Thursday, June 18, 2009

Square 23: Anxiety

Square 023

Anxiety is one of the plagues of my existence. This week has not been particularly bad in the big picture, but being in it always feels awful regardless. Yesterday morning I began knitting this as another meditation to meet anxiety head-on.

Red is the colour of debt, which is frequently part of my problem. Combine that with work having been slow for the past year and you get the picture. Then last week an opportunity arose for me to move to a better apartment. It is only slightly more expensive, but the location and condition of the building will be a vast improvement.

My initial reaction was, "I can't afford to move just now." But my current apartment has been rough on me emotionally, and I decided long time ago I should move. I simply couldn't find anything else so inexpensive until now. Several important people in my life urged me to take the opportunity, and I decided I couldn't afford to pass it up. I had to do some creative banking to put together the funds for a deposit on the new place, and the next few weeks are only bound to get crazier as I prepare to move on August 1. Unexpected expenses will come out of nowhere.

There are numerous symptoms of clinical anxiety, but the one most common for me is a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in my ears, neck, shoulders or forearms. It can last for hours. Panic attacks, which are more acute and last no more than 15 minutes, involve racing heart and sometimes even chest pains.

Anxiety is part of the natural palette of human emotions. It evolved as a way of recruiting extraordinary physical functions for the fight or flight response. When our ancestors were still swinging from branch to branch, it served us well in escaping from predators or dealing with aggressive competitors.

In modern Western society we rarely encounter life and death situations, but our bodies are still wired to respond to threats this way, and we do. Some individuals like myself are hypersensitive and experience bursts of adrenalin over things like encountering a rude person, or not knowing how we're going to pay a bill three weeks from now. Anxiety disorder is frequently associated with other issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or agoraphobia. It is treatable, and often responds well to cognitive behavioural therapy. If you frequently experience physical discomfort in response to stressful situations, talk to your family doctor. More information is available here. I've had trouble with anxiety all my life, but didn't recognize it until five years ago.

I initially planned to knit this square with just the two yarns starting from the outside, but the warm shades of the variegated yarn quickly got lost in the red. Anxiety can be like that, too: the physical symptoms begin to obscure what problems might have upset you in the first place. You feel like you're going to die, which only makes the symptoms worse. You can't see the subtler colours because of the red.

I decided to take another look at that variegated yard by inserting a few rows of the green, which set off a completely different contrast. But something was wrong. I kept getting too many stitches in the row. I tried unknitting two rows, knit them again, came up with the same number and undid them again. Finally in exasperation I tore out the entire square.

Last night came the news that my application for the new apartment had been accepted. I went online reserved a U-Haul. This move is going to happen, no matter what.

I sat down and cast on the square again. All three yarns are local wool-mohair mixes: the green and the variegated yarns are from Wellington Fibres, and the red is All Strung Out's house yarn.

This morning I realized I never had the wrong number of stitches; I had only been counting the rows wrong. So it was all unnecessary—the unknitting, the tearing out, the frustration.

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