Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

To Colour, or Not to Colour?

I saw an article via facebook the other day that in its title shouted “Adult Colouring is a Waste of Time!”  Apparently there is science proving that it’s pointless, has no positive effect on the brain, and that people should basically buckle down and do something else.

As a proud owner of an assortment of colouring books and ‘posh’ pens (aka pens the children are not allowed to even breathe on), it wasn’t a headline that made me feel all gooey inside.

After a quick chinwag with some colouring friends, all of whom were somewhat dismayed at the idea of having wasted a huge portion of their time, I came up with a number of positive facts about colouring, endorsed by…. well, me and my friends.

Conversation

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had my fair share of awkward conversations . From dealing with my own difficult moods to counselling people with eating disorders and self-harm issues, I have often had difficult things to say or listen to. All the advice about having a therapeutic conversation concentrates on eye contact and open, welcoming, body language. And yet, sometimes, things are so painful to talk about that eye contact is discomforting, if not threatening. Colouring reduces that discomfort. Sometimes, looking makes the saying harder, and colouring can bridge that in a way most things can’t.

Children

My children love colouring, especially as they have now graduated to what they call ‘grown-up’ colouring books. If I’m doing the same as my children, I am endorsing their love for it. They like colouring, so I will like colouring. In fact, one of my favourite colouring books is called ‘Colour With Mum’, and has two pictures facing each other, designed to be coloured simultaneously, which MiniMe loves. It’s something we do together and, as above, doing that kind of activity can induce some profound conversations because they are focusing  on what they’re doing, not what they’re saying.

Mental Health

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, or – like me – find yourself jittery and fidgety during hypomania, colouring can provide a way to be still. I often find that concentrating on sitting still just makes me even more jittery, but because concentrating on something like colouring stills my mind, my body seems to follow suit. There are lots of people and organisations who claim that colouring can help in a more active way, and that mindfulness therapy can use colouring to bring otherwise hidden thoughts to mind. I don’t know about that, but I know it’s helped me, and I will never knock it.

Creating

I have a relative who thinks colouring is a complete waste of time, because you’re not actually creating anything. This is fine for her, because she comes from a family of professional artists, and she seems to have inherited the gene. I have no artistic cell in my body – not one. But I can still pick out colours, use them to fill in other people’s lines, and enjoy looking at the end result. It won’t ever hang in a gallery, but it’s the closest I’m going to get, and I’m happy with that.

Why Not?

When it comes down to it, I like colouring. I’ve always liked colouring – since way before it was trendy – and I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it if that’s what makes me happy. As far as I know, no-one has said it is intrinsically harming (although I did see a Colour Your Own Kama Sutra the other week, which I think would probably be detrimental to my childrens education…). If I enjoy it, and it’s not bad for me, does it matter if it’s good for me?

Adventures in Colouring - Bible Inspirations

Giveaway time!

This post was inspired by my lovely friend Pippa, who has produced her own colouring book, ‘Biblical Inspirations’. She has kindly agreed to do a give-away for us, and although I haven’t managed to get my pens on it yet, but I can promise it will be awesome. If you want to be in with a chance, leave a comment saying why colouring is cool, and Pippa can pick her favourite as a winner. Happy colouring!
If you are unlucky in the giveaway, you can order yourself a copy by going to Pippa’s Adventures in Colouring page on Facebook – just click here.

20 Comments »

Mummy Land?

I’ve been thinking recently that despite my blog being called Pink and Blue Mummyland, I’ve written far more about my life being affected by my pink and blue moods than I have about being a mum. I’m not sure why this is, seeing as most of my life the last seven years, and certainly the lifetime of this blog, has been spent caring for small people. Maybe it’s because I have lots of parenty friends to share the mummying  with, whereas the bipolar stays private enough that having an outlet is valuable to me. Maybe it’s because so much of parenting seems mundane on a day to day basis. I’m not sure, but one thing is certain – if I don’t at least mention parenting every once in a while, I should probably change the name of my blog, and seeing as it’s one of the few witty things about it, I’m fairly keen to keep it!

