Writing more about chronic illness and giant lizards (ADHD)

I had recently set my blog to “private” for a couple weeks. Mostly to ponder why I felt bothered about it. And to decide if I wanted to keep going – and if so, what would that look like? My blog isn’t big or popular, I assume it’s mostly read by friends or family, and a bunch of acquaintances on Facebook (hi folks!). I don’t have a professional life tied to blogging. One could wonder that I had anything much to be concerned about. If very few people are reading what you write, then what’s to vex you?

I don’t write deeply personal things, but I do write general stuff about family life, which I realized I’m just not comfortable with anymore (no offense, internet). I’ve decided to save that either for Facebook or a family newsletter. I love writing it, but there isn’t any reason for it to be public.

The giant lizard in the room.

I’d still like to keep writing here, though. I’m going to shift over to writing more about the two things that have impacted my life the most. For the last decade, that would be living with a chronic illness (fibromyalgia). For the last 44 years, it’d be living with ADHD. I have written about chronic illness several times. I have never written about ADHD. I’ve brought it up a few times on Facebook, but in general it’s something I work hard to hide about myself, which is ironic because it’s something that is so completely visible over the scope of my life.

It’s like if you have this friend who is constantly running away from – what’s that giant monster that’s always plaguing Tokyo? <googles….GODZILLA> Yes, okay. In our metaphor, Tokyo is life, and Godzilla is ADHD. So this person is just constantly running around Tokyo. One spot to the next. Everywhere they go, Godzilla eventually shows up and levels whatever they were trying to build or do, whatever job they had, whatever big life decision they’d made, whatever organizational system they’d set up, whatever infrastructure in their own life they were trying to build so they could function like everyone else. They’re constantly dealing with it. Every aspect of their life, from going to college to finding their keys to keeping up with friends to feeding themselves with anything like a rational diet on anything like a rational schedule, is affected by trying to outsmart this giant lizard that will, if it catches up to them, undo in a flash everything they’ve tried to accomplish. And finally they’re, oh heck – let’s say in their mid-40’s, and you look at their life and you’re like, “So wow, you’ve been all over this map, constantly going from one thing to the next. What’s that like?”

And they say, “Oh, I just have a lot of hobbies.”

That’s me. Not that anyone is demanding an accounting of things (my friends and family are nice people). And not that I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I do. But just….that is so not the whole story. That’s nothing like the whole story.

I’m not sure how to start writing about this (maybe I just did), but I want to start. It’s kind of funny to say in the same post, “I won’t be writing about family life because that’s personal and there’s no need for it to be public,” but then say, “And SO, I’ll be writing about my health, and the biggest mental hurdle I face, which has affected my whole life and filled me with shame and/or self-doubt and/or frustration on a near-weekly basis since I was a kid.” Because that makes sense.

I’ve repeatedly heard two pieces of writing advice: write what you know, and write what you want to read. I don’t think there’s enough written about ADHD and how it affects people, especially women. I wish that more were out there. And I don’t think there’s enough about fibromyalgia/chronic illness, either.

Maybe I can contribute something. It’s worth a shot.

Jay and I are making a friendship sweater

If I don’t start writing this now, imperfectly and rambly, it will never get done. I’ve come to see how this is a combination spoonie/ADHD problem – I’ll have an idea for a blog post, and I’ll write half of it in my head (perfectly!) but then never get to writing the actual post at my laptop because I’m too tired or in too much pain. Or I’m completely out of executive function because of the ADHD or because of the chronic fatigue – which worsens executive function (that’s why they call it “fibro fog“). “I can’t write in that state,” I’ll think. “It’ll suck.” Maybe it will. But, as they say, perfect is the enemy of the good, and waiting until I’m clear-headed and full of energy means I’ll never get to anything.

So here we go, with imperfect blogging.

It’s SWEATER TIME. 

I’m knitting an entire sweater! Rather, I’m planning on making an entire sweater. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as the whole point of blogging this process is to encourage myself to keep at it. Telling the internet your goals is usually a bad idea, but I’m making an exception here because the goal isn’t a deeply personal one, and because I want to connect with other knitters (HI! I’m Direcorgi on Ravelry).

If we’re going to get technical, I have knit sweaters before, but only a couple of times, and they were very tiny. It’s not that they don’t count, it’s just that my current venture will require a lot more commitment and attention to detail. I’m a slow knitter, made slower by chronic illness issues and a lifelong devotion to novelty.

