This year has been rough on us all with the pandemic. COVID has totally changed how we live our lives and has given us a new and unusual normal. We are stuck in our homes, we can no longer give hugs to people we care about, we walk into stores and banks with masks on, and we have learned to do more things online. This year has made dealing with mental illness extremely hard. Even people who don’t deal with mental illness are feeling down. I know it has caused my anxiety to go up, I’ve struggled with depression and my stress levels have been high.
On top of the pandemic are other challenges that we face: health conditions, breakups, friends fighting, death, loss of a job, financial problems, and other things. Some things are caused by the pandemic and other things are just part of life. Life’s challenges can hit us hard and it’s how we cope with them that helps us pull ourselves up out of the hole and aids us in staying above it. One thing that assists me in copeing and is therapy to me is woodburning.
I received my first woodboring kit when I was a child. My uncle bought it for me as a Christmas gift. I automatically fell in love with it. I started woodburning on any piece of scrap wood I could find: a piece of tree that was cut down, plywood, or a scrap of wood thrown away. I cut pictures from magazines and traced them to the wood with carbon paper my grandma gave me from her bill pads. With being bullied in school and dealing with mental illness, woodburning became my therapy. It was something I did well, and it helped me release my inner anguish. Just about everyone in my family and friends got my work as a gift.
In recent years, my woodburning has taken a sideline to writing and editing my memoir. Having a book published has been my dream since I was in high school. For a while I stopped doing my pyrography to dedicate my time to my dream of holding my very own published book. I woodburned a few Christmas decorations for my family and friends while I recovered from a hysterectomy. It helped me cope with being home alone while my husband worked and I dealt with the emotional roller coaster of the sudden menopause the surgery put me in. Once I recovered, I stopped and continued my focus on the editing of my memoir.
Two years later the pandemic hit and despite my work at losing weight, I had another health problem. If you have been following my posts, you know a bone broke in my back and I had to have back surgery. Recovery from this surgery has been very hard physically and mentally. One complication after another has left me laid up and bored. I couldn’t do much of anything. Depression reared its ugly head. There were so many things I wanted to do but couldn’t. I felt helpless.
Wasn’t it enough that 2020 cursed our lives with a pandemic? Then I had to have surgery. With the growing cases it was unsafe for friends to visit and my parents lived a half hour away. We depended on my husband to work so we could pay the bills. Disability from my job didn’t pay much. To deal with my depression, loneliness, worrying, and boredom, I had my husband bring my woodburning kit out.
I found cheap wood at Dollar Tree and decided to print a picture of my friend and me. I traced it to a star shaped piece of wood and woodburned it. It turned out great. I messaged my friend to stop by and I gave it to her as a gift. I took pride in my work. It helped me feel like there was something I still could do. Woodburning was the one thing I could do without twisting, bending, or reaching. It helped take my mind off depression and my problems.
I used a motorized cart to get around Walmart and I found six packs of small round wood. I joined a pyrography group on Facebook and learned that you can find pictures to woodburn on Google public domain clipart. I started searching Christmas pictures. I printed the pictures out and began making Christmas ornaments. I have two pyrography tools so I can use two different tips at a time. I burned pictures of Santa Caus, a reindeer, Mary holding Jesus, a dog and cat under a Santa hat, snowmen, and an angel. Instead of feeling helpless, fighting racing thoughts and drowning in depression, I was concentrating on my projects. I had to trace the clipart on the wood and concentrate on burning the design into the wood. I had no time for those unwanted thoughts or to dwell in my sadness.
My husband realized how therapeutic my woodburning was and he bought me a wooden box. He asked me to do a Steelers design on it. In between making my ornaments, I worked on my husband’s box. I looked up clipart to put on it and I used stencils to put words on it. The planning, finding the right pictures, tracing them on the box and tracing them with my woodburning tool kept me focused. Time seemed to past quickly, and I had no room for negative thoughts or racing thoughts. With each stroke of my pyrography tool, my sadness receded to the back of my mind. I was too busy to be bored.
I planned to give my ornaments away as Christmas gifts. I sent a picture of them to a friend from work.
I messaged her, “You might get one of these for Christmas.”
She replied, “I’d rather buy one from you.”
I was surprised that she wanted to pay for it. We agreed on a price. I posted my ornaments on Facebook, and before I knew it friends and family were messaging me wanting to buy my work. My therapy became a way to make a little extra money. Before long, I sold eighteen ornaments and two keychains. A couple of friends gave me a little more than what I was asking for them. Good came out of my surgery and out of 2020. Some of the money helped pay some bills and some is going to my “getting my book published “fund.”
My woodburning not only became my therapy, but it showed me how kind people are. Despite the struggles of recovery and of the pandemic, I found positivity. Friends who had little money of their own gave a little extra for my work just to help me out. I cherish their kindness.
Many things have changed in 2020, but people’s kindness is everlasting. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but we must have hope. Hope that the vaccine may bring an end to the pandemic, hope in the kindness of others, and hope in our ability to cope. There is no promise that the new year will be better, but remember to find that one thing you do that helps you cope whether it be knitting, singing, drawing, sewing, writing or something else. Use the special craft or ability that brings you comfort to deal with life’s challenges and mental illness.
I go back to work on January 4 and I’m not looking forward to it, but I have my woodburning to cope. My husband got me wood and a woodburning book for Christmas. I have more projects to plan. Whatever I am to face in the new year and with going back to work, I have woodburning projects to be my therapy. My hobby helps me soak in the light of recovery.