Saturday, 22 October 2016

Upside Down Stories

It’s been a rough few months in the house of Robson. In the forefront has been trying to sort out support for our daughter who is both gifted and has additional needs, which feels like it’s been a long, hard slog. Getting diagnoses has been a bizarre mix of relief and sadness. Dyslexia, autism, sensory processing disorder, gifted - these words have played a larger part in our conversations recently than we ever imagined they would, and have at times seemed overwhelming.

But the more reading and talking and midnight research we’ve done, the more we’ve heard the voices of people saying, what if these things we fear and labels we’ve been given aren’t actually bad? What if they just make her different? What if the negatives can be turned into positives?

Amelia displaying her love of all things slimy
With Amelia, this is glaringly obvious. Not being able to write legibly belies her ability to plan pictorially or using mind maps. Her inability to convey her thoughts on paper pales into insignificance when listening to her talk about her ideas (and talk, and talk, and talk!). Her difficulties with reading are balanced by her insane ability to see the bigger picture and spot things the rest of us don’t.

Sometimes I can see my own life in the same way, and turn some of the hardest things I deal with into blessings - my issues with chronic depression give me an ability to see beauty in the world, and struggling with bipolar means I have far more ability to understand emotional depth than a lot of people.

The lingering question is this: what if we sometimes need to take aspects of our stories and turn them...upside down?

That’s what Jesus did - it’s what parables were all about. Jesus took everything his peers understood and turned it on its head - sometimes to the extent of true discomfort. The most physical of his parables - the time he washed his disciples feet (which I think we often forget would have been a really rather disgusting job) - showed the king of kings on his knees, serving his friends despite knowing how they were going to treat him over the following few days.

It seems illogical, but it’s these upside down stories that capture our imagination the most. It’s a part of our character that we long to be surprised by the stories we see or hear. Maybe, in our writing, we can start to harness this topsy turviness as exampled by Jesus. The last shall be first, the poor shall be blessed, those different from us will open our eyes to our bias, and we will learn about the world from those who society says are ‘disabled’.

As a family, the more we talk and research and come to terms with things, the more we grasp the main problem we have: the world just isn’t built for people like my Amelia. But that doesn’t mean she can’t play an important part in it. Maybe her role will be to change the world, to turn it on it’s head and make people see things differently. I can only hope that my stories do the same…

Me and my girl 
Abbie has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil. She wrote a memoir, Secret Scars, (Authentic, 2007), and later, Insight Into Self-Harm (CWR, 2014). She founded and directs Adullam Ministries, an information and resource website and forum about self-harm and related issues. She blogs at Pink and Blue Mummyland and tweets as @AbbieRobson and @AdullamSelfHarm. She lives in Rugby with husband John, children Amelia and Seth, and two cats who still haven't learned that they don't run the house.


  1. These are mind-opening thoughts, Abbie. Praying that your daughter gets all the help she needs.

  2. Thank you for sharing so honestly, Abbie. I pray that the professionals will provide all the help and support your daughter needs

  3. Dearest Abbie, thank you for your lovely and important insight. Having a special family is no easy task but seeing the opposite as Jesus did certainly helps. I hope Abbie receives all the help she needs and that you experience God's peace in your special world. My 16 year old daughter who is interested in dyslexia and how it affects the family found this article. You may find it of interest.

  4. Good points here. We have small part of the T-shirt here. Recognise 'can't write it, can talk it'. I suspect Amelia will find her place in the world, in time, but it will be a hard road for all of you. She may be able to ouse her different abilities to help others. Diagnoses are a blessing. Times have changed in past 20 years, parents don't get blamed, or told it's a social problem or you are a dysfunctional family. Will try to pray for you.

  5. Brilliant. Did Jesus turn the world upside down, or is it us who do that? After all, it is God's world. I think your daughter has a lot to teach the world about getting things the right way up.