Friday, 29 July 2016

To my loved ones, when dealing with me on 'A bad day'.

I don't want to hear you say that it's perfectly normal – there's no such thing as perfectly normal, and I'm not aspiring to that anyway thank you very much. Trying to normalise how I feel makes me feel invalid in feeling this way at all; that my feelings aren't of any significance or importance and I should just stop crying/worrying/stressing as there's nothing out of the ordinary that warrants these reactions.

I don't want to hear that everyone has them. I'm sure they do, but I don't care. I don't have the emotional ability to cope with my own bad day right now, let alone consider anyone else's.

I don't want you to helpfully point out reasons why I could be having a bad day – it's generally unhelpful, and often there is no clear cut reason why. Realising this just makes me feel worse for daring to have a bad day for no reason whatsoever. (You know that even if we do discover one, it doesn't actually stop me feeling the way I feel, right?)

Similarly, I don't want you to suggest a list of 'strategies' that could, as if by magic, eliminate my bad day. I will already be acutely aware of what I could do to help myself; if I'm someone that's been through any kind of therapy you can be assured that I'll even have my own list that I've diligently spent time compiling, of all the things that I know can help lift my mood. The problem, you see, is being able to execute these plans - which as we know, becomes Mission Impossible when experiencing a 'bad day'.

I do however want you to simply acknowledge and allow my bad day, without treating it (or me) as a problem to solve.

Most importantly, I do also need you to know that I reserve the right to exasperatingly change my mind completely. Because once we've got past the acknowledgment and allowing stage, and logic and reason have set in, I do concede that all of the above would actually prove quite useful, especially when delivered in a kind and genuine manner by someone who loves me and only wants to help.

Yours, from a complex but now much calmer place.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Coping with 'Moods' through the ages.

The news Tuesday morning was of another mass killing – in Japan – different in that the murderer wished to 'cleanse' Japan of handicapped people.

Quixotically, on my desk is the manuscript of a book I wrote in the 1970's on manic depression. More than a generation ago. Technology has galloped on in treatment, and most dramatic that we can share our worries through this medium. At the same time the population is aging and depression on the increase, whilst funds and personnel to 'care' decline.

I looked back at treatment through the ages. Herbal and other concoctions have been used right through history, many of our modern drugs still have a botanical derivative.

For many centuries any malady of the mind was thought due to pressure from within the body. Purgatives were often advised, and blood-letting a favourite, the leech (ugh) being used a lot.

In the Dark Ages any form of mental aberration was looked at as possession by devils, and these were cast out by exorcism, or at worst burning at the stake. Women sufferers were believed to be witches, and the practice of putting a stake through the heart when buried to stop them rising up to continue their witchcraft was popular.

In the late 17th century there was an idea that draining off some of the blood from someone mentally ill and substituting that with the equivalent from a healthy young man would do the trick.

In the 18th century it was shock tactics, flinging people into cold water, firing cannons, and confronting them with a facsimile of their own hallucinations.

Occupational therapy started in the Bicetre hospital in France. Psychiatry is pretty new, the other extreme being ECT and its like – still awful memories of the film One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest.

Among Moodscopers who have suffered long-term and recurrent depression, I'll use the question which was the subject of a previous blog of mine. 'From whence cometh your help?'

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

When You Need to be Selfish.

I had to make a very hard decision last week.

As a family we all sat round the kitchen table and talked about it. For a long time.

The question was, should I go on holiday with the rest of them?

On the face of it, this is simple, isn't it? You're their wife and mother: there's no question. Of course you should go on holiday with them!

Ah, but it's not so simple as that.

On the last family holiday, I fell off a horse and broke my ankle. Okay, so I didn't just break it, I comprehensively smashed it into tiny pieces so it had to be rebuilt with titanium rods and screws (see blogs of 24th February and 1st March). It is still weak and painful and I can't walk more than half a mile on it.

This would not be a problem if the rest of my family enjoyed holidays sitting on a beach or lying around a pool, but they are all terribly active. As we discussed alternative plans it became apparent that, if I were with them, one of three things would happen.

1) They would leave me behind in the cottage or hotel (and we can't afford the kind of plush hotel with spa facilities where I could be pampered) and I would be bored and they would feel guilty.

