Friday, 22 May 2015

Art in a bookcase.

Bidding for something you really (reeeeeeally) want on eBay is not for the faint hearted, is it?

15 seconds, hold your nerve. 12 seconds; breeeeathe. 10 secon...Painc! Arrgh! Bid bid bid!

For 7 months I've frequently scoured eBay for a white Expedit 5x5 bookshelf. Much to the chagrin of many thousands, IKEA don't make them anymore. There's not a shortage of these bookshelves selling on eBay, just never in the area in which I live.

Then, finally, it happened. Somewhere in Meresyside, a white 5x5 Expedit was awaiting a buyer. My mistake, of course, was that I failed to hold my nerve.

Who cries over losing a bid for a bookshelf? Erm (Suzy sheepishly raises her hand), me, I do.

Hey, I'm not a materialistic girl but I do know what I love, plus, 7 months of having my books and 'stuff', piled up all over the floor is not good for one's soul.

I immediately emailed the seller and expressed my abject disappointment. As soon as I'd done so, I felt a bit silly: why ever would she be bothered?

A few days passed and I received an email from said seller saying that the buyer had failed to show and so would I like first refusal? The bookshelves were mine. Mine!

Oh what joy I've had in "dressing" those shelves. I feel that many pieces of the Suzy Soul are contained in those pigeon holes: many of the books I've read and loved, precious letters tied up in ribbon, favourite tea cups, art equipment, journals...It feels like art within a bookcase because I could stand and stare at it all for hours.

Art in our home is important. Art in our home needn't be an original Monet for it to be Real Art with a capital 'A'. Art in our home needn't be expensive or conventional but please, by all means, let it reflect the essence of who we really are.

So when the anxiety strikes and the depression fells we'll not only have something beautiful/whimsical/quirky to gaze upon, but it will also serve as a prodding to remind us of who we really and truly are at our core.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Passion...THE driving emotion.

Last week I offered some 'stuff' about the importance of emotions in our lives.

No emotion = no action & No action = no change.

This is especially important if those of us with mental illness which re-occurs, wish to work to diminish their effects or longevity. You could also be the partner or carer for someone with mental health issues.

So let's treat it (our lives) as something to become better and better a skill or even a sport.

What is it about Olympic sport that pulls us in? More than the demonstration of skill and talent, it's often the back story: How an athlete overcomes hardship or injury; how the underdog beats the odds on favourite; and how winning is not always measured in gold, silver or bronze.

For the two weeks of the biggest sporting event, the Olympics, we bear witness to the power of passion.

Passion is a powerful regenerative energy. It reminds us of who we are and the why's and what for's that brought us here in the first place. When there's alignment between who we are and what we're doing, we work – live and play - better.

While most of us don't live out our passion 24/7, each of us has something we feel passionate about - a career, a place, a cause, a hobby or maybe for some of us, it's just a healthy life! Passion is borne out of what we care about, what we love and what brings us joy - all heart felt emotions that serve us well. Passion lights up our lives and can help get us through the tough times.

Yet in the midst of too many emails to answer, too many deadlines to meet, too much to do (busyness), or simply getting through another day, it's easy for the flame of passion to fade away.

What is it inside you that would rediscover or reignite your passion?

Take a few moments and ask your heart: What matters most to you? What makes your heart come alive? What makes you truly authentic with yourself? (Remember what makes your heart sing April 2nd blog?)

Inscape not escape and feel the passion to be who you really are – as that is THE door to your happiness.

Some mental ill health is about a loss of who we are, as we seek to be socially accepted or 'successful'. To be accepted 'outside' however, we must first accept ourselves inside.

Do you have the passion to go deeper inside and do the real work of life on the only person you can change – yourself? You may find the answer to some of your darkness.

"To be nobody but myself – in a world which is doing its best night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting." E.E. Cummings.

And, regardless of your score, you win your game!

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

My Demons Don't Post On Facebook.

I bought a gift for someone the other day. It was a plaque which read "I love my computer. All my friends live inside it."

Well, it takes one to know one, I suppose.

For most of us it's true. Even with friends who we know well in "real life", we communicate these days with them by email; on Facebook; by text.

What happened to the long, long phone calls we used to have with our friends?

"Well, huh?" say those of you with a y chromosome, "I can't remember many of those. I used to pick up the phone to my mate, say "Beer o'clock," and ten minutes later we'd meet up down the pub. These days I just text "Beer," instead."

(And my apologies for being ridiculously sexist there, but my point is based on observation and a true story.)

So yes, these days, I do most of my communication through the internet. Oh, and guess what, it's how I'm communicating with you right now!

