Thursday, 30 October 2014

The window.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One was allowed to sit up in his bed each afternoon to help drain fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

They talked for hours. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by
describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The other man began to live, for those short periods, where his world would be broadened and enlivened by the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and the city skyline was seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described this in exquisite detail, the other man would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One afternoon the man by the window described a passing parade.
Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it, in his mind's eye. Days and weeks passed.
One morning, the nurse arrived only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making him comfortable, she left.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the wonderful world outside.

Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man later asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."


There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

Today is a gift, that's why it is called 'the present'.

How accepting of today's gift are you?

Who can you help today?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Did your Mother Give You Depression?

Oh children, children; let me count the ways I embarrass thee...

I sing too loudly in church; I scuffle through the fallen leaves (when people can see); I dance in the kitchen to the radio; I kiss your father in front of you; I ride a 1957 Raleigh bike that should be in a museum; I turn up at the school gate in brightly coloured clothing and then talk to your teachers on equal terms because I am quite as well educated as they...

Oh yes, I know I am excruciatingly embarrassing for you and I fully intend to ask your future psychotherapists for commission.

Embarrassing our children is part of the job description of being a parent and, if you're like me, you enjoy every minute of it (evil chuckle)!

But what about depressing our children?

I'm not talking about when they've reached the age of reason (my kids now just accept that there are times when Mummy is "poorly" and can't do anything much and they now join Daddy in looking after me; and very salutary it is for me too!) but about when they were tiny babies?

Tim Lott in the Guardian postulates that his own depression may have been caused, in part, by the post natal depression experienced by his mother. I'm sure PND doesn't contribute positively to the development of baby; and in fact the friend who sent me the article now wonders if her own experiences in life were affected by the PND her mother experienced.

But, you know what: does a witch hunt or archaeological investigation really help matters now?

In my case I'm pretty sure my father was bipolar and schizophrenic (he committed suicide when I was four, so I can't know for sure), but knowing that doesn't get me much further with my own health.

What does contribute to my life is manning up (or womanning up in my case), accepting responsibility for my own well-being and 1) learning all I can about the condition 2) doing all I can to mitigate and manage that condition and 3) educate and help others in my position if I can.

Yes, PND is a dreadful thing (and if you're going through it now you have my complete sympathy) but please don't worry about passing it onto your child – and don't waste time wondering if the PND suffered by your own mother is a contributing factor in your own depression.

We are who and what we are right now and we need to go forward; looking back can cause even more anxiety and guilt. Do you really want more of that stuff in your life?
I certainly don't. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some piles of leaves to scuffle through and a kitchen dance routine to choreograph.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

It is well with my soul.

I stumble. I stumble really well. As a trained classical ballet dancer/teacher I tell friends I can dance - I just cannot walk well. I continue to stumble.

Estrangements within families are particularly troubling and seem to carry the message that we are somehow lacking in our own spirits. When this involves our children, we can be devastated.

For me, it is as though I have failed my higher spirit, my self, and my desires to be the good mother. I am not good enough for dog food. I am trash. I am helpless in my obsessions, the thoughts that go around and around in a spiral, always downward.

Death no longer feels like a cold stranger. Depression inexorably slides into place like an unexpected eclipse.

When this happens I try to find deep inside - a "Grandmother Place" of love, warmth, and enduring hope for myself and all others. Not having had a grandmother, my concept is easy to imagine filled with sparkling good-faerie love and peace.

I meditate and pray for the hard feelings to be removed. Realizing my love for myself must come first, in my own mind I am able to transfer that love to my children and others, no matter the estrangement.

In truth, as long as they are healthy and well, my being a part of their lives is secondary. It is okay. They are growing and finding their way. Perhaps it is well that I step aside for awhile.

Once I truly incorporate this acceptance into my being, the estrangement is over, somehow. The depression lightens and there is hope that we can return ever so gently to our loving nest.

We have no control over other people and, I believe, limited control over ourselves. It is well with my soul.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Burnt out.

Last July, I burnt out. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I could not think. I went to the doctor. He signed me off work for two weeks, then one week, then another two weeks. It was not getting better. Migraines had started. My hands were shaking. Medication was making my mind blurry. At the beginning of August, I met with a counsellor who advised taking at least six months off. I resisted a lot: how could I the high achiever, the perfectionist, resign from a job that so many of my colleagues wanted? I handed in my resignation, which I could barely write. I thought that I was a failure.

In August, I found myself at a sunny place, surrounded by loved ones. They took me to the beach almost every day. They fed me good food. I stopped taking sleeping medication. I went completely off caffeine. I minimised sugar as much as I could. I started writing a gratitude list every day. Then I started writing a list of beautiful things every day. I barely had the energy even to compose a list. At one point, I remembered my counsellor's advice about reading a book entitled Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Dr Mark Williams.

