Monday, 28 July 2014

Time to look after yourself, now!

Is today yet another day that stretches out in front of you with no real purpose?
You may not see anyone, there's no phone call or letter and nothing seems worth watching on TV.

The joys of living alone can be completely overlooked when your life has changed from being frantically busy and needed to, for whatever reason, leading a solitary existence.

But think a while and recognise your past successes, however great or small.

You may have had a successful career, helped ageing parents, schooled children and taught them to be independent; you may have been a good neighbour. You will be able to think of other triumphs if you set your mind to it.

And now you need to look after yourself a little bit. No pressure, just getting out of bed, taking it easy and creating one achievement a day no matter how great or small.

Here's a list of possibles to start with. You can add your own as well.

1. Get yourself a new indoor plant, preferably flowering, and note its development; slow but sure. That plant needs you to water and encourage it.

2. Treat yourself to something you have never tried for lunch or tea. You don't have to cook it yourself; there are plenty of ready-made dishes in supermarkets!

3. Take a short walk if you can (or sit by an open window or door) and notice anything unusual; or even just appreciate the usual things.

4. Go to a coffee morning: the local church usually has one and you don't have to go again if you don't like it! You could even ask someone in for coffee (it's useful to give them the start and finish time).

At the end of the day note the thing you did in a diary. It will be interesting to look back on in the future.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Pus Pages.

For cat lovers this isn't referring to kitty stories.  Nope.

The positive thing about writing is that you connect with yourself in the deepest way, and that's heaven. You get a chance to know who you are, to know what you think. You begin to have a relationship with your mind. - Natalie Goldberg

Perhaps, I feel, even more important than having a relationship with your mind is getting in touch with your feelings. My Pus Pages help me do just that. Otherwise known as the 'morning pages' spoken of in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

Each day, if I can, I squeeze out all the mental pus by writing, uncensored and unmeasured, in a cheap ole notebook. There is little beauty to be found here and they are not to be read back over. (These pages are not like my journals which contain only the beautiful strands of my everyday tapestry.) There certainly isn't checking of spelling, grammar or sentence structure. You simply go at it, not stopping until you have filled both sides of an A4 piece of paper. Sometimes I'll scribble (if the pus isn't free flowing) down something nice, like the how pretty the flowers look in front of me but, for the most part, it's all the ruminations, anxieties, upsets and the tumbles of everyday.

Kept up and done regularly, these pages can cause the fault lines running through our life to shift and move. In short, they can cause little miracles and blessings to happen. It's like walking through dense jungle and then suddenly having a kindly native come up and walk in front of you, machete in hand, clearing the way before you. You'll become suddenly very aware of what goals you need to set or what areas of your life you'd like to change or improve. Indeed, everything becomes a lot clearer.

Last Sunday, I felt deeply agitated and edgy. I then I realised, I'd failed to do my Pus Pages for the last week or so. Oh I'm a master at this. I have severe lows, I relearn all the things that help, I manifest little signs of improvement so then, stupidly, stop doing all the things that help and then, obviously, still being firmly ensconced in the Fragile Camp, I start sinking again.

Your pages almost certainly won't contain epiphanies, winsome words, grandiose thoughts; they will however, be packed with all the everyday tedium, fretting and daily angsts. Stick with it though. Life sure gets a lot clearer and calmer when you clear out all the mental garbage each day.

Imagine if you didn't empty your rubbish bin regularly!

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Are you stressed?

The clearest thing I remember the psychiatrist saying to me when I was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder in 2012 was 'you MUST keep stress levels down'. Easier said than done as we all know, but it's something that I've taken with me and tried to live by ever since, although almost impossible at times with a busy life, two very energetic young boys and recently, an even more energetic puppy!

Yet I think we would all agree that the psychiatrist has a very valid point. The impact of stress on us all in the modern world is huge and can lead to all sorts of problems with physical and mental health. The bipolar episodes I'd been experiencing on a virtually non-stop cycle for at least 2 years when I saw this psychiatrist were in no small part linked to stress – work stress, family stress and a lot of relationship problems that had been ongoing for a few years, thankfully now resolved. I was mentally burnt out, totally exhausted and very frightened about what was happening to me and from what I have read since my diagnosis, bipolar and stress have a very common - and strong - link.

In trying to take the psychiatrist's advice on board since that time, I have learnt that I have to do certain things in order to keep well, whilst I cannot do other things now.

Getting enough sleep and fresh air, good diet, medication at the right time and watching alcohol intake are all a must (boring at times – the 20 year-old party girl of the past would be horrified!) whereas very late nights or drinking-only nights out are a no-no now, it's just not worth the fall out for the next few days. Of course it all slips now and then (and it's bliss to relinquish that control sometimes, like on holiday!) but on the whole, life stays happier, calmer and more stable trying to stick with what I know helps.