When I started blogging, neither MicroBob nor MiniMe were at school. I was very much still a stay at home mum – home being the operative word. In the early diagnosis days, when the depression was at its most debilitating, getting up was as much as I could do, and I spent long days sat on the floor watching whilst they entertained themselves (I like to think that’s why they play so well together, but I’m not sure I can take any credit for anything that happened in those years).

MiniMe and MicroBob

MiniMe and MicroBob

For a long time, the diagnosis filled most of my thoughts. Every day was spent either waiting for the depression to lift, desperately wanting the highs to carry on, or constantly watching for what my mood might do next. Everything else was incidental.

Recently I’ve noticed a change. The bipolar, as much as it is still a major part of my life, has become incidental, whilst raising the children has pushed itself front and centre. Most of my thoughts each day now concern them, not the ilness. My moods are finally taking a back seat to my children.

The trouble is, the fear hasn’t improved – it’s still as present as it’s ever been. It’s just pointing in a different direction. Most days involve some kind of fear with regards to them – am I doing this parenting thing right? Are they getting what they need? How much should I go into school to make sure they are learning enough? Should I be pushing them to achieve or helping them learn just to be?

And yet, I think the scariest fears have a foot in both camps, children first and foremost, but still bending back towards the bipolar – what if I’ve missed spotting things they need due to being so unwell? What if I haven’t noticed how they feel? And – the big one – what if I’ve somehow infected them with this hideous disease? Which ones going to have it? Will I notice it? And will they keep it from me the way I keep it from my own mother, leaving me impotent to help?

There’s been a big argument recently about whether people like me should say they have bipolar, or ‘I am bipolar’. Personally I interchange, depending on who I’m talking to. But one thing is certain as far as I’m concerned. I may have children, but I am a mum – bipolar or not.

Leave a comment »

A Measure of Success

During this past month, in response to World Suicide Prevention Day, I shared a blog post that some of you may have read (if you haven’t, it’s here).

My blog isn’t huge. I don’t have an enormous following – out of sixty odd followers I have probably thirty who read regularly. This one post was read over 200 times, shared on Facebook and Twitter by people I don’t even know, and garnered a response much larger than I expected. I guess you would call it successful.

Whatever our chosen field, the idea of success is something that attracts all of us. I often find myself striving for it, and yet I’m unsure of what it actually looks like.

And so my lingering thought this past couple of weeks has been, how do I define success?

Maybe it’s all in the numbers. Two hundred people is big for me. I know some people have a following of thousands, and don’t even look at how much their posts have been read, but I admit that on a day when I publish something my eye sneaks back more often than it should to the number of people who’ve read it. There is a thrill in watching those numbers climb.

Feedback is alluring too. “That was a beautifully written post”; “Thanks for sharing,”; “Such an important message.” These were among the fifty something responses I had to sharing the article. It was so encouraging to read them, especially because it was quite a personal post, and sharing it was really quite nerve wracking. Positive comments make me feel good about my work, but I’m not sure they point to a ‘successful’ post.

I’ve also had the experience of people knowing my name. When Secret Scars first came out I had a smattering of speaking engagements which once led to a stranger pointing at me and saying “You’re that self-harm girl!” As much as it wasn’t exactly a moniker I was keen to keep, there was something very satisfying about being ‘recognised’, and, when doing book plug in front of 3000 people, I certainly felt like I’d ‘made it.’

Not that my blog has (or ever will) make me any money, but there is also the appeal of being able to say I’m a ‘professional’ writer, and basing my view of success on my bank statements each month. I’ve written two books, both of which have sold moderately well in the niche Christian market. In some ways they are successful, but the money I’ve made from writing them certainly doesn’t suggest that in any standard way.

Whilst ruminating on this idea of success, I found a statement made on Twitter by Nicky Gumbel over two years ago:

Talent is God-given – be humble. Fame is man-given – be grateful. Conceit is self-given – be careful.

