Today we have a special Post, we very happy to have Kathryn Vercillo The Author of “Crochet Saved My Life” the book that you all know helped me to get out of Panic Attacks and Anxiety with Depression.
We decided to do a Post interview instead of a Podcast but, later today you can be able to hear the audio of the Interview on our podcast.
I’ll leave you with this amazing interview 🙂 Enjoy!
- Please Kathryn tells us a little bit about your background and how you started to crochet.
I first learned how to crochet as a child. My mom taught me the basic chain, but I didn’t take it any further than that. Then, when I was in my late twenties, I went through and experience of debilitating depression. I kept trying to dig myself out of it but nothing seemed to give me joy anymore. I had heard somewhere along the way a tip to try doing things that you loved to do as a child. Although I hadn’t crocheted for long back then, I did remember it, and I decided to give it a try. I was actually visiting my mom in Tucson at the time and she took me to the yarn store and helped me pick out some crochet hooks and yarn.
We tried to crochet at the time, using instructions in an old magazine that she had, but neither of us could remember the basics and we gave up quickly. However, I went home and got a children’s crochet book from the library, and I taught myself. The first thing I made was a crochet scarf sized for a child, and I loved that scarf so much! I felt so productive. I felt like I could DO something again. As a bonus, my mom decided to re-learn crochet, too, and she now crochets regularly again also. She even had some of her work featured in an art show a few years ago.
- Please tell us how crochet was able to help you with from depression?
Crochet was so critical to helping me through that terrible period of depression. It is so hard to explain what depression is like for people who have never been through it. When I say that I couldn’t get out of bed, that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. It’s not that I literally couldn’t get out of bed ever. It’s more than getting out of bed required so much physical and emotional effort that doing it was incredibly draining.
My depression involved a lot of negative self-talk, so even just going out to get something to eat required me to overcome a whole lot of negative nonsense from my inner critic. I would beat myself up about not having gone sooner or where I wanted to go or what else I could be doing instead. There were so many mean things I could come up with to say to myself and I couldn’t seem to quiet that inner voice.
My depression was also accompanied by extreme anxiety. I couldn’t make decisions, because I would worry about every possible outcome. Sometimes these thoughts weren’t even coherent; I didn’t realize that I was telling myself a lot of stuff that caused me to be anxious but would instead just become overwhelmed by the feeling of it. I would cry because I was frustrated. I wanted to do things with my time, but I felt completely incapable of doing anything. Whenever I tried to do something, it would turn into a BIG DEAL, and I’d get so overcome by the stress of the experience (even very little things like going out with friends) that I would just end up staying in bed, watching TV, feeling upset.
Throughout all of this, I kept trying to get better. I didn’t even know that depression was what I was going through. I just knew I felt terrible, and that I often found it hard to leave my house or to do anything creative or productive if I stayed home. So, then I re-learned how to crochet. It was something that I could easily do from the comfort of my own home. I didn’t have to leave my bed if I didn’t want to. I found crochet fairly easy to learn, so it was something that allowed me to feel productive. My self-esteem – which was in shambles at the time – immediately grew because I could see myself learning a skill (crochet) and making things (scarves and then blankets).
Later, after I had come out of the depression, and especially after I started researching the health benefits of crochet, I realized that there were so many other reasons that crochet helped out of depression. A big thing was that I had a lot of negative ruminating thoughts, and crochet put a pause on those thoughts and gave me some reprieve. The simple counting of stitches while touching the soft yarn gave my brain a break. In the spaces between all of that negativity, I was able to allow some self-compassion into my life, and that helped me a lot with getting better.
- What made you decide to write a blog about crochet?
I had been working as a writer and blogger for a long time but I wasn’t enjoying it too much at the time. I didn’t like the work that I was doing for other people, and I didn’t feel creative enough to work on my own projects. Once crochet had shaken me loose and helped me start feeling creative again, I decided to start a crochet blog as a place where I could share my thoughts on this new hobby. I really just wanted an excuse to research the craft and spend time on it and I wanted a blog that I was writing only for me, not for anyone else. I ended up falling in love with writing this crochet blog. Not only did I love doing the research and writing for the blog, but I also discovered this amazing crochet community that I enjoyed connecting with. The people who commented on my blog inspired me, and that led me to read other crochet blogs, and to connect with people through social media, and I really immersed myself in all aspects of crochet for several years. The blog changed my life by giving me a focus for this craft and a way to share it with so many other people around the world.
