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It’s the new big thing.  It has gone mainstream with minimal effort.

Coloring books.  For adults.

Intricate patterns better suited to thin markers and pencils then to crayons.  Marketed to adults as stress relievers and the new “it” thing.

And I have to say, I’m slightly miffed.  And according to my therapist….I’m not the only one.

During my first stint in the mental ward, I was surprised to find coloring books.  We were all adults.  Why were there coloring books here?  And then, one day, from sheer boredom, I started to color.  And my racing thoughts melted away into actual concentration on the task at hand.  I was surprised.  Once I was discharged into full day outpatient hospitalization I enjoyed the daily art therapy class.  But I didn’t carry the coping skill with me once I was discharged.

Cut to my second hospitalization.  This time I was not surprised at all to find coloring books.  One of the nurses was artistic, and she would do intricate drawings and make bunches of copies for us to color.

This time I brought the lesson home with me.  Mandala coloring books and fractal pattern coloring books litter the bedroom floor.  But they were hard to find and there was a limited selection.  But I got what I could.  I found free coloring pages online and printed them.  I got tons of markers (colored pencils are unsatisfying for me) and spent weeks in bed coloring.  Just trying to block the thoughts that ran rampant through my head.  It was the holidays, MIL had just moved in, I was just out of the hospital and my meds were in a state of flux.

And it helped.  A lot.  There are days when I run to my bedroom and start flipping quickly through the pages of my books looking for a pattern I want to color.  Something to shut my brain up.  Quickly.

And, it felt like a secret that all the crazy people shared.  Coloring can do wonders for us.

Now suddenly it’s gone mainstream.  It’s on national news as the new thing to keep adults calm.  And I want to yell at the TV that this is OUR thing.  Mainstream people have other stuff that they can do.  Coloring is ours.

I was embarrassed to tell my therapist Karen what I thought about all this. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me that she had already heard this a bunch of times from other people.  And it’s not that we are possessive of the coping skill.

It’s that we’re not getting credit.

Where is the news story that tells the world that this is a coping skill that has been used in psychiatric hospitals for years to help patients quell their racing thoughts?

I know it sounds like I’m really angry.  I’m not.  I think I’m more annoyed than anything else.

On the plus side, the selection of higher difficulty coloring books is likely to skyrocket.  On the downside, the price is likely to go up.

I think the part that I really see as a downside is that our precious coping skill will now be another thing that mainstream people can say…”oh yes I do that, too”  Sort of like “oh yes, I also take prozac”, “oh yes, I am depressed/anxious/ocd, too”.  It’s one more thing for us to say “but, you don’t understand”.

And they don’t understand.

Not really