Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Some Things Are Best Done Alone.

I'm not that keen on the term "bucket list", not least because I never have any intention of doing something so undignified as "kicking the bucket". The phrase "departed this life" sounds much more elegant even if it in fact means the same thing.

Even so, there are some things I'd really like to do before succumbing to either of those terms.

Some items on that list (well, actually, it isn't really a list because I'm just not that organised), take money, preparation, and the kids to have either left home or be old enough and keen enough to accompany me; items such as going on a horseback safari in South Africa (that's the safari without lions, obviously).

Other things are easier and cheaper to accomplish, and on Sunday last, I managed to achieve one of them.

Easy and cheap, yes; but not necessarily straightfoward. It involved being down at the coast, the tides right and the weather\temperature sufficiently salubrious. All the ingredients were in place on Sunday and accordingly, at 11.45pm I set forth.

I carried with me my Kindle with its built in light and clock and a citronella candle, because, although I may be eccentric, I'm not entirely stupid; and sharing my proposed adventure with several hundred biting sandflies would have soured the experience somewhat.

Far, far out onto the spit of sand that divides the row of beach chalets from the harbour I walked, because I needed absolute privacy for this escapade. The sand and shells crunched beneath my feet; the soft lapping of the incoming tide caressed my ears; the sharp salt scent of the sea curled around me like mist. The light from my Kindle illuminated only the next small patch of sand and marram grass onto which I would next step.

Upon reaching my destination I sat and read until 11.58pm and then, allowing my robe to fall to the sand, I slipped naked into the water.

I had never been skinny dipping before. You can see why I wanted privacy.

And yes, all the cliches are true. The water really did feel like cool satin against my skin; there really is a different sense of freedom swimming naked in wild water.

Knowing these tides and waters well, I could let the current carry me a short way and then swim back to my little candle burning bravely on the shore. I could lie on my back and drift, watching the stars play hide and seek with the clouds. I could almost feel myself dissolving; becoming one with the ripples, with the green and red flashing harbour lights, the call of the night birds and the soft putt-putt of a fishing boat further out in the bay.

Emerging, I felt different: freer; at peace. The need for modesty seemed remote and I could have strode boldly back unclothed. I didn't of course. But I thought about it.

More importantly, the achievement of that small ambition is a source of comfort and pride to me; a pride and comfort out of all proportion to the actual accomplishment.

What ambitions do you have? Go on; try to tick at least one off the list: you'll be so pleased with and proud of yourself there will be no holding you back!

Probably best to wear clothes though.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

What lights your fire?

I am currently reading "The Power of Now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle. The book focuses on the benefits of living just in the present moment rather than the past or the future. I have a tendency to dwell on the past and worry about decisions I have made, and am learning that this way of thinking is preventing me from experiencing the present moment.

Recently my mood plummeted and my fabulous Moodscope buddy was straight there offering her support. I found this invaluable in getting through and lifting myself from the dip in mood. At the same time, I came across an analogy in the book that I related to.

Imagine your strength is a log that is burning. Without fuel the flame will eventually die out. Add fuel and the flame will burn stronger and brighter. This led me to reflect on my Moodscope scores from the past and try to identify what makes my flame burn bright and what works to put it out. Consequently, I now have a list of resources that I can dip in to to help fuel my flame and a list of flame dampeners that I need to protect myself from.

This helps me to see that I can take positive action to improve my mood and that, if the flame starts to fade I can hopefully catch it in time before it flickers out completely!!

Kind regards

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 1 September 2014

My breakdown.

This is how I feel about my breakdown in February 2014.

My breakdown enabled me to let go of years of built up resentment.

My breakdown showed me that I had (by choice!) been trying to look after others since I was about twelve years old.

My breakdown showed me that I was very good at putting on my sunshine smile to the world and constantly trying to keep everyone the detriment of myself!

My breakdown gave me the freedom to say NO.
My breakdown gave me the freedom to say I NEED time for ME.
My breakdown liberated me and gave me the space and confidence to start my writers page.
My breakdown gave me the time and space to organise my Fabulous Fundraiser.
My breakdown allowed me to shine as ME.