2) They would leave me behind in a variety of carparks while they went off exploring and walking and I would be bored and they would feel guilty.

3) They would end up doing only those activities that I am able to do and they would be bored and I would feel guilty.

So we took a deep breath and decided to leave me behind.

So, where does the selfishness come into it then?

Because my number one luxury is time to myself. I shall have a wonderful time all on my own. Those of you who are parents (dare I say, mothers especially) will recognise the bliss of not having to organise meals (Mum, what's for dinner?), not having to find lost property (Mum, where's my hairbrush?); not having to sort out squabbles (Mum, tell her to stop doing that!).

I can't help feeling selfish at feeling such joy in the thought of having five days all to myself. And acutely conscious of my good fortune in being able to do this when so many single parents cannot.

But a considerable number of friends have told me I need a break. Tom and Jenny have told me not to be so silly. My eldest daughter tells me, "Mum, don't feel guilty – this is best for everyone."

In the end it was a unanimous decision.

It's best for the mental health of everyone this way.

So I won't feel guilty: I will just enjoy my time alone while they explore the mountains and rivers of North Wales.

And I won't even feel envious!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

What's in your bedroom?

Well, a bed, obviously. But what else? And more to the point, why?

A Zimbabwean friend of mine used to refer to 'Katunda' – originally, a word used by Rhodesian soldiers to refer to their personal belongings, or kit. However, its meaning has morphed into covering all kinds of 'stuff', 'bits and bobs', life's trappings. So in a bedroom this might include clothes (clean or dirty, folded or flung), loose change, correspondence (some open, some still waiting to be opened), contents of pockets, paraphernalia, books, magazines, newspapers, suitcases, shoes, more shoes, possibly a television, a laptop or tablet, ornaments, photos, mirrors, make up, more shoes, etc...

Absolutely none of which are required for a good night's sleep. None. And so I decided to re-invent my bedroom, and make it the one room in the house which contains only that which is either beautiful or of proven relevance to a tranquil sleep. And with the exception of a few loved photos, a couple of candles, and some beautiful and extremely comfortable bedding, my katunda has been moved either out of sight, or to another room in the house.

The difference that this makes is huge. No longer is the last thing I see before a fall asleep the pile of papers, bills, junk mail and nonsense that I used to leave on my table in my room. In fact, no longer is there a table in my room. No longer is there an overflowing laundry basket, untidily decorated with badly discarded shirts. No longer is there a shelf full of dust collecting ornaments, bottles of after shave, business cards that were once in pockets long since emptied, and something bought on a holiday years ago that seemed nice at the time.

I allow myself music, as that can be conducive to sleep, a few books – but only a few, and possibly a cut flower if the season allows (the roses this year have been fabulous.)

And so when I enter this space, my body and mind know that it is a space for rest. Nothing is there to distract me, to alter the course of my thoughts, to detain from my intended purpose – to breathe, to rest, to sleep, and to refresh.

OK, so I admit, the rest of the house is a bit of a tip sometimes, and there is still a great deal of katunda I could and should discard – but my bedroom has become my own personal oasis of calm and placidity. I highly recommend this - you will be surprised what a difference it makes.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Monday, 25 July 2016

Too Little, Too Late?

Imagine Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit" playing quietly in the background...

"Too little, too late!"

It's the accusation too often used by those who aren't taking any action themselves, aside from jumping to conclusions!

One day it will be too late - but not today. Today is the perfect day to give a little bit... to give a little bit of your love to...

... Making that call that you've been putting off and now feels 'too late.'
... Sending that card that now is 'late' - that 'thank you' card, that birthday card, that anniversary card, that congratulations card!
... Meeting that person - that friend you keep promising you'll catch up with and it's gone on so long now that you're embarrassed.
... Eating some humble pie and by taking some action.
... It's never too late to walk humbly, to love mercy and forgive someone, to act justly to right a wrong, to go the extra mile...

Give a little bit, give a little bit of your love today!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Losing someone dear to you.

Have you ever woken up and just for that tiniest split second all seemed to be well in your world and your day lies before you perfumed, pink and without a fluffy cloud in sight?

