It is coming up to the anniversary of my stroke, and I find myself reflecting, in various ways, on where I am now, a whole five years later. I’ll write about different aspects of my recovery in other posts, but today I want to talk about the change in my employment. I’m a knitwear designer now, but as many of you will know, in my pre-stroke life I was an academic, teaching eighteenth-century literature and writing books about eighteenth-century women. One of the things I’m asked most frequently – particularly by academics – is whether I miss working in academia. . . here’s my response.

From a very early age I wanted to study literature. I loved reading and was horribly precocious. I worked my way through the shelves in my school and local libraries and then rapidly devoured everything on my parent’s bookshelves: Joseph Heller, Spike Milligan, Iris Murdoch, Giovannio Guareschi, Patricia Highsmith, Josephine Tey. I recall being reprimanded for reading my mum’s Georgette Heyer novels when far too young to understand them. I also vividly remember, after receiving a radio for my ninth birthday, hearing an interview with someone who mentioned that they had read the Prisoner of Zenda by the age of nine. I was horrified! I had not read the Prisoner of Zenda! Time was passing me by! I had better get a move on reading all those books. By my early teenage years my aim was more determined. I was going to University and I was going to be an academic. I went to York, took my B.A, and stayed there to pursue a Masters and a PhD. I was appointed to my first academic position at the University of Sheffield at the age of 24 – before I’d even submitted my doctoral dissertation. Between then and my stroke (at the age of 36) I taught eighteeth-century literature in three different Universities. I never lost an interview, and was successful in every job I went for. I worked extremely hard. My research was well regarded. I wrote books. I received grants and awards. I was promoted.

But I wasn’t happy. I loved reading, I loved research, I loved writing. I loved the world of the archive and ideas. That world made me feel alive! I was passionate about eighteenth century literature and culture, and about women’s writing in particular. But there’s a lot more to being an academic than being a good scholar. In the UK, permanent academic posts in the humanities are hard to come by, and hard fought for. I was surrounded by junior colleagues who were constantly jostling for those positions, and suffering while they jostled. I saw committed, talented intellectuals failing to be appointed to academic positions, and cobbling together meagre incomes from part-time teaching posts. I had a position. I had a succession of positions. I was one of the lucky ones. I should have been grateful. I tried to be grateful. But I just didn’t enjoy my job. I didn’t enjoy teaching – I was never really able to relax – and though I hope most of my students would say I was a reasonable teacher, in all honesty, teaching wasn’t good for me. I tried to get on with it, and to do it well, but in some sort of deep fundamental way I was simply never, ever comfortable in the classroom. In the academic positions I held, there was of course an awful lot of teaching and there was an awful lot of administration too. Though it certainly wasn’t the life of the mind or anything, to be honest, I was fine about the admin – I took on roles with lots of responsibility (chair of examiners, chair of graduate studies) and rather enjoyed building efficient systems and implementing them. What I did not enjoy implementing, however, were nationally determined policies with which I profoundly disagreed (such as aspects of UK anti-terrorist legislation concerning foreign students) and there were also many institutional policies and practices I had a very hard time accepting (such as actively recruiting poorly-qualified graduate students from notoriously oppressive (but wealthy) regimes simply in order to swell dwindling institutional coffers).

I felt I should be grateful – but I wasn’t. The workload was immense and ever-expanding, the job was demanding and tiring. Teaching, marking, preparation, admin, and an insane mountain of email bled into what little time remained for writing and research. There was less and less space for the actual scholarly, intellectual aspects of my role, the things I really loved and by which I was inspired. I kept myself going with the impetus of the next sabbatical, the next grant that would pay for some longed-for time in the archive. By 2009, I was profoundly unhappy – in fact, I actively hated my job. I began to nurture wee pipe dreams about what life would be like if I went part-time. There would be more space for knitting and pattern writing (with which I’d recently become obsessed) and perhaps I could actually find the time to research and write my next book! On top of the day-to-day grind of my job, the deleterious mental effect of its demands, compounded by increasing feelings of entrapment and desperation, I was being dogged by a micro-managerial colleague whose treatment of some members of staff – myself included – amounted to a form of bullying. I have worked with lots of difficult people in different University environments, but this person was on another level entirely. In November 2009 I hit a low point. Since I’ve been a teenager, I have always found the Autumn and Winter months incredibly difficult mentally, and this was particularly so in 2009. My seasonal mood disorder was familiar and inevitable, and I had ways of coping with it – but in this instance its effects were compounded by job-related stress, general unhappiness, lack of sleep, and a horrible colleague. That November, I found myself suffering from severe depression, paranoia and disturbing psychotic episodes, during which I experienced altered states of perception, and suicidal ideation. Things became critical: after a particularly disturbing and dangerous episode, my GP firmly insisted I took some time off work. After having felt I’d turned a corner, I returned to my job in January 2010. On February 1st, 2010 I had a stroke.

Was my stroke related in any way to my poor mental health? On a purely physiological basis I believe it was. As a result of the depression and psychosis, I had lost quite a bit of weight and by that point was around 6.5 stone / 90 pounds (I am depicted thus in the photographs for Manu). My blood pressure had always been on the low side of normal, and due to my weight loss and general malaise it had become even lower. When my stroke occurred, my blood pressure, from its usual ultra low point, spiked to a high point, as it was suddenly elevated by by the stressful thoughts that were running through my head. This sudden spike in blood pressure caused two quite normal blood clots to pass through a hole in my heart and find their way to my brain. In the milliseconds before the stroke occurred, I was worrying about how, in a forthcoming meeting, I was going to defend my sanity to my micro-managerial colleague. She didn’t cause my stroke, but I’m sorry to say that for me, she will forever be associated with that moment.

It is perhaps something of a ludicrous cliche that stress and stroke are related (“she was so stressed out, she had a stroke!”), but the very real physiological effects of poor mental health certainly give one pause for thought. While many strokes in young people are cryptogenic, the cause of mine was pretty clear: I had a hole in my heart creating a leaky passageway between my arterial and venous systems – put a couple of clots into the equation and I was a ticking time bomb! Perhaps what happened was inevitable, and I would have had a stroke at some time in the future anyway. But it still seems significant that it occurred at the very point when my mental health was at its poorest, and when my physical health had suffered severely as a consequence. I’m not sure what a neurologist would say about this, but my stroke has certainly impressed upon me the relatedness of mental and physical health, and the real importance of looking after both.

Sometimes I am annoyed at myself for not realising earlier just how ill I was. How could I let myself get into that state? Why could I not acknowledge I was so severely depressed? Why did I rush back to work when I still wasn’t well? Part of the problem was something pretty common in sufferers of my particular kind of nuttiness: a complete lack of insight into the severity of my condition, coupled with a total inability to be objective. When you are in that state, depression makes perfect sense. Suicide makes perfect sense. There’s something unanswerable about it. And when it gets to the stage where you are seeing things, and believe that your mind is responsible for changes in the light and weather conditions, and you should probably be sectioned, and are only saved from ending your own twisted, unreal reality by a brilliantly understanding GP and a wonderful and equally understanding partner, things have really got to change. If I’d realised how ill I was, perhaps I would have made that change. But I simply didn’t grasp the critical nature of my situation, and I could never bring myself to give up that scholarly dream: the dream I’d had since I was nine.

My stroke meant I had to walk away from academia. It was initially tough to do so – I did grieve about it for a while, feeling I was giving up so much intellectually – but I look back now and I have no regrets at all. The things I enjoyed about it – the research, and the writing – are things I still enjoy, and can now pursue with much more creative freedom. How I wish I’d known I could run a business, and that it could be fun! People are, in general, much much nicer in the world of knitting, design, and small publishing than they are in universities. . . . I am now able to pursue and develop ideas from the things that inspire me, to work with people I genuinely like in a wonderfully creative industry, and to make things I really believe in. I find my work massively enjoyable and completely fulfilling – and it comes with the additional benefit of supporting me financially.

I was recently asked what I missed about my academic job, and I could honestly only think of one thing: a thing so shallow and inconsequential that it is barely worth mentioning (but I shall tell you anyway). I miss getting dressed to go to work: I used to really enjoy styling clothes, putting outfits together, and donning something smart on a daily basis. Nowadays I mostly sport what Tom refers to as my bumpkin suit – a suit that befits a country-dwelling person who runs her business from home and spends a lot of time outdoors in all weathers. But then I still get to dress up whenever I feel like it, and I still enjoy exercising my styling acumen putting together outfits, particularly when photographing my designs. So, what do I miss about academia?

Absolutely nothing.

277 thoughts on “Five years on – part 1.

  1. I came across this old post just yesterday and I’ve found I keep coming back to it. It really spoke to me.

    I particularly identified with your final paragraph: I miss the occasion to dress smartly, and sometimes wonder if I’m becoming what I disparagingly refer to as a “bag-lady”. There is just one other thing I miss: the release of Friday evenings, with the promise of weekend (and, on a larger scale, the idea of holiday, which for me remains bound up with the absence of work).

    I have been trying to find the words to write about my own experience of leaving a career unexpectedly after 27 years, and your post has really helped. Thank you.

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  2. Kate, thank you for sharing something so personal. I recently made the same move for many of the same reasons (eerily so, in some cases). I’m buoyed by your success, both professionally and personally. I will forge ahead and always keep your story in mind. Thank you again for writing this.

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  3. Kate,thank you so much for sharing this in your wonderfully eloquent and lucid voice. I am not an academic per se but I dabble in it occasionally,and work with universities and I have never found it good for my mental health. I do find your writings very helpful and strengthening in realising/coping with stressful..shite. We do need to realise that just because something is normal for universities does not make it normal or beneficial.
    I am so glad you found a way to be truly yourself, and I so enjoy your blog and your work.

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  4. I also have a kind and patient GP to thank for the fact that I am still here, but my then partner and also a workplace bully (who happened to be the Head of Department, and is now Dean of the faculty) to blame for leading me into that deep dark hole of clinical depression. I now have a menial job in a university lab, at pay far below my experience, and unfortunately no contact with students, or teaching, both of which I liked immensely. So no academic career, no professorship, but a reasonable health and sanity. We must speak out. Thanks for leading the way.

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  5. Truly inspirational words and thank you for sharing them so honestly. Life has strange ways of turning out, but it’s our response that makes the difference in the end. I have been through an extremely stressful time on a personal level over the last few years and felt at times that my life was spiraling out of control. During that time I kept a quote from Maya Angelou on a piece of paper inside the case of my Kindle; ‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it’. Your post embodies that sentiment so succinctly.
    I love your designs and your blog. I am no academic but relate to your feeling for literature. How wonderful that you have found a more sympathetic and, dare I say it, less patriarchal, environment in which to be creative and spontaneous.
    I have a well thumbed copy of your ‘Colors of Shetland’. It has everything; knitting, history and of course Scotland. I spent many wonderful holidays on Skye and the Western Highlands in younger, happier days. Such a magical place. I’m glad that your love of the great outdoors has contributed to your recovery and that it forms such a large part of your life now. Thank you for sharing it with us. Liz.

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  6. Dear Kate,
    each time I read a post about your stroke and about your life before and after that dramatic incident I’m deeply touched by the way you write about it. I appreciate very much that you frankly tell us about your deepest emotions, thoughts, worries and challenges you had and have until now, five years later …
    I am so grateful that I may “know” you from far and that I may “talk” to you over this medium. And I am also grateful that you are such an inspiring part of our knitting community and that you share such wonderful patterns with us. Thank you so much for that.
    It makes me happy to know that you don’t miss anything about academia now. By all that trouble the stroke brought to you it finally gave you a new meaning of life, a turning point to what makes you really happy – and that’s the key.
    All the best for you and your beloved
    Susanne

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  7. Thank you for a beautifully written story. Thank you for sharing with us all the life you had but also of the life you don’t miss.

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  8. This is by far my favorite post of yours.I think all of us in the knitting community are happy for you and happy for ourselves that you now have so much time to design patterns, :).

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  9. I’m a bit late to the party, but I wanted to say that this is a lovely post of reflection. Your post-stroke posts helped me to process the chronic migraines I developed a few years before your stroke, which have a lot of the same weird after-effects (unable to distinguish between foreground noise and background noise, etc.). Until that time I hadn’t found anyone who could articulate what I was going through.

    I don’t work in academia, and I’ve been able to work around my condition in other ways. I’m glad you have too.

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing. Visibility is so crucial to acceptance and understanding of mental health issues but it can be awfully scary to speak up about.
    I also couldn’t agree more about the knock on physical effects of poor mental health!

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  11. Thank you for this; both my partner and I have creative primary lives (art & writing) and teach in order to make a living. My partner is tenured, which means she has job security, and sometimes, when she talks about the endless BS (for lack of a better academic term) she has to put up with sometimes, I actually thank her for confirming my decision not to pursue a tenure-track job. I am a sessional/adjunct lecturer; a position I equate with migrant farmworkers. I have sacrificed salary for less administrative/other duties although the stress and responsibilities of teaching aren’t necessarily related to salary. I am also, coincidentally, someone who enjoys dressing for work (document my teaching outfits on my blog).

    I’m glad that you’ve been able to find your way to what seems like a natural and fulfilling calling. I’m looking forward to when I can spend more time creating than grading.

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Too much of the time, mental health issues are stigmatized, silenced, or ignored, despite their sometimes devastating effect on our lives and physical well-being. You have touched a nerve here, as your honesty and grace have encouraged so many others to open up about their own experiences. Thank you for that.

