La Vie en Rose… 

So I’ve decided that it’s time to freshen up my living room; including adding some colour to the currently clinically white walls (my husband’s choice!).

My taste has never been conventional, by that I mean I’ve never been one for following the crowd. That said, during a recent trip to IKEA I purchased a print of the beautiful Audrey Hepburn. Yip, a mass produced piece of wall art that I’m sure can be found hanging  in a great number of homes the World over. But I fell in love with the simplistic elegance of the grey & black print, and have since decided that this piece will be my starting point; my inspiration – my muse if you like – to creating a new look living space. Below is a photo  of the print I found during an Internet search…

  
I’m a huge fan of Pinterest and so it will come as no surprise to hear that I have been using the App to feed my creative hunger. At first I found myself drawn to palettes of monochrome and I toyed with the idea of silver-grey walls with black, white & the occasional brightly hued  accents. Here are some of my favourites…   
   
  
I love the way the colours really ‘pop’ against the black, white & grey!

However, after buying a couple of tester paint pots, I found myself questioning this decision. Crown’s attempt at a silver-grey gave off a lilac tinge in daylight and an own branded paint from a local DIY store looked more elephant-grey than silver- lining! No… That just wouldn’t do!

And so it was back to the drawing board for me! 

I’m not really sure how I came across the colour palette that has since caught my eye, but I am more than convinced that Audrey would approve! And by sheer coincidence I’ve discovered that Pantone have chosen this hue as one of their colours of the year for 2016 (this year they have left with convention and chosen two colours!). So what is this colour you ask? It’s ‘Rose Quartz’ and this is the picture that set my heart a flutter… 

  
I just love this combination of blush pink, grey and copper. Far from being just a baby girl room colour; it adds warmth, softness, style and panache to a grown-up interior. It’s uncommonly stunning! Right up my street…. 

Take Care,

Mammahannah x 
 

 

What does it mean to be ‘Inspirational’?

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘inspirational’ for the last couple of days. A close family friend, who sadly passed away on Tuesday, was nothing short of inspirational. Although I doubt that she would have called herself so. Helen was dealt a shitty hand, in that she was diagnosed with stage four (terminal) breast cancer in May of last year; at 37 years old.

Helen swallowed the bitter ‘cancer’ pill with great strength and dignity, and after a short interlude (to reset her sails), she pulled up her big girl knickers and cracked on with life. She embarked on a gruelling regime of chemo followed by platinum therapy in an attempt, not to rid herself of the ‘Big C’ – that wasn’t an option – but to give herself as long as possible with her husband and three young children.

She bravely documented the trials and tribulations of living with secondary cancer on social media, all the while encouraging us – her family and friends – to rethink cancer while getting to know out bodies, because early diagnosis is the key to survival! She also set about raising funds for her local hospice – the Hospice of the Good Shepherd – in Backford, Cheshire. A charity cricket match and family fun day took place at the end of August, followed by other fundraising opportunities that in total raised well over £10,000. I’d say that’s pretty inspirational….

I know that none of us know how we’d react in certain circumstances until we are literally faced with them, but its a thought I’ve pondered since Helen’s diagnosis. Would I have the courage or the energy to share my story? Would I be motivated to engage is selfless acts of fund and awareness raising; using myself as an example of what can happen if symptoms go undetected. And all this while undertaking a punishing treatment regimen.

I guess the very real answer to the question is…. I’m not sure I would!

Helen’s selfless attitude in the face of true adversity has led me to look a bit deeper into the meaning of the word ‘inspirational’ and whether it is becoming somewhat overused in today’s society. I think its fair game to say that seeing pictures of a toned girl or guy on the internet may have inspired most of us to grab our trainers and go for a run – it may even have led to the people in those pictures being described as ‘inspirational’ – but it doesn’t carry quite the same weight that some inspirational folk might have over others.

Someone who puts the well-being of others so highly on her agenda, despite her own ailing health is, for me without a doubt, inspirational (even if she wouldn’t have used that word to describe herself!). I hope that if the ‘Big C’ ever comes knocking at my door that I will be as selfless, determined and strong as Helen.

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

 

The Importance of Laughter…

Yesterday… the day before today… Tuesday 19 January 2016. It seems like a lifetime ago, except that it was only yesterday.