Then just as quickly the heaviness of heart strikes as you remember that you have lost someone so very dear to you?

This happens to me every day and has done for over three years, then just as that happiness of that teeny weenie split second seemed to be somehow stretching to minutes before that dreadful heartache, that black pain that reminds you that you are not part of the same family you once were, another deadly blow by that awful enemy called Death leaps into your life and you find yourself to be a complete adult orphan.

It is soul destroying, and now I know how utter sorrow feels - the wretched thing has me in its grip and tight.

This feeling I will never survive... but then again I might??

Like the birds above I long to be free of this deepest sadness, but there is no easy way out.

I recently dreamt that I was climbing out of a window, (such a struggle it was) but I finally got through and felt so free, free of pain and all the dark feelings that billow around me endlessly.

Somehow though part of me is hoping one day I can close the windows, open the door and let myself try and be able to live again.

There will never again be the 100% moments of perfect happiness that I took for granted.  The songs playing on the radio in the kitchen on a sunny afternoon, the laughter of a family picnic, the sunshine and the salty sandwiches on a day at the seaside, the smell of apple pie and the two pairs of eyes that watched over me endlessly.

Memories are met on the path of longing and I need to try and hope that one day we will all be together again in some sunny haze where the birds are singing and there is just a lovely perfumed pink day ahead, and I will feel those caring arms around me once more.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Times They Are A Changing.

The U.S. is in crisis. Senseless gun violence, especially in my city of Chicago. There is no consensus on how to solve the problem. Our election process has been a complete circus.  It's like our nation is going through a total shift in consciousness, somewhat akin to the 60's.

Truth be told though - I haven't paid much attention to the news. It's been background chatter to me as I have been struggling with my own issues. Then I read this quote yesterday from Elie Wiesel: "The opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference." That stopped me cold. I was removing myself from participating in the world around me to focus on myself, but in doing so I forgot what I was supposed to be working on: compassion.

I don't want to get into the Facebook arguments but I do want to be a part of the change.

I have been having a lot of health issues lately - shoulder & back pain, now a nagging cough - and I am trying to view them symbolically because it is the only thing that helps me make sense of things. The areas that are giving me issue fall in the fourth and fifth chakras - for those that follow these things - and correspond to living my life truthfully, honestly, and forgiving myself. And I'm seeing that being played out on a national scale too. Compassion for all human lives. Living honestly. Forgiving those around us.

We as a nation are imploding. But that may be a good thing. Like my aches and pains the violence that is facing us daily cannot be ignored. We must change. But in this pain is a real opportunity to grow. There are many people in this country who wish to hide behind a 200+ year old document to justify holding on to old world beliefs and prejudices. But there are also many, including myself, who believe common sense and compassion will prevail. This country is in crisis but I feel the healing is beginning.

A Moodscope Member

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Friday, 22 July 2016

If I didn't think.

If I didn't think, I'd be much happier; Sylvia Plath

This quotation (there is a second part but I have chosen not to include it but concentrate on the first part - for the purists) means a lot to me. People have often told me that I think way too much and if I didn't think as much I would be more peaceful, calmer and possibly happier.

Now we are encouraged to change the way we think. We are told that what you think affects how you feel, so if you want to feel better we should change how we think. Counsellors challenge our pattern of thinking and show us different ways of thinking will hopefully be more helpful.

Why is thinking so problematic for some of us? Would we be much happier if we didn't think or didn't think as much.

Various studies have shown that the average person has more than 30,000 thoughts a day. About 90% of those thoughts are repetitive and 80% can be classed as negative.

Some of you will say 30,000 thoughts, I would not think that much in a year while others will say, like me, 30,000 thoughts, I think that before breakfast!

Negative here means those thoughts that do not give anything beneficial like support for our desires, health, ideas and accomplishments. Those thoughts are really your mind worrying, planning, going over and over problems. This means that studies show that the majority of our thoughts are a constant negative force in our body-mind because they deprive us of energy and mental peace.

I often wonder how this research is done and who does it. What machine is there that can detect 30,000 thoughts?

Would you agree that 90% of your thoughts are repetitive and 80% are negative? I would say some days that would be true but on other days it maybe half positive and half negative thoughts.

