Monday 14 December 2015

The power of people

Fabulous people at that! 

I guess i could be classed as the founder of SOS - but basically i just had one of my random ideas, whilst in hospital, and messaged a few people and the rest kind of developed from there. Developed in the most fabulous of ways! 
Literally, every time i reflect on sos it fills me with a sense of wonderment, joy and amazement - they say that 'from small acorns, oak trees grow', well SOS is evidence of this. The acorn of an idea, has grown into something quite remarkable, encompassing skills, relationships, insights and knowledge along the way. Its certainly been a learning curve for me so far, and allowed me to engage in the solace of crafts, whilst meeting remarkable people, becoming closer to my fabulous sister (who has been a legend in this project!) and learning some lessons on stitching/communications/organisations. 
Yes, i can look at it and see where i should have spent more time/money or where i could've done better - BUT ultimately all that seems to lack relevance when i reflect on the outcome - the pieces, the relationships and the feedback! 
I cant wait to see it in its finished state and hopefully meet people at the launch - also, i cant wait to see what people think. Its wonderful to hear the comments so far off people, and the work people have put into their pieces has been fabulous. Its also incredible to see the support we've had from organisations such as NHS, ST FAGANS, UWE AND CROSS STITCH CRAZY to name a few... 

For me, this is a very important project, having worked in mental health services and been treated in them for over a decade of my life - i feel it's important to represent a truer picture than what often gets 'shown' in the media. Stigma is an added 'issue' which people fighting their mental health issues/demons, don't need the burden of, i feel, so hopefully this project will help, in a small way, to show what often labels hide - truth, amazing people, heartbreaking stories and real talents - 

I am so grateful to absolutely everyone whose helped make sos possible, so far, every person whose liked us on facebook, tweeted us, set up twitter, spread the word, offered support, set up this blog, been in touch,,,, you're all amazing! 

Its not completed yet, but watch this space!  

Sunday 13 December 2015

Solace through stitching ...

The 'Stitching Out Stigma' project has brought so much into my little life!!

Firstly, the opportunity to connect with others who also live with mental health conditions, such a valued point of contact for myself, as I live with silence, struggling to 'mask' in my daily life. I have so valued the supportive atmosphere of this group!

Secondly, the opportunity to celebrate the joy of creativity through cross-stitch and use this proactively to fight against the stigma that silences me through this inspired project ...

And finally, the opportunity to make a new friend, who is now so very dear to me!

I jumped at the chance to participate in stitching the 'Stitching Out Stigma' (SOS) squares together, as I needed to feel part of the supportive community that is SOS ... to combat the loneliness I often feel as I battle daily in secret ... alone with my mental health struggles, even when with other people. It made me feel that I had some value ... that I could contribute some worth ... when so often I feel worthless ...

On first sight, the amassed squares awed me into silence ... each one so beautiful and individual, unique in their meanings/messages. The impact become even more evident as I helped to lay them out ... with their words and motifs jumping out at me, forcing me to pause and admire them ... just so amazed by the creativity, honesty, pain and hope conveyed through simple stitches ...

It was immensely moving.

I was honoured to be able to offer to stitch one of the two wall-hangings ... to be a temporary guardian of so many people's thoughts, effort and talent, encased within their beautiful square/s. The feeling of responsibilty initially stalled me, as I wished to do justice to this inspiring project, but mirroring many aspects of my life with my mental illness, I so wanted to overcome my fears.

And therefore I began ... 

Tentively to begin, arranging  the squares in the agreed pattern ... then 'tweaking' to fit into rows ... creating balance through considering the visual impact ... from bold designs, striking in their simplicity, to intricate, detailed wording and motifs.

I began pinning into place, admiring the SOS group choice of lilac banding, defining the individual squares. Braving the 'permanancy' of the sewing machine, with shaking hands, I sewed the first row, and then stood back, loving the impact of the uniqueness, combination and contrast of the squares.