But I'm careful.

I love Facebook, completely love it. I've met writers from all over the world and readers too. I've received nothing but encouragement and support from the gorgeous people I've met.

But I've also seen the darker side and nearly got caught up in the (needless) drama of it all. I've had to sit back on many occasions and say to myself firmly the words "Not your monkeys. Not your circus!"

So my demons don't post on Facebook. Facebook only gets one side of me and I unashamedly work on making all my comments warm, positive, witty and wise (with the unexpected and unwanted consequence that I end up being something of an agony aunt to friends caught up in that circus drama!)

It doesn't mean I'm dishonest. There's a facility for sending personal messages within FB. These are seen only by the intended recipient. It's there I can be more open and serious.
But Facebook is like a party; a party where everyone's celebrating and having a good time. Occasionally it's used for a more serious purpose like raising awareness of a particular issue, and of course, all of us have friends who post angry political statements. There seems to be quite a few of those around at the moment for some reason...

It's not a place to hang out if watching people have fun makes you feel bad. If looking at your friend's photo of their daughter hugging (yet another) sporting trophy makes you feel empty and futile, if you think you will scream if yet another cat meme pops up in your home feed.

Be sensible. Choose your computer friends carefully, post wisely, retreat quietly when necessary. Share your demons only with those you trust.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Just suppose...

Have you seen the Disney film "Frozen", an intriguing re-working of the Snow Queen story?  We sat down with our elder daughter (23) to watch it the other night – a lovely, cosy family evening; what intrigues me is that both she and darling hubby picked up a strong message of depression from the main character, Elsa; perhaps this is not surprising, given that one suffers from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), while the other suffers from frequent but short bursts of what we refer to as "bleaks".

I did not pick up this message at all; what I got was the sibling rivalry - elder daughter would not talk to younger daughter for several months, a situation (thankfully much improved now) which caused younger daughter and myself considerable sadness and, if I am honest, spoiled my enjoyment of Frozen as I relived the whole ghastly business.

This has reminded me that we can all view the same situation from very different standpoints – each one valid of course, but different.

When we are down, we can become fixated on our own negative viewpoint, and often cannot even acknowledge the existence of a different viewpoint – let alone believe in it...

I am particularly guilty of "discounting the positive" as Hopeful One so wisely pointed out to me back in March (3rd); (thank-you again Hopeful One!) Actually so are hubby and elder daughter now I come to think about it...

So I am trying to play the game "Just suppose..." as in:

• Just suppose that things are getting better (even if I can't see it),
• just suppose I will feel a bit brighter tomorrow,
• just suppose my feelings of inadequacy are passing through like clouds in the sky.

And if all else fails, I can always resort to singing "Let it snow" at the top of my voice!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Charity Begins...

For me Charity Begins where your heart is moved. Many of you know my theological background, and will know that what I say next is because of my fascination with wisdom literature rather than any religious intent...

I am deeply touched by the way my hero, Jesus, in the New Testament, is "moved by compassion" when triggered by the sight of an individual's personal grief or the need of the vast multitudes. If was Jesus, I would be totally overwhelmed by the scale of the needs on Earth. Interestingly, He addressed the present and presenting need - what He saw, what was before Him. In fact, after giving out, He would often withdraw alone to recharge.  That, for me as an Introvert, is fascinating too.

I've shared someone else's poster on facebook recently because it captured my imagination.  It says, "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few mintues, including you!" [Anne Lamotte]

Weaving these two threads together, I have my recipe for compassion:

1  Address the opportunity that presents itself (and let go of the rest of the World's problems for now).
2. Remember that charity begins at home - closer to home than most people realise - with you! You must recharge before giving out, and after giving out, or else you will give out!!

Would it be better not to be compassionate? I hear people saying, "Isn't Nature wonderful?" but I see very little compassion in Nature. There are strong parental bonds, to be sure, but very little compassion outside close family groups of animals. Humans have risen to something higher (and horses, dogs and dolphins... do add to the list!) We can choose to help other species and one another, even when there is nothing in this for us.  That, for me, is the meaning of life. Yes, we do well to be compassionate alongside making sure we have the resources to continue to be so.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Climbing my way out of the valley.

Back in the valley, that's where I am.

I have climbed two or three peaks over the last couple of weeks. It was amazing, elating, awesome! Being there, right at the top, that's where I long to be.

But the air is thin up there and what goes up must come down. Down. That's me right now. I am in the valley and my three-peak challenge feels surreal.

Is this how mountaineers feel like after a climb? Do they feel tired or exhausted, numb?
I guess they just rest assured in the knowledge that they WILL climb another peak, they will get that kick again, the thin air, close to touching the clouds.