At around 14.30 my Sister’s name lit up my mobile phone screen. We were due to meet up that evening at Chester Racecourse, at a party to celebrate our wonderful friend Helen, who last year received the devastating news that at 38 years old she had terminal breast cancer. It was to be her ‘final fling’; a chance to bring together family and friends for one final momentous knees up, and in true Helen style, everything was planned meticulously. So I thought nothing of my sister calling (even though she rarely calls me at work)… She was obviously calling to finalise arrangements for that evening.

Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m heartbroken to have to convey the tragic news that she was actually phoning to tell me of Helen’s passing. In a cruel twist, our friend was taken just hours before being able to attend her own party. Beautiful, courageous and inspiring Helen was gone…

But not one to rest on her laurels, Helen had thought of everything, including the possibility that she might not be around… Hence, she’d instructed her husband to make sure that the party still went ahead, even if it was without her! It seemed incredibly surreal to get ready – black tie and cocktail dresses – to go to a celebration so soon after being given such desperately sad news, but it was Helen’s wish, and that simply couldn’t be ignored! She had promised an evening of ‘fun, laughter and entertainment’ and that’s exactly what we determined we were going to have.

Victor Hugo stated that “Laughter is the sun that drives Winter from the human face” and on this occasion, he couldn’t have been more right! Yes, there was an outpouring of grief – tears by the bucket load in fact –  at the loss of a truly wonderful woman, but there also existed a very real feeling of comfort and togetherness. Laughter bounced off the walls of the Long Room as guests exchanged stories and fond memories of Helen, and smiles and bonds were created that made everyone feel just a little bit better about life in that moment.

I left the party feeling calm – serene even – and made myself a promise to let out a good guffaw on a daily basis; even when circumstances dictate that I don’t really feel like it! Yes there will be (and are) times when life seems so cruel and unfair, but Helen’s plight has really highlighted for me how important it is to live life to the fullest, to make sure I fill each day with love, happiness and laughter. I hope we managed to achieve this last night for Helen…

Shine bright beautiful lady… like a diamond!

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

MIL Moment!

So I had hoped to have a relaxing weekend, without any upset or drama. Unfortunately that was wishful thinking on my part. You see, I have a narcissistic mother-in-law, who is the single most disagreeable and difficult person I have ever come to meet.

I have started to write the odd post about life with a narcissistic MIL. Okay, okay so for the past three weeks running I’ve posted consistently about my MIL, but that’s only because her behaviour has escalated to a point that I can no longer keep my feelings to myself; and to dump it all on my husband would be a quick fire route to the divorce courts. He is unfortunately only in the early stages of coming terms with his mother’s dysfunctional behaviour traits, having been subjected to them all his life and therefore not recognising them as anything other than normal. It’s only recently, when sat in the same room as his mother while she verbally assassinated my character, that he sat up and took notice.

My husband spent Thursday night (just gone) at his parent’s house, trying to discuss ‘issues’ with his Mother that crop up consistently in our lives. He returned home completely exhausted, having tried his best to effectively communicate with a woman whose communication skills are generally confusing, unclear and for the most part unreasonable.

But what makes communication with NPD individuals so difficult? In my career as a Mental Health Professional I have observed patterns of behaviour in adults with personality disorders that definitely serve to complicate communication, but no-one has explained these behaviour better than fellow blogger ‘Fierce Cork Woman’ in her blog Narcissistic MIL.  Indeed, her post ‘Communication Problems 1’ gives a wonderful, evidence-based insight into the what’s and whys of the common communicaton pitfalls when dealing with NPD individuals. She talks about Triangulation, Proxy Recruitment, Mind-Reading, Indirect Speech, Ambiguity and Unique Vocabulary; all of which I’ve tried to summarise and relate to my own MIL’s behaviours.

Triangulation
The person uses a third party to find out information about someone. My MIL is an expert at this; regularly contacting my sister-in-law (SIL) to talk about something that she wants us to know about. And relying on my SIL to relay the conversation or message when my SIL speaks to us.

Proxy Recruitment
This is similar to Triangulation as it still uses a third party to convey a message, however it is a more deliberate, manipulative strategy. Now the third person is recruited to act as an advocate by the NPD person. A prime example of this was on New Year’s Eve when my MIL decided to call up my SIL to tell her that she wasn’t happy that she wouldn’t be seeing us on New Year’s day (despite us having other longstanding plans). My SIL was then encouraged to share my MIL’s disapproval with us via text, which she duly did!

