Friday, 6 March 2015

A balance sheet for life.

For over three decades I have kept a personal diary. My husband now suffers from Alzheimer's, but he still really enjoys listening to the 'story' of our life. Some bits I 'skip', lots are horribly prophetical, and I confound people by correcting the deficiencies of their memories.

When the going got tough I would write a 'balance sheet' of the good and bad of the moment, the bottom line had to be accepted or acted upon. Blank spaces usually meant a 'down' time, because in 'good' times I never missed an entry - however hectic things were.

I have been doing Moodscope for over two years - some I print and refer back to. One was  Suzy's 'A few pretty things'. My 'balance sheet' now is that however bad things get I will find a pleasurable moment.

After a particularly harrowing time it is a cup of coffee with a Zelenka Mass, Mozart's Requiem – the Messiah (nearly worn out).
When going out, even in near despair, it is smart clothes, matching jewellery, high heels and head held high – one thing I have found being the 'carer' is that one 'slumps'. Meal times, such an event, being passionate about table linen and china, are nearly a thing of the past – but, still, a candle and a single rose/marigold/nasturtium will give some semblance of elegance.

The 'few pretty things' brings back so many memories – we made many visits to India – a woman living on the pavement, with cardboard boxes between her and her neighbour, cooking for her family in a pretty sari. In Kerala, along the water ways, a man came out of his hovel, swam half way across the backwater, picked a water hyacinth, then swam back and put it in his wife's hair.

Sadly, at the moment, there is a 'debit' for which I can find no 'credit'. Our neighbour's cats have destroyed all our birds except the sparrows and a few tits. At night I am kept awake by bitter regrets of a cavalcade - of robin (I swear he said 'Good Morning'), little dunnocks, who waited till Robin was out of the way – he was territorial. Fledgling sparrows who would squeak for mum to feed them until they realised it was feed themselves or die. I am really in mourning for my little friends, and during the empty mornings in the garden have trouble, like Polyanna, in finding something to be 'glad' about.

The Gardener.
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Mind the Gap.

I am grateful to Frankie for the idea for this week's blog.

Frankie stated on Tuesday: "So, what can I do? Well lots of things really, if I choose to...and that is the point; I, and only I, can choose my response to my situation.

As I read that, I immediately thought of a model I use which could offer further clarity to that very point, that each one of us is responsible for our response to any situation.

Between stimulus and response there is a gap and in that gap (unlike any other animal on the planet) lies our unique human abilities that enable us to consider and respond appropriately.We have the power or wisdom, not simply to react like a knee jerk reaction – as all other animals do.

Humans have such a great ability to 'choose' their response.we are response-able, as well as responsible.

If we are however emotionally imbalanced, given that all 4 'qualities' that stem from the freedom to choose are emotionally based, we will simply react like animals, as our full cortical ability shuts down in states of anger or distress. Only when we are emotionally balanced can we truly use our full capacity to create a better future. This is where I find Heartmath useful and some may use other bio-feedback devices.

We can place ourselves in heartfelt balance before making any important decisions – if we have the desire to do so and use all our human abilities. I remind myself that I am responsible for my actions and I only 'lose' when I blame anyone else for my challenges or failures.

To Frankie again:  "For it is in changing my response to the situation AND in reminding myself daily of my choice that will enable me to challenge my feelings of inadequacy."

And when we are mentally ill, we may well rely on someone we trust, to use their unique human abilities to either help or even make some decisions for us.

Dare I say 'mind the gap'...or should that be 'mine the gap'?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Biker Music.

Every weekday morning I walk my twelve year old daughter down the road to catch the school bus. I really enjoy the time with her (as long as we haven't left too late and are hurried) as we can have some interesting conversations on the way. I also enjoy the interactions with the people we tend to meet every day.

Standing at the bus stop at the same time every morning means that you often see the same vehicles passing. You get to know some of them. It gets to the point where the more friendly drivers will wave as they go past.

The biker doesn't wave, but he smiles. He rides a really big motorbike, one with panniers at the side to make it even burlier. The bike is black as liquorice and its engine sounds like the purr of a cream sated tiger. Over the top of this morning rumble can clearly be heard the sound of the biker's chosen music. Not heavy metal, or rock or rap; this biker listens to mellow jazz and big band swing as he rides to work every day. You can hear the happy sound coming down the street. It makes us smile at him and he smiles back at us; it's a point of connection.

