Yarn over, pull through a loop. Yarn over again, pull through two loops. As I fall into the rhythm of the stitch work, my mind drifts from my newest crochet project: a bumblebee.

I think back on my time in Utah, where I spent eight months in a residential treatment center focused on mental health recovery. One of the hardest things for me to grasp in my initial months was the concept of a “life worth living.” For so long, I wasn’t interested in anything, and even my creativity, once a key part of my identity, had gone dormant.

For a while, it seemed like I was working so hard and wasn’t getting anywhere. But every day, I woke up doubting myself and did the work anyway. I poured all my energy into group and individual sessions, into accountability and empathy. I discovered forgiveness and acceptance in vulnerability circles, while outside of group we bonded over baking nights and long car rides. Slowly, the self-hatred waned. I realized that years of neglect and emotional turmoil had seriously affected me and that I am still worthy of love.

I was eventually allowed to go to the library, and a last-minute stop in the art section gave me a chance to reconnect with my creativity. Hidden among the knitting guides was a crochet book, filled with patterns for miniature crochet creatures. I was drawn to it, convinced that I could expertly create each project despite not having crocheted since a brief stint in the third grade. My first project, something vaguely resembling a whale, looked nothing like what was in the book. Yet, just like in my recovery, I became more proficient as I practiced the skills. Treble stitches and unnecessarily long therapeutic acronyms became my new normal. One day, I realized I was finding my life worth living. Crocheting may be a simple hobby to some, but for me it was a tangible testament of my progress.

My yarn quickly became a lifeline for me. Anytime I felt down, I picked up my hook and went from there. As I continued to refine my skills, I realized crochet could connect me to those around me. While in treatment, I had missed my volunteer work with special needs children. So I set my sights on my largest project yet: crocheting fifteen stuffed animals, ranging from penguins to pandas, for the children’s hospital. 30 hours flew by as I worked my way through the collection, releasing a part of my sadness with each row I completed. It was so rewarding to have helped someone else, but in a way I’d helped myself even more; I was truly living my life worth living. Now, I rarely keep anything I crochet. Watching a new friend’s rarely seen smile grow wide as I reveal my latest creation is just as much a part of my recovery as traditional therapy is.

My crochet journey has taught that what seems like a waste of time to me may be someone else’s salvation. I have learned that a handmade gift can tell a love story when words fail. I am slowly becoming more patient with myself when I make mistakes. I’ve discovered healthy self-reliance, that I was capable of saving myself when no one else could. I no longer cling to others in helplessness; I take charge of my situation and aim to create something beautiful out of it.

In a way, my bumblebee is just like me. Certainly, there’s some metaphor to be found in a creature who stings when provoked, but that’s not why my latest work speaks to me. It’s not even the quirky color scheme, the purple stripes a sure deviation from the traditional black and yellow.

Rather, there’s something oddly optimistic about its unfinished status. Not quite complete but brimming with potential, this bee will soon go on to find a new home.