And on the subject of saying no, it's another thing I've learnt can be a powerful tool in stress management and reduction, but I'm sure that's another blog!!

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Healing Myself.

Nine months after my Mother died in 2010 I went to my GP who said I had low mood from grief.

I heard about Moodscope from the radio and joined that day. It has helped me so much, especially the daily emails, which, on my worst days were the only encouragement I had to get up and face the day.

Knowing there are people out there who understand is priceless.

I have worked hard to heal myself with professional help from a counsellor who is also a qualified hypnotherapist.

I wanted to share something with the Moodscope community. He taught me self-hypnosis. My key words are: "I am in control of my thoughts, my feelings and my actions".

But I was anxious that I wasn't doing it right. And the moment of realisation came when he said "There is no right; if it feels good for you, then that's fine."

This had an amazing effect on me as I felt free to be myself at last.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

When we need help - Ask.

Just this week, I was asked by someone I knew, but had never met, to write a poem for a very personal distressing situation.

They wanted to write a poem, but for various reason could not do so, possibly as it was just too emotional.

They knew I could usually put words into a form that would flow and asked would it be possible for their situation.

I felt my own mood lift.

Here was I in a low place and yet to help and serve someone else immediately made me feel 'useful', while giving me a sense of worth.

All too often we may not ask or approach someone else for fear of them 'being too busy' or that they 'may not want to'.

If we think such things, we are immediately putting our thoughts onto them and denying them their own thoughts, or their ability to help us, as well as feeling wanted.

How many times do we say to people - "X will be far too busy", or, "I'm sure they may not want to do that" and decide that to hear a refusal would be worse...yet they are our close friends.

If we do so, we are not only disempowering them, we are also negating the building of stronger communication links and the creation of a greater support system. A support system for which we possibly crave.

I often use a phrase - 'Show weakness to gain strength'.

We are all insecure in our own way and for others to show that they need help or advice strengthens our trust in each other and the person who often starts that growth, is the one who initially asks for help. How would you feel if you found out that a friend didn't ask you as they thought you may say no or be too busy?

What do you need help with today?

Who can you ask and enable them to help if they can?

Asking not Tasking

To ask others,
Is to help them too.
You can't help someone,
Without helping 'you'.

How often do we take,
That 'helping' away.
We say they'll be busy,
Too busy today.

So we sit in our 'failure',
And struggle on by.
We are not important,
But why oh why?

Do we not offer others,
The chance to say yes.
To help their friend,
To serve and to bless.

That friendship of years,
Through laughter and tears.
To strengthen that bond,
Through hopes and through fears.

So when you want help,
Give them their place.
To serve their friend,
And the human race.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What is 'Normal'?

What's normal for me is probably not normal for you.

Three instances:

• My therapist regularly scores 100% when she takes the Moodscope test (she doesn't have depression, but many of her clients do, so she monitors herself to keep on track with them).
• When I am well my score is regularly 75%.
• My daughter will feel quite well but will score 45%.

This may have less to do with our actual mood than our scoring system.

For example, after each one of my classes, my clients are invited to submit a feedback form (anonymously if they wish) to my Head Office. I am always rather amused by this form as they can only say that I am 'good', 'very good', 'excellent' or 'outstanding'. If they have been disappointed in the consultation I think they are supposed to phone up and tell my directors how appalling the experience has been. In thirteen years only one person has done this: you always get at least one, don't you!

The point of this is that, for me, if I get anything less than outstanding, I feel I have failed. Yet there are some of my clients who could never bring themselves to rate even the best experience in the world as more than 'very good'. Yes, they were satisfied, even pleased, with the consultation, but their personality is such that they would never use the rather fulsome words 'delighted' or 'outstanding.' They are British, don't you know!

So some of us can never bring ourselves to score a three on any of the cards; it's just not in us. Personally, I've never scored more than a one on the pride card, but regularly score a three on determined, enthusiastic and inspired (when well, that is: just at the moment if they get a one it's a good day).

So don't compare yourself with other Moodscope users. If you have a mutual buddy system going then do try to follow your buddy's pattern rather than thinking their scores are regularly higher or lower than your own. You might be having a good day at 45%, but if your buddy scores 45% it might be a very bad day for them.

Like a lot of things, the Moodscope system is subjective. It is the pattern over time that is most helpful for us. If you can afford to upgrade from Moodscope Lite then I would recommend it highly. Now that I can see three years' worth of scores the pattern is illuminating and helps me manage my condition. It was extremely useful when I recently changed GP; she could clearly see my bi-polar cycle: the evidence was there, all neatly plotted out on the graph.