Then there's the small child in her ridiculously oversized school blazer (bought to have lots of room to grow into); we meet at the crossing on my way back. A very smartly dressed older lady with immaculate silver hair catches one particular bus into Cambridge where she works for the university. We often stop for a chat while she waits for her bus.

Another girl in a stripy purple blazer, always accompanied by mum or dad, got a puppy at Christmas. I have no idea of the names of any of the humans, but the little Westie is Lily, and she recognises me now and always wants to say hello. Oh, and there's Jack at the next bus stop, nearest our house; we go to the same church and so that's another "hello, how are you, lovely day isn't it?"

So the morning walk to the bus stop and back is punctuated by small points of human contact. If I don't see any of them for a couple of days I miss them. When I was ill for a week recently and my husband did the bus stop walk, he was asked where I was. If we don't get our morning snippet of jazz it's a loss to the day.

None of these points of contact are very profound, I know none of these people intimately, but they make my day brighter.
I like to think that I make their day brighter too. And that's what it's all about really, isn't it?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What do I choose today?

I am currently struggling to deal with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and sadness.
Now, the sadness is understandable as I and the family go through the various stages of bereavement; the helplessness is also understandable given the latest management decision at work to set targets which my team and I know we cannot hope to meet; but the inadequacy? Why do I always assume that I am inadequate? Why can I only see the stuff I am failing to do (oh yes, there is plenty of that) and yet not see what I am achieving? And my nearest and dearest patiently and persistently try to highlight my achievements but I dismiss their efforts since they "...really don't understand the (work) situation". It has got to such a pitch that yesterday I announced (thankfully only at home) that I am resigning. (I haven't - so far!)

So, what can I do? Well lots of things really, if I choose to...and that is the point;
I, and only I, can choose my response to my situation. I can stay put and bemoan my lot, which only serves to make me feel more wretched so I don't want to do that. I can leave, feeling a failure, and resentful; I certainly don't want to do that. I can stay, and do my best to change my response to the situation, by recognising that the targets set are ridiculous, by remembering that everyone in my team recognises how ridiculous the targets are so I am not alone; by remembering that I am grieving, so I need to cut myself some slack and by reminding myself every day of the choice I have made.

For it is in changing my response to the situation AND in reminding myself daily of my choice that will enable me to challenge my feelings of inadequacy.

It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:
(God) Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,                                              
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

A Moodscope member.  

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Means, Opportunity, Motive.

...So is the suggested trinity for any crime. I think the three points are also really valuable for understanding why goals go often unfulfilled. Yes, we can be positive – making sure we focus on what we really want. Again, we can make sure that the goal is really something we can influence – that it is under our own-control. But sometimes it still doesn't happen.

I believe we live in an age where many have the means and the opportunities to make a difference. The whole process falls down when we don't have a strong enough motive. This, for me, is having a big enough "Win".

I'd love to learn the piano. My excuses are impressive. Usually around time. However, I have a beautiful piano and I have as much time as the next person. So the next excuse becomes learning to read music. It seems like a barrier.

I know this is an illusion. I learned to touch-type, and this has been one of the most valuable skills in my life. I know I can learn to play piano, and I can learn to read music – even at my age. So what stops me? Simply that the "Win" is not big enough yet.

So here is today's useful question: "What would this do for me?"

Learning to read music would open a new world to me – a new world where music is the language and learning to read music would be to open the libraries of wonderful tunes recorded there throughout the ages. Learning to play the piano would help me relax. I could compose – which I love doing on the guitar. I could entertain my nearest and dearest...

Already, I'm seeing a bigger win!

I'm sure you're just like thousands of other people with frustrated ambitions. Perhaps this one simple question will move you towards a big enough win to add "motive" to your "opportunity” and your “means”!

A Moodscope member.

Don't just sit there do something!