This really struck me. I sometimes get way too caught up in the numbers, money, or being well known. I forget that whatever I have comes from Him who gives good gifts, and my only job is to be thankful and to use what I’ve been given.

I got an email a couple of days after sharing my suicide post. One email, with just a few words that hit me like a battering ram: “I never realised there was hope until today.” And so I make this resolution: touching people will be my measure of success. And as for the honour of being a messenger of hope – well I can’t ask for anything more.

Leave a comment »

New Normal

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine lost her mum very suddenly. She collapsed at home, and had died before they even reached the hospital.

We all knew Nanny. Every morning Nanny and Poppy would stand by the window waiting for us to walk by on our way to school so we could wave at them. Nanny used to give my advice on what bulbs to plant where, and how to protect my vegetable patch from bugs.

Some of you might remember School Run Mum from this post. As long as I have known her, she has had an air of strength about her that I’ve always been slightly envious of. She says things how they are, and is the kind of ‘what you see is what you get’ person that I always warm to.

She is having to keep going for her family – both her dad, who lives only a few doors away, and her children, who saw their Nanny every single day. She’s holding it together for the eight year old who is so angry at the unfairness of life and death, and the four year old who knows something is wrong and that Nanny isn’t there, but can’t quite figure out what’s real. She’s keeping strong for the man who has never lived alone, who’s been married to a woman who has looked after him for forty years. She’s putting a brave face on it for the school run, where people ask how she is, and she tells them how everyone else is doing because she hasn’t had a second to think about herself. She’s treading water.

Seeing people broken is never easy, but seeing this woman, who I always saw as so strong, on the verge of falling apart, reminds me of the way life can shock us. I hate cliche, but it reminds me of my own mortality, and that of my family – including the children, which is the hardest part. It has made me appreciate my family more, knowing that the time they aren’t there any more can come swiftly and unexpectedly. There is a reason cliches become cliches.

She and her family are headed into a new phase now. A few weeks on, after the funeral and all the planning that goes into such an event, life is starting to get back to the normal run of things. Back to school, back to work, back to washing uniform and cooking meals and reading bedtime stories. All normal, except for the massive Nanny shaped hole that no-one is ever going to be able to fill. From the difficulty of those first couple of weeks, waking up each morning knowing that every second is going to be hard, the family are moving into a new phase. The ‘hard’ carries on changing, and life is taking on a new kind of normal.

Most of the time I just wish I knew what to do. I want to make it better. But as much as there is a ‘time for every season under the sun; a time to heal and a time to mourn,’ there is also a time to talk and a time to stay quiet. All I know is this: when I don’t know what to say, that’s what I say. And when I am standing, just being there, saying nothing can be as valuable as saying something. Weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn isn’t easy – I have left her house and wept on the pavement more than once. But the privilege of being able to do that, of being invited into someone’s life and grief, is astounding. I treasure this friendship and all it has brought me – delicately holding the pain as assuredly as we laugh and have fun as the good times roll. I guess that’s what friendship is all about.Lonely_Tree_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1705927

If you are the praying type, please pray for this family. Jesus knows.

Leave a comment »

Identity #2.5 – Benches

Before anyone gets confused by my convoluted numbering system, I should clarify Identity #3 is part written and on its way.

This is guest blog of sorts – except that although I didn’t write it, and the person who did doesn’t have a blog. She has a notebook, and a pencil, and a creative brain, that she sometimes honours me by sharing. Her name is Natalya, although some of you will know her as Beauty ICE (go and read about The Cast if that makes no sense to you!), and this is what she wrote:

The Bench

It’s enough to be what you were created to be.
Whether lovingly hand crafted,
Or one of millions formed by machine.
A bench is a bench.

Whether a meeting place for lovers
Or a place for the elderly to sit and take stock.
A bench is a bench.

Covered in raindrops,
Glistening frost,
In deep snow,
Or searing in a heat wave.
A bench is a bench.

It’s purpose is unchanging,
Not dependent on circumstance around it.
A bench is a bench.

IMG_1825

Leave a comment »

Identity #2 – Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

happy birthday facebook!

