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Depression, anxiety and macramé

One of Hayleigh’s macramé pieces
One of Hayleigh’s pieces

by Hayleigh Walker

Trigger warning: this piece contains details of Hayleigh’s maternal mental health journey and a mention of suicidal thoughts. Please take care when reading it. If you need support, please refer to our Urgent Warning. You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

My macramé journey began when I realised that I was past the baby blues and there was something much darker and deeper lurking, not only in the corners of my mind, but in the whole of my thoughts and being. Our darling son Bodhen Atlas was born at the beginning of August 2017. It was during a trip to New Zealand, when he was only two months old, that I realised something wasn’t right. His cries would trigger a helpless feeling – a feeling of not wanting to be. Of wanting it all to end. I felt like I wasn’t enough for him, and that I couldn’t share my time between my two beautiful children. I felt completely lost, and strangely numb.

It turns out, I had postnatal depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a traumatic birth. I went to the doctors when we returned from our trip and was put on antidepressants, ones I had been on during my teen years. They brought me out from the darkest depths, but I felt like I needed something more. I had seen a new mama creating macramé on Instagram, her baby in a wrap (the way we wore Bodhi and our daughter Eden Lyra before him), with a smile from ear to ear. I had never heard of or seen it before in my life but I knew I had to try it. My first attempt hangs in our hallway. The cord was too short and the knots are far from perfect, but this piece was to be the beginning of my journey. (Macramé is an ancient textile art form created using various knotting techniques with different fibres. For me, it’s mostly about wall hanging and I use either recycled cotton rope or hemp cord.)

I collected branches from my mother’s garden and continued creating. I could stop and start as I needed, hanging my work-in-progress on the back of the living room door. I was never far from my little ones (in fact, most of my original wall hangings were created with Bodhen nestled into my chest in a wrap). I would knot my problems, like a moving meditation. Each one had some meaning to me. Each one had a memory, or a feeling, and then, when the piece was finished, I would trim the ends. Cut the cords. Let go.

I’ve found that macramé is also an amazing tonic for my anxiety – a dance I’ve danced throughout my life. No therapy or medication has ever touched it. My mind spins, my thoughts go wild and I end up on a rabbit hole of horrific intrusive thoughts. If I have a project on the go – a talisman, a wall hanging, a plant hanger – I can focus. I can try to control those thoughts, and keep my mind on what needs doing, on where I can go next with the piece I’m creating. 

Eden is due to have open heart surgery in the next few weeks. We don’t have an exact date and we know too well what her little body is going to have to endure. It’s a very easy and very real rabbit hole to fall down this time. The intrusive thoughts are exhausting. Keeping projects going is keeping my mind busy. It’s preventing me from going too deep into that hole.

Macramé is where I go to take a breath and to pause. It’s what I turn to when I need to think. In those breaths, in those moments when I need some peace, I watch my own hands create something amazing. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days, but watching these pieces unfold is such a wonderful experience for me. It has now become my own little business. Something beautiful built from something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. 

Since writing this piece, Hayleigh’s daughter Eden Lyra had a successful operation and is now doing amazingly well at home.

lyraandatlas.com

THIS PIECE WAS REVIEWED BY Dr Claudia Pastides AND EDITED BY ANNA CEESAY & CLAIRE GILLESPIE.

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