to deliver my entry when I attend the knitting group on Thursday, so I shall be working pretty hard today and tomorrow to get everything completed in time.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The End Of Psychotherapy

This morning I had my last psychotherapy session with JR. I arrived early, as usual, but this gave me time to sit in the hospital's garden and contemplate what was going to happen with a cold drink and a cigarette. Considering how I usually feel when I have a psychotherapy session, today I was calm and composed. The ending of therapy had been a bad experience for me previously but I was sure that would not be the case this time.

Today's session was more like a chat between two old friends and it wasn't until about half way through the session that I had even a hint of anxiety, and even that passed quickly. I would be lying if I said that it was not an emotional experience, and it would also indicate that I had not been partaking of it seriously. We touched on the good sessions and the not so good ones. We talked about how I had spent most of my life turning my anger in on myself and how that had damaged me and how we had managed to take the first steps towards me being able to stop this destructive pattern of behaviour and hopefully towards me being less self-critical. We talked about my feelings of isolation and how I had made an effort to improve this by joining the knitting group.

We talked a little about the therapy that is to come. While it is impossible for me to continue receiving one-to-one therapy with the NHS at present, I know that I will soon be undergoing group psychotherapy. This will be something new for me and we talked about the difficulties that I am likely to encounter in a group situation. Now it is just a case of waiting for a start date and a meeting with the therapist in charge of the group.

The minutes passed by very quickly and it was soon time for me to leave. One of the things that mark the passage of my week is no longer a regular item in my calendar. For the eight months that I have been attending psychotherapy with JR, I have only missed one possible appointment and that was when I had day surgery two weeks ago. Difficult as I have sometimes found therapy, I have never thought that I would give it a miss. I have many problems that we have only had the time to scratch the surface of, but having made that initial scratch I am now much more aware of these problems and have a few strategies for helping me overcome them. I will probably never be a completely normal person, but then what is normal, and why would I want to be like that anyway?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Is It Blogger's Block Or Too Much Whirling About In My Mind?

I've managed to make it to the library again so that I can write something for the blog, though having now sat down to do so I find myself struggling for something to say. This is a somewhat unusual situation for me to be in because while I find it very difficult to talk to people, I usually have very little problem writing about whatever springs to mind.

I have been feeling really under the weather for the last few days. I have been very tearful much of the time, found it difficult to settle to do anything for longer than five minutes, and been in excruciating pain from the surgery that I underwent last week. the pain has been so intense that there have been times when it has brought me out in a cold sweat and caused overwhelming bouts of nausea.

And sleep has been difficult to come by even though the medication that I take at night often leaves me drowsy throughout much of the following day. For the last two days I have been eating breakfast and then going back to bed to try to catch up a little on what I seem to be missing at night, but I don't want to do this too much because I am afraid that I will get back to the cycle of nocturnal living that I was going through a few months ago.

While all of this is happening my mind seems to be constantly churning over stuff, much of it things that I don't want to think about at the moment. I know that I can't put everything off for ever, but I need to deal with things in manageable portions so that I don't become so overloaded that I implode again.

So, it's a strange post from me, but hopefully having actually sat down to write it has helped in some small way. I shall be back again tomorrow when I will hopefully have something more meaningful to say.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Psychotherapy And The Wonderful World Of Bloggers

Today I have been for my penultimate psychotherapy session with my current therapist. He is a lovely man and therapy with him has been good. We talked today about it being so near the end of our work together and he asked how I felt about that, especially in light of the disastrous termination of therapy that I experienced last year. There is no doubt that having a very experienced therapist makes a big difference, but as with all things people have to be trained and I am sure that in the future my previous therapist will be very much better at handling termination of therapy than he was with me.

I will miss my Tuesday sessions, not least because they have been responsible for a bit of structure and routine in my life for the last eight months. Today we talked about a wide range of subjects not all of them things that I would have considered as subjects for discussion during therapy. I said that I felt that while I still find it difficult to talk about my feelings when we are in a session, something that I don't think I will ever feel comfortable doing, one really positive thing to have come directly from this therapy was joining the knitting group.

It was as a result of one of our sessions that I made my first tentative steps into the world of the knitting group. My therapist encouraged me at a time when things were particularly difficult to take that first step and like blogging it has made a difference to my life. I haven't been for two weeks (the first week because of the trauma of becoming homeless and then last week because I really couldn't face it so soon after my surgery) but tomorrow I will be going and taking with me a finished item for all to see. I have just a few rows left to knit on the shawl/stole that I have been knitting for the last few weeks. I actually started it a day or two after my last visit to the knitting group and today I will finish the last of the 554 rows. It will still require blocking to show it off in all its glory but that is something for later.

I talked about going to the knitting group tomorrow and having this wonderful work of art to show to all. My therapist then asked why I had not talked more about my knitting in my sessions with him. His question was "Did I not think that he would be interested?" After thinking about this I suppose that I didn't think of it as being a subject for therapy, but following a complicated pattern and creating a work of art, as this shawl is, probably says quite a lot about me that I find impossible to express orally. One thing is certain, I will be taking it with me to next week's session to show him what I can do.