Mind-Reading
Expecting people to know things without being told. My MIL expects us to know most things, without her telling us. She was unhappy about her last birthday present because we hadn’t bought her what she wanted; except that she hadn’t actually told us what she wanted! Many people with NPD hold thoughts that are so strong that they believe other people, somehow must know what they are too!

Ambiguity
This involves not specifying details in a conversation, and leaving other feeling confused as to who or what is being alluded to. My MIL often uses this behaviour to avoid having to take responsibility for something; incorporating pregnant pauses, knowing looks and a plethora of non-verbal cues into conversations. She also makes use of the word ‘thingy-ma-jig’ just to confuse matters further.

Indirect Speech
Instead of using first person vocabulary, the person with NPD employs use of third person vocabulary during conversations. For example; Instead of saying “I’d like to go to the garden centre today” they will say “Perhaps everyone would like to go to the garden centre today…” where it is unclear of this is the persons actual wish, or whether they are hypothesising the wishes of others.

Unique Vocabulary
This involves the NPD person having their own unique use for common words, which mean something totally different to the universal meaning of the word. My MIL uses the phrase ‘just now’ to mean that she will do or attend to something later, or in the near future; whereas the common definition of ‘just now’ is to do something in the moment, or a little while ago. As you can imagine this has caused a great of confusion within my wider family; something that only serves to delight my MIL further!

A few weeks ago I was asked by another individual, also suffering at the hands of a MIL who exhibits strong NPD traits, how I knew so much about coping with NPD. Yes, I’ve worked in the field of mental health for a number of years, which serves as a good knowledge base for understanding NPD, but the truth is that most of what I have learned has been from reading about it! Books and Blogs are two sources I’d credit – books (non-fiction, textbook) because they tend to be factual and evidence based, and blogs because they outline the personal experiences of other people with similar predicaments. There is no better way to learn than from the experiences of others, especially the negative bits!

Unfortunately, when it comes to my MIL, no amount of reading or professional experience can instil objectivity in me. This woman meddles in my life; causing chaos and disruption to my little family on a seismic scale, on an all too regular basis! Hence if you’re expecting objectivity, you’re in the wrong place! When I post a ‘MIL Moment’ it will be because I have reason to get something off my chest. I may be brutal and to the point (no beating about the bush for me) but I can assure you that I will also be brutally honest! It is my hope that my experiences may even help some of you in dealing with your own narcissistic family members too.

I’d love to hear about your ‘MIL Moments’ – please feel free to rant, vent or share your experiences in the comments.

MIL Moment!

So this is very much a ‘get it if my chest post’ in response to a weekend that was overshadowed by my overbearing, narcissistic Mother-in-Law (MIL). It started on Thursday evening when I returned home from work, and my MIL who was supposed to be looking after my two year old daughter, was asleep on the sofa. Thankfully, my daughter was watching Peppa Pig on DVD, and seemed otherwise oblivious to her Nana’s unconscious state of being. I’ve never seen anyone move so quickly, when she realised that I was standing in front of her sleeping form. And in true narcissist fashion, when questioned, she completely denied that she was sleeping at all! Infuriating….

Then to add insult to injury, my MIL, got up from her almost horizontal position and poked me hard on my pregnant belly! ‘I want to see your paunch’ she exclaimed! When I asked her what she meant by ‘paunch’ – a term normally applied to an individual’s beer gut – she prodded my coat covered belly again and stated ‘I want to see that thing!’ Talk about rude – in words as well as actions!!! It’s a bump and her grandchild, not someone’s protruding stomach from too much food or alcohol! I actually recoiled in response; fastening up the button, in addition to the already secured zip, on my parka jacket. No way was I going to make myself physically vulnerable to this women! The long-standing emotional turmoil is bad enough…..

So fast forward to Friday morning, when I was getting my toddler washed and dressed ready to start the day. Her little bottom, I discovered, was red-raw and causing her considerable pain. This is a consistent occurrence on Fridays, following Nana and Granddad day care (every Thursday), and is typically a response to being given junk food and/or juice that is too strong. My husband has, on several occasions, spoken to his parents about our wish for our daughter to be fed a healthy, balanced diet whilst in their care. However, our requests have fallen on deaf ears, with my MIL employing her default ‘it’s my way or the highway’ approach, even with her granddaughter.