And then they organise their photographs, replenish, keep fit and prepare for the next climb.

For quite some time I have been thinking: If only I could apply this way of thinking.

Then one day I realised that exercise makes all the difference in the valley. Not swimming. Not walking. But one hour of kettlercise or an hour of boxercise. Or a long run.
Something that wears me out. There are a million excuses not to go. This morning I did it without thinking, I just went.

And I know tonight I will sleep - well! And tomorrow I am going to go for a run. And sleep well again. And I am climbing my way out of the valley, just a little up the hill, where the views are nice and I can appreciate the sights.

A Moodscope Member.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Soldier Boy.

Last January severe storms swept across parts of the United States. Many people suffered, none more so than Moodscope user Di, who was unable to reach her beloved brother as he lay dying in a hospice many States away. We, and the people who write and use the Moodscope blog knew of this because Di told us through the comments facility. To some extent we were able to hold her hand and support her through it. She told us a little about her brother and the closeness she felt for him was obvious. She has now written this poem about him and for him. It is a sad poem, full of grief but also full of love:

A Casualty of War ~ Fifty years later

Standing six feet, five inches
An athlete, a saint to me, his baby sister
A poet, a songwriter, a musician.
A sometimes too-compassionate business person, a stand-up comic
Time tortures him as he works to block out childhood pains
He saves my life, not once, three times.

He runs...and runs...and runs some more...
With drugs,
with alcohol,
With women who help mask his torture though he is
gentle, and fiercely protective of them
And Christ.

He goes to war at eighteen
"For our country," says he
"Because Papa went," and he craves Papa's approval
It is an unquiet and complicated time.

Like many of our young when called into service,
Responding to guerrilla warfare and confronted by a small child
Strapped with explosives,
Running toward his squad,
He removes the child with robot-like coldness
He, a devoted lover of all children
Forty-five years later he finally tells me, his tag-along baby sister.

He returns to the United States of America
After Korea and Viet Nam
He is a wise, old man of twenty-two
People spit on him
Yell at him
No job
No creature comforts
Yet he is first to arrive to cradle me, his sister, upon the death of my only son.

Life runs away while
His path continues with seething harshness
Diagnosed with:
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Agent Orange
Heart Disease
Hemorrhaging on the brain
Each contracted in Korea and Viet Nam
Between eighteen and twenty-two.

I watch
My heart on standby
I cannot breathe
Life's ending arrives
I sing to him
Three thousand miles separate us
I cannot get to him
to hold him as the physical body fades
Roads are shut down
Weather is severe.

For days and nights I call every two hours
A caring assistant places the phone to his ear
I hear his efforts to speak
His moans, his breath
He is comatose yet cries a single tear upon hearing my voice and
His favorite song
I sing more
And more
And then I cannot stop singing.

And laughing
I cannot stop laughing as I
Once again,
Remind him of the time he dropped me, putting my head through the television screen when we were little
And the samurai sword that impaled his foot to the wood floor of our home
After calling me for help he has to pull it out himself because
Upon seeing the fountain of blood arcing upward
I have fainted.

I sing all the songs he begged for as a child
As the last unsteady note fades with my breath
I know
God is watching
My brother's spirit is finally free.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 15 May 2015

A list of goodly things.

It's never a bad idea to record the things that help us through the dips, is it? Here is what is working for me at the moment.

Speaking in Tongues.

Whilst endeavoring to read or learn a new phrase in Spanish, and then repeating it out loud, I can't possibly at the same time pay heed to the 'monsters of the mind'.

She Shall Have Music Wherever She Goes.

As much as I don't particularly like being inaccessible to fellow humans when I'm out and about, if music helps a kinder tune enter my head - as opposed to the chaotic chorus of self-flagellating thoughts - then I'm not going to be snobbish about it. I'll have music wherever I go.

Obeying the Gut.

My digestive system, like my mind, is rather more fragile than I like to accept. Steering clear of processed fare, cutting back on, or giving up, sugar, gluten, dairy and meat, and eating more fresh produce never fails to aid my mental well-being.

On The Radio. is an online radio station that plays only ethereal music. It envelopes my home with calming, chilled sounds. It can trick me into believing that I too am calm.

And then there is Radio 4's Just A Minute. The object of the game is for panellists to talk for sixty seconds on a given subject, "without hesitation, deviation or repetition". The comedy and banter that ensues always manages to reel me in and get me tittering.

IKEA's Expedit 5x5 Book Shelves.

Oh this is worthy of a post all of its own. Coming soon!

What The Eye Can See The Hand Will Draw.

