Friday, 22 August 2014

Burden.

I wrote a few weeks back now about my positive experience with a therapist, and I wanted to share something we discussed within our sessions: visualising. I've always found this difficult as my butterfly brain tends to flit from one thing to the next without being able to remain settled on anything (sound familiar to anyone?!) and whilst I have a vivid imagination, my focus and concentration on any one image is minimal. I'm working on this (see future blogs!) but there was one thing that really stuck with me.

He described a person walking along the road; a tired, dejected person who seems to have the weight of the world on their shoulders; almost like a heavy backpack or as I like to think of it, a long stick with a bundle of "stuff" on the end, very reminiscent of Dick Whittington when he walked to London actually...I digress...

Our person is someone struggling to put one foot in front of the other; someone dragging themselves along; moving slowly and obviously in pain from the burden they're carrying. Not just their own troubles, but picking up everyone else's along the way, until they become so accustomed to feeling like this, that for them it seems normal, and an alternative doesn't cross their mind. I'm sure we can all recognise this person...

My therapist explained to me that this person eventually comes to a crossroads. Here, they have a decision to make. Turn left or carry on, taking the troubles with them. Eventually, the weight becomes so heavy that they have to stop altogether; they can't carry on. Eventually, after some time, that path will bring them back to where they are now, and they'll have to make their choice again.

Or, they can turn right. They can put the burden down, and walk away from it. Imagine that...

Now I know things aren't that simple. If we could all put down our problems and simply walk away, just like that, life would be full of happier people, and higher Moodscope scores. But it did make me think. I can put the burden down. I can walk away from it. I can take a step in the other direction. I can make a choice (there is always a choice). The path to the right may be a long one, with hills and pot holes but I can still make it easier on myself and choose to travel it without any unnecessary baggage.

An analogy yes, but I feel it's a powerful one. Every day now I check in with myself and visualise myself in the scene I described. Where am I? Have I put that burden down? Am I walking away from it? Some days I can see myself slipping back closer to that burden, and I realise I have to take action before I end up back at the crossroads picking it up again and setting off in the wrong direction.

So where are you today? Which path are you on? Can you put that burden down?

Fiona
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Memories are made of this...Emotions.


When she was alive, I would visit my grandmother's flat and often look at the photograph of two little girls in the typical fancy-dress of the day.

She had many photographs, but I loved this old sepia image of her and her sister. Yet initially, each and every time I pointed it out I would hear, "She got the bigger bow." So I soon stopped mentioning it.

Yet, even after more than 80 years had passed, every time she looked at the photo she didn't see the big sister she loved and cherished all those years ago. All she 'saw' was what she remembered most (and felt) about the day: the regret, the hurt, the disappointment, the frustration, even the anger.

However subtle, these are the emotional reactions that stress is made of, that often start a cascade of physiological responses that can limit perspective, partially close our brain down and eventually wear us out!

What old memories/images/sounds/locations are you still carrying around on your back or in the back of your mind?

What triggers your brain into stress and/or discomfort?

What's been living rent free and unknown in your brain and yet is still hurting you?
And also importantly, what are you not seeing and opening your mind up to?

We can't go back and change the past; but we can change how the past impacts us today - if we are aware of it.

We start seeing (and feeling) the past differently, when we find just one thing to appreciate about it. It does work! Once we find even one thing, our perspective changes, so it's then easier to grow that list to 2, 3 or even 10 things to appreciate!

And remember your list when the old emotional feelings come up. After all, I would inform my grandmother, 'It was a pretty bow and you had a lifetime of such a good relationship with your sister!'

And to improve your health, have that small yet precious notebook by your bedside - the one in which you write down the 5 things you appreciated about your day, each day, just before you go to sleep. Ensure you make it a habit - a habit to be happier.

This way, you will start to 'overwrite' any negativity with the good stuff for the day, before it is hardwired in, as you sleep.

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What colour glasses are you wearing today?

Long phone call from a very anxious and upset daughter (studying away from home) - usual anxieties of looming deadlines; financial worries; friendship concerns; worries about the future; all crowding in on her; we have all been there.
 
"How do you do it, Mum; how do you cope with it all?"  How indeed!

