The written pieces for one of the wall hangings are here. Numbers correspond to the position on the hanging.
1. Dusti Lynne Morton
“Hi! My name is Dusti. I live in Portage, Michigan, in the United States.
I started having panic attacks, night terrors, and struggling with depression in my early 20s. At my worst, I was having attacks several times a week. It was crippling. Embarrassing. So hard to explain to people around me. I didn’t have a lot of support beyond the suggestion to try medication; after trying Xanax and watching other people go through hell on various medication cocktails, I refused, and personally it frustrates me that ‘get medicated’ is the strongest, and often the only, option offered to people. Instead, I use my anxiety as a barometer of sorts, paying attention to my stress levels and focusing on ways to handle everyday stresses and responsibilities in a practical way so that I’m not overwhelmed by them. Depression is trickier. I use chiropractic care, supplements, daylight bulbs, exercise, cross stitch, and gardening… and I try very hard to pay attention to things that indicate depression is rearing its ugly head. Personally, I find that it can be insidiously sneaky.
My depression and anxiety are a part of my everyday life. Usually they’re under control, but when they’re not, I’ve lost jobs because of it. I’ve been open about these issues with my friends and within my social media circles. I’ve had friends tell me not to do this, that it could affect my ability to find work. I’ve had people tell me, “I wouldn’t hire you if I knew this about you.”
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be involved in the Stitching Out Stigma project. We live in a stressful world. I think it’s more unusual to NOT struggle with anxiety/stress/depression than it is to live with the diagnosis. And so I do not think we should be judged (or further limited!) for the things we are trying to control.
There are lots of people online that are discussing anxiety and depression in blogs and in comics. That’s very helpful because not only does it help us to not feel alone, it also gives us a way to communicate to our loved ones what is going on inside our brains. “Here, read this. This is what it’s like to be me.” In my case, the writer that has most helped me help my loved ones to understand me better has been Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”). My square includes the message she uses in social media: Depression Lies. Truer words were never Twittered. J
My final project is not as easy to read as I’d hoped, but I think it gets the idea across that depression can spiral around and sometimes be hard to identify.
The border on my square came from a freebie pattern created by Kell Smurthwaite and Kincavel Krosses. The font for “Depression Lies” came from Pinterest. The font for the lettering in green was created by me.”
“Mental health is a subject that is very important to me both on a creative and personal level. I have suffered from depression and anxiety for ten years, and as an artist my work explores mental illness and the emotions and thoughts that are difficult to put into words alone. I specialise in painting and drawing however I have recently began creating embroidery/stitch artwork – a technique I find to be very therapeutic. My design is a visual depiction of depression and the emotional effect on the individual.”
8. Hayley McCulloch
“When I was 19, I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression, and my self-esteem has always been cripplingly low. Growing up, I was the quiet child, the shy child – but I was the good child. Good at school, non-rebellious, a goody-two-shoes. It became expected of me that I would be as close to perfect as I could be. If I failed, even in a small way, it would never been forgotten, nor forgiven.
Having an invisible illness, I can be seen as rude or insensitive when I find it difficult to talk to people. Stepping outside of the house feels like climbing a mountain. People tell me they understand, because they’re shy too, and that I just need to get out in the world because it’ll do my confidence the world of good.
My square represents how I feel when I’m weighed down by my anxiety. I feel restrained by the possibilities of disappointing people, terrified of making a mistake. In the past, I’ve done what people have wanted me to do, I’ve tried my best, and I’ve come out of it feeling worse. But I can’t show it, because it will disappoint them, or they’ll think that I just didn’t try hard enough.
It’s a difficult cycle to break.”
9. Maureen Beachy
“I host a weekly crafts afternoon at my home in France. One of the group recently brought along someone new - Catherine Penny (Holden) who lives in Orbinany Cebne region. Catherine asked if there was anyone in the group who did cross stitch - I held up my work in response (all the other are knitters)
Catherine explained the project and I said I’d be delighted to participate - any excuse to stitch!
I have never suffered from severe depression myself (apart from mild post-natal after the birth of my third child) but I have several friends who suffer long-term depression, for which they are on medication. Two of my children suffer from mild depression periodically. At the moment I have a lot of sadness, having lost my youngest sister to a very aggressive brain tumour that she wasn’t aware of - she died 6 weeks after diagnosis exactly 4 months later, my mother died.
I have always been a fairly positive person, not taking setbacks/knocks in a 'why me' fashion. I know that I have been very lucky in my life - foremost is having a wonderful, supportive family.
My sister’s death has made me take stock of life and I now feel I need to get on with doing things I want to do - I feel I owe it to her to live what life I have.
I have been cross stitching since I was 15 (nearly 45 years ago J) and I find it so relaxing. I love doing quilt block designs in miniature and the 'Tree of life' design just seemed appropriate for this project. To fill out the design, I added the extra border with random words I chose for their importance to me.