Whilst drawing, the eye is so intently focused on its subject that, once again, the mind is forced to pipe down and be quiet.

In Suspense.

A suspenseful (non disturbing) film is about the only form of TV that can pull me in enough to give my mind a welcome rest for a couple of hours. Mind you, I must admit, gazing at that yummy Mr Poldark each Sunday evening does me no harm either!

Walk it Off.

Going for a walk, preferably some place pleasant, always my aids my troubled head.

These are a few of my (current) favourite things. What's helping you right now?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Humans – Emotional First - Rational Second.

Much of what we read in Moodscope is all about emotions.

Emotion comes from the Latin 'Emotere' meaning 'to move'.

No emotion = no movement = no change.

Emotions can be viewed as energy in motion; a neutral energy that adds power to our thoughts. For example, add emotional energy to a frustrating thought and we can quickly feel anger. On the other hand, add emotional energy to a kind thought of someone and we can experience a feeling of compassion.

It's often difficult to get a grip on our emotions because they happen so fast. Scientists have repeatedly confirmed that our emotional reactions show up in brain activity before we even have time to think. We evaluate everything emotionally as we perceive it. We think about it afterward.

Scientists used to believe that emotions are produced only in the brain. However, sophisticated instruments now show that emotions are the product of an ongoing dialogue between the body and the brain; a combination of feeling sensations, associated mental thoughts and biochemical reactions that shape our emotional experience, in gradations from very pleasant to very painful.

Lastly, emotions trigger many changes in our bodies. For instance every time we feel a stressful emotion approximately 1400 biochemical changes take place.

Psychologists categorize some emotions like love, compassion, appreciation, care and joy as "positive" and others like anger, anxiety, hate, jealousy and sadness as "negative".

We can easily tell the difference between positive and negative emotions in our body. Worry may cause muscle tension; anxiety may agitate the stomach. By contrast, love, appreciation, compassion and kindness may calm us, allowing the body's communication systems to flow with greater harmony and efficiency.

We can effectively utilise the amazing power of emotion when we become more aware of which emotions add quality to our lives and which ones don't.

This is not to say that some emotions are bad. And I am not suggesting we should repress our emotions and not ever feel sad or frustrated. All of our emotions play an important part in how we experience life. They are like the colours on an artist's palette that we use to paint our picture of life. And, while emotions are often reactions to life's events, it is important to understand that they are choices as well.

Can you write down what emotions you went through today and why?

What could you do to ensure you place yourself in a more balanced emotional state?

Will you do it?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Can't Remember... What was it Again?

The conversation goes something like this:

"Have you left me a review of my book?"

"Well, of course I've left you a review! I beta-read that book for you. I got a copy on its release day. I came to your release party. Of course I've left you a review. I said... I said...(pause) I didn't leave you a review, did I?"


(Knock, knock.) "Hello?"

"Uh, hi. Have I come to the right house? You are expecting me? I have a consultation at 10am... (Blank horrified stare from me.) Oh, you weren't expecting me, were you?"


"You did send that document off to the tax people, didn't you?"

"Yes, yes. I'm sure I did."

"So this envelope I've just found addressed to the tax people and clearly not posted has nothing to do with that..."

For me this is the scariest thing about my depressive episodes. Not the withdrawal from human contact, not the days sat shaking on the sofa, too weak to walk further than to the kitchen or bathroom, but the memory gaps. Or even worse, the false memories. Tasks undone or forgotten lie like landmines all over my personal and professional life. They frighten me.

There's a very good clinical reason for these memory gaps. During depression, the part of the brain connected with memory shrinks. It's as if part of the filing system has been thrown out. I can only assume that my false memories occur because the creative part of the brain (at least in my case) is unaffected and just makes up what I think must have occurred, rather than remembering what did actually occur.

Now, I would be the first to admit that admin is not my strong point. If you want five hundred words on the inside of a ping pong ball by five o'clock then I'm your woman. If you need an impromptu ten minute speech on the importance of leg-warmers in popular Eighties culture, then just ask. But organising and keeping a filing system up to date... best look elsewhere for that one.

Even so, I like to keep my promises. I like to be professionally reliable. I like to be a responsible citizen who files tax returns on time.

So my challenge is to create, while well, robust and simple systems that will still work when I'm ill. I need visual reminders of what I need to do when. Even down to "System to follow when a client books an appointment." I need a promise book.

I don't know that these reminders will be infallible. I think I will still need people around me to exercise a lot of tolerance and forgiveness when yet another of those landmines explodes. But, by being responsible about it, I should at least minimize the casualties.

A Moodscope member.