At the start of September, the book arrived. It was an eight week mindfulness programme. I promised myself that I would follow it through. Around that time, I discovered Moodscope and I started recording my mood. I read your posts silently and kept recording each day. I started practicing yoga again. And I followed some of your advice: eating dark chocolate and putting together a treasure box. My concentration levels improved as much as I could watch films again. I started watching children's films: the Wizard of Oz, the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins.

October. My Moodscope scores have been improving. Mindfulness has brought me peace of mind. My migraines are gone. My hands are no longer shaking. I can now read and write with ease. My attention span is good enough. I can now sleep. This is the final week of the mindfulness programme. On Sunday, I am moving countries. A new job, a new house, new people. The other day I watched a TED video of someone giving advice how to come out of a closet. Well, this is me coming out of mine, with tears and a smile while writing this.

May you all be healthy, safe and happy.

With all my love

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Running saved this man's life...

As we know from Mary's blog last week, exercise isn't for everyone, and if you're going through a depressive episode, is not only probably the last thing on your mind, but may feel like a physical impossibility.

For Simon Lamb though, a bipolar sufferer, running saved his life. Hear what he has to say.

Kind regards.

The Moodscope Team.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Changing your mind.

As part of the therapies I have been involved in, the counsellor wanted me to practise mindfulness/meditation to try and calm some of the galloping negative thoughts that get going through my head.

Now I am not good at sitting still doing "nothing" except focussing my thoughts. I think this is because my mother drummed in to me her mantra, "Don't waste time, work it to death" and so even when I'm watching TV I have to be doing something else as well. So between myself and the therapist, we came up with a few mindfulness techniques that I find I can do and I thought it might be helpful to share four of these with you over a few Moodscope blogs, this being the first.

Object mindfulness.

First, as its name suggests, you need to find an object! This can be something in your home, from your garden or from the street, park or fields. It can be animal, vegetable or mineral. It can be something you can hold, or something much bigger.

Start by just looking at the object. Don't touch, just look. Look really closely and stand back and look. Walk round the object and see it from all sides. Look at the colours, shapes, look at the variations of shadow, think about why it looks that way? Is it man made or natural? What forces have acted on it to make it the way it is?

Then touch it. If it is small enough, pick it up. Feel the weight of it. Run your fingers over it. Is it warm or cold? Does it have a rough or smooth surface? can you feel tool marks?

Smell it. Does it have a smell? What does it smell like?

Think about it. Does it have a purpose? How did it become the shape it is, does it fulfil its purpose? If it's organic why is it the shape it is?

Try to totally immerse yourself in the object. If you find your mind starting to wander then draw your thoughts gently back to the object. You may want to set a timer for doing this task or just let yourself come to a natural ending. Up to you.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Connecting with the soul.

Recently I have felt a great need to heal my soul. I have felt as though my soul has been wounded and hurt and that this has caused me sadness and pain. I have never really before considered what my soul actually is. I have previously struggled to fully comprehend it. I am in the process of learning self healing through meditation and I have learnt some fundamental aspects.

I am most definitely an over thinker of life. I'm pretty certain I over think overthinking!! But I have recently learnt something that I have found liberating; I am actually not my thoughts and I am not my mind. I was amazed at this concept. I struggle to not think, I didn't think it was possible to be in a mind state with out any thought. So if I'm not my thoughts, and I'm not my mind, who am I?

Meditation is slowly helping me to connect with who I am. When I close my eyes I shut out the light and this helps me to focus. Concentrating on my breathing enables me to slow down my brain and my mind. My attention begins to focus on my body. I focus on each part of my body, and as I follow the process, my thoughts begin to become fewer. Feeling relaxed and centred I become aware of the sensations in the body, of the energy flowing through me. My body begins to feel lighter until all I'm left with is an awareness of energy.

That energy, I now realise is the essence of my being, that is my soul. And it is a totally freeing awareness because I now realise that, no matter what my struggles, no matter what my thoughts are or what each day brings, I have the ability to close my eyes and connect with myself and to feel the energy within, and I emerge with a renewed gratitude for having the gift to experience life.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

What Will Make Your Heart Sing...?

Sitting alone,
With thoughts on my mind.
Listening to music,
What do I find?

Images and thoughts,
from my past life.
Faces and places,
That can cut like a knife.

Emotions and feelings,
Threaded through all.
Names and faces,
That continuous toll.