- You wrote Crochet Saved my life where you talk about your story but also about the story of many other women who started to heal themselves through crochet, how did you connect with all these women, and what did you learn from them?
At one point, I started sharing a little bit on the blog about how I had started to crochet and how it helped me through depression. Immediately people started writing to me to let me know that they had also benefitted from crochet. I was surprised to see so many stories about how crochet was helping people. At the time there was very little information out there about the health benefits of crochet. There was a tiny bit of research into the health benefits of knitting. More generally there was information on art therapy or crafts in occupational therapy, but there wasn’t anything specific to crochet, and there wasn’t a lot of easily accessible information online. So I started writing my story, and I started asking people online to share their stories with me for what became the Crochet Saved My Life book. I connected with these women through my blog and social media, and I ended up developing strong ongoing friendships with many of them. I learned so much from them about the different ways that crochet was helping them. It was so inspiring to hear all of the different things that they had worked through – difficult pregnancies, losing children, abusive marriages, chronic health conditions … Each person had a unique story, and she was willing to share that story with me. There were times when my inner critic jumped in and would tell me that my story wasn’t valuable enough to share in a book but then I would be so inspired by these women, and so touched that they trusted me to tell their stories, that I would be able to overcome that inner critic and get the work written. I was – and am – very proud of that book. It’s not perfect in any way but it was one of a kind at the time, and so much love went into that work.
5.Is there any particular story that touched you more than others and you would like to share?
Each of the stories touched me in their own way, of course. The one that immediately comes to mind is Marinke’s story, because of how that ultimately turned out. Marinke had struggled with severe depression due in part to feeling “different” because of her Aspergers syndrome. At the time that I interviewed her for Crochet Saved My Life, she was starting to do a lot better. She had launched her blog, A Creative Being, and she was sharing her crochet with others. I stayed in touch with her over the next few years as she became a really inspiring voice in the crochet community. She began working as a crochet designer, sharing such beautiful work with others. She taught a lot of people to crochet thanks to her simple, detailed tutorials. She was also one of the very first people to start making crochet mandala designs, a trend that many people jumped on after her. She was a bright voice. I was so devastated in 2015 when she lost her battle with depression and died by suicide.
I wish that we had her for so much longer, but the crochet community is so lucky to have had her for the time that they did. I launched the Mandalas for Marinke art project (http://mandalasformarinke.kathrynvercillo.com) as a way to honor her life and creativity and also as a way for myself and others in the community to work through their grief. A lot of people “only” knew her online but that’s still a very real relationship and people feel it as a genuine loss. That’s evidenced by the fact that more than 300 people contributed crochet mandalas to the project. Some of them knew her, some only learned about her after her death, but all were touched by her. People shared their own stories about depression, suicide, and crafting to heal. This was, in many ways, an outgrowth of Crochet Saved My Life. I posted the contributions on my blog with information about depression and suicide, then I ultimately created a book of some of the contributions to the project. (More info here: http://mandalasformarinke.kathrynvercillo.com/the-book/).
- I read your book years ago and your book made me pick up my hook and crochet helped me to heal, how do you feel to know that your book helped so many women.
I loved hearing your story and do hope that you’ll share it with others as a part of this podcast / post. It touches me so deeply whenever I hear that anyone benefitted in any way from this book or any of my other writings. The only goal I truly have with my writing is to put myself out there as authentically as possible in the hopes that my words will reach the people who need them at the time that they need them. I have always been an avid reader and I have been so impacted in my own life by reading the right words at the right time. Sometimes those words come from bestsellers but just as often they come from books that almost no one has ever heard of. It’s not my goal to sell the most books or to write the perfect book but rather to write my own truth in a way that I hope is accessible to others. My very favorite quote of all time relates to this:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.” – Martha Graham
- Tell us about future projects.