Here’s the one I made for our daughter way back in 2005. I’ll replace this shot with a better one of the whole sweater, when I can find that album of pictures (see future post, “How I decided between Flickr and Smumug” to be written after I’ve made my decision). The pattern I used is a paper one I picked up at my LYS (local yarn store) when I lived in Portland. I can’t remember the name of the company that produced the pattern (does it help if I say it was printed on yellow paper?), but if I find it I’ll update this post. 

I know other babies are cute, but dang.

We’re making friendship sweaters!

We! Jay and me! This was all Jay’s idea. She texted me one day and said she’d bought a sweater kit from Bluprint (an offshoot of Craftsy), and would I want to buy the kit too, and knit it with her, and we could make friendship sweaters? She is so great. I loved this idea, and immediately said yes and bought the kit. It arrived, we spent the evening with my ball winder and swift winding up all the yarn into ready-to-go balls, we swatched and we got started……and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s a simple pattern in theory, but following it required too much attention. I like patterns I can mostly memorize and just refer back to every now and then. This wasn’t that. Every row I knit I had to watch the directions carefully or I’d make a mistake, and I just didn’t have that kind of mental energy.

I made a joke about wondering how many pairs of socks I’d have to knit Jay to make up for her taking over this project and knitting my friendship sweater herself. Halfway through a discussion of a totally different topic, she leaned over and said, “I think maybe 3,” and I laughed out loud. Can I just say: having spoonie friends is wonderful. Friends, in general, are wonderful, and my connections to the people in my life are definitely the best part of my life, but when you can feel safe to just have your struggles around someone, it’s so big. Sometimes when a friend is like, “Hey, I see you, I see that struggle, let’s just put that down,” it’s like, thank you.

Finally, I had to put this struggle down, and admit I wasn’t enjoying it. It was so slow-going, such a painful slog, that I knew I wouldn’t keep at it over time, and I really wanted our friendship sweaters to get made. I explained why I was struggling, and Jay suggested we try a different sweater pattern. One where I could just knit without having to refer back to the pattern for every row.

Enter FLAX!

Jay had knit a couple of Flax sweaters, from Tin Can Knits, already. She said the pattern is really simple. It’s actually designed to be a person’s first sweater pattern! YES!

It’s a FREE download, and it comes in a great range of sizes! YAY! And they have tons of tutorials about both their patterns and other knitting skills!

I could not download fast enough. I put the pattern on my iPad. My favorite iPad app for PDFs is PDF Expert by Readdle, I just highlight patterns as I go along. I can add notes and stuff, without worrying about damaging the pattern or losing the copy I’m highlighting.

Step 1: Swatching

Swatching has been….a little tough. I used the same yarn I got for the first sweater, it’s the right weight. But while both swatches seem to give me 4.5 stitches per inch, the swatch that was knit on 8’s (size of needle called for in the pattern, not that that matters much), came out to 3.5 inches, while the swatch on the size 9’s came out within a hair’s breadth of 4 inches wide.

Since 4 inches is the correct gauge, I ought to just use the 9’s, but I had a bit of stress about this because, for whatever reason, knitting with the 9’s was harder than the 8’s. There shouldn’t be that big a difference. If the 8’s feel okay, I don’t see why the 9’s would feel so wrong, but they did. They felt disproportionately bigger and clumsier, and I was struggling with them. It was weird, I’ll admit. When I blocked both swatches, I thought the one on the 9’s would be all huge and hole-y, but it looks just fine. You can barely tell the difference, in fact the only way I could differentiate between them was that the 9 swatch is a half inch bigger. I guess there’s my answer: learn to adjust to the 9’s. Or end up making a sweater one size smaller than I am, and……shrink? Unlike wool, I won’t felt up in the wash (with the number of hot baths I take in a month, I’d know by now). No, better make the sweater to actually fit me.

Jay, for her part, is finishing the original sweater (she’s so speedy, it’s amazing), and then she bought her own new cache of yarn for her Flax. Only this time we took it one awesome step farther: she got the same color as me. Sitting at the table, gleefully planning the new friendship sweater, she points at my ball of yarn and says, “You know, I almost got that moss color, it’s a really beautiful green.”

Me, immediately: “Yes! Get the moss!”

“Do you think that’s okay?” Jay asks.

“It’s perfect! We’ll be twinsies! And then we can get a picture of us together with them on!”

“And I’ll make us matching hats!”

“And I’ll make us matching socks!”

Our voices were pretty high by this point. Jay’s spouse was hilariously rolling their eyes.

Jay already made us cowls!

Okay, now to get those first stitches on the needles. Maybe a bath first. It’s snowpocalypse here in Seattle, so I’ll have a good few days to get started. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I’ll be able to post an update more exciting than, “Look! I got to Row 3!”

No pressure, future me!


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