Who We Are: Every Brain is Different

One of the things I love about the Who We Are series is that we never know who we will hear from. Today our contributors are talking about their personal experiences with depression, Autism, and epilepsy!


Lucy

‘Brain fog’ is one of the lesser known symptoms of both depression and anxiety (and other mental health illnesses as well, but I can only speak for those I’ve experienced).

2008 was the year that a lot of things changed in my life. It was the year that my grandfather died and the year I got together with the man that would become my husband — it was the year that I taught myself to sew during the university summer holidays and it was also the year that I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression.

Brain fog is weird because you don’t always realise that you’re in its grip until it’s too late. Every single thought and decision takes a lot more energy than it normally would, so engaging with anything outside of your own head is a huge effort. If you’re having to fight through that fog in order to get out of bed, remember to eat, and even hold down a job, anything non-essential drops way down the priority list. I love sewing, but much of my hobby time over the years has been engaged in ‘theoretical sewing’ at best — reading blogs and looking up patterns and buying fabric all take soooo much less energy than actually creating a garment does.

I’m one of the lucky ones whose story has a new chapter. It took eight years, but in 2016 we finally found a combination of drugs that worked to keep my depression in check. I remember clearly the first time after that that I tried to sew something, and I was astounded at how easy it was. My brain was no longer fighting against me! Was this what it was like for most people? No wonder they were whisking up three garments in a weekend when I was lucky to get a single pattern traced.

I still don’t have a high garment output. I have a professional qualification that I desperately need to finish off, and in 2012 I picked up a second crafting obsession in the form of knitting. I have Aspergers Syndrome and the brain fog still sneaks up on me in the form of autistic overload far more often than I would like. But that’s not all the time any more, and the good days definitely outnumber the bad ones. The knowledge of what I can do now versus what I could do then is so empowering — they do say that you can’t truly appreciate the light without first having experienced the darkness.

Now to work through all that fabric!

Lucy is an accountant in West Yorkshire UK. Her blog died years ago, but she is on Instagram at @residentrabbit and on Ravelry as lucygoose88.


Pearl

My name is Pearl Red Moon and textile art has had a huge impact on my life. Here is a youtube short film that was made about my art by Nicky Elliot in 2016.

My mother was home sewist in the 1960s, but I didn’t learn from her, or at school in the “Home Economics” classes that young women were expected to take in that era. As a single mother in the early 1980s, living on a social security benefit, I wanted to wear fashionable clothes but I couldn’t afford them so I took my Mum’s Bernina sewing machine and taught myself. I loved this skill so much that a few years later I studied at a technical college to gain a certification in pattern drafting and sample machining. I ran a small home based clothing design and manufacturing business for a few years before emigrating to Australia with my 6 year old son.

Living in Australia I reverted to working from home doing outwork sewing. I was relieved not to have the responsibility for running a business anymore as I’d found it immensely stressful and come to realise I was a better artist than business person. However, by the mid 1990s I had to throw my hands up in despair as I could no longer make a living wage. The clothing manufacturing industry had gone global and tens of thousands of home based workers either slaved for pennies or found other jobs.

When I was forced out of home to seek work this become a confrontation on more than the economic level. Until that time I’d been able to avoid examining too closely various personality traits that made it challenging for me to work in close proximity to others. In the next few years I got sacked from virtually every job I had because I couldn’t get on with fellow workers — that includes getting sacked from a brothel! It wasn’t that I was incompetent at my work I just had lots of communication problems. Eventually I started a Visual Art degree at University and went to see a psychologist because I was having lots of problems settling in. The psychologist said I had a form of Autism known as Aspergers and suddenly the jigsaw disarray of my life fell into place. Armed with this knowledge, I’ve been able to gain insights and strategies how to survive and prosper in a world I had previously found largely incomprehensible.

I married for the first time at 50 to a man who is hugely supportive and insightful about my idiosyncratic personality. With his support I was able to start my own sewing enterprise making one of a kind art to wear. I updated my old last century patternmaking skills to the digital era and also have an indie design company selling my PDF clothing patterns on the internet. I function best working by myself with minimal interaction with people. The way my brain works my flourishing place is to be intensely engrossed with the work at hand — cutting, sewing, painting, stitching.

Pearl’s Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/pearlredmoon


Tiffany-ann

Hi I’m Tiffany-ann, I’m 27 and I live in Gatineau, Quebec.

In 2017, after many tests and brain surgery, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I was living in Toronto with my husband and son. Trying to keep up with the crazy cost of living, our lifestyle was stupid busy. I had about 1 seizure a week. My son was also having his own difficulties. I knew we needed to slow down and my company was very supportive. So in December 2017 we moved to Gatineau. My son was enrolled in a special daycare and I got to work from home. What a difference it made to my well being.

The only irritant for seizures left were the headaches I got from too much time in front of a computer due to my job. This is how I got into sewing. I wanted a hobby to break up the time spent in front of a monitor. I started in October. So far the biggest impact epilepsy has on my sewing is my inability to drive. The closest fabric store is a 10 minute drive, but it might as well be an a hour without Uber or a close bus station. (I can’t wait for Uber to be approved here) And between my son’s daycare and my husband’s rotational schedule, going to weekly classes or meet-ups wasn’t an option. So I turned to the online community to learn and share. Not going to lie, it’s a hot mess out there. There are so many resources but it’s all over the place and with no structure. Having never touched a sewing machine before, it made the learning curve especially steep.

But I am managing and loving it! Now I just need to find an online store with reasonable shipping to Canada, a good selection of fabric AND notions, and clear prices on machines!

You can get in touch with Tiffany-ann via Instagram @seamsligit !


We hope you enjoyed hearing from these three sewists! Show them some love in the comments, and please feel free to share your own experiences!


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