We also talked a little about my blogging. He has never asked for details of my blog and I have no idea whether I have given him enough information to be able to find it that easily, but one of his comments leads me to believe that he may have come across it at some time. He spoke of my ability to express myself in my blog in a way that I find very difficult, if not impossible, to do face to face. There is no doubt that blogging is a way of expressing my frustrations and pain and despair without having to burden someone with what I need to say. After all, you can carry on reading each post if it interests you but you don't need to continue to read if you find that what is being said is not interesting or thought provoking. I have always tried not to write post after post about how depressed that I am. There are only so many ways in which you can say it and I don't want to come across as someone who whines continually about how bad their life is. My life sucks; it's not how I thought it was going to turn out but it's a whole lot better than that of many other people out there.

This brings me nicely to what I wanted to say about bloggers. I know that it is something that I have said many times before, but it is worth saying again because I think that it is very important. There are some really nice people out there in the blogosphere and the supportive comments that I have received after my last few posts show how much we care for each other, even if we never actually meet. I may not be able to deal with comments as quickly as I would like owing to my limited Internet access at the moment, but logging in today as I have and finding six comments on my last post, all very supportive and kind, has reduced me to tears in the public library. As someone who hates showing emotion in public, I think you will understand just how much the sentiments expressed in these comments has moved me and saying thank you just doesn't seem to be enough, but it will have to do for the time being.

Once I am settled into some more permanent accommodation and have an Internet connection that I can access all the time, I will try to write most days again and to include photographs of whatever I am knitting so that you can keep up with how things are going. Once I have finished the shawl today, I need to head back to the socks so that I can get them all knitted and the patterns written ready for entry into the competition. I have five pairs to complete although socks grow a lot faster than the kind of lace knitting that I have been doing over the last few weeks, so while it may seem like a huge mountain of work, I think that I should be able to manage it without too much trouble.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Being Homeless

Life has not been easy over the last couple of weeks but I have survived thanks to the support of some lovely people. I would like to be able to say that it was the staff from the CMHT but it wasn't. I have had contact with CMHT staff almost every day since I left the house, but it has rarely been the same person twice and it seems that we go over the same things every day.

When I was seeing the Home Treatment Team when I came out of hospital the first time, my biggest complaint was that they seemed to work to a formula. It was always the same questions, and you could almost see the cogs going round in their brain as they mentally ticked off the questions. How have you been sleeping? How is your appetite? How are you feeling? What is your mood like?

When I became homeless, a room was found for me in the respite home that I stayed in after my first hospital admission. Unfortunately, it was only for five nights, which meant that last Monday somewhere else had to be found. The staff in this respite home are absolutely wonderful. Nothing is too much for them and yet they are almost certainly on minimum wage and have no formal training for the job that they do. they ensure that we have a good home-cooked meal every evening and that there is always someone who you can talk to if you need it. The house has nine bedrooms (two of which are for long-stay residents) which means that it is not an easy place to get in to. Run for the benefit of the local mental health trust, a week's stay costs £55 which is never going to break the bank and means that it can be afforded by just about anyone.

My stay there coincided with the long run of hot weather which meant that I spent much of my time sitting in the garden under the umbrella. I did some knitting, some puzzles, and played some games on my Nintendo DSi (this has to be one of the best investments that I have ever made). The knitting progressed slowly, but progressed nonetheless. Even though I did not sit in direct sun at any time during my time there, I came away with well tanned arms which means that my hands and arms no longer look like porcelain.

Last Monday I had to move from the respite home so with my belongings packed in the boot of a taxi, I made a tearful farewell to the lovely lady who is the home's manager with exhortations that I must visit them regularly for a cup of tea and a chat.

The move of temporary accommodation has found me in a hostel most of the inhabitants of which are men with drink and/or drugs problems. While many of the inmates leave a lot to be desired in the way of cleanliness, once again the facility is lucky in its staff. The manager and deputy manager have looked after me very well ensuring that I had a room on the first floor so that I didn't have to climb multiple flights of stairs to get to my room (my arthritic hip is giving me quite a lot of problems at the moment).

I am the only person in the facility who is not on benefits of any kind which means that I have to pay for my board and lodging out of my pensions. The problem with this is that the sum paid weekly by the benefits people for each of the inmates that they support is actually higher than I receive as a pension (well, four pensions actually; two occupational pensions of my own and two occupational widow's pensions in respect of my husband, both of which would cease if I was to remarry or even formally cohabit with a new partner). The manager has negotiated with the head office of the company that runs this hostel and it has been agreed that I can pay half the normal rate, but at £190 a week, this is still considerably more that I paid at the respite home.

The difference between the two places could not be more extreme, but at least I have a roof over my head. Hopefully, this situation will be rectified in a week or so. I have found a ground-floor studio flat a few hundred yards from where I was living and hope that I will be able to complete all the financial aspects over the next week and then be able to move in. Being in the same locality as my former residence means that I don't need to change doctors, and I will be even closer to the bus stop serving the buses that I use most often. In fact it is just a few yards from my new front door.

Last Tuesday was the day of my surgery and I am now on heavy duty painkillers and antibiotics. Sitting is at times painful, but each day gets easier and I am hoping that I will be pain-free in a couple more days. I was warned that I would suffer a great deal of pain after the operation, but it has not been as bad as I thought it might be, and I now have to hope that the problem does not arise again.