I started by advising her to eat sensibly, get out for a walk, tackle some mundane chore; then I tried to tackle each worry in turn. Anything I suggested she countered with more negative responses; In the end (and in some desperation myself!) I talked about seeing the world through different coloured spectacles;
 
The eternal "Polyanna" optimist is accused of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses; everything in the garden is rosy!

In a similar way, my daughter was seeing her world through black glasses – nowhere could she see any glimmer of light that day; As it happened that same day I was seeing the world through grey glasses – nothing was terribly black, but then again nothing was very bright - just a monochrome grey which left me feeling dull, uninspired, listless...

So what colour spectacles are you wearing today? If they are black or grey, can you take them off? If you can't take them off, can you remind yourself that you are wearing them today, but that it doesn't mean you will be wearing them tomorrow, or the next day or next week.
  
It's like the weather; sometimes it rains, sometimes the sun shines, but it does change; maybe not today or even tomorrow; all we can do is acknowledge the "bad weather" and remind ourselves that it will pass in time.
  
Frankie
A Moodscope member.

P.S. As easily happens, she hung up feeling much better – I went to bed worrying about her! And spent the following day wondering how she was – until I had to ring her, only to discover that she was out with friends and that she had "sorted" some of her deadlines and did I mind if she hung up now as she wanted to be with her friends!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Taking care of the feelings. How?

One of the responses to Mary's reassuring post, Don't do something, just sit there! read in part like this:

"...that sense of going for brisk walk always clears my head. What when I can't do this?? Mindfulness comes in here but I struggle with my raging feelings, mainly directed against myself (or the world in general). Then I feel ashamed for my "self pity", I end up in a self loathing space that only makes the whole thing worse. I feel like a hamster on a wheel...What to do with rage? I think rage, and regret can eat one up. I'm not an angry person as such - no friends would recognise that description - but inside I feel eaten up with it, and there's no channel for it - nobody to blame (but self?)."

Taking care of feelings. How?

This comment sounded so much like how I sometimes feel that I had to think twice as to whether I'd written it! You may even remember my post entitled, Letting out the mad.

Yes, of all the feelings or emotions, for me, rage is the hardest to deal with and yet can be such a strong player in my lows. It's akin to wanting to hang up your wet coat but finding that there are no pegs left to hang it. Where to put it?  What to do with it?

I know, through therapy over the years, that the key is to take care of the feelings but it's something I still seem to grapple with. In fact, sometimes I feel rage at the mere thought of 'taking care of the feelings', and often the word feelings is preceded with an aggressive imprecation!

If you've had any form of counseling you maybe familiar with the therapist asking questions like: What does the feeling look like? Where do you feel it? What colour would it be? And so forth. I find it so dashed hard! Until, last week, I realised that really, it's no different to some advice I was given about writing.

Helen Drysdale asked: "Are you telling when you could be showing? Don't tell your reader what something is like or how someone is feeling but show it instead. Showing makes the reader feel they are there. If you tell when you can show, you create a distance between the narrative and the reader, which undermines their emotional investment in a scene."

By failing to take care of our feelings then, are we creating a distance between us and our true selves?

So, sitting in a car full of people last week, feeling stressed, under pressure, anxious and claustrophobic, I closed my eyes, looked down and asked myself what the feelings looked like.

I saw an egg smashed under a bag of spuds. I saw a foreigner in a strange unfriendly land.  I saw a goldfish in a small glass bowl and I kept seeing...

Is this taking care of the feelings? I'm not sure - it's work in progress but let me tell you, by the time we had reached our destination I felt less like a broken egg and more like a wee chick. I felt less of an alien and more of a local. I felt less like a rabbit in head lights and more like the rabbit that had escaped, just. I felt less like a goldfish in a small bowl and more like a small fish in a big tank...

Help!  Somebody stop me!

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 18 August 2014

T-Shirt Rolling.

One of the sites I follow allows people to pose (relatively) intelligent questions and then experts give answers.

One of the questions that was posted by a young man was "What can I learn to do in 10 minutes that will change my life?"

There was lots of answers as you can imagine but the one I liked best was "When you put your t-shirts away roll them, don't fold them. This way they will fit in the drawer better, you can identify them quicker and they don't get so creased"

It was a simple thing but I thought how clever, and so this morning I cleared all my t-shirts off the shelf in my wardrobe where I keep them and rolled them all up. By doing so I learnt a few more things...