    For my own part, my experience with depression and suicidal ideation happened as a teenager, after a sexual assault and the subsequent murder/suicide of my former landlord and my attacker. It’s taken me the better part of ten years to own that story and the ways that it changed my life, and it’s still something that I grapple with at times.

    I discovered your blog shortly after graduating from college – several years before I started to talk about everything that had happened to me – and immediately gravitated towards your scholarly interest in textiles, your engaging voice, and your beautiful designs. I appreciated so much that you talked about your challenges as well as your triumphs, and your continued curiosity and strength were incredibly encouraging to me as I struggled to move forward and create something new, even as I grieved for what I had lost.

    I have been so happy over the years to watch your journey progress as it has, and I look forward to following your work for many years to come. Thank you, Kate.

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  13. Wow that was a great post Kate. I’m really grateful that you have been so open about yourself. Your personal story is inspiring, your blog is really varied so it’s never dull, your designs are great (fun and thoughtful in equal measure), and you also add that little bit of that academic depth to the world of knitting. No one else does this!

    I can identify with some of the problems you faced pre-stroke and can honestly say that your post makes me feel a good bit more positive about the world. Thanks for that.

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  14. Kate, and all who have posted before me, thank you for sharing! Taking the time to read this post today and the replies is time well spent.

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  15. The honesty in this posting, and throughout your post-stroke journey has helped and inspired more people than you will probably ever realize. To be a writer, a researcher, a historian…none of these require an academic appointment, and you continue to succeed in all of these areas…quite possily with greater impact than any university teaching position would have allowed. I hope that your success and your happiness only continue to grow, and I hope you continue to allow us to share that journey.

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  16. As I read this, I re-read it related and understood and live a part of the process. I worked in Banking and Finance for many years and lets just say, I experienced some of the same things as to co-workers, promotions and bosses and work place culture and then it started….. I became ill, started off with Stomach bacteria and an ulcer and then progressed to much more.

    As this is not about me, I just know it takes bravery to start and document your process and share with us over time. I am not sure how I discovered your blog but as I read it from the beginning up to now, there is nothing that you shared that has been a great comfort to me besides your knitting , just life, with the pictures of your lovely surroundings, Bruce, Tom and your everyday life. I learned to knit as a young kid but I did not pick up a needle for a long stretch again until 2009 and hoped it would help me in my sadness and just over all sickness and depression, I know it has and also reading your life unfold here and in reading this passage, I applaud you for all your have shared with us and always will.

    I am glad you found a place to leave the past and move to the present and have a better future. I could stay on here and go on but I think from reading these comments we all have shared a bit of us to you to help us all and maybe you. Glad you are on the mend and continue to share with us as to your thoughts, life and of course your knitting. :-) Thank you so much

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  17. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I left my job after waking one morning to find myself under the bed clutching the dog and weeping. My partner told me, completely unbegrudgingly, to do what makes me happy. It’s taken me two years to start to find a new path. The details of this period of my life are still difficult to talk about, and I find your blog incredibly inspiring.

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  18. Thank you for this post. A friend of mine that I happened to meet up with today recommended that I read your post (and the comments) in a ‘there but for the grace of God’ kind of a way. Last November I had a nervous breakdown at work. My normally low blood pressure was through the roof, and I had to spend 2 weeks on a monitor to make sure that, having been signed off from work, it was coming back down again (as my doctor also quietly changed my Pill – I know why, but she didn’t explicitly say because she feared I could have a stroke)

    I don’t work in academia, I work in software development, testing specifically. It was not my dream job growing up, I really wanted to be a doctor, but undiagnosed dyslexia left me with GCSE grades that wouldn’t have even been considered by any university. I was good at maths and computers so was neatly funnelled into a degree in that (the school chose to ignore my love of art and design which had got good marks, it was an academic school and art of any kind was for those that couldn’t quite make the grade elsewhere, along with an insinuation that one could never make money at it). I’m not a good coder, I can code, but never in the most efficient way, however I do enjoy the hunt for a problem in someone else’s code and the logical thought required back to what caused it. I haven’t done that work for a long time though – as you move up the scale you don’t get to solve puzzles any more, you just get to manage other people solving puzzles, and your only brief glimpses into that world are when you are called upon to help your charges work out a particularly tricky situation.

    About 2 1/2 years ago I told a colleague that I felt a bit of my soul dying each day as I stepped into the office – looking a little alarmed, she suggested I try a change of scenery to a different company. 2 years ago I moved to my current job, and at first it was a fine, boring, but fine, and then last year I was given a task to take on a whole new kind of testing for the company. It was a challenge I relished it – I researched it, I built up a team that could do the very specialised work required for it, and we had success. Unfortunately that was the point that everyone wanted in on this work. Suddenly every project ‘needed’ it. Two more senior managers in my department were having their own issues (incompetency related) which was sucking up most of our shared manager’s time as he tried to rescue them, and so he didn’t see more and more senior managers bypassing him and coming directly to me to do this work.

    By October I was managing 15 workstreams, juggling my team members about at an alarming rate (I did once idly think it was a bit like the Monty Python sketch, if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium, in that each day found a different combination of them handling different things), and we were still delivering. We did not once fail. The breakdown came around lunchtime one Friday at the beginning of November. I had spent 42 back to back hours on the phone in conference calls already that week covering 7 different projects (it had reached the point that I was working from home for 3 days as I simply didn’t have time to commute, and I was actually having to take these calls with me to the loo when needed – on mute, you’ll be pleased to hear) and my manager came in to a meeting without having had the chance to catch up with my on something first, and consigned my team to considerably more pain and misery that we needed to be, had we just taken an easier (and in fact cheaper) solution. I burst into tears on the call – how could I tell my poor team what was coming next? No-one realised what had happened though, as I was working from home and wasn’t having to talk much at that point. I got 2 minutes between that call and the next to sob my heart out, before picking myself back up again and plodding on through the rest of the day.

    That night I called my parents (having no partner to turn to) and poured it all out. They had seen it coming, in as much as I had told them of a lot of the farcical goings on, and had mentioned to my mum only the week before that I was actually dreading going into work. My dad didn’t want me to go back to the office at all but to go straight to the doctor’s, however on the Monday I did go in. My boss was working in another office that day, so I went to HR and asked to speak to someone. 2 1/2 hours later I left for a doctor’s appointment that she made me book while we were in the meeting, and less than an hour after that I was signed off.

    2 months later I have gone back. Previously I had been slowly but surely trying to build a permanent escape route through sewing pattern design and a little teaching (I do bags mainly, but quilts too). Last May I had even gone all the way to Quilt Market in the US and got a number of excellent contacts – companies that wanted to print my patterns, a publisher interested in a book, but within days of me getting home the day job started to take over with a vengeance. I mourn those things that I lost (for I was never going to be able to take them up with that work situation), but I have realised they are perhaps not permanently lost to me, just put on hold. I am back at the same company now, but they’ve taken all those stressful projects away from me and assigned them across 3 other staff members. They also took steps to resolve some issues that were affecting a number of staff working for one particularly awkward client, and completely overhauled how work is assigned. I now have one tiny project that takes up very little of my working week, but in my down time I’m starting to catch up on all those things I lost last year (shh, don’t tell them that though!). I’m hoping to get the full escape in the next year or so, but in the meantime I’m very militantly only working my 35 contracted hours, and am re-pursuing lost passions in my time off to compliment the pattern work. Although I fear it will probably be a good few months before I shift all 4 extra stone I put on since starting there (combination of comfort eating and no time to cook), so far it’s working quite nicely.

    I’m so sorry, I wrote you War and Peace here, but this post has just seemed strangely cathartic! I’m very glad that you have been able to recover your life so well and been able to speak about it so candidly.

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  19. Thank you Kate for this post. I came to your blog via your ‘Owls’ pattern, which I keep knitting for every new neice and grandchild and what ever odd child says that they like it. You have also made me recognise why my daughter has given up her permanent research and lecturing position in a prestigious University. At the time I was horrified, she was living my dream. She said it wasn’t good for her mental health and there were other ways to earn a living. When I showed her your post she replied, “that is what I was talking about Mum.”

    I am so glad that you have found your way to the space you are in now.

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  20. Thank you for this blogpost. What happened to you could have happened to so many given the same or similar circumstances. As I read of your struggles in academia – or perhaps more precisely, some of its people – I grew incredibly angry. A system that allows one person to hold so much power is rarely beneficial. I am happy that you are in better, saner, healthier circumstances, but am sorry for the students and colleagues who will not have the benefit of your passion for literature. That, in my humble opinion, is the only tragic thing to have happened here. Your life was changed ultimately for the better, but a sick system was allowed to destroy something of goodness and beauty without accountability. For that I am angry. Cannot imagine your emotions on the topic. Ah well, truly their loss.

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  21. I started reading your blog when I was so, so depressed and anxious about the lock-out from work that I and my orchestra colleagues were enduring. It had been years of cutbacks for my formerly full-time professional orchestra, but being locked out from work for 13 months, seeing my job advertised on Craigslist and facebook, and reading scathing editorials about myself and all the musicians were almost unendurable. I began to wonder if I could pursue another career, something I hadn’t considered for one moment when I had shattered my right shoulder 12 years before. I asked my friends for a positive story of someone who had had a major career change forced on him/her—and a blog friend recommended your blog. I thought she was joking at first, poking fun at me somehow—she had a *stroke* and now she’s a *knitwear designer*? And then it turned out you are the OWLS lady, and it was not a joke at all.

    Since September, I have been a full-time music teacher at a Waldorf (Steiner) school while on leave of absence from my orchestra job. (We finally got to a contract, though the job was downgraded again, and the orchestra was severely damaged.) There is so, so much about my old job that I don’t miss, but I miss the music very much. If you want to play a Brahms symphony that you love, you have to be in a symphony orchestra. And yet, on Thursday I told the other faculty at our school that I was recommitting to the school and on Friday I resigned from the orchestra. That’s it: my professional orchestra career is over. It’s been a difficult week, complete with sobbing panic attack after I made my announcement, but I know I’ve done the right thing. And then to read this blog post. You’ve done so, so well. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I find it so encouraging and inspiring, and I hope thrive as much in my new life as you are in yours. Blessings and good health to you!

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  22. Kate, this post resonates with me on more than one level… I’ve been reading your blog since forever, I’ve knitted some of your patterns (and plan to knit more of them), I love literature, I dabble at designing knits….On deeper level, I’ve been struggling with seasonal depression, and just simple depresseion as well (both is just at the level when it is really uncomfortable, but not jstifying doctor’s attention… or I would like to believe that)…
    And my father had a stroke early kast summer, and I am watching his recovery (however little steps he makes). Sometimes I wish he would be able to read English, so I could point your blog and your recovery out to him, and set you as an example of determination, and being able to achieve success afterwards.
    I was thinking about the question you just tackled. Last week as I was travelling to my university and knitting on the train, I thought how I remember you used to be an academic, and how your life chnaged, and I was wondering what you think about it… Thank you for your honesty.

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  23. I remember my sense of horror when Tom first posted about your stroke. It has been an amazing five years, as you have recovered from your stroke and come into your own as a knitwear designer. It is because of you that we spent part of our honeymoon in the Shetland Islands, a time of which we both have very dear memories. thank you, as always, for laying bare the very difficult road of recovery from stroke; it has been very enlightening and thought provoking.

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  24. it was not long after i started reading blogs, yours among them (looking for fiber workers of all sorts) that your stroke occurred. i return from time to time and am completely amazed by the way you have transformed your life. i deeply appreciate your honesty.

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  25. I found your blog very moving. It was wonderful to hear your honesty and your struggle. I am so glad you have found a niche that has given you greater satisfaction. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing. You are an incredibly strong woman.

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  26. Kate, I normally enjoy reading your blog, but this one was exceptional, I even had to share it with my husband! Your recovery has been inspirational, and we applaud your success in your new life.

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  27. Dear Kate…your insight, honesty, and recovery are all testimony to the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and I applaud all of these noteworthy characteristics in you…the change in the direction of your life has earned you friends and admirers from around the globe, and to that I can only say how BLESSED we all are…..!!

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  28. Not wanting to repeat all the previous comments, I really admire you for how you dealt with both the stroke and recovery from it, as well s how you dealt with the harsh reality of current academic life.

    As you did, since I was little I always wanted to be an University academic. I love to learn. I am a cancer biologist but I think I would be equally happy to be an art historian, or a historian full stop (your research topic, by the way, sounds immensely interesting – I love to read about 18th century women).

    So when I became a full time lecturer in a research and teaching university, 11 years after the start of my PhD, it came as a shock how hard the demand are on academics nowadays. And, like yourself, I find that my research keeps taking second stage for teaching and admin responsibilities. And that makes me sad. I keep thinking I should leave. I feel tired, fed up, frustrated. Then I think I might regret it, and cannot think what else I could do.

    Your closing words really touched me. Maybe there is life outside academia. Maybe I can feel more fulfilled and happy about what I do. Thank you.

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  29. I left acadaemia after twenty years a year ago. After a struggle with stress and depression and just not fitting into the current ‘business’ culture prevalent in universities I knew I had to go. I developed a plan to ease myself out: firstly going part time and then getting involved in a local charity to develop other skills. Counting down to leaving in my head (I dared not share with colleagues or managers) helped me to survive the day by day low level bullying and control. I now work with vulnerable people in sheltered housing and my day is about real issues and problems, I earn much less than I did, there is no status or job security but amongst the trauma we have fun. My colleagues and I support each other, our clients are rewarding and exasperating in equal amounts we all laugh a lot and I am happier than I have been for years.
    I feel so sad after reading so many accounts of people being devoured by an academic life that is so cut throat these days, we did not sign up for that mostly we were inspired by love of our subject areas and thirst for new knowledge. Unfortunately we are not what is needed in today’s shiny suited, managerial culture. However we are not the losers, ultimately the universities will lose by throwing away their brightest and best, we are the survivors, we have made new lives for ourselves.