By Saturday morning my little girl was in excruciating pain, and so I took it upon myself to contact my MIL in a polite request to know what she had been given to eat and drink on Thursday. My text was met with a very vague, cryptic response; and without answering my actual question. Reluctant to become embroiled in a long winded communication, I responded with a further text repeating my request to know what she had given my daughter to eat/drink. After a considerable wait (several hours), I eventually received a response outlining a few (junk) food items, along with a highly defensive statement about all the food coming from my house (talk about shirking responsibility). Yes the food may have come from my home, but my MIL was the one that had looked in the cupboards and had chosen a selection of unhealthy foods to give my daughter (as I duly pointed out). She could have made healthier choices after all – I mentioned this too! I further took time to point out that she’d told me herself on Thursday that she’d brought some food from home, and therefore her claim that all my daughter’s meals came solely from my house was in fact inaccurate! My MIL denied this, preferring instead to try to gaslight me into believing that I’d imagined such a conversation….

Predictably, the more I challenged my MIL on the matter, the more defensive she became, until she eventually began to give me the silent treatment. Punishments of this sort are commonplace with my MIL and are typically induced out of contempt or disapproval of something I have said or done. In this instance I’ve challenged her inability to ensure that my daughter eats a healthy diet whilst in her care, whereas she refuses to see that she has done anything wrong. It’s now Monday Noon (GMT) and I have not heard a peep from her since Saturday evening. She is of course waiting for me to apologise; her passive aggressive form of emotional abuse – the silent treatment – fuelling her inflated view of herself.

If you’re reading this and questioning my point-of-view please bear this in mind: when mostly healthy minded people give others the silent treatment, it usually blows over in a few moments, maybe hours, ideally after saying they need a break from the topic and mutually agreeing when to talk about it again. Non-narcissists know shunning someone is not the way to resolve issues; realising that it is cruel and abusive to perform such an act for an extended amount of time. Narcissists on the other hand do not see things in the same way others do; stopping at nothing until they get their own way. My MIL has been known to drag out her silent treatment for days, sometimes weeks; only choosing to acknowledge the offending individual (usually me) when they have apologised.

Had my values surrounding my daughter’s health and wellbeing not been so blatantly compromised, then I would have definitely thought twice before having any contact with my MIL. Recent events, in particular, have shown me that she isn’t likely to change, and so I recently decided to employ a minimal contact strategy with her. Indeed, research shows that this is a highly effective way to deal with a narcissist, and I’m hoping it’s right!

I’d love to hear about your ‘MIL Moments’ – please feel free to rant, vent or share your experiences in the comments.

Take Care xx

A ‘Festive’ MIL Moment!

It’s been a while since I last posted here…. bloomin’ ages in fact! I don’t really have an excuse for my lack of attention, save to say that I have been exceptionally busy being a full-time working mum to two children (soon to be three!). I’ve also been trying to be a thyroid warrior; helping to raise awareness of thyroid disease via Twitter (@butterflyjourn1) and my other blog abutterflyjournal.wordpress.com As many of you might recall I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism following the birth of my youngest daughter in October 2013. It was supposed to be post-partum and temporary, but unfortunately my body’s antibodies had other ideas and did a fantastic job of killing-off my thyroid gland completely. Being hypothyroid brings with it a whole host of unseen complications, that can make life more difficult. This is particularly so now that I am pregnant again. After a full-day at the office I have just about enough energy to cook a meal for my brood and then it’s off to bed for me! I’m exhausted like I’ve never been exhausted before. It is most definitely an inconvenience, but thankfully I have a wonderful husband who is able to pick up the slack when I’m struggling….

If I’m honest, I’ve struggled through the festive season. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas was lovely; a true family affair at my parent’s home in Scotland, and a few days where I could relax and put my feet up. The Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) I’ve been experiencing almost melted away into oblivion thanks to the support of my parents who took a really active role in helping to look after my youngest daughter, letting me get some much needed rest. New year, however, I could have seen that far enough! That’s when my mother-in-law (MIL) chose to release the narcissistic monster within… I received a solitary voice mail on Hogmanay (a Scottish term for New Years Eve) from my MIL, expressing her dissatisfaction at being unable to contact my husband or I. She indicated that she had tried ‘repeatedly’ to call us for two days, despite there being absolutely no missed calls on our land line or mobile phones. She expressed the assumption that she would see us on New Year’s Day and demanded that I call her back immediately! I didn’t… I’ve learned from experience that when my MIL is enraged it is not worth trying to hold a civil conversation with her. And so I sent her a text. It may not be the best way to communicate, but I figured that absolutely no communication at all would only make matters worse. I explained that we had long standing plans that evening to attend a party being hosted by our friends and reminded her (as it had already been previously discussed) that we planned to see my Sister and Brother-in-Law on New Year’s Day. I indicated that we would see her very soon to catch up, and I heard nothing more… from her anyway.