This week sees eleven years since Facebook graced our screens (happy birthday Facebook!). I’ve found myself wondering how we portray ourselves on Facebook, and what it means when we call people our ‘friends’. I have 383 friends on Facebook. I couldn’t tell you much about most of them, and what I can tell you is only the good stuff. Facebook gives us a chance to show the best of ourselves and hide the worst of ourselves, putting out a completely false impression of who we really are.

Now, I don’t mind this. I don’t think it’s healthy to share every little struggle with 383 people. But it begs an answer to the question: Who are we really? And is it ok to edit what we share with people about who we really are? Do the selves we portray on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or whatever the in thing is, actually help us build good relationships?

In our small Bible study group last night we were talking about relationships and struggles. One of the quotes interested me; it encouraged us to “create a safe place where others feel valued enough to remove their own masks …truly seeing each other and loving each other anyway.”

Now I’m not claiming that we should air every private thing we deal with on Facebook, but I’m aware that there are many people who are much younger than me, who don’t remember life without Facebook and online relationships. I worry that if this is the example we are setting, we risk having a whole generation of people who don’t know how to relate on a real level, have no place they feel valued enough to remove their masks, and therefore don’t learn to love and be loved, warts and all.

I am blessed to have people with whom I share my deep struggles, and trusted enough have relationships where others share their struggles with me. Some of these are the same people, some aren’t, but all these relationships are based on honesty and valuing the other. And none of these relationships are Facebook based.

So, through Facebook, are we just creating an atmosphere where people feel the need to be fake? And am I exacerbating that by never sharing any of the things I find hard in life? More importantly, does that online habit seep into my real life, taking from my friendships the authenticity of being who we are?

It worries me that we might be encouraging a cycle of only sharing the good stuff, thus making the other people on our news feeds feel they need to do the same. Our real identity becomes our secret identity as we pretend to be something other than we are.

So my question is, how real am I being in different places and with different people? And to what extent am I claiming that the information I choose to share with others is all there is to me?

Which is my secret identity?

Know any of the answers? Please share below. Click here to read Identity #1.

Leave a comment »

Identity #1: No One Like Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. The question ‘who am I?’ has come up repeatedly over the years, and every time it comes round again I find something I’ve not known before. So, in the spirit of honest blogging, I decided to write down the things I’ve been discovering about who I am and what that means. The first leg of the journey looks at opposites: reminding myself who I’m not.

People have always said to me ‘you’re so like your dad’. I’ve been hearing it for years, from the people who know my family well to those who have only seen the outer picture we present. I find this hard because Dad is an alcoholic, and has behaved very badly towards a lot of people, many many times.

I have now learnt to see that when people compared us, they probably meant ‘like’ him in a good way – my gifts have always been similar to his, even when I’ve been really poorly and unable to use them. In other people’s minds they were probably saying I was good at performing like him, or my sense of humour meant I was funny like him. I probably get my ability to speak in public from him, and I certainly can’t deny that I look like him.

But, in my screwed up little brain, I took it to mean that I was like him on a deeper level, in that secret place we all have and never let anyone see. My hidden dread was that there was some flaw in me, just like the one I saw in him, and that some day I’d lose control and all the things I hated would spew out. Somewhere, there’s a crack in my soul, just like my father, and one of these days, no matter how fast I run, it’ll catch up with me.

Listen closely now, because here’s the lesson it’s taken me fifteen odd years to learn: no one is like anyone else. None of us! When the Bible says God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, it’s not suggesting he used a pattern. It shows intricacy, care, a pride in His work. I have finally learnt that just because half of my DNA comes from my father, I don’t have to inherit the damage done to him. I don’t have to fear being broken just because that’s what I see in him.

And you know what? Now I’ve given up the fear of what might leak out, it turns out that I am a bit like my dad. I can see in myself some of the positive things I get from him – my passion and drive and creativity come from God, but are passed down through a generation that I’ve tried to ignore.

Here’s the other thing I’ve learnt: as much as there is no one like me, there is also no-one like him. There is no one in the world with his set of gifts and shortcomings, flair and foibles.