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  30. I’m astonished by the number of us who have suffered at the hands of demon bosses, and am delighted by the number of us who clearly admire and adore you, dear Kate, for your determination to overcome so much adversity.

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  31. I’ve cheered you to the skies before, Kate, and I’m doing it again now. You’e a remarkable woman, you have my complete admiration, and I’m so glad you’re around. You’ll never know the gifts you give to some of us!

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  32. You are an inspiration. I too had a stroke 2.5 years ago, also due to a physiological condition. Unfortunately, there is currently no “fix” for my condition, just the need to take meds to try and prevent a recurrence. Despite slightly impaired vision, I have been able to return to work, drive, and ride my horses. That said, my greatest joy was to discover that my ability to knit was completely unaffected!

    Take care.

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  33. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story – look how much you have achieved in the past five years, wow, you are truly an inspirational person! I totally understand what you mean about missing getting dressed in the morning, the thing I miss is coming home, putting on my comfy clothes and staying in for the night, as I am already there! Hope to catch up again soon x

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  34. Thank you for your bravely, brilliantly written post. I admire how you have dealt with your stroke. You speak for many people who realise that aspects of academia are great, but the whole lot of it together and under pressure, is a burden to many. Your post has helped me realise that while I am an academic, I am really a mythologist, an academic writer, and spinner of fibres. It can’t be one or t’other. Thank you for your blog, for not separating out your life from your work, like so many academics have to do. Thank you for always writing about your process, and what inspires you, and how you are thusly connected to the universe, and all of us, even if we haven’t met you. You will be blessed.

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  35. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I feel honoured to read it. I was forced into giving up a job that I secretly hated, but needed, to care for my son who has Asperger Syndrome, and at the time was in main stream schooling and failing badly. He is now in a special school and doing well. I decided that I needed something to do as I was suffering severe depression from the stress of my former job, the worry about my son and boredom and loneliness. So I started crafting commissions. Knitting, sewing, crochet, the lot. I can honestly say that although it is much harder to work for yourself, it is much more rewarding and I have never regretted it. I am now facing stress on a much larger scale than before, as I lost my lovely partner, Ivan, just after Christmas 2014. He was only 48 and had a pulmonary embolism. My crafting is helping me deal with the incredible lows, where my old job would have probably sent me suicidal.

    Your story shows an incredible amount of courage and dedication.

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  36. I’ve nothing to say that dozens of others haven’t said already, but I want to pile on nevertheless. Thank you so much for sharing your story — it can’t be at all easy to bring out such private details, and yet it’s such an act of mercy to others who’ve been working as hard as you must have been, five years ago, to hide their struggles. Thanks for sharing this, and for all the work you do with words and fibers and color!

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  37. How incredibly brave and honest of you! I am SO glad your journey has brought you to a better place – emotionally, mentally, physically and geographically!!!

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  38. Thank you for such a frank and honest account of your time in academia. I’m sad to say that like many others I can relate to a lot of what you have said. I work in science, and don’t have to teach as part of my job, but can recognise so many of the problems you mention, especially junior level people struggling to find a position. I often wonder what life would be like outside academia, but I do enjoy my experiments. I also enjoy designing knitting patterns, and have way more ideas in my head than i do time to actualise them, but knitting design is also a competitive field with no guarantee of success. I’m so happy for you that you have been successful, and I love knitting your designs. I’m also so very glad that you are feeling well, both mentally and physically, and I’m sure that most neurologists and doctors in general would agree with you that mental health has a huge impact on physical health.
    I wish you all the best and continued happiness!

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  39. Dear Kate,

    Thank you for this post – it makes a significant contribution to the growing body of articles about the unacknowledged mental health dangers of academia.

    As for your final paragraph about clothes – have you read the anthropologist Daniel Miller’s chapter in his book *Stuff* on ‘Why Clothing is Not Superficial’? I found this an inspirational challenge to the ancient (Western) idea that it’s ‘shallow’ to care about what you wear, and that our ‘true’ selves must be ‘hidden’ – as a knitwear designer, you may be interested to read it!

    Lucy

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  40. I just wanted to add: I think that academia, certainly in the UK, and if you’ve spent your whole working life in it, pushes a hierarchical and vocational culture in the worst way- that is, if you leave you’re ‘not good enough’. A professor friend of mine (again in the UK sense of professor, so Chair of their subject) puts it like this ‘those that leave are the clever ones, as they have the drive and nerve to realise they can do other things, and the imagination not to believe the nonsense that is fed to academics from the moment they start their PhD.’ I love my friend.

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  41. As someone who worked in academia for 2 decades, never had a permanent post (always contracts) and left 3 years ago after being made redundant, I can honestly say I don’t miss it. I had some amazing colleagues and students, and I had a few jobs that I whole-heartedly loved, but generally the whole culture got me down- I now do consultancy work for institutions and much prefer it. I come in to do small specific projects, work with staff and students, but don’t get involved with internal politics or the on-going downward spiral of defensiveness, bullying and depression that I see in the institutions and departments I visit. It saddens me, because no one I know goes into HE for money and fame- it’s almost always for love of the subject and/or love of teaching. Your general experience (although I was in an entirely different subject) resonates, and your self-reflection on where you are now also resonates. I am starting to feel that I need to leave academia entirely- so am now looking for new opportunities. I hope I can find something as rewarding as you!

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  42. thank you so much for this Kate Like so many who wrote before me this has deep resonances for me. It took over 17 years for me to grieve for my secondary teaching job lost to ME/CFS, followed by a minor stroke and low level depression Only recently have I found the value of psychological counselling and other support and allowed myself to take it up and on.
    Your story so generously shared is inspirational in every way.

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  43. Thanks for the ‘back story’. So glad you got through it and the results are a definite positive for the world of knitters and world in general. :)

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  44. I can only imagine that in the future, when someone is researching fiber artists from the 21st century – they will find you & your work will continue to inspire people. Glad you made the switch from academia.

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  45. I’m so glad you shared this. The culture of business needs to change. More and more gets put upon the employees until their mind/body breaks down.
    My workplace of senior employees suddenly had a new manager-also a micro-manager-and when the 3rd person within a small workgroup suffered a stroke within 6 months of her appointment, human resources took notice of our group complaint of hostile work conditions.
    We were all suffering from insomnia, increased caffeine and energy drink consumption, poor digestion, mental fatigue, and varied levels of depression-all attributed to “stress”.
    Stress means your health-physical and/or mental has reached a critical point and your survival is at risk.
    It’s time to restore value to human life-regardless of whether they are a stranger, neighbour, or employee.
    Knitters understand this. Thank goodness we can serve as good examples to others.

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  46. I’ve just recently found your blog through my love of knitting. Academia’s lost is our gain.

    As a side note – would you tell us the brand and where I might find a pair of those lovely little red shoes referred to in your October 26th, 2010 post. They’re absolutely adorable!

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  47. Beautiful post, thank you. I’m so glad that you made it through to happier times. I enjoy your blog very much and aspire to some of your patterns.

    My own story is a bit opposite of yours. I do miss academia; I didn’t get tenure in the U.S. I wasn’t great at teaching; I didn’t have success with grant writing. I loved the research which is not possible in my field outside of academia. Now I do science administration with the government. I do not like it. I am not well-suited to it, but I don’t hate it. Since my father hated his job, I learned that the key is to not hate what you do. So, I am reconciled to my job.

    My moment of feeling suicidal was during the initial time of loss of career and starting to job hunt. I immediately realized that I didn’t have the nerve to commit suicide, but I’ll never forget the feeling that suicide made so much sense.

    Despite my loss of career and lack of enthusiasm for my current job, I am appreciative of being employed and working with people who are very supportive for the most part. I am appreciative of the time that I did have to do the research. It is nice to have more time for knitting which I hadn’t done for years during my research career.

    Please continue your blog. Take care.

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  48. As others have said, thank you for sharing, you are an inspiration. I am so greatful you left behind academia to become a creative. I work in the nhs and last year work almost overwhelmed me. I chose to move departments but continued to feel a huge sense of guilt and disloyalty over leaving.
    Your blog and knitting several of your wonderful colour work patterns helped see me through a very unhappy time.
    It hasn’t passed me by how much of a struggle it must have bee and probably still is, to reach the point you are now. The joy I felt when you passed your driving test!

    Please Kate, keep wrighting, keep designing but most of all, keep joyously healthy.

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  49. I just realized that I went off on a rant of my own about academic science :) when what I really wanted to say was thank you for this blog and your books and for inspiring all of us who read them.

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  50. Hi Kate – just adding to the chorus of thanks here for all you have shared with us these past few years.
    I remember the exact moment I decided to become a research chemist – separating plant pigments in a darkened lab and wham! a B.A., Ph.D. and here I am, a practicing scientist still fascinated by my science. So why don’t I want a career in academia? Because I think that the academy, as it exists today, across the world, has little patience for careful experimentation and painstaking study, and because all those things you cite – the burdens of administration, teaching, an an excessively competitive environment – are more harmful to thoughtful intellectual endeavours than we dare imagine.
    My favorite experiments at school were those of Mendel, the scientist-friar, growing his generations of pea plants for the better part of a decade to discover the guiding principles of inheritance and found the science of genetics. Who, in the current academic environment, would be mad enough to encourage, let alone fund, the careful cultivation of Pisum sativum by a maveric priest?

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  51. I love your scholastic pieces on knitting, textiles, and fiber arts, so don’t think it’s lost on us! It’s partially what endears me to you and your blog.

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  52. Academia schmacademia! I’ve almost finished Warriston which is going to be great for this chilly weather. You’re much more valuable as a knitwear designer, you’re keeping people warm. Good woman yourself!

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  53. Thank you for speaking so candidly about your experience with academia and mental illness. As another former academic, I’ve seen and experienced the toll – both physical and mental – that such a career can bring. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, ulcers, and alcohol abuse (to name just a few) seem to have become accepted as normal. From inside this culture, it’s very difficult to see ourselves, as you say, objectively. How can we, when the warning signs of serious illness are dismissed as simply part of the job?
    Thank goodness you are well clear of it now. Wishing you all the best in your future knitting and literary endeavours!

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  54. I am a new follower of your blog and I cannot help thinking how have I missed? Thank you for sharing your story, and as you say – the research and the writing which you enjoy so much can still be a part of your life as and when it suits you. Where you live and your life style together with Tom and Bruce can only strengthen you. I wish you all the best for 2015 and look forward to purchasing some of your patterns.

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  55. Thank you for sharing. I always find your blog (and books) so inspiring. I’m glad you’ve managed to come back from your ill health stronger and happier than before. It’s good to be able to objectively think about what it was like – and hopefully stop you ever feeling like that again.

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  56. Beautiful and rich and brave words. I too left academia. The reason I left it wasn’t that it was detrimental to my physical and mental health (though it was that, in spades, and I am still cleaning up the messes it left in my life), but that the crumminess of the job market pushed me out. I am thankful it did, because I wouldn’t have had the courage otherwise. It is a profession where you are very much trained to identify yourself with what you do.

    I know you didn’t ask to be an inspiration, but you are.

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  57. Hi Kate

    I love your designs and also your lovely chunky silver ring. Can you tell me where you bought it?

    Sent from my iPad

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  58. Hi, Kate! I’m a new follower, enticed by your blog entries of all things knitty! However, I found your story completely inspiring and even though I can’t relate to the horrific experience of your stroke, I know that sometimes the universe is not very subtle when it comes to sending messages. On that note, I was reading your archives and today I noticed that the archive drop down list is gone and I can’t find your older posts. Is there a reason for this? I would love to continue on and catch up as a late arrival! I am from the Yukon in Canada, and this time of year, it’s very cheering to see your green photos! Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks so much for having the courage to share your personal story with the world. Have a great Day!

    Erin

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  59. I don’t think I have commented here before but found your blog around the time Tom posted about your stroke. I have read ever since and am totally impressed by your insightful writing, observations and courage as you’ve recovered. It’s been really interesting to read this post today, and gives me pause for thought about my own job – in a different field but with similar restrictions, frustrations, and limitations – time for what I went into it for being squeezed into the time in between. Very interesting to hear your thoughts on the links between mental, emotional and physiological health. Looking forward to subsequent postings.

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  60. I am new to your blog; a friend dispatched me here today and I am so glad she did. I am a rabbi and poet and I had two strokes in 2006. No PFO in my heart, though; my strokes remained cryptogenic despite our best attempts to determine a reason. I am grateful to be able to say that I made a full recovery; my vision and my language processing abilities are back to normal. But the strokes did change me. I was scared for a time. My theology shifted. The strokes, and my experience of postpartum depression, have shaped the person I’ve become. Reading your story reminded me of my own. (About which I blogged as it was unfolding — though I don’t tend to blog much about it now.) Anyway, thank you for this post and this witness to how this all happened for you.