I’ve also learned that my MIL’s silence is very telling. When she is quiet, she is sulking; very much like a petulant child. It’s her default response to not getting her own way. But while she is sulking with me, she will play a very different game with other members of my husband’s family. Typically, this will involve calling my Husband’s Brother and Sister-in-Law, and spinning an elaborate yarn about how awful I’ve been to her (usually because we’ve said no to one of her demands). This occasion was no exception! Within half an hour of my text to my MIL I’d received a text from my SIL, asking if we’d seen my MIL over the festive period? And if not, why not? This is despite our plans – Christmas with my parents and New Year with friends and my Sister – being made clear to all of my husband’s family early on in December.

This was followed by further texts from my SIL telling me how down-in-the-dumps and depressed my MIL is; how sorry she feels for her, and that we should be looking after family in need! This alleged low-mood and depression was news to us. Not once had my MIL mentioned it to my husband or me, and she sees us most weeks. A coincidental contact from my SIL? Probably not! And the emotional stuff, well, it worked! My husband attempted to call his mother on New Year’s Eve to check that she was ok… But she refused to talk to him (yet another one of her games!) And on New Year’s Day there was yet more silence, which only served to upset my husband further, and in turn caused a great deal of ill-feeling between us.

Whether it is because I am pregnant, in physical pain with my pelvis, and feeling emotional at the mo, I’m not sure, but my MIL’s behaviour really got to me. And I mean really…. I felt STRESSED up to my eye balls! Yes there have been far worse ‘incidents’, but my usual resilience that helps me cope, just wasn’t there! I never want to feel that way again – it’s not good for my health (stress makes the symptoms of thyroid disorders worse) and its certainly not good for the baby I’m carrying!

My MIL is obviously not concerned with my wellbeing, so I have to be! Hence, I’ve decided that for the foreseeable future I am going to keep my husband’s mother at arm’s length! Her behaviour at New Year only served to reinforce that she is chronically jealous of our little functional family unit. Eight years I’ve put up with her chaotic behaviour , but no more!

Do you have a NPDMIL? Please feel free to leave your ‘MIL moments’ in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you!

Take Care x

Mummy-guilt!

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This week I was hit with my first dose of baby number two mummy-guilt. Actually, I think I’ve been experiencing it for thirteen years, since baby number one arrived, I’ve simply been struck down by a renewed version.

Like many mums, I’ve had to make the difficult decision to return to work… although, even as I write that, I find myself asking, ‘Did I ever really stop working?’ I wouldn’t call motherhood a picnic in the park – it’s bloomin’ difficult. So perhaps I should rephrase that and say I have made the hard decision to go back to what I get paid to do. But what to do about Isla, I wondered. I needed to come up with a plan of action. A plan that involves condensing full time working hours into four days, Daddy & Nanny daycare and help from a registered angel (Kelly the Childminder).

Once we’d settled with the idea of co-operative childcare I initially felt relieved. But, once that feeling subsided (and I attended a back-to-work meeting with my boss) reality hit and I was left feeling upset, worried and guilty. Upset that I would no longer be spending 24-7 with my little girl now that she’s almost walking independently, worried that I was doing the right thing about going back to work, and then guilty that Isla wouldn’t be with her ‘mum-mum’. Of course, I had a good cry (rather hysterically in fact) and text a few mummy friends of mine who’d all recently gone back to work. That’s when I realised it’s okay to be apart from your baby and get on with doing things that you enjoy and/or pay the bills. It’s even okay to feel like you NEED time away from your baby, although I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like that.

Life is about making situations work so that everyone involved is happy. It’s so important to see the positives of any given scenario – so, in my case, I have an amazing baby (and an amazing older daughter too) and a cool job which gives me relative flexibility to be around my amazing family. I know Isla is with people who love her immensely and who I trust. I also know that I’ll arrive in work on 31st October and feel as if I’ve never been away, and that when I return home I’ll be greeted by a beaming little smiley face that will fill my heart with love. I can’t wait for that!

Thanks for stopping by…

D x