As I write this I have a lot on this week. I move house in 5 days and I still have to:

• Finish packing
• Clear out my fathers old workshop
• Clear out the garage
• Organise the keys
• Wash woodwork and walls where required
• Check the removal company really will turn up (OK I am being a bit paranoid now)
• Sort out accommodation for the pets during the move
• Write notes for everyone in my road to warn them the road will be blocked for the day
• Take another car load of stuff to the charity shop
• Bag up the rubbish for hubby to take to the tip when he comes home at the weekend.

I am in my final year of my degree so I also need to:

• See my tutor about the end of year art piece I am working on
• Submit some documents to another tutor for his feedback
• Write a presentation to be delivered next week
• Do an online application for consideration in a prestigious exhibition
• Finish the drawing for the above exhibition
• Contact a local venue about hiring for an exhibition for me and my classmates.

Of course there is all the usual stuff as well so I need to:

• Shower and dress
• Do the washing
• Sort out the recycling for collection tomorrow
• Feed the pets
• Walk the dog
• Fit in coffee with friends
• Transport my son to and from his bus stop in town.

Some people have said to me write it all down in a list but even putting it down here seems really daunting. I look at this list and get a almost irresistible urge to get back into bed, pull the duvet over my head and pretend that it will all go away.

A couple of years ago a psychologist said to me "don't expect to start with motivation, motivation will come later, just try to do something." One of the "nice" things about there being so much to do and it all being equally important is that it does not matter what I do as long as I do something! I only have 16 awake hours in a day I cant make anymore. So I flit away like a butterfly doing bits here and there, I may pack some stuff for 10 minutes, then put the washing on, maybe make a cup of tea and whilst the kettle is boiling pack a bit more. I try not to beat myself up about the list as long as I am doing SOMETHING we are getting closer to the end. The hardest bit is getting off the sofa and doing something once I start it gets easier to keep going.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Coming out.

On 31st December my beloved and I were married. While this of course has great meaning in our own personal histories, it just so happens it has wider historical significance. The reason being we are both women and one of the first same sex couples to be wed in Scotland. You'd be forgiven for thinking that given the historic nature of the event I was out and proud. But when the time came to share my marital status with the wider world, I realised I was scared.

Desiring minimal fuss we informed only a few close friends and family members of our plans to wed. On returning work I was hit with the dilemma of what to do when people asked how my Christmas holiday was. I didn't want to edit out the fact I was a newlywed, but every time I had a 'how was your holiday' chat I faltered. I am new to my job, and as awkward as the wedding news was for me to share, the news of my gayness is equally so. The end result being only a handful of people at work know, so in delivering the wedding news I was also coming out.

So out and proud or in and mortified? I used to think I was the former but over the past month I have been forced to reconsider. I now recognise the root of my fear is rejection. I don't have an issue with people knowing I'm gay, I am just uncomfortable being the one who tells. When I say 'my wife' I am looking for your reaction. I am studying your face for a change of expression, I am listening keenly to your tone when you respond. Because what I have done is peeled back a layer of my skin. I have said 'I am different, maybe not what you expect, please accept me'.

Of course being gay is just one brand of difference, a widely acknowledged one. Each of us are different in our own ways, and when sharing something that gestures towards that difference we seek acceptance. Whether that's of our sexuality, mental health problems, strange and startling hobbies or obscure tastes. I have realised that in editing out aspects of my life I have prevented the formation of real connections. I have masqueraded as someone else. A person I thought I had to be to gain acceptance. Slowly I am realising this has to stop.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Tale of Two Labels.(apologies to Dickens).

It was the best of labels, it was the worst of label, it was the label of compassion, it was the label of shame.

A few weeks ago I read an online article all about what it means to be a talkative introvert. I was so amazed at this information as I had often said that even though I talked a lot - well okay I sometimes talk very much indeed, I also saw myself as an introvert.

Whenever I would tell people this they would laugh and laugh and shake their heads in disbelief. This article seemed to be describing me and I felt comfortable with nearly all but 2 of the 28 descriptions. I embraced the term and shared it on Facebook and with my family and friends, now backed up by the online reference material!

A friend told me that she thought I would be the last person to willingly embrace another label when I had been in denial for over twenty years trying to disown a medical label. To me Talkative Introvert was not a soul crushing label but a freeing, friendly term that explained who I was.

