A Mental Health Journey + Happy Bags

Hello lovely friends. I am writing a more personal post today for World Mental Health Day and celebrating the fact that such a day actually exists. Talking about mental health problems and sharing our own stories is thankfully becoming less and less taboo so here I am telling you mine, even though it still feels a bit hard to do.

I have always been a perfectionist. You know the kind: stressing out over performing at school, high school, uni… Being the best friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, cousin… Being the best at whatever was in front of me. And then job-life started (I worked as a writer and journalist for more than ten years, just left once and for all the full time for Coco Wawa Crafts last month!) and my levels of anxiety and stress rocketed. Working as a journalist is for itself a very stressful job: deadlines, trips, late nights, pressure to perform, to write well… and I started to feel this “panicky” sensation inside me, right there, in the middle of the chest. It came out of nowhere, or maybe it was there the whole time? I am not sure, but it didn’t left me for years.

At the beginning it came to say hi right when I was about to go to bed but later it wanted to stay with me at work, during the weekends, when travelling and even when I was having fun and thought I was relaxed. Sometimes the feeling disappeared for days and weeks and even months! just to come back when I least expected it. This sensation was really hard to handle depending on the day. Sometimes it made me cry, others it made me angry and at some point, it made me not wanting to get out of bed. Some days were rather cloudy even though it was bright outside and some others were quieter.

Then I made a decision. I didn’t want to spend my life that I cherished so much letting this feeling overwhelm me. I needed to learn how to live with it, how to handle it and maybe even become friends with it. So I started seeing a therapist and this was right before moving to London more than 5 years ago. And it’s funny how this therapist who helped me discover mindfulness, the power of relaxation, learning to breath, to appreciate the moment, to accept that some days are worse than others and than perfectionism only existed in my mind, said one day: ‘Ana, you need to find a hobby.’ And even though all my life I had been or thought I was really bad at all craft things (I used glue to make clothes for my Barbie 😃 ) I started making things with my hands and it just felt so natural! At first it was these horrible necklaces I made using feathers and beads (honestly, awful!) and then right when I moved to the UK it was knitting and then baking (thanks Great British Bake Off!) and then, one day, I went to a sewing class and my life changed.

To this day I still feel anxious and stress some times which now I accept (not always, but mostly) and use as a warning that there’s something I am not doing right. Working too much? Not taking time for myself? Miss Perfectionist waking up again? Then I go for a swim, grab a book, sit down to knit, to sew for myself, to watch a movie, to go for a walk, or just meditate a bit…. and then I feel like I can come back to the world with a smile 😃

In my case, having a hobby that I was passionate about (now a business!) and writing about how I felt (I’ve got tons of notebooks at home full of notes and stories and feelings written down, which I still do), doing exercise, eating well and overall, accepting the fact that in life sometimes it’s OK to feel sad and that being a perfectionist wasn’t me, that I could choose not to be my worst enemy, which I think in lots of cases we are, and that I could love myself and that I had to actually take care of myself and be kind to myself, have helped me come to terms with that sensation/feeling/friend of mine called anxiety.

I will be over the moon if by sharing my story I can help any one of you.

Also, and to celebrate the fact that today is World Mental Health Day, I have teamed up with lovely textile designer and lifestyle blogger Nancy Straughan to make a limited edition of wash-bags, the Happy Bags, that you can purchase from Nancy’s online shop and my Etsy Shop. A percentage of all sales will go to a UK Mental Health charity. Hope you can join us! 😃

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#worldmentalhealthday

7 replies on “A Mental Health Journey + Happy Bags

  • Felicia

    Thank you so much for this post. I love your blog!!!
    I am Italian, lived in Spain for 15 months ages ago, then went back to Italy, now here for about 4.5 years. I quit my office job to become a full time maker. As you, I’m in my 30s, so that’s scary! Still learning and in the process of launching (but already grabbed www.cicia.co.uk), some days are good, some others bad, but a few months ago I decided to share the story of my worst summer of depression and anxiety, because I believe we can beat the stigma.
    I am based in London too and, if you are part of a group of makers, I’d love to meet you guys! x
    My IG is @ciciaz, and please come and say "hi"! I’d love to connect!

    Reply
  • Becky

    Thank you so much for this post. You express yourself so well, and what’s more, this is such as important topic and should be talked about so much more. I’m glad that you found sewing, and it has helped you. It has helped me a lot too. As has meditation. Just wanted to say thanks for this great post

    Reply
    • Alan

      I am so glad you liked it Becky. And yes, it is so important that we start talking more openly about mental health… I am happy sewing has helped you as well, it is such an incredible hobby/way of life! Sending you a big big hug 🙂 and let’s keep sewing!

      Reply
  • Goretti Rodríguez

    Hola Ana! Te sigo desde España ( concretamente desde Galicia), así que permíteme que te escriba en castellano que me expreso mejor que en inglés. Me gustaría decirte que me parece muy valiente, honesta y auténtica la entrada que has escrito! Es cierto que hoy en día no es fácil hablar sobre nuestro propio sufrimiento psicológico, es visto como in signo de debilidad. Pero más bien es todo lo contrario: una señal de valentía y de un corazón abierto y grande! Lo cierto es que yo he pasado por algo similar, he superado también un trastorno de ansidedad, ahora vivo la vida que quiero: soy psicóloga y ayudo a otras personas a encontrar la forma de llevar la vida que ansían. Y también me encanta coser!! de hecho coincido contigo: encontrar este hobbie me ha ayudado tremendamente!!
    Enhorabuena por tus palabras Ana, están llenas de amor y compasión hacia ti misma!!

    Reply
    • CocoWawaCrafts

      ¡Hola Goretti! Qué bien hablar contigo 🙂 Y muchas gracias por lo que me dices. La verdad es que es difícil hablar de estas cosas, poder expresarte libremente sin que los demás lo vean como un signo de debilidad… pero hay que hacerlo, para que de una vez por todas los problemas de salud mental se normalizan, que todos podamos hablar de ello sin tapujos. Me alegra también saber que la costura te ayudó. Qué bonito es hacer algo con tus manos, qué gratificante 🙂 Te mando un abrazo grande y espero que sigamos en contacto. Ana

      Reply
  • Alexa

    Thanks so much for this post Ana. It’s so important that we all recognise that poor mental health is something that we will all probably experience and I’m so glad you have found such a positive way of managing things for yourself.
    Xox

    Reply
    • CocoWawaCrafts

      Hi Alexa! Thanks a lot for your comment 🙂 And yes, it is so important to be able to talk about it and be open about and not judge people or let people judge us for it. Big big hug! xxxx

      Reply

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