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  61. I have experienced many aspects of your story first hand – my mother suffered horrendously from depression and she suffered a massive stroke which was fatal when she was 46. I also have depression, which I am managing the best I have for 20 years at the moment, but I remember wondering why my family couldn’t see that my suicide was the only sensible option at the time. I am a long way past that now and try to be thankful for each new day that comes my way as it gives me more time for knitting and working out what project comes next!

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  62. Just another voice saying that truly, every cloud does have a silver lining. Your gifts to us all are very much appreciated, thankyou. Congratulations on your anniversary, it must feel amazing.

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  63. i have so many books on my shelf which give me joy that were recommended by you. Homemade, about the Soviet artifacts, A Sense of Things, the Quaker school girls’ sampler book, The Subversive Stitch, the Muhu Island needlework book and so much more. they have gotten me through some very hard times. thank you, and keep on truckin’.

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  64. Kate, I am wearing my new Asta Sollilja as I write. I am so happy to know you are happy, and it seems to me that you are now doing exactly what you are supposed to do. Your designs and careful research are a great gift to all of us. May I commend you for your hard-won recovery, and I hope you continue to grace us with wonderful knits for many years to come!

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  65. Have you had the PFO the small hole in your heart closed?
    I work with a team who do this and see patients with the condition you describe.

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  66. Cara Kate , mi spiace non poter comunicare con te nella tua lingua madre , ma non so scrivere in inglese ( uso il traduttore per leggere i tuoi post ), Vorrei solo dirti che ammiro il tuo coraggio nell’ aver intrapreso un nuovo cammino . Non e’ da tutti lasciare cio’ si e’ costruito con fatica , dedizione ,passione e che ti ha permesso di avere una sicurezza economica e prestigio sociale , per vivere una vita piu’ defilata e in sintonia con il tuo Io piu’ intimo . Credo che tu sia una persona poetica . Un abbraccio Paola

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  67. first if all: thank you for this honesty, for your braveness to share.
    Burrying a dream is maybe one of the hardest tasks a human can get. There is no big difference if this dream is a love, a person, a home, a life …or a career. It needs a huge amount of grieving process and it seams you have take no short cuts. It wrenches my heart when i read what certain institutions can do to highly motivated and talented people. But it gives hope to us to see how you managed to find a fullfilling yet more spoiling substitute – and that you are able to see and take all these flowers!
    Good luck to you – and to us definitely we would miss one of the best knitting book author and designer!

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  68. Very interesting, and what wonderful knitwear! 5 years ago for me, too, and I also blog about it, though not so thoughtfully (Dr Ada’s Guide to Surviving Academia, if anyone’s interested and likes a murder mystery).

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  69. Thank you for your honesty and openness! It’s a very touching piece of writing. It seems to me that generally one continues to frown upon anyone who suffers or has suffered any type of mental health problem. Yet most of us do have a “wobble” at one point or another. Mine was when my step-daughter turned into Bridezilla and we had to endure 14 months of wedding preparations. We even had to put our house renovation on hold so she could have a princess’s “special day”.
    Carina

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  70. Thank you for this brave and beautiful post Kate. I’ve been reading and following your blog and your work for a while now, just lurking on the sidelines and being constantly impressed. But this has truly moved me to tears. I lost my Dad seven years ago to a stress-induced stoke, and he was only 47. As I near the end of my PhD I’ve found solace in knitting, but am reaching a crossroads where it is time to decide whether or not to pursue a career in academia. I’m none the wiser, but it’s beautifully refreshing to read such an honest account of your experiences, rather than a blind celebration or a moan about the state of our institutions. It’s been a joy to follow your recovery and see you carve a new way of life for yourself – thank you so much for sharing some of these important moments with the rest of the world. Here’s to the next five years! x

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  71. Your story and my story could be the same, with a few exceptions. After 15 years of teaching high school English, (grades 9-12 in America) and two very serious stress-induced illnesses, I also had to walk away. I think that knitting and yarn dyeing may have kept me from getting so far as a stroke; it has certainly helped me to recover. When I travel about to attend yarn and fiber festivals, I meet one former English teacher after another who has also had to leave teaching for similar reasons and who has also felt drawn to the needle arts as a safe haven for recovery. I don’t know if it’s the demands of the job or the demands of the self, but you are certainly not alone in the what and the why of your story. Thank you for being such an inspiration to the others of us. Your designs are infinitely lovely!

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  72. I must have started following you early on in your recovery. You already had this blog and I remember reading about your stroke and that it was pretty recent. It’s been interest to follow your progress and I thank you for being so candid with what you have struggled with.

    My Dad, 78, just had heart surgery and a couple of days later, suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side. It’s been an awful time and we have no idea if he will recover. I shared this on my Facebook friend and one of my friends recommended a book by Dr. Jill Taylor (http://drjilltaylor.com/) who suffered a massive stroke at about the same age you did. She is a brain scientist, so she documented her experience and it was very helpful. A quick read, but an enlightening one. It took her several years to recover and she regained everything except math. !!!!

    This whole nightmare of academia is really sad. I have a friend here in the US who is just brilliant and has suffered persecution by fellow colleagues because she LOVES to teach and often introduces programs that shake up the establishment. It’s so unfortunate…. I was lucky enough to benefit from an amazing program at St. Olaf College back in the 1980’s where collaborations between students and professors encouraged joint research and debate. It was such a great way to learn! Unfortunately, it’s now defunct….

    Best wishes to you as you continue to heal. Doors open and close and life is constantly a reinvention. It’s a shame you had to go through all that, but what a joy that you have reclaimed the good parts and transferred that knowledge and skill to an area that appreciates you.

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  73. Dear Kate.
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    It’s so full of hope,courage and to make the best of every situation.
    Sometimes illness brings a big gift to change to life.
    You take the change and now it’s better for you than before.
    XxMarie

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  74. Kate, although my path was different to yours (I taught high school for 25 years), I understand many of those stressors. I am glad that you have been able to find reward and fulfilment in a new life as have I.

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  75. What a journey – and whilst I didn’t know / appreciate your academic work, your knitting patterns have brought much love to this house. Keep on the journey but keep the balance!

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  76. The comment I wrote last night seems to have vanished into cyberspace, so let me try again. Kate, this post resonates very strongly with me. I turned my back on medical research 2 years ago, when it was increasingly clear that the stresses and strains of being a Professor and lab head were intolerable for me. I have no regrets at all, other than not making the leap sooner.
    Your thoughtful and insightful posts enrich my life, and I can see I’m not alone in that. The knitting is a delightful bonus! I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the next 5 years takes you, and hope you go from strength to strength.

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  77. Thank you for this post! It amazes me how people talk about work stress as something to be cured each weekend with a bit of fun and activities; work is tied to our identities, our financial health, our sense of worth and intellectual history, and problems at work manifest themselves in every other parts of our lives.

    I did not go through anything at the scale of your experience, but was severely stressed about a colleague a couple of years ago. She was incompetent to the point of hilarity, except that it wasn’t so funny when you were at the receiving end. She was also in a senior position, which compounded the effects of her incompetency. After years of cleaning up after her with increasing frustration, I finally exploded on email when she messed up, AGAIN, delaying a crucial and time-bound project I had been working on.

    To this day, I cannot think of her without immediate rage burgeoning inside my head. Going and talking to others in her department causes me to breathe shallow and fast because in my mind it is “that department” where I was given endless run-arounds and evasive answers. On the day I exploded, I believe if she had been before me I would have hit her; instead I sledgehammered her by email. Over the next few days, I used all my resources of logic, with evidence, to prove her incompetence. Was it an ‘unprofessional email’? Yes. Do I regret it? No.

    My story had a relatively happy ending: turned out she was messing up everyone’s work (I was the only one anal enough to keep following up after an unsatisfactory answer), she was replaced, I moved into a position that gave me more freedom, etc etc. Which works for me, since I really like my field.

    Anyway my point is (finally!): with the perspective of time, I can look back and marvel at how I managed to survive nearly two years filled with constant rage and frustration, all caused by one person. However, at the same time, I was still going out with friends, chirping on my blog, doing fun things. The two types of feelings are not mutually exclusive, and I think most people draw on the ‘credit’ side of one part of their lives to fill up the ‘debit’ of another. The problem starts when the debit sucks in all the credit and still demands more.

    I learnt the following lessons from my experience: (1) Just cut your losses and move on; having spent time and effort in any field is not a reason to be welded to a life you hate (2) Don’t be a toad in simmering water (the old story about how if you slowly increase the temperature of water a toad will not jump out till it dies) (3)Listen to your body – ill health is often the only way it can speak to you and force you to listen; I used to feel indefinably unwell, look puffy, and catch minor illnesses much more often in that stressful period. (4) Stop putting up with things, hoping they’ll go away. Deal with them, or accept they will stay.

    The End :)

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  78. This is a fantastic post – as someone who has experienced episodes of mental illness, thank you for your honesty. Mental illness is so very physical, heavy and debilitating isn’t it? The ‘bell jar’ is a very real thing, I find.

    I especially relate to the part about lack of insight while in the depths of illness. When I am unwell I genuinely believe that I am rationally responding to the world around me, when actually I am severely depressed and, like you, need my partner and my wonderful doctor to support me and help me through. As someone else who constantly gets the ‘I had no idea you’d had mental health problems/you don’t ACT depressed/you don’t look ill!’ line, I hope this post helps someone reading it to feel less alone, and to seek help. Thank you for your honesty.

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  79. Your story, minus the stroke almost exactly mirrors mine. I was micro managed and bullied to the point that I left my career, and built my business as an escape.
    Stories like yours, and all the other successful business women in our industry gave me the strength to believe I could do it as well.
    I did, and I’m healthier and happier as a result.
    I totally get the work outfits aspect as well, at this time of year I’m dressed fro. Head to toe in wool thermals, and am sporting cord trousers who gave lost their button long since, but have the virtue of not showing dye splatters!

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  80. Thank you for posting this. You have no idea how much it resonates with me. I am currently battling with the guilt of deciding to walk away from a career I worked so hard to build. Work came first before everyone. Yet I realise how unhappy I am and as much as I want the problem to be the specific job I am doing I don’t think it is. I think it is time to move on from that career, before it makes me really ill.

    I am lucky – I am not being forced to leave my current career. I have time therefore to sort myself out (perhaps too much time!). I have recently started to design my own socks and eventually am looking at my own online yarn shop.

    Your post makes me realise I am not alone in moving away from a childhood passion for something. I’m not struggling in a vacuum. Others face this difficult turmoil too and they do make it :-) I honestly can’t keep saying thank you enough for you being open about this.

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  81. I have been thinking about your post all day. I agree there is a link between stress and one’s physical health. We saw it last year with our son when he was 15. He was under massive strain with one particular course in school for about a year, we could see the mental strain (it scared us), and then he had a massive seizure. All is fine now, but that was our wake up call and we pulled him out of the class and went to a cyber option that gave him more control over the situation.

    The things you have written about your past employment struck a cord. It is probably why I have thought for hours before commenting. I’ve been involved in a different industry but I recognize exactly what you are saying and realize there is so much more to “fix”. I sometimes wonder if we keep ourselves (just speaking from personal experience) in unhealthy work/business situations because of the expectations we think others have of us. I am just thinking to myself, why does it take a tragic and life changing situation for a person to finally give themselves permission to walk from a toxic work or business environment? Why is it so easy to realize it is bad for our children and fix that, but won’t fix our own problems? Clearly you have given me tons to contemplate. Thank you for your post.

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  82. Kate, your story is so similar but different than mine. I’m an 11 year survivor of AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) subset 6 or 7 (Erythroleukemia). This was brought on my mis/un diagnosed Pernicous Anemia. I had been in electronic component sales working with multi-million dollar companies bidding on contracts, working with engineers, expediting orders, etc.. Living with the stress of a very competitive and volatile market place where everyone is trying to get the same meager business, being a mom and wife with a husband that travelled all the time. Then the bottom fell out, I was laid off and finally found a job in customer service for a knife company…yuck! I hated the job. But I couldn’t go back to electronics There were no jobs left. I was stuck. The “good old boy” atmosphere created a workplace where it was acceptable for people to yell at each other in the office. My stress was through the roof! I knew something was wrong. I had been having numbness and tingling in my hands and feet and I kept having a fogginess with trouble concentrating. This had been going on for several months. I kept going to the doctor and even changed doctors but to no avail. When the leukemia developed…it was like a tsunami hit me. I was missing 40% of my blood and immediately went into the hospital, got blood transfusions, and went on 24 hour chemo drip. I started falling and was FINALLY diagnosed with pernicious anemia. By then my B12 level was so low and the spinal cord damage had been done. All of this happened at 42. I was completely bed ridden and months to years of physical therapy has brought me to where I can walk with a cane. Needless to say, I’ve also battled depression. Thank you for a very brave posting. I too looked to knitting to help me see a light at the end of the tunnel. https://www.etsy.com/shop/knittyfingers
    Best Regards,
    Kay Lyn

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  83. Thank you for all you do. I wonder if Bruce and the outdoors will feature strongly in the future posts about your recovery? XoXo

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  84. Dearest Kate,
    you are a very brave and wise beyond your years woman!
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and may the future hold everything you love for you,
    heartfelt greetings,
    Merisi

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  85. Thank you for sharing this story. So strange and wonderful the turns life can take. Glad to see something difficult became something good in the end… But then a lot of that boils down to your attitude!

