Take that, Abby Normal!

October 22, 2018

This morning I was thinking about #2019MakeNine and the rapidly approaching new year while doing a bit of reorganizing around my workspace. As I was cleaning I came across a sad sack. …literally! Wadded up in a forgotten corner was a project bag containing a nearly completed Bough Hat that’s been on my Make Nine list since 2016. As I held this forgotten WIP in my hands a wave of thoughts and feelings came back to me. For two years I’ve wanted to complete this hat and for two years I didn’t. Why??

I remember my excuses being so valid and sensible at the time. As sensible as resisting an impulse buy because you don’t really need the thing and you’d rather spend your money on something else. It’s funny how much our perspective changes year to year, or even season to season… or week to week if you have a hormone-induced anxiety disorder like I do. I rarely ever read my old blog posts because they often feel like a résumé of how many times I completely overthought a simple thing and then made a dumb excuse not to follow through.

Case in point: This Hat.

This is a hat. It’s a hat made out of wool string. It comes complete with instructions on how to take two pointed sticks and tangle up this wool string in such a way that it becomes decorative and also wearable. It’s not more complicated than that. It’s really not. But in 2016 my anxiety and crippling self-doubt was on the rise, and in 2016 my Abby Normal Brain told me “you’re not skilled enough to make this hat so don’t even try”. I thought that was the sensible decision.

I think what my Abby Normal Brain was actually trying to tell me in its irrational way (because that’s what anxiety is — the irrational processing of normal thoughts) is: “Hey, you’ve never knit a hat that used charted instructions before so it might be slow going, and you might have to lookup some tutorials on YouTube a lot, so if you’re looking for an instant gratification project, this hat probably isn’t it, but you can totally make it through this pattern if you want to!” …But that’s not what I heard.

All I heard was: “You’ve never knit a hat with charted instructions before so it’s going to be hard, and even though you can knit and purl and therefore knit pretty much anything, you’ll inevitably mess up and have to start over. Don’t waste my precious time on a project that’s doomed to fail. You’re not good enough at knitting. Pick something else.”

So I didn’t knit this hat in 2016 even though I wanted to badly enough to put it on my Make Nine list. Thanks, Abby Normal.

Abby didn’t have me seized up every single time though. I did actually knit a charted hat in 2016. I finished the Rosebud Hat that had a tiny section of chart which should have been the perfect stepping stone to tackle Bough next. But again, I have an irrational brain sometimes. So I did not attempt to knit Bough in 2016.

Oh, but the t-shirt I’m wearing today? It’s a Lark shirt that I also made in 2016 and thus successfully completed off my #2016MakeNine list. See, Abby Normal Brain!? I CAN do stuff!!

So flash forward to 2017. It’s time for me to narrow down my Make Nine list again. So I think: Abby, this is the year I’m knitting the Bough Hat! You can’t talk me out of it this time, Abby! I’m gonna do it. I think I can… yeah no I can definitely do it. There’s no reason why I can’t! TRY AND STOP ME ABBY.

So it’s 2017 and I cast-on the Bough Hat. And it’s going really well! It’s way easier than I thought it was going to be! Why did I put this off for so long?? I’m really happy with my efforts so far and I especially love the color. I love the color so much that I decide I’m going to dye my hair from rose gold to light auburn red. Nearly the same color as this hat. Then I hear Abby coming up with dumb excuses again, right on schedule. “Wait, your hair is red/orange now. …and you’re going to wear a red/orange hat? Isn’t that a lot of red/orange near your face? That’s probably going to look stupid. You need more contrast or the hat won’t be flattering. Why even wear it if it’s not flattering on you. Might as well not even finish it if you’re not going to wear it. See I told you you wouldn’t finish this hat.”

And thus the dumb excuse cycle continues. If my anxious brain talks to me like this for trivial things such as hats, imagine what other paralyzing thoughts I suffer surrounding situations and tasks that are actually important? I’ve been trying to run a business like this. The abnormal part of my brain was only getting bolder, too.

So now it’s the present day and we’re inching towards the end of 2018. It’s been a tough year for so many different reasons. I was officially diagnosed with PMDD this summer after more than a decade of escalating cyclical anxiety, panic, self-doubt, hopelessness, severe cases of “the blues”, debilitating migraines and a tangled mess of other symptoms that helped my doctor and I reach this diagnosis. My struggle with PMDD is definitely a blog post for another day, but it’s amazing how I didn’t even realize how affected I was until after I got help. I can think rationally and be kind to myself for the entire month now instead of just a few days. I haven’t had a panic attack in 3 months and all of my current WIPs don’t feel like bleak badges of failure or raging proof of incompetence.

They’re just things I haven’t made time to finish yet. Like this hat. No big deal. I’ll finish it before the year is out and finally cross it off my #2016MakeNine list. I’ll wear it proudly no matter what hair color I decide to have and I’ll pat myself on the back for finishing something I started, even though it took me a really long time. I’ll smile at how nice my tension looks, how neatly my cables turned out.

And, most importantly, I’ll bask in the uplifting satisfaction of knowing I could do it all along.

Take that, Abby Normal!