I am going to try to get to a location that offers free
wi-fiaccess every couple of days over the next few weeks so that I can keep you up to date with how things are going. I would also like to thank everyone who has sent me good wishes over this difficult period. Bloggers really are the nicest people and it means a lot to me that so many have taken the time to send me a few words of encouragement.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Homeless

At 8 o'clock tomorrow morning I will be officially homeless. Yesterday I found somewhere to stay for a couple of weeks while I sorted out some rented accommodation only to receive a phone call this morning while I was waiting for the bus to take me to my psychotherapy session saying that the offer had been rescinded.

I'm sure that you can imagine how I felt. By the time that I got to see my therapist I was an absolute wreck and it didn't take him many seconds to realise that there was something seriously wrong. We talked through the situation and he made a couple of phone calls to the CMHT and managed to make arrangements for my key worker to see me once the therapy session was over.

We continued with the therapy session by discussing the impact that this has had on me. At that moment I felt alone and vulnerable and suicide was at the forefront of my mind. Much of the rest of the session was spent talking about the way that I am constantly suffering setbacks and how this is causing me to sink into deeper and deeper depression.

I don't have psychotherapy next week because I am due to go into hospital for my day surgery so I won't see my therapist for two weeks and then there will only be that session and one more before this course of psychotherapy ends. We talked about the impact that the ending of therapy will have on me. I said that I thought that I had accepted that end was in sight, but my therapist is concerned that even though I think that I will be able to cope, it may be harder than I think and that I may experience a sense of grieving.

I made my way to the CHMT and we rang around countless bed and breakfast places to try find me some temporary accommodation but none had vacancies. I left them and made my way towards home and a visit to an estate agent that I knew had some accommodation for rent. I have found myself a ground-floor studio flat that I can move into in two weeks time. It is in the same road that I am living in at the moment so I know the neighbourhood and it is just yards away from the bus stop that serves most of the buses that I use on a frequent basis. I have to go into the estate agents tomorrow to fill in the necessary paperwork and pay a holding fee.

This evening I am going to have to spend time on the web trying to find myself some accommodation for the next two weeks. I think that there are a couple of places not too far from where I am at the moment so keep your fingers crossed that one of them will be able to provide me with a bed for a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A Difficult Time

I'm having a very difficult time at the moment, which is why posts have been a bit few and far between. And it is about to get worse because I am going to be without access to the internet.

I will be moving into new accommodation in the next few days and as this is likely to be temporary accommodation to tide me over until I can get myself something more permanent, luxuries like a phone line and internet connection are likely to be unavailable. I will, however, try to get myself to a place with free wi-fi a couple of times a week so that I can keep up with all my blogging friends.

So, if you don't find any new posts from me don't worry too much, I will post as and when I can.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

I Won A Prize!

As regular readers will know, I go to a knitting group on a Wednesday afternoon/evening at I Knit London. Over the last few weeks I have also been going on a Thursday. Some of my fellow knitters go to just one of the evenings, but there are a few who attend both.

This week we have been raising money for Mencap by selling cake and cups of tea and coffee. There has also been a raffle which had 12 donated prizes including a wonderful bag of goodies from the Knitter magazine, a lovely lace shawl, a gift voucher from I Knit London, several prizes of various toiletries from one of the local shops, and some note cards and photograph frames donated by Mencap.

I was very good last night and managed to avoid the cakes but I did buy some raffle tickets. This evening I bought a couple more raffle tickets and indulged in some cake and cookies. It was nice to be able to support a charity while we were enjoying our evening's knitting.

At about 7.30 this evening it was time for drawing the winning tickets in the raffle. My record for winning prizes in a raffle used to be very good years ago, but in recent years my luck in such events has been appalling and it seemed that this was going to be another of those unlucky occasions. As the winning tickets were drawn prizes were won by those who had bought the tickets immediately before and immediately after those that I had bought both yesterday and today. It is bad enough to be so close once, but when it happened four times I was beginning to feel a little paranoid. And then it was time for the eighth prize to be given, and somewhat unbelievably, mine was the winning ticket.

My prize was a set of beautiful note cards. They are made from beautiful thick handmade card with a wonderful flocked design on the front. The design is swirling flowers and leaves and there are two each of three colours, black, brown and white. And the box that they come in has the same lovely flocked design on its lid making it a very beautiful gift.

What is extra specially nice about this prize is that not only has Mencap been the focus of our fund-raising, but the note cards have been made in a fair trade project in rural Bangladesh for Mencap. The cards are just so beautiful that I would find it difficult to use them. However, I will use them when I want to send a greeting or communication to someone special.

I wish that my luck in other areas of my life could be as good.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Madsadgirl Is Two Today

Madsadgirl, my alter ego, is two years old today.

When I decided to start this blog one of the first things that I thought about was whether I wanted to be anonymous or to write under my real name. It didn't take me long to realise that I would probably be more honest in what I wrote if I was not easily recognizable. Yes, I would probably tell some people that I wrote a blog, but it would be my choice as to whether I told them the name of the blog, which was also the name that I adopted for myself.

I had been writing the blog for about three weeks when I told my GP that I had a blog. A few weeks later, while having lunch with Mr Smiley, I told him about the blog and he became a regular reader, and occasional commenter although always anonymously but I knew which were his comments nonetheless.

I thought that the blog might become a sort of therapy for me in my battle against depression. I was right. Originally meant as somewhere to write about how I was or wasn't coping with depression, it immediately became something more than that. I started writing about other things that were important to me and then about knitting, one of the things that has kept me going over the last few years.