My positivity in life is not just due to my wonderful parents and upbringing, but also to the serenity and calm nature of my husband Caloin, whose family were old order Amish in the USA.
I wish you luck with the project and hope you get a good response."
11. Katrina Harris
“I took up cross-stitching in a bid to remain sane whilst training as an Art Psychotherapist
over the past three years.
Stitching out Stigma has been a great initiative for those suffering with mental health issues - unleashing my own 'Black Dog' stitch amongst others personal works has opened up discussion about living with depression both within this support network and with friends.
I now work as an Art Therapist for children with mental health issues and am dedicated to helping others gently acknowledge their own demons whilst no longer denying my own.
Thank you to Sam Lunn for the words.”
13. Natalie McCulloch
"I have chosen one of my favourite quotes, which during an admission to a specialist mental health unit, one of my friends/fellow 'inmates' had told me and displayed on a canvas to remind others of its truth. "Boats are safe in the harbour, but that’s not where boats belong". Meaning, in my mind, that sometimes our 'comfort zone/safety zones’ feel safe because of the familiarity of it, but sadly unless we 'push them' or challenge ourselves, we don’t learn our capabilities or our potential, we don't experience, experiment or live. But it’s not easy, as anyone who has tried will know, to opt for a challenge as opposed to a familiarity. To push ourselves, when we could remain contently 'bobbing along'.
In my struggles with anorexia recovery, my harbour may feel safe (i.e. if I restrict/use coping mechanisms/stick to safe routines or foods and avoid treatment or weight gain) but it may lead to my demise. But the stormy sea looks rough and filled with challenging obstacles not for the faint-hearted (i.e. weight gain, physical discomfort and mental torture, lengthy treatments, facing truths, boredom, fear). It’s no wonder I don't want to enter it when the harbour is so safe. But, from entering it before, as long as it’s in 'manageable stages' and possible (similar to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development where the learner is encouraged within a zone which is set slightly higher than their current level of achievement, but not so high as to be unattainable), great rewards can eventually come about. Goals can be attained. Challenges can be faced and overcome.
The images around the edge show some important things to remember –
- Finding your own direction - doing it for myself, not being 'led by others' or feeling my pathway is less 'correct' than the ones others have chosen for themselves. I think I’ve always felt 'less' than people with degrees, children, husbands, money, holidays, good looks, talents etc...I’ve often felt I 'should be' doing things or 'should have' things but haven’t due to my own failings - but in all this self-criticism, I’ve often lost sight of myself or my achievements/goals.
- Use your lifesavers - knowing what helps ME to get through - what resources, which people, which activities (and similarly which don’t help). For me, cross stitch and other crafts are HUGE lifesavers. It’s amazing how quickly an enforced period of 'rest' can pass when I’ve got a cross stitch on the go, or a card making mission. I’m also fortunate to have a great group of friends and family whom, on many occasions have saved my life!
- Be aware of sabotage - self or otherwise - things I, or others do, to resist entering a challenge or carrying it through. For example, if I gain weight my automatic reaction is to want to lose it again or if I eat something which I feel is 'too much', I want to compensate for this. These are acts which sabotage my recovery and thus need avoiding at all costs. Sadly although eating disorder units can be full of support from peers who 'understand' or are 'living shared experiences', it can also be a highly competitive/resentful place too and occasionally people may want to sabotage others in order to make themselves feel/look like they are doing better than they possibly are.
- Discover your anchors - knowing what helps 'ground me' in times of unavoidable distress, what will calm me and keep me going in the best direction. Again this might be doing crafts or chatting to good relations or simply spending an hour with a good book and a relaxing bath!
- Focus on your treasures - never forgetting the good things which will come from the hard work and discomfort (something I find hard to do at times!). Throughout my journey with recovery/relapses, I’ve always had some sense of what I’m 'doing it for' - what I want from life, but when times get tough/it feels too hard to go forward anymore or even cope with the discomfort of 'now', these can go amiss.
- Sail away from safe shores - knowing that I’ve got to change and that change is ok, without change, I will not get the treasures I seek. Stop denying the problem, know it can improve.
I really enjoyed creating this piece, I have a soft spot for 'nautical but nice' patterns (and can often be found wearing the colours myself) and it was nice to go on a button hunt for the cause too!
Another poignant thing about my choice of 'nautical' on this piece, is that I grew up on Barry Island and still very much enjoy a stroll along the harbour, it feels very tranquil and calming there. Plus, as this year’s 'Mental Health Awareness Week' theme is 'Mindfulness', a beach stroll seems a fitting way to be 'mindful' by soaking up the sights, sounds and smells which this environment offers."
14. Jackie Wilson
“My square outlines the effects of a young carer (aged 11 years and the teenager and the so called grown up)... And how she has struggled over the years with confidence and being liked even though she's now a mum and granny ...
