Mental illness

Stitch and Twitch: Social anxiety and public crafting.

3 April, 2011

Over the last few months I’ve been coming to terms with learning something new about myself. I’ve been dealing with generalised anxiety and depression for many years but a few months ago I found out I was also suffering with social anxiety. I’ve never been into partying a lot (well, besides my early 20s and that wasn’t terribly enjoyable) and I score dead between Introvert and Extrovert on the Myers Briggs test. I just thought I was being introverted and stuff!

I’m afraid of using the telephone. Sometimes I don’t go outside because I’m afraid of falling over. When I go out I get terribly anxious, I hyperventilate, sweat a lot and stumble over my words. In the last year I started to withdraw into myself, not going outside and I even started falling behind on my work which is largely undertaken inside in the comfort of my own home. My social anxiety is strongly linked with avoidance so I will avoid seeing friends, taking calls (which must distress my mother!) and even responding to emails.

I’m seeing a psychologist and taking medication to help get me through years of pretty crippling anxiety, but it’s very hard. I wonder if there’s a line between just not wanting to socialise because I don’t get much out of it and being afraid of socialising, but these are things I am currently seeking therapy for. My psychologist suggested that I do at least one social thing a week, and after thinking about it and negotiating between all the things in my brain I settled on doing something that I like in a challenging environment.

I love to make things but it’s been a private thing for me up until now. I see the ways in which the crafting movement has enjoyed a revival and how crafty people have started to reclaim public space for making things. Knitting, crocheting, stitching and stuff. I went to a “Stitch and Bitch” night a few times years ago and wasn’t terribly confident about stitching but the social aspect was great. On twitter the other week I wondered aloud about holding a “Stitch and Twitch”, a weekly social crafting session for people with social anxiety. Wonderfully, a few people (pretty much my friends!) said they’d love to attend, so we’ve had a couple of meetings so far and it’s been great!

Today we went to Kerbside and took full advantage of the lovely mismatched vintage furniture, working on our own individual projects. The bar is actually a huge shed type structure filled with interesting stuff and good music, so even if the conversation lulled (another thing I fear!) it was filled with humming and concentration.

I didn’t have much of that concentration today and after unpicking a huge mistake in my cross stitching I switched to crocheting a necklace, then taking photos! Here’s lots of them.

A photo of mismatched seats lining a long table against a fence made out of lots of odd bits of iron fencing facing the street.

A photo of people sitting in mismatched lounge chairs in various floral tapestry fabrics.

A photo of a framed picture of Jesus on a wall next to a mirror.

An out of focus photo of Sonya's silver sequin jacket spangled with lots of silvery bokeh.

A photo of Nick working on his cross stitch.

A photo of lots of bangles on a pale skinned wrist, one is a coiled snake and the others are various big plastic and resin bangles.

A photo of Mem holding up her small Finding Nemo cross stitch in front of her face.

A photo of me taking a photo of my reflection in the mirror. Written on the mirror in white pen is "Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? And can I have their number?"

A photo of various glasses of cider on a table with Zoe and Sonya out of focus behind.

A photo of various crafty things on the table like cross stitch, crochet, scissors and a drawing.

A photo of some cream yarn and crocheting on a floral tapestry couch.

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  • Memily

    I got enough eye for me and Nemo combined. I CAN’T STOP CROSS-STITCHING

  • Gemma

    I’m sorry I never got back to you about the first stitch and twitch you had last week, am hopeless :-( would love to join you next time if that’s ok?? G xx

  • I just wanted to stop by and say that I know how hard it is, but I’m glad you’ve found something that might work for you. I’ve been struggling with it for years and am finally starting to feel better. The problem for me is that I’ve realised that my friends are pretty much gone because I spent the last three years pushing them away and ignoring them, since I couldn’t bear going out in public. Nobody’s fault but my own, but it still makes me sad.

    Stitch n’ Twitch sounds like a fabulous idea. If I can find somebody to do that with I am so stealing it.

    Oh and btw, your pics of cross stitch makes me want to try it! I’m a knitter, mostly, and haven’t done cross stitch since I was in high school, but I used to love it.

  • Best. Ever. Now, if they could add food, that would be amazing. I love the chilled atmosphere and the low pressure — especially when the venue is not so crowded and there’s room to move.

  • Anonymous

    I love crafting (especially various kinds of stitching and papercraft or both together) but I have a lot of problems sharing it with anyone other than my partner – I have depression and am also a super-introvert and she has generalised anxiety disorder. I’ve been in online groups but even then the contact and socialising gets too much for me. Stitch and Twitch sounds wonderful – if you ever come to my area of Victoria, we should hold one here!

  • Erylin

    yay! a fellow cross stitcher!

  • Shilo_kennedy

    Hey Natalie, I think I’ve said it before but you and I are quite similar. Well it seems that way to me! I have all the same mental disorders and it’s funny you mention wanting to get out and do something social that you love because I have been thinking of doing the same for a few months now too. I have just started crocheting again and am loving it. I was going to join the Brisbane browl owls but i don’t drive and my partner always works weekends so it really rules out attending most gatherings for me unless they are during the week or at night. If you did want to expand on your stitch and twitch group I would love to join in one time. You can contact me at shilo_kennedy@hotmail.com.

  • Desleybaird

    I am NOT a distressed mother! I understand you and love you unconditionally. Talking about our inadequacies, our foibles, our weaknesses and imperfectivity only makes us human. Love what you are doing :-) xxxxxx

  • Thank you for being the type of mother that mine won’t be.

  • Im in the same boat as yourself, right down to the E/I measure, but Im more an E, I need people. I love having the house to myself and the puss, but I can’t go a couple of days without connecting with others in a physical sense, because my anxiety worsens. I used to have the phone phobia when I was younger, and again when mobiles were first introduced, so I understand how you feel. Crafting is a great way to give yourself to the Other whilst being present with Others.