I have tried to write every day, but sometimes the muse just wasn't there, and then there were the times that I was in hospital and therefore without my computer so the posts dried up. One of the things that I wanted to make sure I didn't do was write each day saying how awful I was feeling, so this led to posts about the strange, and sometimes funny, things that I saw around me. Writing about my experience of psychotherapy was another thing that found its way onto the blog, and was responsible for me being invited to give occasional lectures at one of our universities on the patient's perspective of therapy.

One of the biggest bonuses that I have derived from writing this blog is the array of virtual friends that I have made within the blogosphere. And some of them are not so virtual because I have actually met them and correspond with them outside of our blogs. And the support from other bloggers when things have not been going too well has meant a great deal to me too.

So, my third year of blogging is about to begin. Thank you for reading, and commenting. You have no idea how much it means to me.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Like A Drowned Rat And Feeling Stupid

After a period of hot weather which has left me flagging at times, this morning there was torrential rain in my part of London.There was no clear blue sky to wake up to, just unremitting grey clouds and a substantial amount of rain pouring from them.

The rain was not altogether unexpected, but it wasn't the light shower that had been forecast, something that would not have bothered me too much, and it was fairly obvious that I was going to get wet on my way to the bus stop. And I was right to expect to get wet because just after I had left the house it started to rain even harder and my waterproof jacket was finding it hard to cope with the rain.

By the time that I got to the bus stop I had a very wet jacket, rather wet trousers, and the toes that were peeking out of my sandals were both wet and covered with dirt from the splashing rain. Fortunately my jacket has a hood so I was at least able to keep my hair dry otherwise I would definitely have looked like a drowned rat. I looked at the electronic board at the bus shelter to see how long I was going to have to wait for my bus and found that one was due in just a few minutes and another was about five minutes behind it.

I like to make sure that I have my Oyster card in my hand before I get on the bus so that I am not scrabbling around in my handbag for it while other people are waiting to get on the bus. I'm pretty good at putting it in a place in my handbag where it is easy to find whenever I need it, but this morning it wasn't in its usual slot in my bag. Panic set in. What had I done with it? I had used it yesterday and although I had removed quite a few things from my handbag when I was looking for something in it yesterday evening, I was fairly certain that I hadn't taken it out of my bag.

There was only one thing for it, I was going to have to take things out of my handbag systematically so that I could find the card. Unfortunately this was easier said than done because there was nowhere for me to put the things as I took them out. My bus arrived and I still hadn't found the card but as I knew that there was another imminent I decided to let this one go without me so that I could search a little longer. I did eventually find my card as a bus arrived at the stop.

With card in hand I leapt onto the bus (well, perhaps I didn't leap on) and found myself a seat. These days there are a number of different seating arrangements on our red double-decker buses, and this should have alerted me as I got on, but it wasn't until the bus was moving and the speaker system on the announced its route and destination that I realised I had got on the wrong bus. And I only had one more stop that was shared by both this bus and the one that I should have got on. So, I quickly rang the bell to alert the driver that I wanted to get off and a minute later I was back out in the rain waiting for the right bus.

I really cannot believe that I boarded a bus without checking to see what number it was. I had to wait for about 10 minutes (the bus wasn't quite as imminent as I had thought it was) for my bus to arrive getting wetter by the minute. By the time that I had arrived at my destination the rain had stopped but I was still looking like a drowned rat and feeling a stupid one at that.

Monday, 28 June 2010

I Knew Things Were Going Too Well

I started working on a lace shawl just over a week ago. It was started because I needed a break from knitting socks which had been taking up all my knitting time for some weeks. The first hundred or so rows were completed pretty quickly but as the shawl grew it took longer and longer to knit each row until it got to the stage yesterday where each row was taking something like 20 minutes to complete. But even though the rows were taking longer to complete, the actual pattern over these stitches was very easy to follow and soon became imprinted on my mind so that minimal viewing of the pattern charts was necessary.

Things were going smoothly until about 5.30 this evening when I discovered that there were some mistakes in the shawl. I started to unpick it stitch by stitch but with almost 500 stitches to the row, trying to find out where the errors occurred was going to take forever. So I did the unthinkable. I pulled the needle (I'm using a circular one because they are the best thing to use for shawls) from the shawl and started to unravel the whole shawl.

It may seem a somewhat extreme to do this but I really don't have the ability to concentrate on the shawl for the length of time necessary to unpick it a stitch at a time to find the errors. I often resort to this when knitting lace because it can be so easy to make a mistake which can take forever to find. Admittedly I have never managed to get so far with a shawl before making one of these catastrophic mistakes, but I know that the shawl will probably be better second time around and I am now more aware of the likely problem areas of the pattern.

I have already started knitting again and already have completed 13 rows of the first chart. It is likely that I may finish the first chart this evening and possibly even start the second one. Hopefully, this time I will be able to work on the shawl without having to resort to pulling the needle out.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Thinking About The End Of Psychotherapy

I'm not coping with this hot weather very well. I have lots of windows open but there is nothing much in the way of movement of air so it isn't helping me to keep cool. It's too hot to contemplate cooking which I probably couldn't cope with even if it weren't so hot, and I don't have anything that I can just throw in the microwave to heat up. Going without food is not a good idea so I have ordered a pizza to be delivered later when the temperature has hopefully gone down a little and the thought of eating something is not quite so unpalatable.