At 16 when I was first given the manic/depressive label which turned into bipolar label many years later. I did not embrace the manic/depressive label at all as I found it suffocating, judgmental,restrictive,uncaring and when it morphed into bipolar I felt it was heavy, awkward and in no way described who I was.

Today while I don't fully embrace the label bipolar - whatever that means, I do acknowledge it and am no longer in denial.

Labels I have said are for Jam jars so why am I so ready to acquire another label - which I feel is a term and not really a label!!

Talkative Introvert is a quirky, welcoming, fun term. I can't imagine any parents to be saying, they hope their child isn't a talkative introvert. I think I would be comfortable in any social situation being proud to say I am a Talkative Introvert.

Many people are grateful after years of misdiagnosis and confusion they finally have an explanation for their behaviour. They are relieved to have a label and do not find it restricting. Maybe the willingness to embrace one term or another is more about the individual and the society in which they live than about the term itself.

When we start to define ourselves by a label we give our ourselves or others give us, it can start to affect how we behave and maybe limit our choices.

So what now - I will always be wary of labels but they can be fun - maybe I am a Talkative Moodswinger!!

As Oscar Wilde said 'Be yourself everyone else is taken.'

It was best of labels it was the worst of labels.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Loss of Ancient wisdom.

In ancient Rome, before 'busyness' took over, when there was a key question for the community, everyone who had an interest met in the 'agora' (the marketplace).

The reason for this is that they would then dialogue ('through words') offering all points of view until they would communally agree what action the city would take.

Everyone was equal – everyone could speak and everyone had to agree.

So decisions were powerful agreements – bonds - on these key issues.

This 'process' worked well for many decades, until businesses started to become too 'busy' to have time to both speak and listen and decide.

The 'busyness' (IQ, through power, influence, right/wrong world) then took over.

Rich business people then decided that they did not have the time to go and 'dialogue' as it interfered with their earnings and they would then hire a representative to go and state their side of the story! So, no matter what anyone else said, the representative's job was to achieve the outcome on this subject that their 'owner' wanted.

This is when dialogue became debate.

This meant people were pitted against, or opposed to, each other and also when the community lost its unified, strong and coherent voice.

Unfortunately today, in my view, we see the worst example of this when the two political leaders attempt to undermine each other at Prime Ministers question time - such behaviour would not be allowed in a primary school!

I raise this, following last week's blog by asking do you feel totally listened to and understood when you visit your GP, or psychiatrist, or psychologist, or therapist? Or do you find yourself in some form of debate?

If it is the former, your chance of 'healing' is much higher as what you will have done is to build the No 1 part of your 'healing' human trust. If you have trust between two people, it is their hearts that align first and then with authenticity 'we' can find an answer. Two become one and in ancient Rome, hundreds became one!

And sometimes for your own heart and head to act as one is difficult enough never mind two or more people! Trust is the one things that changes everything - even your health.

Who can you build a more trusting relationship with today (even yourself) to become more balanced and more healthy and who do you need to have a dialogue with and get back to building coherence not competition?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Is it time to change your lens?

When I'm in the depths of a low, I can't help focusing on elements of myself and my life which, through the lens of depression, appear terminally horrendous. If I am able to share my feelings with close ones, they often try to draw my attention to the good things in my life, but it's no use. My lens is fixed on the bad stuff, and it's not going away.

Looking through a lens and focusing on elements of other people's lives is in fact, what I do for a living. I've just spent the entire winter inside a maximum security women's prison, getting to know six women there, filming their day to day lives and listening to their stories. Some of those stories are truly horrific, often involving abandonment, abuse and mental illness.

One might imagine that immersing myself in their worlds would be the worst thing for depression, but instead, it actually lifted me out of a low.

Some of these women have lost everything, and have nothing. Many of them have watched their lives out there disintegrate while they languish helplessly inside: their husbands moving on, their children being removed.

But never in my life have I seen such a capacity for hope, love, laughter and determination in the face of such damning circumstances. They support each other, they grow and they find ways to enjoy their days in prison. Ultimately they attempt to focus on the good things and deal with the bad things as best they can.

These women made me realise that it was time to change my lens.

What kind of lens are you looking through today?

A Moodscope member.