Mum died of Cancer aged 42 leaving 8 children ....”
15. Natalie McCulloch
"I chose to do a recipe/spell themed fairy cross stitch for several reasons, and with great thanks to one of Stitching Out Stigma's key supporters, Cross Stitch Crazy magazine, for the pattern of the fairy.
Why a fairy? Throughout various stages of my illness I have wished for a 'magic wand', or indeed I’ve been told 'If only I had a magic wand' from people who want to 'make me better' (As well as, I confess, feeling I’m away with the fairies at times, or wishing I was...!). Sadly, as much as I’d like to believe it was a possibility, there isn’t such a thing as a magic wand to wave my ills away or change my thoughts to healthier ones.
"I wish I could accept gaining weight, or see it as positive restoration"
"I wish I didn’t feel envious of others to the point of self-sabotage, isolation or resentment"
"I wish I could enjoy resting and eating nice things without crippling guilt"
I am still not 100% sure what the 'solutions' are, but I guess all I can do is work hard and hope that daily bits of magic combined with the 'key ingredients' I mentioned (and others), will help me make more of myself than I currently am. But, as mentioned every individual is different, so every spell needs to be too!
The recipe/spell idea is something which lots of places use - I often see 'recipe/spell for happiness/health/love...' posters about, but this is my personal one. It’s two-fold also, because it is common for people with eating disorders to enjoy, or do, baking/cooking often, sadly I am not blessed with this talent, nor do I enjoy it. In fact, during a treatment I had, baking group/cooking sessions, were cause of much anxiety, tears and tantrums for me (as my fellow 'inmates' will recall I’m sure!!) So again, this suggests that we cannot simply 'stamp a stereotype' on someone with a disorder, as, ironically, one size simply cannot fit all.
To add the 'finishing touches' I used a few embellishments - the butterfly (a sign of spreading wings to freedom), hearts (because a little love - self or otherwise, goes a long way) and the 'keep calm and craft on border' because keeping calm and craft can both be therapeutic, I’ve found!
I really enjoyed doing this piece, although I criticise its imperfections, I feel pleased to have completed another square for SOS."
18. Natalie McCulloch
"My first cross stitch piece for SOS is quite wordy. As those who know me will probably agree, I’m often not short of a word or two to babble off, regardless of the sense of it all!
I chose to divide the cross stitch piece into two. This is because I often feel I’m in 'two minds' - a healthy one and a less healthy one. And one side is more 'recovery-geared'/'lighter' and 'hopeful' with all the pleasurable things and desires I possess. The other is somewhat 'darker', 'gloomier' and more 'distress signalling'. The tape measure border lines the gloomier side, because this is how I feel measuring myself by such 'inadequate measures' as shape/weight, is. After all - what does the number on the scales or the measurement of a body part, say about a person, really? It doesn’t show who they are, who they can be, what they value or strive for. The border on the other side is far more 'happy' and 'hopeful' suggesting 'dreams can come true' and re-instilling the need for goals and positivity.
The quote I used was by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and, to me, represents the need, sometimes, to not think too far into the future (as this can be scary and daunting as to put you off from even making an initial bit of progress), but to think of one smaller way to make a difference or one smaller change - which, hopefully, will all amount to a greater (excuse the irony) gain eventually.
I am fairly pleased with the overall piece I created, although I could (and have done) easily criticise things I failed to mention on it or the neatness. I enjoyed engaging in the creation of the piece, and hope it gives a small 'window' into the two extremes of an eating disordered mind-set."
21. Natalie McCulloch
HOW ARE YOU?
“I created this piece to represent how often the answers we give to questions such as 'how are you?' lack actual validity. They are socially constructed 'polite' responses, they are 'protective' responses to protect ourselves and others, they are 'what we think others want to hear', they are 'rushed' responses, they are 'socially acceptable' - but they are not always true. Equally, when others say to use we look 'fine, ok, well' etc., it doesn’t necessary mean what we interpret it to.
I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely lady from Poland, during a recent hospital admission, who explained to me how, in her culture, when someone asks 'How are you?’ they actually want a response/wait for a response. She was shocked how, in our culture, quite often it is just 'something we say' without necessarily waiting for, or wanting an honest response. It does pose the question - why we ask it, if we do not 'care' to listen to the response. But it did make me realise how frequently I do it...
I also acknowledge that I find the comment 'You look well' hard to hear as it makes me feel people are saying 'you've gained weight, we can see it' or 'you should have your life sorted if you look well'. Which is an eye opening acknowledgment in itself. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, but it is something I’d like to challenge.
I really enjoyed doing this piece, it was very therapeutic to 'get it out' of my head. I did criticise how I didn’t plan it, had to 'Google' words beginning with certain letters which my vocabulary didn’t extend to and I also criticised the 'poor stitching'. But I did it regardless.
