embroidery devil storm

The 9 mental health secrets behind my business

If you’ve followed Kraken Kreations you’ll know I don’t have any big mental health secrets. I’m open about my PND, PTSD and pre-business breakdown. In fact, the Kraken Kreations community chats this stuff during my routine audits. Well it’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 14 – 20 May and I have several smaller mental health secrets. They’re no longer call-the-psychiatric-nurse size and while they NEVER impact on my professionalism and running of KK they can turn my working days into a bigger challenge than they should be. So, in the spirit of MHAW openness, I’m spilling my guts. Seriously, once I have done this there is nothing left to give you apart from my smear results. So… here are my remaining mental health secrets.

I’ve forgotten everything!

Now, this is one of the mental health secrets that really boils my piss. I love everything about Kraken Kreations, right? You know that. It is a joy every day (even when chewing though the following pantry of angst) and there is nothing else in the world that I would rather do.

However, when I’ve had a break for a week I become convinced, in the day before my return, that I have forgotten everything about sewing and running a business. I become twitchy, nervous and queasy in the way I did before my degree finals. God knows why. I never receive such major blows to the head that I no longer recognise my own knitting bags. Nor do I undergo such devastating brain surgery that I point at myself while shouting “Ladder!” Perhaps it’s linked to my aforementioned breakdown when I couldn’t remember my own name. Well I can certainly remember it now. It’s Anastasia Beaverhausen.

I’m scared of my sewing shed

How’s THIS for mental health secrets! I’m only scared for the first hour of the day because once I’m in it, I’m winning it, but boy, that first hour… I feel nervous, under pressure and anxious about whether I’ll cope with my self-appointed workload. Worse, it all comes with a dollop of mild panic, a bit like when you’ve sneezed, mid period, and just know you’ve ruined the sofa. In fact, crossing the patio to le shed often feels like the hardest part of the day (and that’s even when I endure Kraken Junior’s swimming lessons).

Then I open the shed doors, put on the lights and the radio, light a fave candle and I’m a greyhound out of a trap. Not, though, until I’ve had that hour of feeling as I I’m bunging my hand in a blender. Don’t ask me why. I’m just the patient. It’s probably because I want Kraken Kreations to succeed so badly that each trip to the shed feels make or break. It’s not, obvs, but you try telling that to this post-breakdown brain.

I’ve got too many orders

This is a doozy of mental health secrets and it might make you back away from me: I spend hours every day rustling up slouch bag orders yet when I have lots of orders (and apologies for the technical term, here) I shit my pants. Now this is a right brain scramble because I’m essentially panicking about a thing which I have worked hard to achieve. It’s like doing the National Lottery but needing counselling for being rich.

Even madder (and yes, I use that with all of its connotations because I’m allowed to) if you took those orders from me I’d burn down your house. So – keep up, now – I’m sick with worry over a self-perpetuating problem from which I don’t want to be saved. Yup, that sounds perfectly normal. And no, my eye isn’t twitching.

I’ve got too few orders

Conjugal Kraken tells me I have a business sweet spot but that it lasts for 15 mins every July. It’s where I don’t have too many orders and I don’t have too few orders. Instead I have just enough orders. I’m officially the Goldilocks of hand embroidery.

Fact is that the fear of too few orders, yet another of my mental health secrets, is what drives me to do a 45 hour week. I’ve invested so much of myself in Kraken Kreations that I want it to succeed excruciatingly badly. However, like that bloody tree making a sound when it falls in an empty forest (or does it?) is my business being genuinely successful if it doesn’t have any orders? Now, I’ve worked for myself for long enough to know there are fallow periods that mean nothing. They also mean that if my frontal lobes don’t stop panicking you’ll have to call in a SWAT team.

I’ve got exactly the right amount of orders


I’m not good enough

Now, as mental health secrets go this is more of a stock in trade for anyone creative. It’s impostor syndrome. That doesn’t make it any less isolating when staring into the depths of 3am while thinking, “But I’m shiiiit!?”. Weirdly for me, though, it comes with a large dollop of pride and defensiveness. So while it’s Ok for ME to think I’m not good enough, if someone else told me I wasn’t good enough I’d feed them to rabid mongrels.

You want an example? Well, as a freelance journalist I met with an agency guy for copyrighting work. I slayed it. I was confident, professional, knowledgeable, funny… my usual self (snort). Then right at the end, after he’d marvelled at my portfolio, he said, “What makes you think you’re a good journalist?” Somehow I managed to simultaneously start crying at being rumbled while bollocking him for daring to ask a genius, such as I, such an impertinent question. Seriously, if you know of any therapists…

It’s all too much for me!

Did you know that I can cry actual tears of distilled overwhelm? In my defence this started with my breakdown. Such was the choice of, say, bread in Tesco that Conjugal Kraken would find me roaming the car park while weeping and gibbering about seeded batches. I’d routinely collapse in a grave mental state if the phone rang while I was eating. I was very, very ill.

I’m not ill any more but I still have that panicky gut-reaction to any to-do list that runs to more than three points. The problem is that this doesn’t stop me writing long and comprehensive to do lists. So while I feel utterly in control by writing said to-do lists I then feel utterly panic stricken because the to-do list is shouting at me. Yet without the to-do list I couldn’t run my business and I’ve chosen to run this business so… oh, is that the bell for my meds?

I have to be perfect!

I suspect this is also among the mental health secrets of lots of us creatives. Someone once told me they were shocked that I owned a seam ripper because they assumed I never made mistakes. Well I do make stitchy mistakes (because I’m human) but I also use that ripper to undo seams that look perfect to everyone but me.

See that hem on your skirt? If I’d sewn the 1000 stitches holding it in place I’d notice the single one that looked a bit wonky and undo it. Worse, in the instant that I see that stitch I simultaneously picture one star reviews, dwindling sales, disappearing customers, poverty, mortgage loss, descent into prostitution, subsequent heroin use and finally a cold and lonely death on a motorway verge after being abandoned by my own child. It’s called catastrophising. I can’t say it after a festive sherry but I can do it well enough to win the Nobel Prize for Abject Lunacy.

I have to work harder!

Thing is, I can’t blame this on my breakdown. It’s the urge to work harder and faster until my eyes are rolling in their sockets and it’s one of the mental health secrets I’ve had for a loooong time. Remember the to-do lists that I told you about? Well I know when I’m into this phase because toilet paper is the only stationery that’s long enough to contain them. And I become convinced that unless I do (and master) each point I’m doomed to live in mediocrity. So I put in a thousand hours of work and then, when I’m exhausted and deranged, I put in some more until Conjugal Kraken lures me from my shed with a green crayon. Happily, I’m getting better at spotting this and can jolt myself out of it but never until I’ve solved world peace while running up 600 cotton sanitary pads with my right foot.

And OK, I’m finding the funny side but (puts on serious face) I’m telling you this because I know that many people suffer in silence. Well that has to stop because all off us have mental health secrets? No one should ever have to battle, alone, with any of the things I’ve blurted about here. And if someone with my history of depression and mental quirks can successfully run a business then anyone can. Don’t use this blog post to never, every buy from that scary sewing woman again. Use it, instead, to tell someone how you feel.

So for Mental Health Awareness Week, come over to my Facebook page. Every day I’ll post about mental health issues and we can all help and support each other as the week goes on. Deal? Deal! Now, pull the screens. I’ve spotted a seam that’s one millimetre out of place and it must be vanquished!

Do you you ever experience any of the above? What mental health quirks and issues do YOU have? Let us know in the comments below!