A guest post by Paulette Lane
Reprinted with permission from the West Coast Knitters’ Guild Newsletter.
At the January meeting [of the West Coast Knitters’ Guild] Liz McKenna from CHIMO Crisis Services talked about knitting therapy for eating disorders and to inform us of Disordered Eating Awareness Week in February. She explained the nature of anorexia and bulimia and the therapeutic effects of creative activity like knitting to ameliorate starvation’s destruction of the brain. (Thanks Lorna). Apparently, the Disordered Eating Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is using knitting in their program, although I could find nothing documented at the time of writing.
Disordered eating affects the mind, body and soul and, like the complexity found in attempting to understand the development and maintenance of disordered eating, a single approach in helping someone is generally unsuccessful. An interactive and multidimensional approach that accounts for the many aspects of the disorder itself is more beneficial. Emotional, financial and time commitments are required from all involved. Change does not happen overnight.
Huge behaviour modifications on the part of the individual as well as family and friends are required. Honesty is most important; as well as respect, empathy and consistency. A non-judgmental and caring attitude is necessary and a genuine concern and an ability to instil trust and confidence will help the individual to make the changes required. Additionally, humour, and collaboration or being part of a team or group is very beneficial.
So, how can knitting fit into this monumental undertaking?
Knitting is self-empowering providing a means of actively participating in decision-making and facilitating self-exploration. Something as simple as choosing the colour of the yarn and knowing, as you work with it, that it was the right choice for you. Learning to manipulate the needles and yarn to successfully complete that first row and actually creating something as simple as s dishcloth gives one a huge feeling of accomplishment. You remember feeling that way; the knowledge that you can control the needles and yarn. Yes, there are mistakes and corrections but that is all part of the learning and empowering process. Learning that you can either go back and fix it or carry on and know how to avoid the mistake in the future allows a person to decide the next step, and take control of the project.
Knitting with others creates a sense of community, as we know; knitters nurture each other and share lessons learned, tips and helpful hints. Remember the first time you attended a knitting group? Didn’t you feel great afterward? You made a roomful of new friends because you knew how to knit.
We take all of this for granted but to someone who does not have the self-confidence, self-esteem and the support of others, these small steps can be the means to begin making more important decisions.