As I mentioned when we spoke on the phone, 2017 was a year with a lot of things ending for me. One was that I finished grad school so now I have a Masters degree in Psychological Studies. I plan to combine my educational studies with my writing to produce new works that are informed by research as well as my own experience. Some of these will be related to crochet/craft and others on different topics. I’m particularly interested right now in our use of technology, how pervasive it is in our society, how that might be changing our brains and our relationships, and how we can use crafting and other “slow” hobbies to bring ourselves back to a different pace of life even as these gadgets become more ubiquitous. So there will likely be writing in that area in the near future.
One of my goals with the Mandalas for Marinke project was to have an in-person show of the mandalas at an art gallery. Thanks to the help of terrific creative duo Threadwinners, I was able to realize that dream, with two shows in Southern California. I gave a talk and reading at one of the events and attended the other to meet-and-greet. I was so touched by the people who come up to me to share their own stories about crafting to heal. I was even more touched when two people who had contributed to the project each came from out of town (one was from all the way across the country) to be there for the events. It was awe-inspiring for me to see the crochet mandalas all hung together in a gallery space and to really feel that love for Marinke, and that love that all crafters have for one another, really coming through in that space.
Although I hope to continue that project in a new way in the future, it’s on pause right now, and I feel like the first part of it was complete once I had those shows and published the book. So that was one ending. Another ending that came was that I sold my crochet blog. I had been approached by a buyer who was offering a good price, and it came at the right time when I was considering how blogs are changing and what role the blog had in my life at this time. Ending my part in the blog wasn’t an easy decision, because that blog had helped me share so much about this craft that I loved and had connected me to so many people. But I do think that blogs have changed, and keeping up with a blog is harder for me than it used to be because of those changes. There’s a lot to this but basically there’s just a lot of noise on the Internet these days. When I started there weren’t a lot of crochet-only blogs and definitely not ones that lasted very long; now we are lucky to have many of them. The ones that show up in search engine results are always the same few, though, and it takes a lot of work (usually done by large companies) to stay visible in that way. So I wasn’t making much money off of the blog, and after six years of writing only about crochet I felt like I didn’t have as many new things to say. So, I sold the blog, which was another ending.
When I sold the blog, I wanted to still stay in touch with the core people who really believe in my work and want to keep hearing what I have to say. I use Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/kvercillo) to do that, and that’s currently the best way for people to connect with me around crochet. The basic subscription is one dollar per month which gives you a monthly email newsletter about crochet. It typically includes an interview about how crochet heals someone, a profile of a crochet artist, the latest happenings in crochet news, sometimes a tutorial or pattern, and anything else I’m loving in crochet that month or thinking about in craft in general. Other subscription options through Patreon give people access to a non-crochet email newsletter about people who collaborative creatively and to a themed monthly crochet newsletter that’s all about using crochet to work with a self-improvement theme (such as feeling abundance, connecting with family, etc.) That themed subscription is an outgrowth of the work in my second crochet book, Hook to Heal. (http://amzn.com/B018BBHCJQ/?tag=moho-20 ).
- What Do You Know for Sure?
The number one thing that I know for sure is that my siblings are my best friends. They will always be there for me and I am so, so lucky to have them. They are the two people in the world who inspire me the most.
Something else I know for sure is that people are both simple and complicated. What I mean by this is that we are all motivated by the same basic things, like we want love and acceptance, and we have common basic fears. However, we are also complicated – each of us is made up of a very unique set of circumstances that combines with our own inner worlds to create humans that are messy in the way that we express ourselves. Why it matters to know this is that it helps me in dealing with people who are difficult or different from me in a way that I might find challenging, people whose beliefs I find offensive for example, or people whose actions I don’t understand. It helps to remember that we are very complicated and that a lot of different experiences went into creating that person, experience I can never know, but it also helps to remember that at the core we are all basically the same so there must be some common ground in there somewhere for us to start from.
Also, I know that crochet heals 🙂
Thank you so much, Kathryn, for the Interview, I feel very blessed for the friendship we built in these weeks, I could never imagine I would become friends with the Author that helped me to deal with a very bad moment in my life. Thank You So Much for What You Do!
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