When I was a kid, my mother taught me how to cross stitch. She also taught me to knit, crochet, sew, and more, but cross stitching was my favorite. When my homework was done, I could sit and watch movies for hours, just stitching away. Years later, my serious boyfriend at the time said that the first thing he would sell in a garage sale would be the already completed cross stitch hangings that I had on my bedroom walls. He was adamant that just because I valued them did not mean he had to appreciate them…even a little bit. It broke my heart that the cross stitch hangings, which were symbolic of the free time that I enjoyed as a kid, could mean so little to him that he would wish to take them from me.
There are many “traumas” from my young life that I have had to work through in my treatment, and the cross stitch trauma is one that I overcame by chance. One of the other women I met in program would cross stitch to pass the time during our therapy sessions, which reminded me how much I enjoyed cross stitch when I was younger. As part of my therapy, I tried to get back in touch with my inner child. I was such a happy, happy kid that I figured the more I could find my young self again, the more I would have a chance at my old happiness. I told my current boyfriend (definitely my life partner!) that I had to go buy some cross stitch materials that evening. I found a $1 Mary Engelbreit puppy kit as a trial…and I loved it again. Finally, the overwhelming anxiety that I felt in my first couple days of program dissipated as soon as I had a needle and pretty thread in my hands, counting and stitching my way into a new world. I finished the puppy in two days and then picked back up an old teapot project. I finished the tea pot during my last week in program and I now call it my recovery teapot.
Now, in my new life outside of program, and continuing along in recovery, I found myself cross stitching again this last weekend and today. This weekend, I enjoyed cross stitching while watching The Wire (finished Season 1 and now partway through Season 2). My cross stitch was enjoyable over the weekend, but it was even more valuable for me today at the Biomedical Sciences PhD retreat. I normally get bored during science talks, even when they are super interesting. In any case, working on my cross stitch during a science talk someone satisfies the part of my brain that normally drifts off during the talks, while leaving available the rest of my brain to listen to and enjoy the talk. I’m sure many of the other handiwork activities my mother taught me (knitting, crocheting, etc) would serve the same purpose, especially because other girls (and boys) at program tried and enjoyed looming during some of the group therapy sessions. I am thankful that yet another skill/technique I picked up in treatment is making my life with recovery, including my appreciation and enjoyment with science, so much better.