I think that it is unpalatable thoughts that have been part of the reason that I have started to go downhill into the depths of depression again. These thoughts invade my brain at any time that I am not actively concentrating on something else, and it is the difficulty of maintaining concentration that is inherent in depression that allows these thoughts in.

I live alone and spend most days isolated from the rest of the human race. Part of the reason for this is that I find it very difficult dealing with new people and have done for most of my life. The consequence of this is that I am alone, but that is not the same as being lonely. I don't feel lonely, just alone and as I get older this seems to get more difficult to deal with.

I have made efforts to change things. Recently I have joined the knitting group that meets at I Knit London a couple of times a week. It's not exactly local but close enough to home for me to make the journey at least once a week and sometimes twice. The ladies (and the couple of gentlemen) who meet at this shop for knitting, having the odd drink, and partaking in a lot of conversation, not all of it about knitting, are an incredibly friendly group and have made me feel very welcome.

My joining such a group would have been something unthinkable this time last year and I still find it difficult to believe that I have taken such a step. I still suffer great waves of anxiety when I set out to go to the group, but having to make a fairly lengthy bus journey to get to the venue does allow me time to try to relax. I know that I have most difficulty with group situations when I have to walk in on a group that is already present so I tend to arrive early so that the members join in ones and twos after I am already present and for me this is a more comfortable situation.

The strength to join this group has come about as a direct result of the psychotherapy that I have been undergoing since last December. This therapy was originally meant to finish at Easter but my therapist felt that further long term therapy, this time in a group setting, was needed so after having referred me to the mental health trust's psychotherapy services for assessment as to suitability for group psychotherapy, he decided that our sessions together should go on for longer.

This therapy is now approaching its conclusion. It will come to a close at the end of July, so with me being unable to attend one session because of my impending day surgery, I have four more sessions with this therapist. During our last session he asked if I was concerned about the impending termination of therapy. I replied in the negative, but I am now not so sure. I think that it is almost certainly one of the factors in my descent back into depression.

After such a difficult termination of therapy last year it is perhaps not surprising that the impending termination of therapy is playing on my mind. I know that it is going to be difficult, but I am being seen by a very experienced therapist, a senior consultant psychologist, within the mental health trust, and he is aware of how I was left feeling abandoned after my previous therapy. I also know that he is going to do everything in his power to ensure that I am not going to be left hanging as I was before.

I have made significant progress over the last few months. Psychotherapy is still something that I find difficult; I just don't like talking about myself and my feelings. However, we have worked hard on certain aspects of my behaviour and I am now much more aware of when I am moving into difficult territory and am therefore more equipped to deal with it.

I'm certain that I will still find the end of this therapy very difficult, but I know that it is only a matter of time before I enter a new phase of therapy, this time in a group setting. The talking therapies are regularly offered as the answer to so many of the problems that those with depression are faced with, but it is important that the therapist is well qualified, and because many of those who are most in need of such treatments have no means of paying for therapy and must rely on what little is available on the NHS, it is important that as many good therapists as possible work for the NHS.

In four weeks time I am sure that I will be sitting here contemplating my final therapy session with J. He has made a tremendous difference to the way that I am over the last six months and has helped me come to terms with so much that has happened in my life. I will, of course, thank him, but that seems so little when I consider what he has done for me.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Black Clouds Overhead

After a couple of weeks feeling rather better than I have for a very long time, over the last few days the black clouds of depression have loomed on the horizon and now are settled firmly overhead.

I have endured a very disrupted pattern of sleep. Sometimes I don't sleep at all and at other times I can't stop sleeping. Tears start flowing for no particular reason and the horrible thoughts are intruding whenever I am not focused on doing something.

Even though I have lived with depression for nearly 12 years, it still amazes me how quickly I can change from being able to cope with life to life becoming unbearable. I am finding it difficult to concentrate for anything longer than about half an hour so my knitting is being done in fits and starts. But even so I have managed to make good progress on the lace shawl that I started last Sunday. I have completed 208 rows and have 160 more to go. Each row is now taking about 10 minutes to complete so progressed has slowed considerably to what it was at the beginning of the week and as additional stitches are added (4 on each right-side row) it will continue to take longer to complete each row.

I have decided to continue working on the shawl over the weekend and then return to knitting socks on Monday. The break from socks has been good and will, I hope, enable me to get back to them with renewed enthusiasm.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Where Have My Followers Gone?

I have followers. I have more than 40 of them, but they seem to have stopped appearing on the side of my page. Yesterday they returned for a few hours and then they disappeared again.

The sad thing about not being able to see who is following me is that I have found quite a lot of really good blogs through bloggers becoming followers of my blog. Now it seems that I can see that I have followers on the dashboard, but not find out who they are.

Does anyone have an explanation for their disappearance and a way of getting them back on my blog?

Update: It seems to depend on which browser you use. I generally use Firefox for my blog because I had encountered some problems when trying to create posts using Google Chrome. If I view my blog using Firefox, then the followers are missing, but if I view it using Google Chrome then they are present. It looks as though I will be changing my browser to Google Chrome permanently if I find that the previous problems have now been solved. Thank you for letting me know that you were able to see the followers because that guided me to try other browsers.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Post 600

When I started this blog nearly two years ago I did wonder whether I would keep it up. There have been a few breaks in posting, the times that I was in hospital and again when I went through a really bad period of depression and just getting myself out of bed each day was a major achievement.