The border is meant to be 'messy' to represent how 'messy' our emotions can be and how seemingly 'messed up' our approach to them are too.”
23. Natalie and Hayley McCulloch
“The final piece added to the SOS display is very special to me, it is the Audrey Hepburn image sporting the quote “nothing is impossible- the very word says ‘I’m possible’”. I love this quote, as it’s both clever and motivational too! I also love Audrey Hepburn – I think she is beautifully elegant, talented and her love for others is honourable. Many people may just know her to be the eye-catching actress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – but it’s worth noting that she was also a passionate humanitarian who supported children’s charities across the globe and even set up her own children’s charity too.
She once said “I speak for those children who cannot speak for themselves, children who have absolutely nothing but their courage and their smiles, their wits and their dreams.” I can’t help but feel this quote is also powerful in terms of mental health conditions – sometimes we need that ‘Audrey’ to speak for us, or help us speak out, to end the silence which stigma can cause… And we also need to utilize our smiles, wit, dreams and courage to help us stay strong during trying times. It also shows that people often have deeper layers than others see – far from being just a beautiful talented actress, she was many other wonderful things too.
Sometimes I fear stigma originates from people failing to ‘look deeper’. Allow me to use personal examples to elaborate: - just because someone isn’t eating pudding – it doesn’t mean they’re on a diet; similarly just because they’re a healthy weight it doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with eating issues. Just because someone doesn’t make small talk it doesn’t mean they’re anti-social; if someone isn’t working it doesn’t mean they’re lazy. Equally if someone smiles it doesn’t mean they’re happy. As humans we are quite skilled at masking a range of issues!
The quote is fabulous, it’s so positive, and sometimes I think we need to believe that anything is possible, in order to avoid spiraling into any dark thoughts.
I’m so pleased that Audrey made it onto SOS – as she is one of my idols. However, the added importance of this piece is that it was created by my wonderful sister, Hayley, as a birthday surprise for me. And what a wonderful surprise it was too – I was amazed at how perfectly she’d captured Audrey’s beauty through cross stitch and touched by the thought, time and talent which had gone into it.
I won’t deny it was hard for me to part with the piece, but I also feel so proud of Hayley for doing it and proud of SOS as a whole – so it seemed a perfect way to fill the final gap and a perfect home for Audrey! It was also hard decision to part with it as I worried Hayley wouldn’t want it shown in SOS as she’s quite shy and very much undervalues her work. I also worried that she’d question whether I loved her gift to start with (I definitely do love it – but I love it so much, it seems a shame to selfishly keep it to myself as opposed to share it with everyone who will see SOS, and it seemed the perfect way to rectify our ‘space’ issue on the display!).
I do think it looks really good on the display however, and the powerful quote speaks volumes and almost mirrors the stories which have come through since starting SOS – that anything is possible.
I am trying to believe that anything is possible for my own life as I often fear I’ve ‘messed everything up/wasted too many years/I’m too old or stupid’, but perhaps If I start thinking more positively, positive results may just happen…”
24. Natalie McCulloch
The Little Mermaid
Everyone loves a Disney film! Right? Well, I certainly do and I thought I would show it via stitching! The lyrics to this song seem very emotive to me -
"MAYBE THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME" - I have to question this about myself a lot, and sometimes I think I don’t question it enough and I take my 'habitual behaviours' as 'the norm'.
"LOOKING AROUND HERE YOU THINK SHE'S GOT EVERYTHING" - This is something which people often say to me, that I always seem to 'relapse' when things are going well, when I have, on the surface 'everything' going for me.
"BUT WHO CARES, NO BIG DEAL, I WANT MORE" - I always want more, it’s never enough, never good enough - I'm always HUNGRY for more in my life.
"I WANNA BE WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE" - This lyric relates to my loneliness, how although my photos/statuses on Facebook will suggest I 'do a lot', most of the time it is alone, and I don’t like this. I fear loneliness, yet somehow it feels safer, at times, too.
"WANDERIN' FREE" - everyone else seems to 'have it easy' at times, they seem to 'grow up' easily, they seem to deal with hellish things with 'ease'. So I question, what’s wrong with me that I struggle so much?!
"WISH I COULD BE PART OF THAT WORLD" - I desperately want to mix with people more, and reach certain goals.
I enjoyed doing this piece, I am not sure whether it looks like 'Ariel and Flounder' or whether I should have asked permission from 'DISNEY' - whether this is something else I have done wrong....But I enjoyed doing the piece and I do feel it is relative to my condition.
25. Jeanette Llewellyn
"This hedgehog was the first counted cross stitch I completed and started me on a journey that brought xx loads of challenges which stopped me feeling depressed and gave me something to enjoy. I have done plenty of cross stitches since, but it helps me to keep focused."