On Chronic Illness

Tuesday 25 April 2017

On Chronic Illness.

“[W]e cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright; we become deserters. They march to battle. We float with the sticks on the stream; helter-skelter with the dead leaves on the lawn, irresponsible and disinterested and able, perhaps for the first time for years, to look round, to look up—to look, for example, at the sky.” ―Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill

Me 'n' my silly face enjoying a cloudy day in Deep Cove
Photo by Vivienne McMaster

I've touched on this topic a little bit in public places, I wrote a piece for a book called Stay Solid about my discovery of the affects of my own chronic pain on my mental health, and I've posted a few times publicly talking about my “chronic illness” but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more in depth on here, for those who are interested, or for folks who may be in a similar boat to me and who may, like me, find comfort in the words of others sharing a similar journey.

I'm 27 and I've had chronic pain since I was 4 years old.

We didn't know what it was for the vast marjoirty of my life. Doctor's visits and family's sympethetic ears didn't do much to help me get a diagnosis or to help manage my pain. I suffered silently with disabiling bladder pain my whole life, until I was in my early twenties and finally found a urologist who didn't manhandle, belittle or abuse me like the other ones did. Instead I found a urologist who listened and diagnosed me on the spot with a small physical test. He said “I'm sure of it, you have Interstitial Cystits”. He stood by me while I cried huge sobs of tears, and he was incredibly kind. I met with him a total of two times and I can credit him with a big chunk of my current state of wellness.

He had the power to understand what was happening with me, and he used it to make me feel seen, truly seen. Someone who looked at me and saw what I had been through, the affect of the pain for 20 years, he saw how hard my life had been. But he didn't pity me and almost immediately he handed me words of hope, stories of recovery and wellness.


So, what does interstitial cystitis do? What's it mean? Well, it means your bladder hurts. Like a lot. I've read articles where they liken IC flare ups to late stage renal failure. Wheee! People are often completely disabled by this disease, (for example, one of the methods of treatment is to completely remove the bladder!). I was lucky and my treatment has been almost entirely successful at managing it with diet changes and physiotherapy.

I am other types of sick too I've had Fibromyalgia symptoms since I was 16 years old, Depression diagnosed since I was 15... IBS started around that time too, and a whole other pile of generic body complaints, rotator cuff injury, thoracic nerve outlet syndrome, plantar fasciitis, some sort of 
sciatica-related tendon messup, and a completely fucked up right knee... (the list is long and so I'll stop there).

A lot happens to your brain when you're in chronic pain. You sort of age quicker than those who are pain-free. There are all sorts of physiological and psychological affects. My life has looked a lot different than those who have grown up pain-free.

I have never been pain-free.

Why am I writing so publically about this? Well, I am still sick, and it feels important that I don't hide that part of me. Honestly, I don't need to talk about it often (I have such an incredible crew of kin who take care of me needing to talk about this kind of stuff when it comes up) but the complete lack of sharing this information about myself feels like lying about who I am. This is such an important part of my identity.

I always wish for a world where people with chronic illnesses get treated with respect and dignity, that they are welcomed in to the world as they are and that they grow deep bonds within their community. One of my very deepest most core values is Friendship, and I believe that friendship for someone with chronic illness (for this person with chronic illness at least) is essential and vital. And I'm grateful for my few people in my life who see me as I am (all messy and swollen and sick) and are solidly still by my side. My kin who have my back in this good hard world.

And after all of that I want to say that although I'll likely never be able-bodied, I am well! I live my life making sure I am living as closely aligned with my beliefs as I can be, and I take good care of myself. Although I often have a lot less hours in the day compared to able-bodied people, and I work a lot slower, but I am happy in my struggles, happy with the wholehearted life I have carved out (with help of friends and family!) of the trauma and pain I was given.

So consider that a short, heavy part of my story, visible to those who are curious.

Sending much love from my garden-suite in East Vancouver! With Bean-cat all curled up in between my arms as I write this.

