I was 24 and I'd never had my heart broken. But when my high school boyfriend of about a million years ended things, boy was I heartbroken. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I didn't wash for a disgusting length of time. My brain turned against me, repeating the same scary thoughts: you'll always be alone, you're useless, you loser. It's fair to say I was at my lowest ebb.
There was a little leaflet in the Sunday papers at the time - DIY crafts to try at home. The cover had the cutest pug dog sitting on a rag rug. I don't know why but I found myself sourcing old t-shirts to cut into strips, some hessian and a big thick needle. For hours I lost myself in choosing a colour, threading a strip of fabric onto the needle and pulling it through the cloth. On and on I went, making rows of multi colours until at last I had a rug. OK, so it wasn't the most perfect or the most pretty rug ever but as my needle had ducked in and out and as I'd compared this green to that yellow, those mean voices in my head had no audience. And so they left.
In the ten years that have followed, I've tried loads of different crafts - knitting, sewing, card making, gluing pom poms on anything that doesn't move... the one thing that unites them is that they give me a balance: they keep my head and my hands busy at stressful times.
When my husband and I were about to get married, he suddenly lost his job. To silence the voice that was warning me we'd lose our flat and we should cancel the stupid wedding, I got pinking shears, yards of cotton fabric, garden twine and a glue gun. I made hundreds and hundreds of metres of cheery bunting in this quick, no-sewing way. It kept me positive and looking forwards, and it made our wedding look gorgeous on a shoestring. Now that bunting comes out for all family events and even our daughter's christening, and I have a lovely warm feeling whenever I see it flap about in the breeze. A good thing came from a bad moment.
I always take a lot of comfort in being able to make things for other people when they're having a tough time, too. Knitted hats for new babies, a silly motto in cross-stitch to cheer up a friend and, when my mum was very ill recently, I embellished a pillow case with a patchwork pattern so she'd have something nice to take to the hospital with her. No, a crafted gift isn't going to make anyone's problems disappear but it lets your loved ones know you're thinking about them and it gives you a great feeling that you've got involved, you haven't just worried from the sidelines.
If those voices are nagging you, I can't recommend picking up a crafty hobby enough. There are great starter kits in all sorts of things to get you going and soon the only voice you'll hear is yours, saying 'Yes, I made that!'