I know people who don't seem to think and worry as much as I do and they seem happier.

Do you think you would be happier if you didn't think so much or if you thought more productively, more positively?

What have you found that helps you to change your negative thoughts?

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Personalities and Comfort Zones.

Leah wrote recently about her old pair of walking shoes and used them as an analogy for the discomfort of a new  approach to our depression/bipolar etc.

Then Andrew made the comment on the 15th July that it is almost comforting to wallow in that cloying sadness.

I am grateful to Andrew and Leah for giving me the opportunity to examine what is real sadness and depression and what is actually normal for our own individual personalities. I acknowledge this wasn't the point of either of their blogs but this is what I am choosing to take from their excellent writing and base my blog on today.

When I look back on my childhood and teenage years, early twenties, before I knew I suffered from depression, I see the same person as I can see now but someone, me, not defined by depression.

Life becomes more complicated for everyone as they get older; we take on more responsibilities at work and if we have children, with a family. Whatever our increased responsibilities are, I think that our personality will shape how we deal with the challenges. Our personality will also dictate to a large extent how we react and what permanent damage is done.

Therefore I am saying that although my insomnia is bad and the subsequent depression also bad, it's not the whole picture. Nothing exists in isolation.

A different personality to mine might not have been phased by the same things/life events that were thrown at me. Their choices would have been different and they may have been better (or worse) equipped to deal with them.

I understand that we can choose to try to change our way of thinking and get away from the comfort zone of staying with our depression. After all for many of us, this is all we have known for a number of years now. However we must not try to change our innate personalities which existed pre depression days.

One of the great and comforting aspects of Moodscope is that we all seem to have similar kind, sympathetic, caring and creative personalities. We care about others and feel frustrated we cannot for the most part, be what we want to be in terms of communication, creativity and light heartedness. We care about others more than we care about ourselves. This means we want number one i.e. us as individuals to be better so that we can continue to help and make the world a better place. This might sound a grandiose scheme but I firmly believe us Moodscopers are a lovely lot and I cherish our similarities.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Give and Take.

The Boomerang Generation it's called.

As parents you think you have successfully launched your children into the world, to make their own way and to stand independently on their own feet. Then, before you have even had a chance to run away to Florida without giving them your forwarding address, they're back! Sometimes they come back when they didn't even start with you in the first place, as has happened with the son we adopted as an adult.

So yes, we have Tom living with us. Not just staying for a while; he's actually living here and this is his official address. And with him, his Jenny. (And for those of you with eidetic memories who recall that they split up – yes – they're back together and highly delighted we all are too!)

Suddenly the house is very full. Full not just physically, but emotionally.

Tom and Jenny do things differently. They have their own habits and rhythms which are different from the previous practices and traditions of this household. Inevitably, there is friction.

But, blessedly, there is also communication. Tom is excellent at this.

A while ago Lex published a blog on emotional bank accounts. We have recently had a practical demonstration, involving many slips of paper, a notice-board and some bitter complaining on the part of people who didn't quite understand why they were so overdrawn with other members of the family.

It was salutary, but ultimately useful, to see how neglected some of our relationships had become. It was useful for my eldest daughter to see that her constant hugs and positive affirmations to all members of the family bear the fruits of easy love and gratitude. She has a healthy balance with everyone. It was probably just as useful but less comfortable for my youngest daughter to realise the effect of some of her actions. And yes – I had to assimilate and swallow the consequences of my own emotional withdrawal and demand for solitude.

So we have started the long process of mending, renewing and repairing.

I spent yesterday at a theme park with my youngest, getting scared and uncomfortable on the rides - and paying money to do it! It wasn't entirely unpleasant however, and the reward was that my daughter opened up to me on the way home and actually started talking.
Which meant an uncomfortable chat with her father as I explained that she really, really, doesn't want to do what he has planned for her this Summer.

Often communication means hearing things that are uncomfortable and saying things we don't want to say.

As Tom says, "It has to get worse before it gets better, Mum!"

We've all agreed to communicate more. How can I expect Tom and Jenny to follow the rules if I don't explain the rules first?

So, rule number one: Put the blasted toilet seat down. Yes, both bits. That means you, Tom!

A Moodscope member

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