As I added more and more rows, this impact magnified ... a simply glorious fusion of colour, pattern, wording and motifs ... the adaptibilty of a simple cross-stitch!

The next stage, adding the verticals was the challenge! The spacing between the squares needed to be consistent, to maintain not solely the 'grid effect', but also to prevent any covering of the detailed edges of the squares, which in some squares, was obviously carefully chosen to enhance the square's meaning ...

With the liberal application of pins (to both my fingers and the wall-hanging!), I commenced adding the verticals of lilac banding, and watched with amazement as the pure beauty of the wall-hanging emerged beneath my hands ...

As I stitched, the incredible detail of the squares sprung out at me ... the more I looked, the more I saw. The striking simplicity of some, illustrating the pure beauty of cross-stitch ... to the added embelishments and stitched motifs ... beautiful ... and so very moving.

The positive occupation of stitching was a true blessing for me, a huge distraction in a period of difficult days, fighting as I view it, the "wolf at my shoulder", the overwhelming, controlling nature of my mental health condition. As I stitched, I sought solace within the messages of resilence, courage amid adversity, and also hope for a brighter future, relayed through the simple medium of cross-stitches within these squares, conveying the sheer strength and bravery of the individuals who contibuted them, many also battling mental health difficulties themselves. The words in front of my eyes were theapeutic for me, and I hope, will be so for many others in their final setting, gracing the walls of the new mental health hospital.

As the wall-hanging grew in size and impact, so did the challenge of stitching it ... at times, feeling overwhelming ...

I remembered the instruction of the inspiring creator of this project, Natalie McCulloch, "No stress acceptable in SOS land!", and so sought encouragment by posting progress photos on the SOS Facebook page. The immensely supportive comments of the SOS group members helped encourage me to perserve ... and gain satisfaction from overcoming stitching difficulties as I encountered them ... triggering reflection of the parallels to trying to live life with mental health difficulties ...

And so I perserved ... gaining motivation from the emergence of an incredible tapestry of squares ... truly beautiful!

Finally, the last square was pinned and stitched into place, and I stood back, awed by the sheer impact of the wall-hanging ... it took my breath away with its beauty, complexity, colour and vitality. The searingly honest representations of the pain and suffering when living with a mental health condition and experiencing/fearing stigma, yet interspered with heartful messages of encouragement and hope.

... the power of therapy through threads ... Stitching Out Stigma ...

smile emoticon

Thursday 12 November 2015

Welcome to the Stitching Out Stigma Group Blog!

Stitching Out Stigma is a group set up by Nat to counter the stigma which exists around mental health issues.  She set out with five main aims:
  • Raising awareness of mental health issues
  • Fighting stigma which sadly often accompanies mental health issues 
  • Connecting like-minded people and providing a source of inspiration/hope/encouragement/friendship
  • Giving hope to people affected by mental health issues
  • Enabling people to benefit from the many benefits that engaging with their ‘inner creativity’ can assist with
Nat's idea for a group project was inspired by LaviniaEarl's 21st century cross stitch, the Bayeux Tapestry and a feature on a Star Wars cross stitch found in a ‘cross stitcher magazine’.

The project involves creating a GIANT cross stitch display created by volunteer stitchers.

It entails doing a square of cross stitch which represents your ideas/experiences/journeys/thoughts of mental health issues which you are experiencing/have experienced or are passionate about.   

I read about this project in an issue of a cross stitch magazine and decided to get involved.

At the time of typing, the squares have all been received along with the stories behind the designs.  They are in the process of being stitched into the giant banner which will be displayed in the new purpose built Mental Health Unit in Wales In January 2016.

This blog has been set up to showcase the stories and designs from the various stitchers, there is an option to post anonymously if you prefer.  It would be great if the blog continued with us all sharing ways to cope with the various issues we have experience of and also sharing our stitching - the perfect therapy for many of us!  Hopefully the blog will evolve over time as we all contribute and grow together.