The blog was originally intended to document how I coped with depression, and to be fair it has continued to do this although I try not to make my posts depressing catalogues of how bad I am feeling. Instead I try to write about the things that I am doing to try to keep the depression at bay. And now I am writing the 600th post.

A number of posts continue to attract a lot of attention, even though they are now quite old. One is entitled 'Psychotherapy and Termination' (written in March 2009) and I can guarantee that there will be a couple of hits on this post each week. The post that is viewed most often however, is nothing to do with depression or psychotherapy. It is the post titled 'What is a Shetland Hap Shawl?' which was written as a result of a number of people asking me that question in comments to an earlier post that gave details of the Shetland hap shawl that I was knitting at the time. This post is viewed at least five times a week which is somewhat surprising considering its subject.

The posts that I am probably most proud of are those in the 'Tackling the Mental Health Minefield' series. Being admitted to a psychiatric hospital was never something that I had considered as being a thing that would happen to me. But it did, and I am just so relieved that I had enough sense to take myself off to see my GP when I started to do some really silly things that were putting me at risk. I tried to provide an objective overview of my time in hospital, the people that were supposed to be looking after me and the stupid rules that seemed to be there to make life easy for the staff with little regard to the effect that they may have had on the patients. Admission to a psychiatric hospital is never a nice thing but I hope that what I have written on the subject may help to give an idea of what to expect and how you can come out the other side without too much harm being done.

In eight days time the blog will be two years old. I think it is likely to continue to form an important part of my life for the foreseeable future, there are many things that I want to write about and I am sure that there will be more things that crop up as time passes. I hope that anyone who reads this blog will gain something from it, just as I gain something by writing it.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Lace Again

The shawl that I started (twice) on Saturday was finished yesterday. It didn't take long because it was the simplest pattern possible. Buoyed up by completing this project I decided to start work on another shawl. I prepared needles of the correct size and started work on this shawl yesterday afternoon.

While taking a break from knitting I spent some time looking at free patterns for shawls on Ravelry. There were hundreds to look at but one in particular attracted my attention. It wasn't the first time that I had looked at this pattern, but it was noticing that the pattern's designer had used yarn from one of my favourite yarn producers, Cherry Tree Hill, to make this shawl that decided me to take a closer look.

I had a ball of Cherry Tree Hill yarn waiting for me to find a suitable project so I decided to give it a go. Yesterday evening I cast on the five stitches that formed the starting point for the shawl and got stuck in to the pattern. I have now completed 94 of the 368 rows of the pattern and the stitch count has risen from 5 to 192.

There is still a very long way to go until I complete this shawl, and it will certainly have to take a back seat again so that I can get back to work on the socks for the design competition. However, it is a long time since I have worked on a complicated lace pattern such as this one and the fact that I am progressing so well has made me feel a little better today.

Once all the socks are completed then I will be able to devote all my time to the shawl, but until then I will content myself with doing a couple of rows a day so that it continues to grow albeit at a much slower rate than it has over the last 24 hours.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Taking A Break

I seem to have been knitting socks constantly for the last few weeks and yesterday evening I felt I needed a break from them. So after a brief foray on ravelry, a wonderful site for knitters and crocheters, I found a shawl pattern for one of the lovely yarns that I have in my stash.

It couldn't be more different from knitting socks if it tried. Although sock yarn is used for both, the socks are knitted using 2.25mm needles and the shawl is knitted with 8mm needles. It's like knitting with pencils after having spent so much time with very fine needles.

Work on the shawl progressed well last night and again this afternoon so that I was heading towards being at a stage this evening where I could start working on the ruffles edging. As I say, I was heading towards the final stages of the shawl when I found that I had dropped a stitch.

Dropping a stitch would not have been a problem had I been using needles more suitable to the yarn, but because the needles are so large it meant that as I watched the stitch just kept dropping down through the rows until it reached a point where it could go no further. Unfortunately that meant that the only way that I could retrieve the situation was to unpick much of the shawl. Having looked at it, and said a few choice words I ended up unravelling the whole shawl and starting again.

Second time around the shawl is growing. I am about half way to point where I cast off the centre stitches and start working on the front corners. I'm not going to get to the ruffle tonight as I had hoped, but work is commencing at a good enough rate that I can realistically expect to finish the shawl tomorrow.

I must be feeling a little better because had this happened to me a week ago I think that I would have gone to pieces and thrown the yarn and needles across the room. Instead I have just got on with things and started again. One thing is certain, I am going to keep a very close eye on the work and make sure that I don't drop a stitch again.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Ladies Who Lunch

Yesterday evening saw me at the knitting group. I have come to really enjoy the company of this group of ladies (and occasionally some men) on a Wednesday evening especially because it can be enjoyed with a bottle of wine or some other alcoholic beverage (I have acquired a taste for strawberry perry). It can be rather amusing to watch the expressions on the faces of passers by when they see 20 or more people sitting down in a shop knitting and chatting.

Yesterday saw me showing off my sock designs to a few of the people present and they received many favourable comments. When I showed the first design (the only one of which actually has a pair of socks at the moment) I was immediately asked if the pattern was for sale. When I showed my 'Cards' series of socks there was more encouragement and amazement at my creativity.

