Hi all! You have found my online world of art and writing, and I’m glad you’re here.
My name is Amanda Schwabe, and I’m an artist, knitting teacher & designer, and writer. I have lived with depression in varying degrees for my whole life. I first thought of hurting myself when I was just nine years old, not because I wanted to feel pain or die, but because everything was just too overwhelming and I wanted it to stop. Life is still overwhelming, but I’m learning to manage it in a way that keeps me sane.
Since I was first diagnosed with depression in 1998, I’ve been searching for cures and helps and a way out of it. I collect articles and tidbits of information and books about mood, health, neuroscience, and happiness. Over the years, I’ve found so many things that have helped me, and now I can say that although I live with depression, it’s mild. It’s more of a physical condition than a psychological one. My life is good, and although I sometimes compare my energy levels unfavorably (and unfairly) with others, I feel like a normal person. Mostly. I’m a little quirky. 😉 I am an artist, after all.
I created this website so I could share my my successes and struggles with depression. I really, really believe that we all need to talk about mental health openly. I am not ashamed because there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is what it is: a pain-in-the-ass physiological condition. And it is NOT impossible to live with. There are ways to cope.
These are the resources that have helped me the most:
Celebrate Recovery, the books and the groups. Learning to retrain my brain away from its super-destructive, self-defeatist habits and to control my thoughts took me from psychological and emotional instability to sanity. These are the things I painstakingly learned on my own over many years, all wrapped up in one handy program. It’s like AA, but for anyone with “hurts, habits, or hang-ups.”
Yeast Busters guide and Sugar Blues (Both books talk about the effect of sugar on our bodies and brains. I have been sugar-free for 10 years now, and it has made a HUGE difference.
The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. More about food and how it affects our brains. Check out her website to take the quiz and find out which neurotransmitter is causing you the most problems. I was low on three of them, and taking the supplements actually took me from feeling not-quite-normal to pretty darn amazing. Is this what healthy people feel like?
The Bible. Learning that God loves me, has a plan for me, and accepts me has helped me to accept myself. I’m not irreparably broken, my life isn’t worthless, and my experiences, weaknesses, strengths, and quirks have purpose and can be used for good. Also, God’s “peace that passes understanding” is amazing. I like the New Living Translation, myself.
The Introvert Advantage. Many of the things I thought were wrong with me were actually perfectly normal introvert tendencies. And learning to limit outside stimuli has really helped me maintain my equilibrium.
The Highly Sensitive Person personality information. I think I might be one. That would also explain a lot.
A full-spectrum SAD light. I feel like a flower blooming when I sit under it with my morning coffee.
A good counselor. These can be hard to find. I had to try a few before I found someone I was comfortable with.
Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. Learning I could say no to protect myself from overwhelm was liberating. I love saying no. 🙂
A friend of mine also highly recommends Dr. Caroline Leaf‘s take on how to rewire your brain. I still need to read her stuff for myself, but from my own experience with learning to transform my thoughts, I’m predisposed to think it’ll be awesome.
I did take antidepressants back when I was first diagnosed, and they helped a little. I had to keep upping my dose, though (under doctor’s instructions), and I never felt quite right. I wanted to feel healthy, not barely-hanging-on-by-my-fingernails. I eventually stopped taking them (I did have a feeling-better period when I could), and then when I quit sugar most of my symptoms went away, so that was enough. I haven’t been on antidepressants since. I am neither for nor against them; that’s a really personal choice to make.
I was that kid in grade one who drew three-dimensional Kleenex boxes instead of a rectangle and a squiggle. I eventually started taking private art classes in my teen years which focused mainly on watercolour painting, composition, colour mixing, and other artsy stuff like drawing negative space and cutting and pasting.
After high school, I went to Sheridan College for a one-year program which I couldn’t finish because of clinical depression. But my favourite classes there were painting (acrylic on canvas) and drawing. Even though I was too sick to go to most of my classes, I still learned a lot. But, because I’d learned to associate art with stress and depression, I had a lot of trouble painting at all over the next 15 years.
I did other things for a while: I got married, had 5 kids, and began homeschooling. I also had some great therapy sessions, some not-so-great therapy sessions, and I learned a lot about mental health, drugs, and food. I learned what my limits were and how staying within them could let me live with sanity and peace. I quit eating sugar and was able to drop my antidepressants. I discovered I was an introvert, and suddenly half of my hang-ups didn’t seem so broken or bizarre. I got inspired, and confident, and I started pursuing things I loved.
Because the kids were small, and because it is so awesome, knitting became my creative outlet. I couldn’t paint — I didn’t have the time — but I could knit. And eventually, I began designing my own patterns and selling them online. (You can find them at www.aknitica.com.) I love knitting with a passion bordering on obsession, and I think I always will. And now I get to teach knitting to others, and it is soooo fun!
Now, I knit, dabble in painting, and write. My hope is to write more about depression and recovery. I find it helps me to remember the things that keep me sane, and I’d like to think it could be encouraging to others, too. I’m going to use this site to talk about mental health and sometimes art. Not to mention personality, neuroscience, food, faith, and other hopeful things.
If you’re interested, you can subscribe to get new posts by putting your email address into the box at the top right of the page. Maybe we can encourage each other. 🙂
Amanda Schwabe is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca