Saturday, 25 February 2012

This Is My Brain on Pinterest

My brain is a lot like my Pinterest boards.

For those not familiar with Pinterest, it’s a virtual bulletin board where “pinners” can keep links to websites that inspire them.  Like a traditional bulletin board, Pinterest is visually driven.  When you choose a site that you want to add to your boards, you’re prompted to select a picture from the site and add a brief description.  The photo you choose, together with your description of the “pin” are shared with other pinners so that they too can save the ones that interest them.

For a person as drawn to the visual as I am, Pinterest is a near-perfect form of social media.  I’m entranced by it.  I also really like the fact that most links I pin lead to project inspirations, recipes, quotes, and photos—things I like to make, or do, or think about. 

At last count, I had 47 boards on Pinterest, with more than 4000 pins.  The subject matter is diverse, reflecting my varied interests in life.  

I use most of the links on my Pinterest boards as inspiration rather than as a source of exact instruction so, while I rarely make the exact projects shown in my pins, I have started many new projects thanks to my boards.

Notice the word “started?”

It’s at the root of my Pinterest problem and at the heart of the reason for writing this post.

I like to have several craft projects on the go at once.  In part, this is because many projects involve drying time, or need to wait between steps.  In part, it’s because I can work at some—like knitting—for only short periods of time (in order to spare my wrists and shoulders).  Mostly, though, it’s because I seem to have a form of Crafting Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’m endlessly curious and always on the lookout for new ideas, new opportunities to learn, and new projects to try.

Curiosity and the desire to learn new things are not, in and of themselves, bad things.  They help to build a broad base of general knowledge, and recent research indicates that an active mind is less likely to be subject to dementia later in life.  The problem arises when you discover that you’re so busy starting new things that you’re not finishing the projects already underway.  And that’s where I am now.

Right now, there are papier mâché boxes drying on a plastic sheet on our dining room floor. (We have to walk around them to get to the living room.)  My sewing machine and a partially completed tea cozy occupy our dining room table.  A bowl of beads strung on wrapped wire loops sits on the end table by the sofa, waiting to be made into bracelets.  A stack of partially assembled greeting cards rests on my craft room table, right beside a half completed canvas. 

Eventually, all this disorder gets in the way of creativity.  It certainly gets in the way of day to day living.  I need to take it in hand. 

My goal for the coming month is to complete the projects I've already started.  Then I can move on with a clear mind—and a clear workspace—towards more inspiration from the many talented people around me.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Elephant in the Living Room

There is an elephant in our living room.  Sometimes it sits quietly and we work our way around it.  Sometimes it’s loud and aggressive, demanding all of our attention.  Sometimes it sits on my chest making it impossible to move and difficult to breathe.

The elephant's name is Depression, and it visits one person in three at some point in their lives.  We just don’t talk about it.

I don’t pretend to understand all of the factors contributing to depression.  I do know that they vary from person to person.  I know that there is a chemical factor, involving your brain's uptake of serotonin.  I know that heredity is often a factor, but not always.  I know that depression is often the result of either a deep personal loss or of prolonged mental and/or physical stress.  Whatever its causes, clinical depression is a real, and serious, affliction. 

If you've never experienced depression, it’s all too easy to ascribe its symptoms to laziness or to a lack of backbone and determination, but the effects of depression--both physical and psychological--are very real.  People suffering from depression are often subject to either insomnia or chronic fatigue (or both), lethargy, changes in appetite, headaches, muscular and joint pain, digestive complaints, and suppressed immune system response.  For many people who are depressed, thoughts of suicide are not merely an occasional visitor but are, instead, a constant companion. They're demon that rides the elephant.

A wide range of medications are available to treat depression, and counseling services can be accessed, but many people who are experiencing clinical depression don’t seek medical help.  In part this is because depression renders them unable to recognize the cause of their malaise.  In part it’s because depression, or the suggestion of any other sort of mental illness, carries with it a tremendous stigma.

In our society, admitting to depression can reduce your opportunities to make social connections, and to find work.  Some jobs, and even some volunteer positions, require security licensing or bonding that can be denied if any history of mental illness--including clinical depression--exists.

Although many patients need to continue medication over the long term, with proper treatment most people move through depression and recover their well being.  Some people, once recovered, never experience depression again. 

What is certain is that people are better able to cope with the challenges posed by clinical depression if they have the support of family and friends.  If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from depression, discuss it with them.  Encourage them to seek help.  Be there to listen and to help out.  Be patient.

If you would like to learn more about depression or to contact people who can provide assistance in seeking support, these organizations may be helpful to you:
image adapted from Eye of Elephant by Miachelle Depiano via smithsonianmag.