Confidence

 I’m a bit calmer than I was last week and I have managed to carve out some time for myself to enjoy my creative pursuits. Which always puts me in a better frame of mind because it makes me feel like I have actually achieved something. I have struggled since being ill-health retired to feel that I make a valuable contribution to society. People always ask “what do you do for work?” or “D why Io you work?” and it is a real conversation stopper when you have to say “no I have been ill-health retired since 2008”. My disability is pretty much invisible or not well understood by others, so even when I rock up in my mobility scooter or wheelchair people don’t understand why I would need to use these.

I have in the past had family members that don’t get the fact that I am in pain every day and that is all I have ever known. I don’t tend to say much about it because well quite frankly talking about it bores me, so if it bores me what does it do for the other people? I am quite private which seems weird when I write a blog every week. There are very few people I am 100% honest with when I talk about how I am feeling at any given time. I learned from an early age that complaining about pain meant you weren’t believed or were accused of being a hypochondriac and that was by people who should have known better as their job was to nurture and protect me. Plus as I grew up I made the mistake of being honest with people when I was in pain and it was used against me and I was told I was draining to be around. I know now that the woman I was dealing with, who was also my boss was a sociopath and completely incapable of  empathy towards me and even her own family. At the time though in my 20’s her attitude was very damaging and stopped me taking care of myself when I was quite seriously ill for fear of being judged by her. When working in a close environment as I was and at her mercy, I was completely paralysed with fear. These days I don’t put up with that kind of treatment but it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

Leaving work was hugely damaging for my mental health, even though the previous two years working had been extremely damaging also, when I was with a team that refused to acknowledge my physical limitations and I was treated like a burden. My card had been marked, my face no longer fitted and the senior team decided that I was going to be worked out. I desperately hung on making myself sicker and weaker until I collapsed and there was nothing left in the tank. I was admitted to hospital and slept for 48 hours solid, only waking for the bathroom and something to eat. I was burnt out by it all, physically and mentally destroyed, it took me a very long time to claw my way back and realise that despite not working I was contributing to society in my own way.

This is why sewing, machine embroidery, crochet have all become so important to me. They have been an outlet for my creativity that had been stifled for so long after being led to believe I was academic and not creative. I had no confidence at all when it came to being creative. I taught myself how to sew on my sewing machine, my embroidery machine and I then two years later taught myself to crochet. Due to being pretty much housebound and obviously numerous lock downs with Covid 19, Youtube, magazines and books have been my teachers. I do find I am a visual learner however many of these videos assume a level of experience I don’t possess. So when it came to sewing I threw away the rule book, warp and weft meant absolutely nothing to me and nor did cutting fabric on the bias. Mostly I have got away with throwing away the rule book. I did the same with leaning how to use an embroidery machine, I embroidered designs on fabric that the book and many fellow embroiderers would have said wasn’t going to cope with a dense design. I taught myself ways of getting the fabric to behave the way I wanted and have shared what I have learned with newbies. I make mistakes, of course I do. The number of times I have managed to catch a fabric underneath the embroidery hoop and rendered what I have just spent an hour on useless. I have many towels with half designs on where I failed to secure it properly in the hoop and the design has drifted from the outline. I like perfection when I embroider and sew and it is hard for me to accept anything less. Even though I know perfection doesn’t exist.

My creative outlet hasn’t just filled a void in the respect that it has given me something to do, it also challenges me and demands that I find solutions to problems. It uses my brain in a way that I haven’t done since I stopped working, which is both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. So it was weird this year when suddenly I became anxious about using my embroidery machine and my ability to sew. It happened out of the blue, suddenly and unexpectedly I was too frightened to sew. Something I have adored since I started back in 2017. It meant projects were started and left semi completed for months at a time. My sewing area suddenly fell silent and gathered dust. I wanted to sew I really did but I couldn’t focus long enough to do it or feel confident enough to. 

This year has been a tumultuous year with Jay’s father passing away, me making a drastic change so that I walked away from those who were causing me harm and stifling my personal growth. There are also countless other things going on and I think the fear of sewing / embroidery was just a symptom of the mental anguish I was in. Eventually it got to the point where I had to use my machines as I needed to make a gift for a friend and I also needed to replace a wall hanging that I had managed to dye pink and nothing could be done to rescue it. In the end I just had to put my big girl pants on and take the plunge. I pushed myself well and truly outside my comfort zone, tackling projects I had always put off due to my lack of skill. I proved to myself I could do it and needed to stop listening to the negative voices in my head that had held me back my whole life.

I am rather thrilled with what I have created, it is still a work in progress and there are still days I have to force myself to get the courage to use my machines. Like the book says ” I feel the fear and do it anyway”.

All the fabric apart from the balck background fabric is Liberty. The patterns I got from http://www.womabtquilts.com – spinning compass points ( the central design) and the Flying Geese ( the triangles) are from http://www.forestquilting.com. Both patterns were free and just needed to be printed off. It is a technique called foundation paper piecing a technique which I have done only a around 3 times before attempting this piece and now I am completely converted to it. The reverse of my wall hanging looked like this,

I had great fun removing the papers although it did make a bit of a mess! 

Dembe was very curious

As I said it is still a work in progress and if I am well enough over the next few days I will be attempting to finish it.

My anxiety / confidence will always be an issue, I know now that sometimes you do have to fake it until you make it, pushing yourself to do the stuff you don’t feel comfortable with as by running away from it makes it a much larger issue.

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