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  86. Kate, you’ve struck a chord deep inside others. Having been where you were; you’re correct, it seems the only sensible thing to do….at the time. I started reading your blog just prior to your stroke and was so dismayed when (Tom, I think) posted on your behalf. I don’t knit much and will never reach your expertise, but when I do I always think of you. I’m glad you’re here. Thanks so much for your insights, inspiration and sense of what’s important to life. Hugs from across the pond to you, Tom and Bruce and the, mostly, invisible cat.

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  87. We in the knitting world are so so fortunate to have you.
    Thank you for sharing. I recently took the leap to leave teaching – I miss a few things, but the day to day stress and ever increasing demands that had so little to do with what would benefit both students and teachers was such a weight. I hadn’t realized just how depressing it was until it was gone. There may be lots less money, but lots more time and so much more joy in my days.

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  88. Kate,
    Thank you for your profound honesty. Being an academic myself, I imagined you had worked hard to get what you had before in academia, and on some level it was perhaps sad you had “lost” that. I would never never however ask you if you missed that life because I was raised not to ask such private, personal questions of people I don’t know well. Much of what you described about academia is true in my situation especially the endless meetings that take us away from what we want to do, and awful colleagues. But I am fortunate because I love teaching. But more and more I am given course to teach that are not in my area of expertise, while half a dozen faculty with that expertise don’t teach. I am just a few years from retiring. I decided this year to be more “zen” about life. I have taken up yoga. Yoga is wonderful for me. One thing I can’t do a lot about though is my poor PhD students. I want to ask them if they have any idea what they are getting into. But by time they are in a program, it’s a bit late. I have advised students who are thinking about getting a PhD, to rethink it.
    Knitting and reading (non work ‘stuff’) help me keep myself somewhat centered. I have made many friends through both. I met you in Shetland in 2012. I am so glad you found a life where you could do what you love – knitting – and you have Tom and your lovely dog Bruce at your side.
    Abrazos (hugs) – Barbara

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  89. Dear, Kate! Thank you so much for sharing. Several years ago I learned to knit while being emotionally lost and in poor health. I am happy that I pulled myself out of it and I am so grateful for every single moment of it – I think it was the time when the “real” me was born…

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  90. Well, that sort of took my breath away. I’ve only recently found your blog, but I do think you’re a keeper. :) And as another academic, with one foot out the door, I also think you are an inspiration. Thank you for this post.

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  91. Thanks for sharing this Kate. Judging from the comments your words have touched many of your readers, and they have certainly touched me. I want to thank you for sharing this so openly.

    I am very glad to read that you seem to have found a path out of the depths of depression. I imagine the openness, the positive example -as, I think, overcoming such a depression is not an easy feat- and the sense of community here on your blog and in the comments can really provide a sense of comfort to those in a similar situation.

    Thank you again, for this post and for the pleasure that reading your blog these years has been.

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  92. A friend sent me this link thinking that it would resonate (it does). As an academic getting ready to make the leap, it’s good to know that there is life on the other side. Thanks for that. =)

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  93. I echo every post. 152 at the time of writing this. I see my barista friend and she often asks about you. I found her on the admitting bench of our hospital as I was walking out of surgery. She had/was having a stroke. She recommended the book Stroke of Genius, which you had already read. I saw her recover on a weekly basis. And I am glad you both present in my life. Coffee and knitting:)

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  94. Thank you for your insightful post, to which I can relate.

    Having good mental health makes it so much easier to fight life’s battles that it throws you. I have been amazed at the strength that you have shown in making very big changes in your life, not just those forced upon you, e.g. stroke – job, but also moving house (for you, Tom and Bruce) and taking on a different career; trying to find you own balance (of both sorts) along the way.

    I enjoy all parts of your blogging both the personal mental/physical health issues, and your academic approach to textiling. It is often just a sentence that has carried most weight for me, e.g. varying your daily footwear for increasing your sense of balance.

    I am going to circulate this post.

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  95. Such a wonderful post, thank you! You may remember that our anniversaries are very close. I was doing two jobs and working as a temp for a complete bully, who I thought couldn’t hurt me. Then the aneurysm sitting quietly in my brain could take it no longer and burst on 10/2/10. I had no work, no income, and as I recovered, my partner of 13 years had a mid-life crisis and decided he wanted children after all, which obviously I couldn’t provide, being 50+at this point. It’s a long road to recovery but I have a great work/life balance now and I am in a pretty good place. I’m proud to be a survivor like you! Keep smiling!

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  96. Thank you for your post. I loved reading about your experience with academia because our childhood experiences were similar despite differences in the directions our lives took. I read voraciously and early: I taught myself to read and read methodically through the classics in primary school. I read the school library methodically, a book a night in high school, starting at ‘A’. I married young and had children, and thus my academic dreams were thwarted by a series of choices. Having always wondered ‘what if…?’ I found reading your story cathartic – what did I miss out on? Nothing.

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  97. Once again, your honesty and sharing have had an impact on me. You have taken adversity healthwise and job related, and turned your mind to the positive. Every pattern you release I look forward to and you have helped me realize such joy in knitting and its history. Thank you Kate.

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  98. I’m so pleased you shared this. I literally teared up at the joy of your post (and this from someone accustomed to emotional reticence in myself). May five years further on have you celebrating even more.

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  99. This is beautiful, Kate. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I could not agree more about the close connection between mental and physical health, and myself have been struggling with some physical health issues recently that, in my opinion, are clearly linked to external stressors and psychological health. Hearing your account helps me in my resolve to find the way forward. Happy you’ve found your way and that you’re happy.

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  100. You (and all of us) are better for it. I have been taking inspiration, joy, and knowledge from your blog for about 7 years now. Thank you for all you have given and for being open and honest. Much love to you!

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  101. Brilliant post. Thank you for sharing.

    I’m a very long time reader of your blog and had no idea things were so terrible for you at work, though now that you write this, I realize there were a few hints. I was suffering very similar work-related mental health issues around the same time, it’s horrible when you feel like there are no options and every day is a fight and a struggle.

    I remember being absolutely floored when you had the stroke. I guess intellectually I knew such things could happen, but to someone so young and who I “knew”.

    I’m so very glad that you’re in a much better place now.

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  102. This is a powerful and thought provoking piece. I’m so glad you have been able to make a recovery and pursue a career which you love and does not harm your health. Your posts are always interesting and inspiring, and never fail to put a smile on my face. Thank you.

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  103. Thank you so much for writing so honestly, particularly about your experiences with depression and suicidal feelings. Last month my family lost a young woman to suicide, quite unexpectedly to all of us, even to her mother and partner. Outwardly nothing appeared to be wrong and she continued to be very successful at work and in a strong relationship. It is very hard to come to terms with, but your words really have helped me gain some understanding as to just what she was struggling with.

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  104. Kate,

    What a honest and brave post! In the days of anonymous, snarky and cruel internet commenters I find your openness & your story so courageous and inspiring. I’ve always found your story of recovery remarkable and admirable of how you’ve fought to remake your life and reclaim your health after your stroke. But to now know more fully the depth of your story it is extraordinary! I am so happy that you have a life now that makes you happy and whole because I selfishly benefit from it. Whether it is knitting one of your brilliant patterns, reading a post on your blog, or getting a quick smile from Instagram, you help brighten my day almost each and every day. And I want to say a most sincere thank you to you and everything you share-your talent, insights on knitting and it’s history, to the simple and enjoyable moments with Bruce & Tom in your lovely Scotland! Thank you, thank you, thank you! May you continue to find happiness and fulfillment in your new post stroke life.

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  105. Thank you for sharing this, I have been following your blog for a long time now and was wondering about the precise nature of your career.
    What you describe makes perfect sense in terms of Chinese medicine, the depression, the loss of “roots” because of alienation from what nourishes you and the consequent mental problems. The heart in Chinese medicine is the organ where your destiny in life and the sense of fulfilling your destiny is located. And you certainly could not live that with all the obligations that you had.
    So maybe your heart and the stroke saved your life, paradox that!
    I am happy to read your blog and enjoy your research and the beauty I find there: knitting, landscape, words and clothes. Carry on!
    L

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  106. Your post is wonderful Kate. I first came across your blog a few years ago, not long after the second of my sisters had a stroke. They are both fine now, and had these in their mid sixties and both appeared to be due to atrial fibrillation. Have had tests that were clear, but I do get worried, have just turned 60 and can’t afford to retire yet…but hopefully in a couple of years. (I am lucky to have had a large family, but we still need to support them a little.)
    In some ways I love my job, and it certainly isn’t as stressful in the library side of a University. I really enjoy helping people to find information but get stressed by ‘work politics’, and would love more time for knitting and sewing.

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  107. Dear Kate
    Again what a wonderful, insightful and interesting post. I can see why you are so great at what you do, and I bet an inspriring teacher. IT is disappointing that Universities (here in Australia as well) are more about the dollar that real research which ultimately is what they were set up to do. Bullying is also rife in so many work places, and the withered horrible people who do it should be better dealt with. In my case had I have spoken up, I would have been considered the inferior party. My only sustaining thought is karma eventually gets everyone, and I feel hard to be sad when it gets those horrible people too.

    Your description of depression and its effects is masterful and so on the money. Thank you for putting it into words.

    I am amazed it is five years ago, time goes so quickly. I remember Tom’s first post clearly and how surprised, concerned and saddened I was. I respected your abilities so much. I had discovered your blog only months before and enjoyed it very much. I ponder often why someone who lives on the other side of the world is so effected by someone, I know only by what is shared on the computer.

    I enjoy your posts and books and pattern and wish I was able to do most of them. Thank you for choosing to sharing your life with us; best wishes!

    Anne

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  108. I can’t add much to what has already been said. However I would like to say that I am very happy for you that you have found balance and peace in your life. It is enviable from my point of view although I’m sure even the solitude has it’s challenges. It sounds like you are very lucky to be alive and to have found happiness is the biggest blessing of all. Thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts and for sharing your lovely designs and talents with fans around the world. cheers! Mel

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  109. Dear Kate, thank you for shearing your experience.
    I follow your blog and I like read you, because I like knitting and wool, but especially the history behind them. I admire you. Thank you for your projects, your ideas, experiences, your words!

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  110. Thank you for that brilliantly written, courageous post. I loved what you said at the end about missing getting dressed for work, because one of the wonderful things about your blog is to see how you style your designs with your amazing wardrobe. Now I understand how much you must love that too. I can’t say I’m glad you had a stroke, but I’m glad that you recovered from the stroke with insight and wisdom and the energy and ability to create a new career for yourself. The knitting world is lucky to have you. Brava!

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  111. I wonder if that person ever knew how much she’d contributed towards your illness? Did she ever apologise? I’ve worked with some truly horrible people hell bent on making life a living misery – and these people are charged with shaping our young.

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  112. I worked for the Wicked Witch of the West at IBM. It was one of the happiest days of my life when I quit (and trashed WWW’s reputation with Human Resources – I know, because WWW called to ask if there was “anything” she could do to encourage me to stay). As much as I enjoyed practicing law in-house at computer companies, and as much as our family income took a nose dive, that’s how much happier I was. Lots more time to spend with my young daughter (who had been having nightmares because I was traveling on business so much – ugh!) and secondarily, more time to knit and be a human being.

    Sometimes God’s way of helping us to change course is rather drastic, but in hindsight it is for ours and our family’s own good.

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  113. Keep your strength up and don’t worry about academia – it will look after itself. Thank you for your lovely book and sharing your thoughts in your blogs which I always look forward to. Here’s to the next five years!

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  114. I had a baby, not a stroke, and giving up academia and re-discovering knitting as a result was the best thing I did. Ever.
    Appreciate your honesty Kate – on every front.

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  115. Dear Kate
    Thank you so much for sharing and for your honesty and courage. It is truly awful that you had to go through what you did in order to find your current contentment, but I am so glad to hear that that is indeed what you have found. Good luck with your ongoing journey
    Clara

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  116. What a wonderful post. There is so much more I’d like to say, but better suited over a pint then in a comment. When we listen to what our bodies/minds are trying to tell us and are not afraid of change and following our hearts we often end up in places better then we could have imagined. I am so glad you have ended up happy and free to pursue what you love!

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  117. Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story and feelings. You are a true follower of the “Keep on keeping on” group and have come full circle to still be doing what you love, even though in a different discipline. You have truly risen above the adversity and your returning health says so.

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  118. Thank you for such an honest account of the impact the stroke has had on you and your career. This was something I really needed to read today. I was in an automobile accident 4.5 years ago that has left me with chronic pain and daily headaches as well as episodic migraines. A split second can change your life and it takes time to accept that. Most days I do but there are still some days that are harder. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write about the impact your stroke has had on you and your career. I also appreciate the discussion of your mental health before the stroke because I feel like it is not spoken about enough. Mental health is so important and in a world that seems to demand so much the pressure can be so great. Thank you once again.

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  119. Dear Kate
    Thank you so much for sharing…
    Congratulations for your achivements! It is such a joy to share your happiness about your life !
    (and How I understand you concerning University…)

    Love all your work and your posts!

    Ana

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  120. 5 years! And look how far you have come: you got your life back–literally and figuratively.

    I can still vividly remember Tom’s initial post about your hospitalization and the shock of it all. While I would never wish so dramatic a fault line as a stroke to bring about change for anyone, I am happy that for you the outcome has been a positive life change, even as I acknowledge and never minimize that it has come with many challenges which you have faced with grace, anger, delight at gains and sadness at the losses. I have admire your honesty in telling us about the good and bad days over these years.

    Universities may be missing your considerable talents, but we, your blog-reading “new” students, appreciate all the gifts you bring to our lives. Keep taking care of yourself.