So here’s the message. Comparing ourselves to someone – anyone – in our lives, whether it’s someone close by or someone we admire purely by reputation, not only doesn’t get us anywhere, but also stops us becoming who we were designed to be. If God has a plan and a purpose for my life that is different from anyone else’s, it makes sense that I am uniquely the person who can fulfil that plan.

And, as much as I sometimes berate myself for who I am, and nurse disdain for my fallen ways, I can’t escape the fact that I am who I am supposed to be. I am Me.

Who are you?

IMG_1800

1 Comment »

Abbie’s top 5 resolution making tips!

Having talked about the right time (and wrong time!) to make New Year’s resolutions Resolutions I found myself inundated* with requests for other nuggets of wisdom regarding making choices for change. So, without further ado, here are my top five tips for making resolutions that last. Most of these come from my book Insight Into Self Harm, which helps people who self-harm make progress with their recovery, but I think the ideas are universal.

1 – Know what you want to do

Tip number one sounds simple, but it’s crucial. Not only do you need to know what you want to achieve, but you need to know exactly what you want to achieve, and know for definite what you either don’t want to change or aren’t going to change right now. The big thing to remember here is that you can’t do everything at once.When I look at my life, I can see multitudes of things I could change for the better. Drink less, eat less, smoke less. Pray more, write more, exercise more. I’ve learnt that if I try to change everything at once, I normally end up back where I started. Habits take a long time to form – we need to give ourselves time to change them..

2 – Know how to go about it

This is where you plan and prepare, and gather resources to help you get where you want to be. Some of these will be obvious – think nicotine patches and celery sticks. Others will be harder to pin down. For me, routine is always a big thing – it’s got to be something that fits into my life if I’m going to keep doing it.
NB – if you really want to make a lasting change there is no shame in seeking professional help. Doctors, therapists, AA – whatever gets the job done.

3 – Know why you want to do it

Reasons are important to have a stock of during those times you want to give up. They are also helpful for when you do temporarily give up. Reminding ourselves why we’re putting ourselves through it to start with is what’s going to give us a kick up the backside when feels hard. Find yourself a phrase: “I am doing this because…” – this is your mantra for when the going gets tough.

4 – Know how to deal with set backs

I think it was Thomas Edison, when inventing the lightbulb, who said something along the lines of ‘I never failed, I just found another way not to do it’. My interpretation is, when you fail, chalk it up to experience, and keep on keeping on. Berating yourself isn’t going to make you feel any better, and it distracts you from getting back on track.

5 – Know when you’re done!

One of the things I say in the book is to make your goals measurable – that is, design them so that you’ll know when you’ve done them. If that’s not smoking or drinking it will be easy to see, but if it’s ‘get down to two a day’ that’s good too, just as long as you know what you’re aiming for. If it’s a positive thing you’re trying to do (eg pray regularly) you still need a way to measure it, but don’t go too hard on yourself – I’d suggest four or five days out of seven to start with. The key with resolutions is, don’t set yourself up to fail.

So, there we are! I’m just getting started on what I want to achieve this year. I’d love to know what you decide and how you’re getting on…

*OK, I was asked by three people, which isn’t ‘inundated’ as much as ‘slightly pestered’. But I can dream….

Leave a comment »

Resolutions

Now we are out of the chaos of Christmas and the humdrum of the holidays, I’m sitting down to consider my resolutions.

I think resolving to change for the better is an important part of growing up, so I’m a big fan of it. But I personally think that New Years Day is the worst possible day to start new things.

I don’t know about you, but by New Year I’m exhausted. We’ve normally travelled as a family to both sets of grandparents, plus a visit down to London to take part in a day of traditional English morris dancing at a pub (that’s a whole other blog post…!). This year was worse than most, because Cable Guy’s parents have moved to the very end of Cornwall, about ten minutes from Land’s End, which entails spending about six hours in the car each way.