I explained that I had even more design ideas tucked away in my brain and that I had given up plans to submit a lace design for the competition so that I could concentrate on socks as my entries for this year. It was at this point that Lorraine the lovely lady who works in the shop and answers all my emails about competition entries suggested that this could be the basis of a book. This set me thinking and maybe she is correct. Perhaps this competition has given me the push in the direction that my life needs to move in to. They say that there is a book in all of us, and it is possible that my book is not a novel or a piece of historical research as I had previously thought but something for knitters everywhere.

As I was chatting with the lady who got me to join the knitting group she asked if I was doing anything today. When I said that I wasn't, she suggested that I might like to join a small number of the knitting group who lunch together on a Thursday and who then make their way to I Knit London for the Thursday knitting group. With nothing of any importance in my diary for today, that is exactly what I am going to do.

I am going to be a lady who lunches and who knits too.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Leaving On A Jet Plane (Actually It Will Be A Bus)

To quote a song from my younger years 'My bags are packed, I'm ready to go' and it will soon be time to walk to the bus stop to catch my bus rather than the aeroplane of the song.

I have sorted out all my competition socks and put them and the wool that I have used for them into one bag so that I do not have to search for them when the time comes for me to start work on the competition pairs of socks. This bag has been joined by scissors, my charts, and my pad of graph paper and all of this has been put into my I Knit London bag.

I'm hoping that I will finish the first of the 'Full House' socks this evening and then it will be full steam ahead with the twin that will make up the pair. The next task will be to knit the other four pairs of socks that make up the 'Cards' designs.

I am now pretty sure that I won't have time to design and knit the lace scarf for the competition. Perhaps it was being a bit optimistic to think that I would be able to manage that as well as six pairs of socks. However, I have had another idea for a sock design so I may well add this to my entries if I can get the idea to work.

Whilst I have always done handicrafts, I have never really considered myself to be a creative person because I have always followed a pattern. Designing these socks has shown me that I was wrong and that I do have a little bit of a creative streak in me and that I should see where it takes me. Socks are a relatively easy starting point, but I have become hooked on designing things so I think that lace designs are going to be the next area that I concentrate my efforts on. Scarves to start with and then if these work well I will turn my hand to designing a shawl. This will be a much more difficult area to work in so I may have to wait until my concentration has improved significantly from how it is at the moment.

Who knows where this may all lead to.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Down At Heel

Just a quick update on the 'Full House' sock.

I'm just about to turn the heel. This is the part of sock knitting that I like most because it means that I am half way to completing it. It just so happens that the pattern that I have designed has approximately the same number of rows before the heel as it does after the heel.

Once I have turned the heel and picked up the stitches along both sides of the heel flap I will find out which of the suits comes next. I know it sounds daft but I have absolutely no idea whether the chart that I have used for the leg part of the sock will be used for the foot part (albeit only half of the pattern) or whether I will have to draw up a new chart.

My intention is that the vertical view of the sock will show all four suits. I'm just going to have to keep knitting to find out what will happen. I'm quite pleased with how the sock has turned out so far and I am sure that I will be pleased with the finished result.

It's time to get back to those knitting needles.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Long Way To Go

I'm having real problems with depression at the moment and I'm finding everything difficult. This means that with my not being able to concentrate on anything for very long even the simplest things take much longer than they ought to.

For me, it's not the continuously feeling very low that is the worst part of depression, but the lack of ability to concentrate. Lack of concentration means that reading a book becomes very difficult because I have to read the same paragraph several times for it to make an impact on me. It's at times like these that I resort to old favourites; that is books that I have probably read many times before so I have some idea of what the book is about while trying to concentrate on the page. At the moment I am working my way through the Harry Potter books because children's books are usually easier to follow although that is not necessarily true of the later books in the series because they are much longer and far more complex.

Knitting, the hobby that has kept me going over the years, is also causing me some problems at the moment. In part this is being caused by the fact that I am trying to design sock patterns for the design competition. I have completed one pair of socks and I have knitted one sock of each 'Clubs', 'Diamonds', 'Hearts' and 'Spades' and I am working 'Full House' at the moment. This sock seems to require far more concentration than the others, probably because I am trying to work two symbols at a time on the sock ('Clubs' and 'Diamonds' at the moment).

I had asked whether it would be necessary to knit a pair of each design for the competition and today I have received the reply to my query. This means that I have to make a pair for each design so I have a lot more socks to knit before I am ready to enter the competition. Having to knit the additional socks means that it is now less likely that I will be able to enter a lace scarf in another of the competition categories.

Perhaps this is not such a bad thing because trying to do too much does put pressure on me at a time when I am less able to cope with it. Although I have already knitted the four 'suits' individually, I had knitted each of these socks as a kind of sampler. This means that I have to knit a pair of each of the designs as a finished product so as well as the pair that I am working on at the moment, I have to knit four full pairs for the competition. This is going to require some more wool so I will have to see about buying that later this week when I have a bit more money.

If I were to win one of the prizes in the competition, the prize money would ensure that I would be able to add to my wool stash to keep me going for some considerable time. And the possibility of my patterns being offered for sale would also mean that I could create a little revenue to supplement my hobby.

Although I have a long way to go to complete my entries for the competition, I am glad that I have decided to take on this challenge. So, keep your fingers crossed for me that the judges like my designs and award me one of the prizes.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Socks And Suits

I've not been feeling great for the last few days and this has resulted in me spending a large part of the last three days asleep. Fortunately I can sleep now thanks to the additional medication and getting plenty of sleep does seem to help me cope with things a little better.