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  121. Dear Kate, thank you for your moving, powerful post. Like many who have commented, I can say that your words, the aspects of your life that you share, your continual teaching through your blog, and your utterly wonderful designs have been instrumental in my life in many ways. I understand the nature of academia. My husband was a geophysics professor, and I was a low-level administrator in an engineering school (at different universities). Academia is insidious – it took us ten years to understand how depressed we both were. We finally moved and entered the software world in Seattle. (From the frying pan into the fire.) He thrived, but I knew fairly soon that it wasn’t a good fit for me. Because of the laws in the US at the time, I had to stay to keep my health insurance. My depression gradually got worse, and if it had not been for knitting and then your blog, I probably would not have made it to retirement in a relatively sane state. I started reading your blog in the midst of an increasingly difficult job situation, rife with unpleasant folks, including a few nasty bullies. About the time of your stroke, I lost my brother to suicide. My husband, your blog, and my knitting helped me get through a tough time. I retired toward the end of 2012, got both my knees replaced, and learned that dealing with depression takes a fair amount of work, knowledge, and understanding because it doesn’t just go away like a virus running its course. But your blog, your readers, your teaching, and your honesty have all helped me immensely. My life and my knitting are getting better and better. I am extremely grateful to you and send you my best wishes and hopes at your fifth anniversary. Cheers, Liz.

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  122. Thank you for sharing your heart, and your experience. It is such a good warning to me to be careful to guard my physical and mental health. I think we are just about the same age, and I’m becoming more aware in the last few years that good health isn’t something that I can just take for granted that I will have. It is something that I must work for.

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  123. Thanks for writing so eloquently. I’m a previous life I was a pychiatric nurse and I felt it was very important to bring mental health issues into the open, to destigmatise something affects many people at some point in their life

    I too have had, and still struggle with, mental health issues no once tried to read a book called ‘The trick is to keep breathing ‘. It was too stark for me and I never did finish this account of descent into mental illness. But I always remember the title

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  124. Wonderful post. I think the passage of time really helps us to understand where we have been, and where we are now. (I look back on my period of time as an IMF/World Bank spouse in Washington, DC, with two young kids and a globe-trotting, uninvolved husband/father as an enormously stressful time in my life, although at the time I didn’t realize or perhaps couldn’t allow myself to acknowledge it.) We, your readers, are so grateful that you are in a happier place both physically and mentally, and that you are able to share yourself with us. I’m only sorry that it took a stroke to turn things around. Let’s hope the best is yet to come.

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  125. Thank you, for your words, your honesty, and your bravery, about your health issues and their causes. You may be helping untold numbers of people to recognize their own issues sooner, seek treatment earlier, and find a healthier and happier life, before a crisis such as a stroke or heart attack can happen to them.

    I am such a fan of your blog and your knitting, and it is wonderful to know you are so happy in your life. Congratulations on your five year anniversary.

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  126. Thank you for this beautiful, candid and brave post. I, like many others who wrote, are more than happy about what you are doing now. ❤️ Am looking forward to the continuation.

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  127. What an interesting and honest account of your life and feelings pre-stroke. My mother had mental health issues, as have I, and now my daughter has. I can’t help feeling that so much pressure is put on people (sometimes self inflicted) to achieve great things and strive for career and financial success, to great detriment to their health. We would all do well to realise the important things in life, take life a little slower and be happy! I’m so glad you enjoy you’re work so much now, we certainly all enjoy it very much too.

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  128. I’ve enjoyed the wit and wisdom of the blog for some time now, but this post moved me to comment from afar. Thank you for fighting back, and for having the courage to speak out on issues so rarely discussed in the open. Those who haven’t been there will not understand, and those who have can never forget the reality of their perceptions. Best wishes for continuing health and success as you find your path through this life… Namaste.

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  129. Kate,
    I can only say, been there, done that with similar consequences. I went back to work after a half-time arrangement. When things fell apart, I was comforted with the fact that there was another academic colleague in the same hospital where I had admitted myself. Another from the same university had recently been released.

    While it is easy to criticize ourselves, the reality (at least for me) was that breaking down/off/through was a result that was admired/expected by my department. You had “run the gauntlet and survived” although grayer/sadder/incapacitated in some way.

    I truly could have gone back. But then I realized it was time to get off the ferris wheel or I truly would be a statistic like my colleagues. What did I miss the most when I gave up (in), having a reason to get up and get dressed every day.

    I love your blog. Please don’t ever (ever) blame yourself for trying. You were and are enough.

    Kathlene

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  130. What brave and honest post. Thank you so much for sharing – it’s certainly made me think a little about the lifestyle choices we are now making following some major changes a year ago.

    And as an admirer of your knitting patterns and your photoshoots, I’m really glad that a very difficult and life-changing episode in your life has turned out the way that it has. Very selfish of me, I know.

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  131. I think there is some truth in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I had a period of dark depression some months after the birth of my second child, triggered by changing the medication precribed to head off likely postnatal depression. It was terrifying. I was fortunate to realise that I was ill, I recognised what was happening from earlier brushes with the black dog. I never lost sight of wanting to recover, without that the suicidal thoughts may have been overwhelming. I too was well supported by my husband and local mental health team. Medication gave me the leg up I needed to begin recovery, CBT helped me retrain my thought process. Depression will always cast a shadow over me, but I am stronger, more reflective and self-aware as a result of that period in my life. I doubt I would have coped as well with some later events had I not experienced depression. Once strong enough I chose to be open about my mental health issues; I am proud that I have tamed the black dog. If only other tamers were as open and inspiring as you about their experiences. When I got over my fear of scissors and needles craft became a crutch to me. The sense of purpose and achievement I gained from making something was central to my recovery. Craft continues to be a huge part of my life, without it I go a bit bonkers! The rhythmic and sensory nature of knitting makes it particularly helpful. Your post has prompted me to think about how I am letting work encroach on what is really important, thank you.

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  132. I admire you! And it is an absolute pleasure to read anything you have written.
    Btw, my husband, although he has never read your blog, knows so much about you, because I keep telling him stories “you now that knitwear designer from Scotland I have been telling you about…, let me tell you about her new blogpost that inspired me sooooo much….” :)

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  133. Hi Kate,
    I am inspired by and grateful for your honesty. As many others have said, thank you for sharing the details of your journey. It can be so difficult and demoralizing to suffer from depression and “nuttiness”, and then to look around for help and not find it. I live in the U.S., and depression is like some disgusting weakness that no one admits to but many people experience. I suspect it might be similar in the U.K. I have just started to emerge from post-partum depression, though my son is already 2 years old. Depression is one of those things that people talk about academically (“You aren’t alone. You can get help.”) but reject categorically (“Oh, you’re depressed? Well, I have to go now. Good luck with that.”). I am always so relieved to find someone else willing to admit they felt so horrible, weak, out of control. Especially when it is someone like you, who is really talented, genuine, admirable, ambitious, and creative. Being depressed doesn’t make someone worthless, although society certainly makes a depressed person feel worthless. It probably sounds bizarre to say this, but I am grateful to know that other people suffer too, and that being depressed doesn’t change my value as a person. Your willingness to talk honestly about your experience is really helpful to others who have had similar experiences. Thanks for breaking the taboo and helping some of us to heal too.

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  134. I remember the first time I ran across your patterns on Ravelry and my first thought was where did this person come from and why hadn’t I heard of her before? I mentioned your name and your first book while teaching my spinning class many months later and one of my students mentioned you started designing patterns after you had a stroke. I have Parkinson’s so I am always looking for people who work in the public light that deal with a disability and handle both without much fuss. You are a great example of this ideal. I quit working my regular job thanks to my illness back in May of 2014. Doing something I don’t love (finance/office management) after 39 years was not the least bit hard for me to walk away but I knew that I could not continue to teach the way I had in the past as well. I have taught spinning for more than 25 years at fiber shows and locally in my spare time. When I told my students that I would have to retire, I was and still am overwhelmed by my students refusal to let me quit. One longtime student stepped forward and offered to drive me anywhere I wanted to teach and would lift and carry, pack my car, help me prep for classes. That student is now my paid assistant without whom I could not teach. This industry is amazing and filled with some very wonderful people. While you and I will probably never meet face to face, I truly respect the career you have built. Your sharing of your stroke and recovery story from academic to designer is very inspirational. Thank you for your contribution to fiber arts. You have helped me continue to create and keep active and to keep on learning new techniques.

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  135. As a fellow former academic, I feel much the same. I only left just a year ago. But there is little I do miss. I miss microscopy. I miss fly pushing. But the actual environment? No
    Depression is another common factor and it is a horrible and insidious disease.
    I’m ever so pleased to hear this five year reflection. To hear that you are much better and happier away from academia. Huzzah!

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  136. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have suffered from serious depression and had to take time off from work because of it. Mental health and physical health are so important and very connected. I love your writing because I never know if it is going to be something fascinating based on research or if I get to read a fun and adventurous post from Bruce!

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  137. Thank you, thank you for sharing these thoughts.
    As a young woman having had to give up many dreams (including pursuing academia..) because of chronic illness, I am so grateful for your honesty and openess. Wishing you all the very best.

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  138. Thank you so much for this post, Kate! I’ve been experiencing same things and reading about your life and how it turned out makes me believe that better days and a different, happier, life are possible. Thank you also for your wonderful pictures on Instagram, they always light up my day!

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  139. Thank you Kate for sharing this with us. It totally reasonates with what I am currently going through. After completing my own PhD, I suffered a heart attack as a result of stress and am currently experencing similar bullying from a ‘micro-managerial colleague’. But it is knitting and in particularly your beautiful designs that is currently keeping me sane. I’m so happy for you that you have managed to overcome and recovered from such a traumatic ordeal. You truly are an inspiration xx

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  140. You’re the best Kate. A real inspiration. My beautiful sister died from a stroke last year at age 45. But before that, I had shared your story with her and it did help to inspire some peace in her that she could recover. Even though that wasn’t true for her, I’m so happy that it was for you and that you’ve thrived. Thank you for sharing.

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  141. As a long time reader of your blog, and admirer of your knitting patterns, I have to say what an amazing journey it’s been, following you as you have been in recovery mode from your stroke. Your honesty in today’s post, along with the happiness you have discovered on the difficult journey you’ve been on, have brought tears to my eyes. As someone who lives with a seriously mentally ill spouse, one whose condition is ever so much worse because he would not, could not, recognize what was happening to him, it is nice to know that the story can end differently, and better, for others who have dealt with depression. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. Mental health and physical health are inseparable.

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  142. I never, ever miss your posts and one of the many things I love about them is the stimulating thought and research which goes into them. You are always leading me off in different directions, with new searches as your enquiring mind inspires mine. I love the joy for living which sings from your pages and treasure the richness you have added to our lives!

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  143. Dear Kate. See how we all love you. I would like to say that my thoughts are just the same as Dixie’s above, and I am so happy for you that you have done what you have done with such humility and love.
    I’ve seen it said from many of us before, but I will say it again, you are a star, bright and shining, and an inspiration. With very best wishes and tons of admiration. Rosey x

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  144. Q – Echoing the thought of others, what a brilliant post! I spent the last two years of my career in deep depression from my teaching job so I can relate, luckily I did not have a stroke but a myriad of other health problems which gradually disappeared after I retired. Had to laugh at the end, I too miss not dressing up for work, the “work” clothes still so neatly hung up in my closet. LOL!

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  145. What a wonderful post, *thank you* for sharing your journey. I found your blog only a month or so before your stroke and I have to say that knowing I have been enjoying your work for 5 years is a happy surprise. Life can be unbearably tough for all of us. It is reassuring to hear about other people’s struggles and resulting success. Keep on, Kate! You’re doing great!

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  146. Thank you for this post. You’re an inspiration on so many levels! I’m very happy for you that you’ve been able to find such a beautiful balance.

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  147. Thank you, Kate, for yet another uplifting post about your stroke recovery. How appropos it seems to be for too many of us (myself included, 30 years at a job I loathed) to work at something we didn’t love to do. How interesting it is that we have all found solice in knitting in one form or another? You have proved to us that there is life after burnout, and it’s a better life altogether. Happy 5th Anniversary! You did it!

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  148. I’m so glad you were led to another, happier path. I’m sorry that you suffered so to reach it. I love your designs and look forward to seeing what you come up with in the next five years.

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  149. Fascinating entry, thank you. It seems to me the thing in life is always, always to go forward,and then with great good humour and grace. We owe it to those around us and to ourselves, and it is no easy thing to achieve. You are doing it really well!

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  150. Thank-you for sharing your story. I grew up with a mother, and now live with a man, who suffer from sometimes severe anxiety. And you’re very right, when they are in the middle of an episode, it’s very hard for them to realize how much it’s affecting them. And even the people around them don’t often realize how physically ill it can make them. I’m glad you’ve found happiness in your new path.

    I will say – I laughed a little when I got to the end of your story. I’ve been working from home for two weeks (car is broken) and the thing I’ve missed most is getting dressed up for work!

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  151. Kate, not only did your academic work inspire me when I was writing my own dissertation and pursuing my own academic dream, but your journey these past five years inspires me to continue changing my own path away from the meager scraps of part-time academic posts. Thank you for sharing how fulfilling it is to pursue your creativity on your own plans, interests, and schedule. You are an amazing woman!