1. That I have found a mysterious odd sock in with them...
2. That I seem to be missing one of my favourite winter shirts (I know I have not worn it for a while so it can't be in the wash)
and
3. When they are rolled up they seem to take up half the space they did before.

My father says that "You learn something new every day", I think this should be "That you should try to learn something new every day." We should never stop growing up and even if all you can manage is to go on Google Maps and 'virtually' explore a part of the world you have never visited, try and learn something today.

Oh, and I can strongly recommend rolling your t-shirts!!

Penny
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Is it important to love yourself?

Loving yourself. This comes up again and again in these daily Moodscope reminder emails I get every morning.

And that's the bit that I really struggle with daily - loving myself. Always have done. Never picked for the sports team, 5th place when only 4 scholarships available. Eyesight too bad to do my first career choice. And now?

Well, now I only have one Moodscope buddy, I'm not the best at doing the Moodscope daily test, I'm fatter than I should be, depression seems to always be there, no 'significant other' to share daily life with, and I can't get motivated to get fit.

Then there's that middle aged bloke looking back at me in the mirror every morning asking where did it all go wrong? Or, maybe more to the point, when will it go right?

But lots of people say that it's important this loving myself thing, that happiness is there, that if I can learn to love and accept myself I'll be a better and fuller person. So, I need to ask that fat man in the mirror - how come others seem to see things in me that I can't (or won't) see? People at work, in church, my family, those few people I can call friends? They like and (I hope) love me. So I think I'll add a little something else to my 'three good things that happened today' journal entry that I do before going to bed; I'll add in a daily 'one good thing about me'. Oh yes, and get out on that bike!"

AJ
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I am far from perfect.

First of all: English is not my mother tongue, so please excuse any wrong words, any strange sounding sentence or just the fact that this text will not be perfect.
There we are, this is what I am struggling with. I am far from perfect.

I do not expect myself to be perfect; perfect meaning without any fault. I just expect myself to be more often my better self than my sad, depressed, destructive, idle, angry, non-productive self.

That is why I do not think that it would just be enough to stop wanting to be perfect. I think it is a good thing, that I do not want to be the depressed me.

There are all these simple truths out there, which sound reasonable: just be yourself, you do not have to achieve something to be loveable, your friends love you just the way you are, do not judge your feelings... and many more. It all sounds very nice.

But I can not find it logically:

When I am just myself, I am most of the time struggling with me and everything around me.
When I do not achieve anything - like doing sports, have some results at my job, not arguing with my boyfriend – I feel like I've failed.

My (not too many) friends sometimes do not like my negative attitude (and I understand).
I think, when I just accept my bad feelings, I will give up fighting them; because it is much easier to just let it happen. To be angry, to explode, to just lay around, to be impatient.

Instead I find my truth more logically: I am not a very happy person, thus I have to try to be a better person in order to become happy more often.

This is what I try to do every day to become a better person, to find the best possible way of being myself. On bad days it just means stopping myself from thinking that the world would be a better place without me. On the rare good days, it means that I am even able to make somebody else happy.

On days like that I actually understand these simple truths. Then, it is not about achieving something, judging my feelings or wanting to be perfect. I just am. And it is fun.

Remembering that those days exist, helps a lot on the bad days and with trying to become a happier person.

I hope all of you have those good days to remember. And I hope that for all of you the good days are far more often than the bad days.

Have a good day today.

Susanne
A Moodscope user.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Where do you find your solace?

Sometimes, you just know. From the second you wake up and the world seems somewhat asymmetrical and you feel bad - you just know that it's going to be a bad day. For me, these are further categorised by a deterioration in my speech (I stammer), an intense desire to be alone and all this underpinned by a lethargy that takes me little further than from bed to sofa and back again. Oh, and crying at crap adverts on TV. So, what to do? Now that I'm unemployed, I have no reason to chi-chi myself up (eyeliner, tights and a shiny handbag) to send me on my way to, if not a better mood, then a better faked mood. My other half lives 150 miles away and even if he was nearer, I'd probably growl at him to keep his distance. Meanwhile, my friends are there but we know that we really don't like to 'bother them,' when we feel this way, even if we know - especially when we know? - that they'd be gutted to know we were suffering in silence. So, where do I find my solace?