Signing off,

~ Sylvia McFadden

The Sunlight Shawl for Sad People Re-release!

Wednesday 16 March 2016
The Sunlight Shawl for Sad People 2016 re-release!

Thank you to the amazingly talented Vivienne McMaster from Be Your Own Beloved photography for shooting her beautiful self portraits for this pattern! She is a gorgeous, wonderful, body-positive, and just genuine and kind person (and all around inspiring woman!). I am so grateful that she said yes to taking these photos!
She teaches wonderful self portraiture based e-courses rooted in body positivity and self love. I strongly suggest you take a look at what she has to offer!
This yarn is the lovely ash alberg’s mermaid hair yarn! For a limited time you can get a special pack of ash’s stitch markers if you order a skein of their yarn! You just need to include the word SUNLIGHT in your order! It’s gorgeous single ply yarn that went so perfectly with this project!
You can purchase the yarn here!
I LOVE COLLABORATIONS! These two people are just so awesome!
This shawl is still very very free, and excellent for beginners who are drawn to the idea of shawls, but who may not fully comprehend how shawl-y they can be.  
Hells yeah! I hope you like the new photos and the new PDF! <3 <3 

Another Stockinette PENIS UGH

Monday 29 February 2016

I recharted the damn thing and everything!

In the words of my beloved parter "Oh wow it looks even more like a dick now".

Thanks Thomas. Thank you verrrry much.

I still can't show you, as much as I'd like to. So instead I'm going to post a few pictures that I've found of knitting that looks like penises... so that I don't feel so bad about my charting skills.

I'm just going to pretend that this hat was an accident because that would make me feel better about my own personal knitted penis accident...

This young fellow looks like he's secure in his manhood. He's got a pink scarf haha... oh wait... 

I need this dress for when I have to deal with all the mansplaining tech industry dudes. Maybe they'll leave me alone if it looks like I systematically cut off the penises of my foe and super glue them to my favourite dress. 

Final hilarious thing for the evening: While I was googling "knitting that looks like penises" two photos of mine came up! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. The Waiting for Rain shawl on the right and the giant (that's me!) standing next to the normal-sized person in the bottom. Magical. 

Stockinette penises.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Stockinette penises. Only really a problem for designers.

I will spare you the photos (mostly because they shawl-penis showed up on is scheduled for a top-secret launch in October of 2016). But I was happily knitting away on my sample, watching Walking Dead, and I look down after a good solid chunk of knitting and realize that there's, what looks like, a penis in my shawl. 

I sent the picture to a few of my knitting friends... "yes, yup, it looks like a dick"

So then I spent the rest of the night ripping out all the work I did, re-charting the last chart of the shawl so that the penis went away. 

Here's a picture instead of a kitten to make everyone make myself feel better

5 things you might not know about me!

Saturday 6 February 2016
Hey everyone! Since Waiting for Rain has launched I have been getting lots of hits on all my social media! I'm thrilled! I thought I would kind of introduce myself to some of the folks who might not know who I am - and the best way to do that is to write a big ol' list of things that people might not know about me :)

#1 - I used to be a concert photographer / music reviewer. When I was 17 I accidentally got a job reviewing a Metric concert. My friend had landed a job shooting for this blog (which is sadly, but not surprisingly, no longer active) and when the editor had asked if she knew someone who could join her and to write a review she had recommended me. I written in my journal a lot growing up, and loved writing short stories - but honestly, I hadn't even successfully written an essay at that point (see interesting thing #2). I quickly went online and read everything I could find on writing concert reviews. After I went to the concert, wrote my review, and got asked back! Eventually my editor realized I could take pictures as well (cheaper for him to just get me to do both!). I moved from blogs to magazines then back to blogs again. It was a hilarious couple of years. I have many stories from this time... but maybe this blog entry isn't a place to get into them hehe.

