Knitting Myself Sane

I have bipolar disorder, a see-saw upon which sit depression and mania. Sometimes they’re relatively balanced, keeping the topsy-turvy motion from doing more than precariously wobbling back and forth. Other times, they trade spots with decisive thunks, as each side comes resolutely down to the earth, leaving the other helpless in the air — at least for a time.

When depression takes control of gravity, I have my bed and Bright Eyes. When mania comes into power, I have two needles and a ball of yarn.

Mania is the overly-energetic acquaintance you never needed. She’ll sit and sigh beside you as you do something, tapping her foot and sighing periodically. Reading is too passive of an activity for her. So is watching TV. She’ll get itchy for conversation and being babbling in your ear until your hands shake. She’s made me stand up, pace, check the cabinets, and sit down in rhythm so many times that I made my husband nervous.

Apparently, her influence is communicable.

She makes me spend money I don’t have, fritter away sleep I can’t afford to lose, and pop more Klonopin than my psychiatrist would advise me to take. She’s the girl who wants to start drinking at ten am and and continue on until the sun rises anew. She’s always up for dancing, talking, walking, taking another shot — anything, so long as it’s active.

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But there’s never quite enough action. She’s not one easily satiated.

I can be driving, carrying on seven different texting conversations via Siri, singing along to pop music, and pulling wildly on my vape pen, and still she’ll urge my on: “C’monnnnn,” she’ll whine. “I’m bored! Let’s do something!”

Apart from drinking and eating to excess, sprinting till I collapse, or taking a beta-blocker, anti-anxiety pill, and some calming guided meditation, I’ve never found a way to keep up her demands.

Then I learned how to knit.

I ordered my first set of needles and balls of yarn from Amazon two years ago. I had just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression a year ago, but no one had decided to put two and two together to come up with bipolar disorder yet. Regardless, I had the symptoms — the fidgety temperament, the nervous hands — and I needed something to busy myself with.

The first time I used them was at a cabin in the woods of Montour Falls. My husband and I were on vacation, listening to the Jordan Jesse Go! podcast, laughing (as you do) and thoroughly engaged — except for my hands. So I started casting on. The repetitive motion lulled mania to sleep like rocking a cradle. Apart from some brief struggles with the intricacies of the knit stitch, I had my solution — as long as there were needles and wool available.

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Now, I when I get twitchy or restless (and can choose a TV show or movie — mania has a lot of opinions on what I should watch), I turn on something to watch, drag out the needles, and keep at yet another scarf. It’s all I know how to make.

After all, I’m not trying to start an Etsy store, or make my own socks, or even give these sad things away as gifts (unless you want one — I’ve got some to spare). All I’m looking for is some mental peace and quiet.