We live such rich lives,
As we seek our way,
So many tunes,
That for a time hold sway.

Different songs,
Take our mind back.
Different lyrics,
To write our own track.

The years roll by,
And hearts can cry.
Important decisions,
Do we live or die?

Did you love or leave,
Too early in life?
Have you lost, to grieve,
A boy or a wife?

Or have you grown,
As life opens up?
With courage to shift,
The past to usurp.

Where are you now,
In this thing called life?
It's the direction you're moving,
That brings joy or strife.

What's in your heart,
That needs to be clear.
That's all that'll keep,
Joy from austere.

Open that feeling,
To what's right for you.
Look into your heart,
For what is true.

Then decide to follow,
To the depth of your soul.
Whatever you find,
As you seek your goal.

Forget all else,
In this busyness of life.
Please inscape in you,
Use that emotional knife.

To cut through the crap,
That escaping brings.
You have only one life,
What will make your heart sing?

What thoughts arose when you read the above?

What feelings emerged?

Which line caught your spirit?

Because that was your heart (your intuition) speaking to you.

The question now is - what direction can you move in, to make your heart sing?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's Not You; It's Me (Or Maybe Them)!

I remember writing this time last year about Apple Day, when a group of six local families, with children aged 5 to 15, got together with more apples than you could shake a stick at - or indeed, a whole tree - and chopped, milled and pressed for a whole day to produce an incredible amount of apple juice. Most of this apple juice would, naturally, become cider (and incredibly delicious it was too!)

This year we did it all again, with even more apples, but this blog isn't about the day, or the fun and comradeship or the immense glow of satisfaction we felt (together with blistered hands, aching shoulders and sore feet from standing all day) at our accomplishment. No, this is about something less pleasant.

You see, those among us who do Facebook, had, naturally, posted photos of the day and shared our plans for the apple juice. One of the team (I'll call her Susan) received some negative comments from a so called friend. This friend posted some remarks about the general undesirability of "normalising alcohol" for children.

Well, Ouch!

Now, everyone has their own views on this, ranging from the "They're not touching a drop until they're eighteen!" to the "The French have got it right; it's a part of the meal; just water it down for the youngsters." And nobody likes to be criticised. My friend was, naturally, rather hurt.

But, just hold on for a moment. I polled my own children (12 and 10) about this. Were we "normalising alcohol for them"? I asked - and was met with blank stares. "Where was the alcohol?" asked the youngest, baffled; "It was apple juice!"

"Huh. You grownups all had beer and wine afterwards." sneered my 12 year old. "But then, you always do!" (She declares she is going to become teetotal just as soon as she's old enough.) "I know you're going to make cider with it. I only hope fermentation comes up for a science project because then I can study the process and get top marks." (Hmmm – unlikely school topic, Sunshine!).

So, discussing it with Susan, we came to the conclusion that this criticism was not about Susan and her choices; it was about the sensitivities of her friend. The best thing to do was to take a deep breath, consider the different cultural values and life experiences this person might have for them to hold those views and, if she posted anything back at all, just to say that they could agree to differ on the subject.

Because sometimes criticism isn't valid: it's not you, it really is just them.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It felt like my life had ended.

Five years ago my life ended… Or at least that was how it felt. I had held down high powered and pressured jobs, travelled all over the UK and a lot of the world, raised two kids, looked after my ageing parents and coped with my hubby being away all week and drunk when he was home. I had handled my mother in laws death and dealt with her will, dealt with my daughter trying to kill herself and been through two redundancies in the space of two years.

Then it all fell apart (strange that!)

For a long time I grieved the loss of my previous life and status, I felt useless, that there was no place for me, but, gradually I have grown.

I went back to college and studied art, something I had always wanted to do as I felt that I had to be "doing" something. It has been a hard 4 years and at times my family and support workers have thrown up their hands and said "just why are you doing this??"

I have started to see the world in a different way. I have become nicer to people, the spell I had in a mental hospital taught me to be more understanding of people. I have time to watch the caterpillars grow on the stinging nettles and rejoice when I see the peacock butterflies around the village knowing I saw them as babies. I can watch the dragonflies in the meadow and find them more interesting than watching the plane flying over head and wishing I was on it.

I still have spells when I hate the world, everyone in it, especially me and despair of where I am going and how I will cope in the future but I am learning that I cannot know where the future will take me and that the best I can hope for is to have today, even if maybe I do have to take each hour at a time as thinking of anything more is exhausting.

I have one more year of college left to finish what has become a BA degree, my life has changed beyond recognition but in many ways I feel that after all these years that maybe I finally do "have a life". Something I could not have seen five years ago.

A Moodscope member.