Crocheting Through Chronic Illnesses

This is a guest post by Alexandra Halsey. If you’d like to write a guest post for The Pillow Fort, you can find more details here. chronicallboredtrycrochetcrochetingthruchronicdiseaseswithalex

“What to do? What to do?” Sometimes I ask myself this question over and over, never knowing what will distract me from the pain and fatigue that I am in and maybe have a little bit of fun too. Having fun, smiling, and laughing while you are chronically ill are all very important things to try to experience every day. I have tried numerous things. Painting was fun and I have always loved it, but I grew tired of it and it wasn’t something that I could do every day.

I have always loved to read but I felt like I was reading too much and losing some of my own identity. I want to experience life myself, not just read about it. bearamigurumibyalexandrahalsey

Photography is something I really love also, but studying it is easier for me than actually going out every day and trying to do the photography that I like. It was too hard and causing me more pain.

You see, I’ve had chronic problems most of my life, starting with migraines and aches, but by the time I was 19, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and I started down the path of chronic illnesses. Since then I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 20, Lupus at 26, Interstitial Cystitis at 28 and I have some other problems, as well as being a tuberculosis survivor. I started out having a lot of good days mixed in with a lot of bad days or flares, but now I am having more bad days with fewer and fewer good days. Even though I am 30 years old I still hear from doctors, “You’re too young to be this sick and in as much pain as you say you are in. There is no cure. You need to learn to live with it.” These words can be devastating to hear, but I indeed have learned to “live with it” and mostly for me that means distractions and coping techniques. I use distractions to get through the fatigue, pain, and other symptoms that arise from being chronically sick. The distraction that gives me the most fun is crochet.littleowlhatbyalexandrahalsey

One night, I looked at my fiancé and said I want to learn how to knit. I had been in bed for weeks and was so bored. He kind of laughed but said that sounded like a good idea. So we bought a cheap pair of knitting needles and some yarn and by memory, from when he would sit on the arm of his mom’s couch and watch her knit and crochet as a kid, he taught me how to cast on and do the knit stitch. I immediately fell in love. I loved the movement. I loved creating something out of yarn. I loved how the stitches looked and came together. I loved how it made me feel, for about an hour, and then I still loved it but it hurt! It hurt my wrists, fingers, arms, and I had blisters and cuts on my fingers and hands; it was awful. I tried, very stubbornly, for about 2 months and I did make 2 baby hats, but I was so sad. It hurt so much, too much.

Then my fiancé said, “How about crochet?” He then went out and bought me a hook and we sat down and from memory again, he taught me how to chain and single crochet. From there I have turned to youtube anytime that I have had a question and have made lots of hats for babies, children, and a few adults. I have also crocheted some scarves, boot cuffs, headbands, and now I’m in love with crocheting stuffed animals or amigurumi. I love crochet because I can do it almost every day, whether I am in bed or sitting on my porch swing. I can even do it in the car when I am waiting in line to pick my son up from school. The possibilities with crochet are practically endless. Yarn bombing is becoming more and more popular as well. This is when an artist goes out and covers an object in yarn out in the real world. They cover bicycles, street signs, street posts, rocks, trees, and more. I’ve been crocheting for a little over a year now and I can’t imagine ever growing tired it.

Tips: I use an egg shaped ergonomic handle whenever I can and I use a pillow on my lap to bring my work up some so it does not hurt my neck. I also do not hold my hook like a pencil. I hold it like I would hold a knife. Experiment with the way you hold the hook, to see what works for you. Taking breaks often and wearing a wrist brace or compression gloves can help too. Also, supporting your arms and back with pillows helps.

There are also a lot of benefits to crocheting and for the chronically ill these things are very important. giraffeamigurumibyalexandrahalsey

1. Helps to relieve stress and anxiety: Stress is a very hard thing to deal with when you are chronically ill and it can be really bad for your health and whatever diseases/illnesses you might suffer from. It is very important to deal with stress in positive ways. Each stitch you make pulls you in further and further, you have to concentrate on making each stitch. It is very soothing because it is something you have complete control over. You can also crochet when you are in stressful situations like when you are waiting in a doctor office or while you are waiting on hold on the phone to speak to someone.

2. Helps to relieve depression: Crocheting helps build self-esteem. When you crochet you are basically creating something from nothing. You can either keep your creation for yourself or give it away to someone as a gift. This helps me feel worthwhile and happy. Even if I am in bed all day, at the end of the day I have something to look at and show for it.

3. Helps memory: Crocheting keeps your mind active by counting stitches, reading patterns, memorizing the movements of each stitch, making calculations, etc  Some of my friends even say that it helps them combat their brain fog.

4. Helps to relieve and distract from pain: Repetitive movements are a great distraction and they can help heal muscles and keep your hands, fingers, arms, and wrists active.

5. Keeps you connected to family and friends. There are so many times that I can’t make it to a family function and if I can crochet a gift to send that family member I feel better and they feel closer to me. It is also fun to sit down with family and friends and try to teach them some crochet. 2013and2014mycrochetcollage-01byalexandrahalsey 6. Make a little bit of money or give to charity. Some people open their own stores on etsy, ebay or their own website and they can make extra money. Other people just make friends and family gifts or they donate to hospitals and charities. I have created a facebook page called Crocheting Thru Chronic Diseases with Alex and I use it to spread awareness for chronic illnesses while having some fun with crochet. I have made a picture tutorial on single crochet and how to crochet a square with a challenge. I also hold contests so that my fans can win things made special by me. I have a lot of fun with it.

7. Burns calories! Crochet is an awesome exercise because of the repetitive movements. There are so many reasons and benefits for giving crochet a try. I challenge you to try crochet!

Here are some links for tutorials and free patterns:

Beginner tutorials

My single crochet tutorial

My square tutorial

My square challenge

Free patterns: here, here and here.

Alexandra Halsey - Crocheting Through Chronic IllnessesContributor Bio Alexandra is a 30 year old stay at home mom who loves to crochet, read, and do photography when well enough. She runs a page on facebook called “Crocheting Thru Chronic Diseases with Alex” and it is dedicated to raising awareness for chronic illnesses while having fun with crochet.

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