If you follow Baa Baa Brighouse on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or YouTube, you’ll probably be aware that we’re big supporters of crafting as a way of coping with mental health problems. We often share stories on our social media networks about the benefits knitting, crochet and other crafts can have on your personal well-being and we’re keen to see the stigma attached to mental health removed altogether.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 runs from May 16 to May 22 and we’d like to take the opportunity to share Elaine’s ongoing story with you in the hope that it may offer help and understanding to others who find themselves struggling with their own demons.
Elaine Jinks-Turner founded Baa Baa Brighouse in 2014 following a lengthy battle with post-natal depression. The mother-of-three had given birth to her daughter, Florence, in 2010 and quickly fell pregnant again with her second son, Benjamin, born in 2011.
She has struggled on and off with her mental health for most of her adult life with major changes being a trigger point; a difficult relationship resulted in a failed suicide attempt and a spell in hospital, a permanent move away from family and friends brought out the worst of an eating disorder that she had previously had under control, the inability to conceive her second child led to a round of fertility medication and the onset of a deep depression.
This is coupled with an eye condition that Elaine has had since birth: rotary nystagmus, leading to her being registered as partially sighted shortly after Benjamin was born and bringing with it a whole host of other anxieties.
For the most part, Elaine coped by throwing herself into her work as a journalist for a local newspaper and telling herself that she was ‘fine’. But after taking voluntary redundancy from her post in 2012, the depression and anxiety that had been bubbling away in the background came to a head.
Her moods went up and down in the extreme, she was irrational, angry, acted totally out of character, became detached, distant, disinterested in everything – even her children. Often it was a struggle just to get out of bed and sometimes days would go by where she wouldn’t. This went on for months. She had cut herself off from friends and family, wouldn’t open up to anyone because she felt ashamed. Ashamed that she couldn’t be there for her children. Ashamed that others would see her as self-absorbed. Ashamed that she was a bad person and a bad parent.
Contemplating how to end it all on almost a daily basis, she eventually admitted to herself and later her doctor, that something was seriously wrong. Asking for help was the first step. After suffering a terrible reaction to Citalopram, which resulted in another hospital visit, she was prescribed Fluoxetine by her doctor who was nothing but understanding, sympathetic, patient and most importantly non-judgemental.
Once the medication kicked in, Elaine looked for other coping strategies and found the most effective one in knitting. She’d always been keen on crafts but never really had the time or motivation until then. She had learned to knit as a child and when she picked up her needles it was like riding a bike or learning to swim – it was one of those skills you never forget.
Her enthusiasm led to the formation of a regular Knit and Natter Group at Rastrick Library, Brighouse, followed by a second group at LoveBread Bakery in the town. From this, Baa Baa Brighouse developed.
The people who frequent the groups all come with their own baggage, their own problems, their own mental health issues; whether it is suffering a bereavement, coping with an on-going physical illness or beating breast cancer. Members are all survivors in their own way and through their love of knitting, crocheting and crafting, help to support each other.
Four years on since her initial diagnosis, Elaine has accepted that depression and anxiety are a part of life, for her at least. She knows she will never be free of them and still has episodes from time to time when it all just gets too much. But they are less frequent now, more manageable and because of knitting and Baa Baa Brighouse, she enjoys life where at one time that didn’t ever seem possible.
Elaine said: “If you had asked me 10 years ago, is this what I would be doing with my life, I would have laughed at you. I only ever wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“Looking back, although I enjoyed what I did, I still drew a distinction between life and work. So, was a really happy as a journalist? Probably not. With Baa Baa Brighouse, I no longer have that distiction. It is work, yes, but it is also life and I love it!”