#2 - I dropped out of school in Grade 4. I don't have my high school diploma. And I still haven't really ever technically written a proper 5 x 5 paragraph essay. When I was in grade 4 my mum took me out of regular school and dropped me into an alternative school where I never went to any formal classes, although I learned so much while I was there. When I turned 16 I dropped out of that school too and started hanging around a youth centre in my neighbourhood. I took a job placement program and ended up landing a shelving gig when I was 17 at the Vancouver Public Library system. I did eventually go to college, and of course dropped out, but that's a story for another time.

#3 - I'm a giant! Here have some photos of me towering over the general population. (Okay maybe not a giant, but definitely an Amazon. I'm 6 feet tall for those wondering)

#4 - I'm a regularly published person too, not just knitting patterns. Before I started writing and doing layout and graphic design and taking pictures for knitting patterns I wrote and did layout, graphic design and photography for a bunch of zines! (what are zines? Here, let me link you to the lovely wikipedia article on the topic) I cofounded a zine called RAIN (Radical Art In Nature) with my best friend Carla Bergman (She modelled for my Blanket for Seriously Cold People - she's absolutely wonderful and you should click over to her website to see all the cool stuff she does!), and worked on a few other personal and collaborative zines as well. Alongside the zine making, I also wrote for and curated two chapters of a book called Stay Solid, which was done by a whole pile of cool people. It's a radical handbook for youth!

#5 - I drive a scooter! And I own a pair of socks called my Scooter Socks. The pattern may one day make it's way onto ravelry... but I'm not promising anything.

In summary: I'm a big ol' weirdo.

Thanks for reading! 

Softsweater Games! - This War of Mine game review.

Monday 1 February 2016
Oh hi folks,

So me and my partner play quite a few video games, what's better than sitting next to someone playing an interactive story while you knit! It's like storytelling where you get to direct the story! For the most part at least.

So this game This War Of Mine.

It's set in wartimes. I actually hate war games, usually they're a bunch of dude-voices yelling and guns shelling and it's just a big bummer all around. This game isn't like that, you start off as a group of friends who have all unfortunately been homeless since the war hit. They find an abandoned house, which still has some walls intact and settle in.

The way the game mechanics work is that you have daytime and nighttime. During the day you tend your wounds with bandages, treat your sick friends with medicine and cook the veggies you find or the rats you catch. You can patch up the walls, you can build things to grow food, you can make moonshine. You know, all the ESSENTIALS for surviving a war.

In the evening you choose one of your crew to scavenge. And someone else to guard. The lucky leftover people get to sleep in the rickety beds you have to make during the day.

The first 18 nights we didn't encounter any assholes. Just lovely people who were actually offering up food and things to help us stay alive. A 'neighbour' brought us some veggies from their garden, later one of our crew helped them patch up their house a bit. It was mostly really lovely, eventually we met a homeless guy who needed food, but we hadn't brought any with us so we had to leave him. When we went back a couple of nights later he had passed away due to starvation. That was a bummer - but honest and realistic.

By night 19 we were struggling because one of our buddies had gotten stabbed when someone tried in the night to rob us. We didn't have any bandages and the place we chose to scavenge had an elderly couple in it. They were struggling to survive and the woman was sick.

We walked past them and took some bandages, and they didn't fight us. Because that's realistic. The man followed closely behind and begged us not to steal his wife's medicine.

Rough night, the game got a bit harder after then.

When the character that we were playing returned, everyone turned on him. They were disgusted that we had stolen medical supplies from an elderly couple. It's very honest to real life with everyone's thoughts and opinions coming into play.

And me and Thomas sat rationalizing it, but it made us think. What would we do if it weren't just a game?

We're on day 21 now and I can see that this game has a lot more to offer. The first five hours of gameplay were engaging, full of moral contradictions and lots of contemplation. We'll keep playing.

Well worth the $15.

Oh, and for the knitters, I am working my way through Part 1 of my #waitingforrainKAL! We started today if you're interested in joining pop over to my instagram account or my ravelry page to register!

Waiting for Rain is number one on hot right now!

Sunday 31 January 2016
I'm floored! And humbled! And feel so so grateful! 

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