But the most useful thing of all: taking the test every day. You can't see the pattern if you don't have the basic data! Don't get disheartened when your result is consistently low, and don't neglect Moodscope when well. You need the good and the bad, the ups and the downs to effectively see the landscape of your emotional health.

Good luck with your own very personal (and subjective) map-making!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Happy Talk.

Once as a small child I watched the musical South Pacific on TV. I remember very little, if any, of the storyline, but what stuck with me was the music. I've said before that music is something which really connects me to my feelings and emotions and not always for the good. That time it was a positive and really enjoyable experience. I loved the song Happy Talk and the melody and cadence of the music still make me smile to this day.

I recently added it to my 'Happiness tracks' and I listened carefully to the song driving to work one morning last week. How true for me those lyrics are, I suddenly thought.

'Talk about things you'd like to do'. If you talk about the things you'd like to do research has shown that you are much more likely to do them. Maybe it's just the verbal commitment or maybe we're all too scared to go back on our word, but we feel we can't back out once we've shared an idea with others. Whatever it is you want to do; wherever you want your life to take you, share that idea or thought or plan with someone; anyone who will listen; and it might just be a help in achieving your goal.

'You gotta have a dream - if you don't have a dream - how you gonna have a dream come true?'

So start right now. Share your dream; talk, talk, talk, about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. Keep happy by planning your dream: writing about it, photographing it, pinning it, tasting it, visiting it. Whatever 'it' is, talk happy about it until your dream comes true.

Happy Talking...and just for the record I 'm going to learn how to keep bees.

Share your dreams...

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Into every life a little rain must fall.

I have blogged before about making the positive choice; focussing on the sunny side; nurturing instead of nagging ourselves; being our own best friend rather than our own worst enemy. But what about the times when we can't do this; when we can't even see the positive let alone focus on it; when we feel swamped by our own personal black cloud – whatever that may be? How can we continue then?

When we manage to focus on the positive, it is not a question of doing so at the expense of the negative; nor is it trying to deny the negative feelings. On the contrary, it is important to acknowledge the bleakness, the negativity and perhaps even to accept it as being an integral part of us.

Throughout my life my default position has been to deny the reality of my negative feelings; but I am slowly coming to realise that this strategy has served only to make matters worse.

Diana Ross once sang about having a broken heart with the line "Good morning heartache; sit down." and several Moodscopers have referred to their "black dog". I now try to be more accepting of my bleak and negative feelings. Sometimes I will deliberately listen to music which makes me sad – almost as if I am giving myself permission to feel bleak (but always with a time limit and always with a cup of tea afterwards). Hubby's current phrase which is helping me is: "Into every life a little rain must fall".

So in the bleak times I try to remind myself that I just have to trust that it will not be like this forever; that one day, maybe even later today, it will pass, like a heavy shower, or a dense fog...

I loved Rika's final paragraph on her blog 18th February and think that it is well worth repeating:  "I wish you a wonderful day, but in the case that you aren't having a wonderful day, I offer a knowing smile and I hope that your tomorrow is better."

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

I just have to remember I'm still me.

I've had long spells of 'low mood' for a good few years. For ages, I wanted to know 'why'. My life is good. My wife truly loves me (I've stopped wondering why - no good can come of pulling on a thread!) I have a good job and am well-off financially.

It wasn't until recently that I realised that knowing 'why' doesn't really help. I discovered that I have low testosterone. That causes (amongst other things) low mood. Having T treatment helped my mood enormously, though the levels do vary a lot - so often, low mood returns.

When it does, life seems as hopeless as ever - even though I know 'why'. But I've realised that it's still 'me' underneath the fog. My values are still the same, no matter how I feel or how temporarily grouchy I might be sometimes. When I can keep that in mind - 'I'm not the feeling. I'm not the thought. The moods pass and 'I'm' still here' - it's much more tolerable. I just have to remember I'm still me!

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Mindful and Soothing.

I would like to invite you to pause for a moment, and imagine walking into a kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Take a breath, and allow the smell to fill your nostrils with its warm richness. Perhaps it is a tin loaf, just turned out on a cooling rack, its crust split by the work of the yeast and the warmth of the oven.

Perhaps there is a pile of rolls, soft and golden, inviting you to pick one up and break it open, savouring the steaming aroma and taking a first bite of that taste of heaven!
There is, in my opinion, nothing like freshly baked bread, and if you have made it yourself, it's even better. The entire process of measuring, kneading, proving and kneading again is inherently mindful and soothing, its rhythm and pace relaxing and satisfying.

Often, when I am struggling, it can be a means of distraction from my thoughts, slowing me down and giving me an opportunity to gain a sense of achievement. When all seems hopeless, I contemplate the ingredients, and remind myself that despite their unpromising dryness, the simple ingredient of yeast will transform them into something that is life sustaining.

What are we waiting for? Let's get baking!

A Moodscope member.