Well, not too far down from my house lives a good friend who lets me circumnavigate those pesky pleasantries, instead simply whispering, 'they're in there,' and pointing to the garage. And in there lie 2 Golden Retrievers, Arthur and Jonah, whose tails begin to wag as they snuffle around me, sometimes putting a paw on my leg as I fuss around them, getting their leads, slipping them over their necks and armed with each other, we walk out into the sunshine. Forty minutes later, I return them and am somehow more primed to talk to people. The Retrievers have loosened up that part of me that was so reluctant to engage because when faced with the unconditional, low-maintenance and innocent love that dogs present, there really is no option other than to surrender.

Sarah
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Living or hoping, dying or coping?

I'm reviving again
Releasing the pain.
Coming up for air,
Letting go the despair.

Seeing the light,
After months of night.
After turning the tide,
In seas of suicide.

I can wake and be calm,
No longer with alarm.
I can relax in the shower,
From which I would cower.

I can go and buy food,
Not hide in a mood.
I can answer the phone,
Not just be alone.

I am free to read,
Not just a TV 'need'.
I can open my emails,
Without 'reading' my entrails.
I can go in the garden,
Without waiting for Aladdin.

As I lost my mind,
Mental thoughts so unkind.
I can go out with friends,
And think it's the end.

I can think ahead,
And find ways to be dead.
I can drive on the road,
And look for heavy loads.

I cross the rail junction,
Unable to function.
I look at the train,
That would end my reign,
In this disturbed world,
Pain bare and unfurled.

I can't go to meetings,
Traumatised with feelings.
I can't eat a meal,
Without needing to reveal,
That I'm dying inside,
I no longer have pride.
I'm a burden to anyone,
My heart weighs one ton.

So where are you,
On what is so true,
For many who live,
That need to forgive?
Themselves and their lives,
The husbands and wives.
The girls and the boys,
Lost and so coy.
Who can live out of sight,
Not showing how slight.
The difference can be,
Between thee and me?

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Robin Williams, Super Hero.

And so this morning I woke to the shocking news that Robin Williams has left this earthly planet.  A loss.  A huge loss. A talented and beautiful man. We all have a favourite film don't we?  Whether it be his thought provoking performances or his funny ones, his madcap ramblings or his quiet thoughts that he made public, it cannot be denied that he wore himself on his sleeves, and his trousers, and his shirt. My life, for one, will be less.  I adored it all. Like many, I could see pain underneath the smile. I could see regret within the eyes that did not always manage to maintain eye contact. I could see shame in his shadow. I do not claim to have walked a path anything like his, but, when you have pulled on the 'I'm entering the building' mask for many years you begin to recognise the make-up.

I like that his passing has been felt by so many. Worldwide. Everyone is shocked.  Everyone talks of how happy he made them. One girl said that he made her happy over and over and that the first time he made her sad was 'his' last time. He made everybody happy. Happy with humour but also happy with acceptance. If he can be so happy, in the face of his demons, then so can we.

Something else I have seen much through social media today is phrases like "omg, but he was so happy", or "why couldn't he just tell someone he felt so bad", or "please people, if you feel so bad you get to that place, please just call a counselling service and save yourself". I've read "poor, poor man", "how desperate", "how sad to find yourself in a place where you have no options". Whilst all of this is true it is not right.

(Before I continue, I am not condoning suicide at all, if indeed it was.)

It occurred to me that perhaps the "stigma that surrounds mental illness" is a stigma because of these phrases. Whilst they are meant with love and with compassion I feel these phrases only compartmentalise mental illness when it needs acceptance. For Robin Williams to have lived with his demons for an indeterminable length of time is truly heroic. He has formed an enormously successful career, held down the day job, worked through relationships with people, drugs and alcohol, parented, been public, been private, all whilst wearing the enormous coat of depression. It is an enormous task. It can be like holding a tsunami, using every fibre in every muscle not to give in to its strength. That takes equal strength. It takes superpower! He has held the tsunami for year upon year. He held it back trying to prevent it from taking him under and instead of saying "poor guy, it got him", perhaps we should be saying "On my god, what a hero! He held that tsunami for so long, he held it away from people as much as he could, some people got sprayed, some got soaked, but millions felt the sun instead of the water, he held it on his back and he did it for years."

He is my hero.  He has super powers.

Love from the room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.