I am at constant war with my mind.
I struggle with anxiety, depression, paranoia, and addiction. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain that adversely affects my moods and productivity, which means that every day is a battle between my desire for inner peace and the swarm of negative thoughts and emotions that threaten to overwhelm me.
But when I craft, my mental illnesses are subdued and deterred from launching their assault.
It’s like smoke to a bee. Bees communicate through smell. When a threat is detected, they release an alarm pheromone that makes the other bees prepare to attack. Smoke masks the pheromone and keeps the bees calm.
Crafting puts my mind at ease and lulls me into a state of tranquility. It lifts my mood, calms my anxiety, and puts my self-derogation to rest. The buzzing negativity becomes a mere hum in the background, and I am granted a temporary reprieve from my brain’s constant self-sabotage. Art is the smoke to my bees.
Over the years, I've enjoyed a variety of creative outlets, from drawing and painting to sewing and ceramics. I've knitted scarves, weaved bracelets, and, most recently, made a miniature Hogwarts castle and set of Taylor Swift blocks. On my list of goals for 2021 is learning how to embroider and making a miniature diorama of T-Swift’s “Lover” music video.
Crafting isn’t just a hobby—it’s a form of therapy. Mental illness often leads people to seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms, but art is a genuinely beneficial, healing method of self-help. As someone who struggles with social anxiety, I am grateful for an activity that allows me to work from the comfort of my own home without being forced to interact with other people. Crafting is a mindful making practice that conforms to my specific needs and doesn’t agitate or exacerbate my existing issues.
The planning part of crafting excites me. It’s that rush of adrenaline and eager enthusiasm for something new. I always get ahead of myself and want to start a project before I've acquired all of the necessary supplies and fully thought everything through.
But when I begin crafting, I relax. I zone out. I throw on some music or a TV show and spend hours cutting things out, gluing them together, painting, and organizing. It gives me something to focus on. There's no room for suicidal ideation, catastrophizing, or self-loathing. I’m at peace.
Best of all, crafting allows me to daydream without wasting time. As a maladaptive daydreamer, I spend hours of each day constructing elaborate dream worlds and detailed fantasies. Normally, I sit and stare into space during these dreams, accomplishing nothing. Crafting allows me to remain productive while dissociating, to use my hands and make something tangible, something that won’t disappear when I leave my imagination and return to reality.
My crafts tend to be decorative in nature; there's not much practical use for a tiny Hogwarts or set of Taylor Swift-themed blocks.
But art doesn't have to serve some grand purpose. Crafting is as much about the journey as it is the destination. The enjoyment I get out of creating something at all makes these projects more than worth it. It's a rewarding experience to pour your heart and soul into something that, once it's done, you can step back and proudly claim as your own.
Mental illness is like being stung over and over. It’s this constant buzzing, nagging, draining assault on the mind, often ranging from minor annoyance to acute emotional pain. Art is an escape, a safe space in which I can let my guard down and simply be. It’s one of the few things that make me unreservedly happy. Crafting is the smoke to my bees, and art is the honey that makes my life sweeter.