I have now completed one sock for each of the four suits. I am happy with the socks for 'Diamonds', 'Hearts' ans 'Spades', but I have made a few alterations to the chart for 'Clubs' so a new sample sock will have to be knitted. However, rather than work on this single suit sock, I have drafted the chart for the 'Full House' sock and I have started knitting that. I've only done three of the 10 rows of rib for the sock's cuff as yet, but it shouldn't take me long to complete the cuff and then I can move onto the leg part of the sock and I have to admit that I am looking forward to seeing how this sock turns out.

I've done a bit of preparatory work on writing the patterns but I shall need to sit down and work on this earnestly over the next couple of weeks. I still have plenty of time before the designs need to be submitted but I also have a lot of work still to do. I am still hoping that I will have the time to create a lace scarf for the competition but it is going to be touch and go whether I can achieve this.

I am hoping to treat myself to a new book this week once my pension gets paid into the bank. This book is full of charts for lace patterns mainly of Estonian design, and it would be a wonderful resource for creating my own designs. So I will be doing a few calculations and if things look okay I shall be buying the book on Thursday and no doubt spend Thursday evening turning the pages slowly and trying to decide which patterns to include in my lace scarf.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Feeling The Strain

It's been a busy week for me. Okay, so it's not been busy like it was when I was working full-time and studying for a degree in the few spare hours that I had, but busy for how my life is now.

The problem with depression is that it saps what little energy you have. I know that I don't eat properly which probably doesn't help much, and while I am at last getting a reasonable amount of sleep each night due to the addition a month ago of 400mg of Seroquel to the 45mg of Mirtazapine that I was already taking, I still find that doing many things really takes it out of me.

I didn't do much on Monday other than what was necessary. I had a misfortune with the sock that I was knitting and had to pull it off the needles and unravel it, ready to start again. I decided to draft out the chart for the next of the sock designs, and 'Spades' quickly took shape on paper to be followed a short time later by work with needles and wool.

Tuesday was psychotherapy day and this week was one of the most intense sessions that I have ever experienced not only with my present therapist but the others who had preceded him. I know that I have sometimes talked about feeling like a limp lettuce after psychotherapy when the session has taken me to difficult places in my mind, but Tuesday's session was different; I didn't feel like a limp lettuce, I just felt mentally and physically drained from the effort that I had put into the session as well as somewhat exhilarated by what had been achieved. When I got home I found it difficult to settle to anything and consequently lots of things got started and then stopped again as my mind couldn't cope with what I was trying to achieve.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I went to the knitting group. Although the group officially meets from 6-9pm, it is usual for some of us to be there before that time. I arrived at about 4pm and sat chatting with the girls in the shop and with a couple of other members of the group who were also there early. I still find it difficult being in a room with a lot of other people, but I have learnt through experience that if I am there early and the room fills up around me that I can cope with it quite well, but if I am required to enter a room that is full of people already then I know that I am going to find the situation much more difficult and I am likely to just stay on the edge of the group rather than joining in. I managed to get a fair bit of knitting done at the group, finishing the leg part and creating the heel flap and starting the turning of the heel.

Today, I had an appointment with my consultant psychiatrist this morning and this afternoon a visit to the CMHT. Dr M was his usual kind self, although today he had two medical students in with him and he was concerned that I may not be happy for them to stay during the consultation. A few years ago I would never have accepted anyone else in the room, but I know that it is very difficult for medical students to get a real feel for the various specialties if all the patients refuse to allow them to stay. These days I am more likely to agree to them remaining with the proviso that if I start to become uncomfortable with the situation that they can be asked to leave. We talked about how I was coping day to day, how my mood has been, and whether I was able to write regularly on the blog. I also told him about going to the knitting group and working on some sock designs for the design competition. We talked about my medication and it has been decided to leave it as it is for the time being to see how I get on over a longer period with the present drug regime, so it's 200mg of Sertraline in the morning and the Mirtazapine and Seroquel at night.

From the hospital it was a bus ride to the CMHT and a meeting with the two workers who are going to be helping me over the next few months cope with the things that I just haven't been able to face for a long time.

This evening I have been taking it easy. I've played a few games on my DSi and done a bit of knitting and I'll probably do a little more before taking my medication and heading for bed. I'm tired, and I don't have to get up early tomorrow to get anywhere so I can have a lie in if that's how things turn out. I guess that I have to expect that I won't be able to do all the things that I did 20 years ago, but I'm just not happy with admitting that I am getting old as well as being depressed.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Socks

It's knitting group at I Knit London tonight so I am about to pack some wool and needles in my bag and head off for an evening of knitting and chat.

My 'Hearts' sock was progressing well until I found that I had dropped a stitch and it had run down many rows. There was nothing for it but to pull out the needles and unravel the sock. A bit heartbreaking but that's the way it goes.

Instead of restarting that sock straight away I decided to have a go at drafting the chart for 'Spades' and start knitting that instead. The chart was fairly easy to draft and I am reasonably happy with how the Spade-shape looks on the sock. I'm working this one in shades of brown. I have almost completed the leg part of the sock so will be knitting the heel flap and turning the heel while at the group this evening.

I will start 'Hearts' again once 'Spades' is finished and then probably start on 'Full House' although I think that having worked on the other suits I am not so happy with 'Clubs' any more and may consider redrafting the design and knitting it again.

At least it keeps me off the streets!