By the time the kids go back to school I’m frazzled. The thought of adding in extra things to do at that point is crazy. I did it for years, and never managed to hang on to my new, shinier life. And these days, by January first I can’t even remember what normal life looks like (and our family life is fairly chaotic at the best of times…). New Year just isn’t clear. Everyday life goes out of the window. And whilst having a week long detox of all things unhealthy feels great whilst I’m doing it, if I really want to make changes that last, they have to fit in with everything else I do. A resolution has to be incorporated into the lives we live every day, not just easy to say on the day after what, for most of us, has been an overindulgent night. The idea that the best time to start better behaviours straight after a week of celebrating (or handling) hoildays is ludicrous.

So here’s what I do. I send the husband off to work and the small people back to school, spend a few days getting on top of the jobs that got left undone whilst away, drink some coffee and do some knitting, and generally give myself a rest. Then, once I feel more at peace and back into the routine of everyday life – that’s when I start changing things in that life. Because unless I figure out a way to fit them all year long, there’s no point in trying to do them at all.

My job this week is to take stock of my life. What was great about last year? How can I keep it great this year? What was pants about last year? Is there anything I can do to improve it this year? What did I achieve last year? What do I want to achieve this year? It’s only when I’ve answered these questions that I can decide exactly what it is I want to change.

I’ll keep you posted….

1 Comment »

Journey from ‘do-it’ to ‘be-it’

New Year’s Resolutions.

We all make them.

Most of us break them.

Only the most dedicated among us last longer than a few weeks before the diet wavers, the gym routine falters, or the odd glass of wine or cigarette creeps in. It’s not long before we are back in our same old ways, doing the same old things, feeling worse than we did before. By February we’re as miserable as the weather.

What’s the problem with resolutions? Why do so many of us struggle to keep them?

I think I’ve finally figured out my basic problem. I forget that resolutions to change are all about behaviour, about what I do. Instead, I set myself targets in the frame of mind that changing what I do will automatically change who I am.

Here’s what I mean.

It starts with a confession: I’m Abbie, and I’m a deadline junkie (all together, “Hi Abbie…”). I always think that I like goals and deadlines. I’ve recently been exploring why this is, because deadlines tend to stress me out and send me right back to the Valium bottle (or the sneaky glass of wine, or the odd cigarette…shhh, don’t tell!). So far this year I’ve had two deadlines to meet, so I’ve tried to use each one to take note of why I thrive on them.

I’m finally figuring out that I set myself goals because when I meet them, I feel good about myself. It’s not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, but when I rely on it, it doesn’t help me. I manage to stop smoking, lose weight, not shout at the kids, and I get to feel like a better Abbie. I don’t mean like an inherently good person, who has managed to achieve something. I mean a better person because I’ve met goals.

Setting goals makes me feel safe, because I know that my next fix can be just around the corner. Finished a blog post? Quick! Find an article to write for someone! Finished a book? Quick! Time for another proposal – by March at the latest! Finally finished cleaning the oven? Quick! Clear the loft by summer!*

The problem is that even the most complicated tasks don’t last that long in the grand scheme of things, and I soon need another task, another thing, another project to finish in order to get the buzz that comes with being ‘a person who completes things’. Maybe it’s because I’ve started two graduate programmes that I’ve never finished, and have countless books, or articles, or blogposts, or knitting projects, or housework tasks that will probably never be completed. I see myself with a yellow post-it on my forehead: ‘can’t see things through’. It’s not a post-it I like, so my main goal is to find a load of pink and orange and green post-its to cover it up. ‘Author’, ‘mother’, ‘speaker’, ‘knitter’ – whatever my completion target happens to be this week.

So, here’s my resolution. I will aim to not be a goal junkie. I have no idea how this looks yet, but I hope that by New Year’s Eve this year I can look back and see myself not relying on goal completion to feel good about myself. I’m going to chuck out all those post-its and change them for one that says ‘doing alright’. I’m going to try and change my perspective from ‘must do’ to ‘just be’.

* I should probably confess that the oven thing never happens. And things fall out of the loft when I open it, so I tend to leave it. This is a post about goals, not miracles.

Leave a comment »