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  152. Thank you for your courageous, powerful, and inspiring post! As a long time follower of your blog, I have felt so privileged that you have shared your amazing journey of recovery and discovery with myself and so many. I am extremely happy for you with your current career path; not only that it brings you great joy, but myself as well because I can knit your lovely designs, also. I find your historical posts very interesting; being a lover of history and historical clothing myself. And you are such a snappy dresser (I love your red wool coat!). I wish you continued success and happiness.

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  153. I really enjoyed reading this thoroughly honest post. I’ve always thought that academic life could be hard, for many reasons, and am now ironically working in an academic institution though not, thankfully, as an academic. However the professor running the project I am working on has just left academia, completely, without having a new job to go to, because he doesn’t want to work in academia any more.
    It is fantastic you have been able to forge such a great career from what you love. And great for all of us who enjoy your patterns so much :-)

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  154. Kate, it is so heartening to read this post. From a selfish point of view, it reassures me that I was probably right to walk away from a career in academia (to the bafflement of my peers, many of whom were scrambling for poorly paid jobs on the bottom rung of the academic ladder). For yourself, I feel like cheering! Yay, you escaped! Not only that, but you have done what we are always advised to do: find something you love and get paid to do it. Your growing confidence and success has been a pleasure to follow, and I wish you much more to come.

    A couple of notes: firstly, I would completely agree that mental and physical health are *obviously* interrelated and that this should be more widely recognised. (While my mental health had nothing to do with my brain injury, it had everything to do with my convalescence – and possibly something to do with my consequent diagnosis of M.E.). Secondly, as I sit at the kitchen table in my usual jeans and oversized thick jumper: oh, yes, I miss getting dressed up for work too!

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  155. I rejoice in your brave decision to go out on your own and step, no, run, away from that which was familiar, albeit frustrating, miserable, ultimately unhealthy and almost tragic. So glad you are fulfilled and the world can relish your knitwear designs.

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  156. Thank you Kate! I remember trying to write to you after your stroke and I did find it hard too that sense that everything had become uncertain. Your whole way of life had ended. I too have nurtured dreams of becoming an academic, and I am in a Ph.D. program now. Unlike you, I lack that knockout punch. At 24 I was still searching for a way around. Having two degrees under my belt in unrelated subjects, BA English and Philosophy and an BFA in printmaking and photography. I didn’t decide I was going to be an Italianista until I was 30, got into a Ph.D. program after I was 35 and after my first daughter was 2 months old. The point of all this rambling about myself is that I am one of those people who wanted what you wanted, but didn’t pursue it. I saw that you had been in the position I wanted, and then I saw how it all ended. All along I was aware of the personal sacrifices involved, but I have never been able to make them. I taught Italian poetry and language courses for about 6 years, but in the last two years, I realized I would never finish the dissertation, keep up with my children and be happy, so I just gave up teaching, much to the horror of my department, my parents and my sister. I have always wanted to lead a rich intellectual life, but I have always been content to play around and just do what makes me happy. Reading books and talking my specialist discourse amongst colleagues has always been a dream, but once I saw that getting a professor position would be less of that and more dealing with other stresses, well, That took the bloom off that vision. I went and had another daughter at 40! At the time of your stroke, I still had only one child and I was feeling quite sorry for myself. I was always angry at my beautiful baby and rushing around. I was looking at you and wondering, what on earth was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just shit or get off the pot! And then…I had no great revelation. I am still writing this dissertation, Subjectivity and Otherness in Sicilian Detective Fiction, if you want to know, but I don’t really know where it will take me. It is still fun. I go to conferences if they are in pleasant locales I want to visit anyways and I make my whole family come with me. I don’t mind doing the work, but I don’t think I can run the race. I don’t want to be one of your junior colleagues locked in some desperate battle between two wounded animals and looking at your vacant position with desperation. So thanks for sharing. I always feel like I have not yet arrived at my finalized state. I always have more to carve out that zi am not finished yet. And I know that if I were to go after and get some of the things you got inyour career, I might still feel like that. It is awesome wicked that you are a successful knitwear designer! It is really super and brilliant that you left academia behind without any regret! You still have that knock out punch! And keep writing, because we are behind you all the way.

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  157. Dear Kate Davies
    Sometimes there is something eerie about what blogs one manage to find on the internet. Yours being a perfect example. When I last year started to look for a knitting blog I soon found your blog. At first I was taken aback by the sheer skill and beauty in your work, and mainly used it as a place for dreams and pondering. I dreamed about making such lovely garments pondered about Scotland ( I have never been able to hear a badpipe without wanting to cry – don´t know why but there you are!).
    Then I started to read, came to understand your history with a stroke – and this is where the eerie bit enters. I have always had a sort of mantra (only for others apparently) saying something like: ”when the soul doesn´t understand how to weep, the body does”. Now, I have not had a stroke, my body settled for another set of cards.
    I had made a huge career change in my mid 40ies, everyone applauded me, saying how brave I was, how competent I must feel – and all I knew was how I felt how wrong everyting was. In my mind I was always working, preparing, seeking solutions – and working my self deeper and deeper in a pit of despair. So my body it threw in rheumatism and I eventually went back to my old line of work (which I had mainly left because it was so breathtakingly dull), Thought I had learned my lesson, but apparently not – so last year my body doubled the stake with something called Sjogren´s syndrome.
    It was all this, together with an old friend of mine called Arnold Chiari I (a neurological malfunction which is more apparent the more tired one gets, and in my case with bad balance, eyesight and speak problems) left me last year seeking for some tranquil knitting blog. And I found yours…
    I am not really sure why I feel the need to tell you this. There are hundreds if not thousands women like me who think one can connect to your experience. If you ever read Pippi Longstocknings you may remember her friend Annika – always neat, always obedient, always ”a little nice girl”. And sometimes I think we never grew up – we have always remained wanting to be a little nice girl. And that is even more eerie!
    (But if I manage to send this it will be a true miracle – I have never done anything like that before!)
    Kind regards
    Anna-Karin in Sweden

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  158. I want to thank you for your honesty about your depression and suicidal thoughts. As someone who occasionally has to help suicide victim’s survivors, the more information and honesty that can be shed on suicide, the better. Thank you. And might I add, that I am thrilled that you have turned your research to the wonderful world of knitting!

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  159. What an honest reveal. It is inspiring to hear about people engaged in the process of change. I, too, although not inspired by a health crisis, have left my conventional day job and I am slowly building my own sustainable creative world. It is the world I belong in and where I am serene and utilized at my deepest talent levels. This is very hard to do! Thanks for sharing your ordeal. I appreciate the hard work to arrive at ones best self.

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  160. I guess one could say you were given a badly wrapped gift! i received one as well, without going into detail i went through a traumatic period in my life that brought me to the wonderful place I am now. Looking back i miss nothing about my previous life and enjoy every moment of this new one.

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  161. Kate, thanks for reminding me of all the things I disliked so much about working at an institution! It’s so impersonal and stressful. But you also reminded me of what I miss! I,too, miss getting dressed up each morning. I am now trying to upgrade my “bumpkin suit” (what a great expression) in hopes that I feel more together each day. The knitting world and all the people you come into contact with through this blog are thrilled that you have landed in such a wonderful, creative, and productive place. I’m glad you are happier!!!

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  162. my dad is and always has been, self employed. I’m also self employed and have learnt from him not too work to the detriment of my own health (not always easy, but I do my best). His current near blindness (he should register blind but would rather have a leg amputated than give up his driving license) has been traced to an incident about 20 years ago, when he was working 20 hour days, he admits that he pulled off the road because he felt a bit funny, rallied and went back to work. he sought no medical attention because he didn’t have time.

    That was a stroke, six months later the optic nerve in one eye irreversably severed. He didn’t tell anyone at the time but the doctors told him the other eye was just a matter of time. seven years ago it started to go as well, and was gone within a fortnight.

    I blame his ex girlfiend, a woman loathed by both my family and her own, who at the time was pushing him to make more and more money, hence the stupidly long working days (in theory she ran his office, in reality his employees rarely got paid on time and we found out after they split that there had been tens of thousands of pounds worth of work done by my father that she hadn’t ever bothered to invoice for payment)

    so yes, stress can cause stroke. I believe that.

    a history of knitting in literature would be fascinating, even to us non-knitters

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  163. Thank you for sharing your reflections, Kate. In more ways than I can express in a blog comment, reading about your thoughts, experiences, and work helps a lot of us get through our difficult moments as well! Best wishes.

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  164. OH KATE, what an extraordinary and honest post! I do wish this could be published so women and men could understand what an unhappy job could do TO one and not necessarily FOR one!!
    I applaud you for this post and AM SO happy for you with your new creative life. YEA and believe me we love you in your new ‘job’ !

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  165. I feel this post puts into words what many of us can’t express about what being depressed and in the wrong place feels like. Thank you for your openness and willingness to talk about your mental health, as long as we keep talking about such issues there is hope that depression and other, similar conditions will be better understood one day.

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  166. It took great courage to heal and follow your dreams. Thank you for sharing this journey with all of us on the blog. I’ve learned so much from reading it and from your lovely books.

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  167. Dear Kate,
    Thank you so very very much. And Bravo Bravissimo to you! You are truly amazing and wonderful. I am so honored to read your blog.

    I also have been a loyal reader since before you had your stroke. And I have followed your writings about your recovery religiously. I became ill before I retired – with diverticulitis brought on by my work and workplace politics – which sent me suddenly to the hospital. I realized that I had not been listening to my gut until it made me pay attention. And I have found that in retirement I am finally listening to my gut and doing what gives me real joy – teaching knitting to women at a center for woman who have Cancer. I’m so incredibly happy after each session with them each week.

    Thank you for sharing yourself and your insight into the root causes of your stroke. Here’s to many more of your wonderful knitwear designs and articles about the history and traditions of knitting!

    You are in my thoughts and prayers,
    A Loyal Reader from Washington, DC

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  168. Such a beautiful, inspiring post! I was just thinking about you the other day (leafing through my copy of Yokes), about the vagaries of life, and how quickly things can change. As someone in an earlier comment noted, from a selfish view point I’m glad you’re a knitwear designer now, but even better you seem happier now, too.

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  169. My father was a physics professor, and I can remember the endless rounds of political maneuvering just to get research dollars and time away to complete experiments, the infighting, cruelties to grad students and those professors who chose to treat them with respect, and on and on.

    I would have been interested in research within my chosen profession, but the academic culture came attached to that. Although some blame sexism for the lack women in STEM positions, I see it as a sign of the greater sanity of our gender to not want to participate in the academic culture.

    Congratulations on using your talents in a way that makes you and others happy.

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  170. Thanks you Kate, for sharing this about your stroke. I love reading all your posts and love all your styling, including any “bumpkin suits” you’ve allowed a glimpse of :) I also relate to this on a personal level. Mine was depression followed by a massive heart attack caused (I believe) by the stress of the corporate environment added to personal stress and grief. Not unlike the academic world, the corporate world is an every person for themselves environment and climbing the ladder faster and faster becomes the goal. The individual gets lost in the mix. Best to you for your continued success and well being.

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  171. I’m smiling at the thought of a young Kate thinking all those Heyer references to “bits of muslin” were actually about…bits of muslin. ;)

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  172. Thank you for sharing your personal experience through writing and design. Over the years I am inspired by you and how you approach your journey though life’s changes.

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  173. Always enjoy reading your blog Kate. You are one of my favourite designers and I am currently immersed in “Yokes” and enjoying it immensely. I really appreciated you sharing this and I am very pleased that you are well and living a satisfying life. Your story gives pause for thought for us all. Thank you.

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  174. Thank you so much for your honesty and insight both into stress but also mental health. I am so happy that you have been able to process what has happened and to be in the positive place you are now. Inspirational. C

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  175. I am so grateful to you and your blog! You continue to teach us all, pursue your research and love of the written word just in a different format. What a journey you have been on since that February day and thank you for sharing your world with us all.

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  176. powerful post with amazing lessons in it.

    I recently walked away from a “dream job” because I could not handle the undreamy aspects of it. While in my deepest soul I wonder if I failed, reading this reminds me that I walked away for good, healthy reasons, before I got to the place you did. thanks fro bravely posting this. It helps us all.

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  177. Kate as a fellow sufferer from “a black dog” I was heartened to see you write so candidly and eloquently about your experience of depression. I can totally relate to the feeling of altered normality that it brings to feelings of suicidal ideation, and that look of incredulity friends give you when you wonder aloud why you’re not coping well at the moment.
    When I was at my worst I worked for the NHS and have to say the environment was not conducive to good mental health…one of my colleagues actually referred to another member of staff as having gone “space cadet” just before I was forced to take extended leave due to my own illness…this ultimately lead to me being made redundant.
    At the moment I am still in the grieving for my career stage, but without the confidence (or energy) to do anything positive about it.
    Your post has given me hope for a brighter future, and I would like to say – thank you very much.

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  178. Thank you for the inspiration ! It is just what I needed. I lost my job last Feb and unable to get another in the same field, even though I have 23yrs experience. I have taken some courses and broadened my horizon hoping to go in another direction. Just when I was feeling some doubt I came across your blog posting. Thank you.

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  179. Thank you for this post, Kate! I must say I’ve always loved your approach to knitting, the way you connect it with history, research, poetry, it is a very deep approach.
    And you made me smile: I’m a literary translator and basically spend my days working from home with my books and the only thing I miss is getting dressed! Although i do get dressed every day, but it’s not exactly the same.

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  180. it’s hard to believe that its been 5 years. I remember test knitting a tam for you pre-stroke – I felt so lucky to test for you. I loved that you provided so much more than a pattern – you educated me as I knit.
    I am glad that you have taken the time to write about such a difficult period in your life. Most of us would not think that University staff would be a place to find bullying. surely the department heads would be to intelligent for that kind of behavior. sadly bullying takes place more often than we think and is quietly ignored by the higher ups.
    I don’t think you are wrong with blaming the stroke on your enviroment at work. sure you may have been a time bomb but the stress triggered the stroke.
    thank you for being brave and sharing your experience. the only way to stop bullying is to talk about it and declare we aren’t going to put up with it.

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  181. Beautiful account of your experience. Sometimes we find disappointment in our own choices, but every experience adds something to who we are, or at least clarifies who we don’t want to be.
    Love your blog and your patterns, keep them coming!

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  182. Dear Kate
    Your thoughts shared so honestly are, as always, moving and inspirational. The past five years, while a huge chunk of time, in many ways seem to have flown by. I have benefitted so much by reading your blog on a regular basis since 2009. Your words have helped me navigate my own five years, dealing with chronic illness, deaths of parents, and so many issues of daily life that can be annoying and depressing. Thank you for your keen insights, beautiful designs, gorgeous photos, and thoughtful commentary…..and have a very happy 5th anniversary! Deb

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  183. AH……

    Loved how the sidebar kept showcasing your current life; books, style and patterns—
    all at the same time while reading about your past.

    100 thank yous for sharing your life with us;
    we are like your fabric ribbons or your stash of yarns x-x-x-x-x-x- forever yours.

    Teri
    Oregon

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  184. Thank you for sharing – Life is so much more than a prestigous title – and happier without – You are a wonderfully gifted both designer and writer – I always enjoy following your blog and adore your design – so clever!

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  185. Thank you so much for this post. I’m frantically trying to finish up my PhD thesis at the moment, so your words about academic culture and mental health particularly resonate with me right now. It’s great to hear that you don’t miss academia, it makes me hopeful that there is a way for me to move on after my thesis and find my own path outside of academia.

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  186. Kate, I am humbled by your sharing such a personal story of such a difficult phase in your life. Thank you – I read it with more than one tear in my eye! If only more people could be as open, honest and candid about their mental and physical health difficulties the world would be a better place. I am a very firm believer of the mind/body connection (as a psychotherapist, I have seen too many clients with stories like your own to not believe it), so can really connect with your own sense of how linked they were for you. I am so happy that you have been able to find something as creative and joyful as your wonderful knitting to move onwards and upwards!

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  187. Wonderful post. Sorry to say I can relate to working in Academia, and although I too like getting getting dressed up, I also miss the students, but certainly not the institution. I now work at home in my bumpkin suit with my black dog, and we frequently take breaks outside. It’s marvelous! I do believe stressed played a role in your stroke, and I’m so glad that you have persevered and are now happier than ever. Always glad to hear things are getting easier in regards to your health and stroke. I remember that very sad day when I read Tom’s post regarding your stroke. I’ve been reading and loving your blog and your designs for many years. Now worries, you always look fantastic to us! From one self-employed women to another-keep on keeping on…

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  188. Kate, thanks so much for sharing your story. I knew you had had a stroke but had no idea of the turmoil you were living with at the time and before. It’s interesting how many other knit bloggers have also had stressful and difficult times in academia or other fields to the point where it has affected their mental health. Not all have found knitting as an alternative career path, but it is a wonderful way of coping with difficult times.

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  189. A very honest, open, personal, frank and somewhat sad account of what life can do to us. I’m so glad you’ve found your niche in life now. This should be published and republished as it will be a great help to many going through equally dark days. Thank you for opening your heart to us.

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  190. Great post – life affirming, in fact.

    (And seldom have I been more grateful that I turned my back on an academic career. All careers have their downsides, but academia semed to have more of them…)

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  191. I am so glad that I follow your blog, you are truly an inspiration. I am so glad that you recovered and were able to find your way to the world of knitting and designing.

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  192. Hi Kate –
    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. I’m so glad that you are now living a life that you find so fulfilling and enjoyable – to have recovered from such a low point is truly inspiring :)

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  193. Wow, that was quite a read… It’s difficult to listen to yourself and have the courage to go for what you really want, but you are a shining example of someone having made it a complete success! Congratulations on your countless achievements!

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  194. I wish I had the words to say what an inspiration you are on so many levels. I am trying to knit every sweater in Yokes, and I am filling my life with the joy of also trying to find skirts and skinny jeans to complete the outfits in your amazing Kate Davies Style. I won’t achieve perfection in this regard, but I am astounded to think how your work and life affects my little life in the U.S. as I complete my mundane chores and dream of beautiful clothing from Scotland. Thank you, dear friend. For certainly, friend you are to me although we have never met.

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  195. Kate, I read your post *twice*! Thank you for your honesty, your openness and your willingness to share the truth. Brilliantly written. I have forwarded it to many of my friends. May each day bring you the joy you deserve!!!

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  196. oh my goodness- this post was amazing and inspiring! I sort of knew that you had previously held a university post, but did not realize the extent of your success. I also did not realize your ability to write and convey your thoughts in such a lyrical and compelling manner. Knitting, writing, photography. You have many talents and a lovely husband and of course, dog, and live in a beautiful place. You have been lucky that your stroke has brought out the best in you, and made you realize what is important in your life, and for that all your readers are very fortunate. Thank you.

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  197. I’m so glad I found you. I am listening to my body talk to me about your experiences, as I suffer yet another stress induced asthma attack. I’m a primary school Deputy Head. I am 45 years old. I am stressed. I feel like I’ve reached a crossroads. Your story, recounts and recovery have such an inspiration and caution to them and I am so pleased to hear that you have grasped life yet again with both hands and are enjoying it to the full. You have given me such hope and courage. Thank you. Karen :O)xx

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  198. Excellent post on many levels. Congratulations on your physical and mental recovery, of course, but also on building a real, enjoyable life that adds to real pleasure of others!

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  199. Thank you for sharing this! This was beautifully written and I am glad that there was a positive outcome to your stroke. I have enjoyed your blog for years, and I have enjoyed it even more since you went full-time with design!

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  200. First off may I say you are a very natty dresser!! I am in awe of the clothes you wear in your styled shots, and wish I had some of those skirts in my wardrobe.

    To build a career you imagined you’d love, only to find it full of so many elements and people you don’t or can’t love was clearly heartbreaking. I am sorry it took the stroke for you to walk away from it all. I feel lucky to have become part of your new and happier next chapter.

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  201. Thank you so much for sharing this. You’re an inspiration to me and I hope I can one day emulate your honesty and bravery. I’m very glad that you’ve now found yourself in such a good, meaningful and creative place.

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  202. Flipping heck Kate, what a prelude to your stroke! You’ve portrayed someone very “together” mental health wise … It just goes to show how silent mental distress can be. Really pleased that 5 years on you are so much happier career wise!

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  203. Dearest Kate,
    I read every word of this letter, and first I want to thank you, for so generously sharing such a personal part of your life with us. This is beautifully expressed and brilliantly written. I hope this is reprinted in major publications and discussed in depth by everyone who works to understand what happens when a person comes apart. You are a testament to the strength of the body, mind, and Spirit. I might ask if you would consider this as a future book you might publish; your Journey, beginning with what you have written here.
    However, I know I speak for all knitters when I say…PLEASE know what you mean to all of us; your great contribution to the world of fiber is important beyond measure. We have learned so much from you! You teach and inspire us. You bring history into the present, in the most interesting and informative way. You make us want to study these amazing individuals who created, with their hands, the most astonishing Art. You give us Art. Our lives are changed, and we knit what you have given us into our own Art…….
    Thank you, Kate. Thank you for coming back, re-made into this new person. We love her!
    And I think she is doing exactly what she was created for……
    Much gratitude, Kate.

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  204. I loved this piece, K. I come from a family with many academics, which should have been enough to discourage me from even thinking of pursuing such a career (to the last person, none are role models of balance and health). I’m so pleased for you (and encouraged) that you have found something much more fulfilling and nurturing to do. I ended up in a completely different environment, and while it has its frustrations my situation is much better that it would have been in academia. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  205. This is lovely, Kate. I admire your ability to look back and see how things, even the worst of things, have worked out to a positive end. Of course, I admire your ability to make it so (and with wool to boot!) Wishing you all the best!

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  206. Kate – I recognise many of the issues you discuss in this post. I sometimes wonder whether universities are healthy places for anyone. I love that you have had an academic life – your training and intellect shine so brightly through everything that you do.
    Do not think that missing getting dressed is shallow. If we are fortunate enough to have the skill and insight to be able to express ourselves so truthfully in what we wear, then of course we will miss using that skill. Not least because wearing bogging gear day in, day out can severely deplete the self esteem.
    I was looking at the V&A resources on knitting the other day – there has been a lot of fuss about knitting on Radio 4 which you can’t have missed. Anyway – I clicked on the V&As link to knitting blogs and the very first link, at the top of the list, was yours. You are still writing and researching and education. And you don’t need a university to do it.
    Your sanity has most definitely returned – what do you miss about universities? Nothing.

    (And thank you for writing so frankly about mental health.)

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  207. What a wonderful post; thank you for sharing your story. It has come at a time when I’m off sick with depression and stress, and questioning my ability to go back to work. I work nights doing social work on an emergency duty team, but my passion is mixed media art and knitting. Knitting has held me together throughout depressive episodes and your story reminds me that it is possible to follow one’s passion. Thank you.

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  208. Kate,

    I know by your photos from last summer, you have achieved regaining your health and I am happy for you! You are able to write your own ticket now; don’t let anything get in your way and live your dreams.

    Joanne

    Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
    Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

    Like

  209. What an amazing insight into the world of Academia-who would want it? Perhaps if your stroke had not occurred you would not have gone into the profession you now love so much. Out of the rot comes forth sweetness. I hope you continue to love what you do-I so enjoy your blog.

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  210. I can say the same with bank : what do I miss with bank : absolutely nothing, after twenty three years working there.
    All the best Kate.

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  211. Hi Kate,

    Wow, I am stunned at the honesty of your post. I’m an academic, I don’t hate teaching but I much prefer research, and what I like most about my job is the intellectual puzzles. But, like you, I don’t enjoy the culture of competition and elitism, and the ‘publish or perish’ direction that academia has taken. I am trying hard to build a culture of support and collegiality, but I too have to work with micro-managers and bullies. Somedays I read your blog and think to myself, another life might be possible…non-academic, but thoughtful and fulfilling. I can’t say that my job makes me unhappy, but I do have to actively swim against the current and remember that I don’t want to identify myself as a ‘Professor’, but as a nice person who does research she enjoys, mentors students, and communicates the ideas she finds inspiring, challenging and important in her teaching. Sometimes the system really gets to me, I start comparing myself to other colleagues, more productive and who have more grants, and I start doubting myself and feel pressure and stress to perform even more. But having once been near a burnout, I now recognize the signs when I am dangerously near the precipice, and I turn my back on the system. Its a constant emotional battle to be happy and mindful in academia. I am glad you have been able to change your path and be happy with your writing and design work. I appreciate your blog because of the traces of academic writing I see in it from time to time, which connects the world of knitting to history. I think the world of knitting is a better place because of what you have brought to it and I hope you will continue to do so for many many years to come. Best wishes, Nicole

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  212. Having followed your blog since before your stroke, I am heartened to see you now pursuing a career that you seem wholly suited to! (And rather selfishly, it is lovely to have you as a full-time knitwear designer and writer).

    I had no idea from reading your blog that you were suffering from mental health issues, although as this is something that you can hide from people you see, it’s hardly surprising a blog reader wouldn’t spot it. I suffered severe depression last year and I really appreciate your honesty in describing what you went through – it helps to hear from other people who have gone through it too.

    Meanwhile, I would challenge anyone who has suffered mental health issues to describe them as purely mental; my depression felt incredibly physical at times. I’m not surprised you see the link between that and your stroke.

    It would be trite to say that everything happens for a reason, but I’m glad that you are much happier in your current career. And I am constantly amazed and pleased to read of your continuing recovery! Academia’s loss is your readers’ gain.

    Like

  213. This is a great story of part of your journey through this life, Kate. To enter a crisis, not realizing it’s even a crisis, and emerge into a different world, as a different person, is not a story everyone gets to tell. And of course you, and we your readers, know it’s not nearly over yet. I love this blog, your life adventures, and of course your designs. Well done!

    Like

  214. How brave of you to write all this, Kate and how lucky for us knitters that you found your true vocation. You are a true inspiration! Many thanks for all your wonderful words, pictures, patterns, and inspiring thoughts.

    Like

  215. You scare me a little Ms. Davies,

    I live in Pennsylvania and this morning at 3:00 AM (EST) you popped into my head. I was inspired by one of your designs to knit myself a hat using the same stranded pattern and I was wondering how long it’s been since you had your stroke and thinking about how different your life must be now with your change in employment. Funny how things sync up in the world isn’t it? Here’s my hat in case you are interested..

    I’ve been reading your blog for years now and I always find you such an inspiration. I’m so very glad that your life has changed for the better since your stroke. I recognize there must be some disadvantages, but from reading your blog this morning,I see there are also some wonderful things that have happened to you as a consequence of your stroke. Have a wonderful day. Stay warm!

    Sue

    Like

  216. What an amazing journey, and how lucky you are to have come out of it in a better state of mind and with a life you enjoy and thrive in!!! And you do a FABULOUS job styling your photo shoots–!!! Thank you for sharing this.

    Like

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