All through the grace of god, love and support from friends and some good (and not so good) counselling sessions.

I am now a strong, fiercely independent force of a woman.

I still have many things to work on.

Every day I work on myself. I just need to remember to pray and to take deep breaths.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Everybody is a genius.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Albert Einstein.

A quote attributed to Albert Einstein got me thinking how we can so easily generalize from a specific. For example, if we are not a great wit we think we are boring. This human tendency is at the core of so much of our low self-esteem and feeling bad about ourselves.

The secret it seems, is to stop seeing ourselves as a single entity. We are all made up of hundreds of different component parts - our abilities, our skills, our artistic leanings, our interests, our levels of competitiveness, our intelligences, our emotional maturity and all our different personal qualities such as humour, kindness, generosity and temperament.

We are all capable of doing something better than others. We would all accept that we have specific weaknesses but should reject that having these weaknesses makes us an overall no hoper. In fact by self-acceptance of what we are in all our facets we can also recognise in some particular dimension we are also a genius.

The Moodscope team.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Community spirit.

Where I come from, we have experienced one of nature's wonders.

Nearly four years ago the first of thousands of earthquakes occurred in the early hours of the morning of a beautiful day.

After the terrifying wake up, we all counted our blessings to be still alive, and it was mainly chimneys that came down, though some magnificent old brick mansions crumbled spectacularly.

Months later the seismic action finally drew to a halt. But it was a false calm as it turned out.

The next big one hit just before 1pm on a workday. Our city and surrounds were already so shaken that the effect was instant. When I scrambled out into the daylight, the air was white with the dust of a totally collapsed historic stone church. Men were inside attempting to save the organ. This time there were deaths.

We never returned to that office and now like most of the city's buildings, it is gone.
And yet we cannot explain, the community that has arisen from this terrible experience.

While seemingly insurmountable hurdles have been put in front of us, people have come from all over the world, to be part of the spirit which now exists.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Masking life?

Back in the day, I 'grew-up' in an organisational culture where everyone kept a stiff upper lip and wore their stress like a medal of honour. Managers exhibited - and everyone imitated - the kind of super hero behaviour that can lead to exhaustion, burnout or breakdown. It was scary and unsustainbale!

When it was my turn to lead a team, I discovered: 1) that when I was open about some of my own challenges, 2) asked for help when I needed it and 3) admitted I was wrong when I was, I set the tone for authentic communication and improved trust all around.

The resulting dialogue (EQ not IQ debate) almost always uncovered more options and creative solutions. Most importantly my willingness to be vulnerable, with humility, reduced my self-imposed pressure to be invincible/correct/right/all-knowing. I became a better manager, co-worker and friend, in fact an improved leader in life - authentic to self.

While we often are willing to be vulnerable in our personal relationships we all too often consider it off-limits in our professional lives. Some equate vulnerability to weakness and are threatened by it. Yet we have all been inspired by people who openly acknowledged how they've worked through a professional or personal issue that was emotionally challenging. Their trust scores and integrity scores were continually rising.

Being vulnerable within your own 'safe' zone, really means finding the courage to be sincere, open and honest. It also means being readily receptive to input or feedback from others. A balance of truthfulness and sensitivity creates a safe environment in which everyone can learn and grow.

Never ever use 'the truth' as a weapon...that finger pointing to them creates three fingers pointing back at you...try it.

So, take off the super hero mask. Be more authentic and allow others to learn from you in that process. You'll discover more about yourself and become a role model for honest communication and better relationships.

Trust - is the one thing that changes everything.

Do you trust yourself enough to become trustworthy - worthy of trust?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

My Three Friends.

"Your Brain is not your friend" is a cartoon by the amazingly talented Hugh MacLeod ( I love his art because it is art on purpose. All art has meaning, but Hugh's directs that meaning to an end – art as a means to an end!

This phrase resonated with me but I also rebelled against it. After all, if I couldn't have my own brain as my best friend, whose could I have? So I set about befriending my brain...

...and that's where I hit a hurdle. You see I have three brains (at least!) They don't want the same things – so I have to cultivate three friendships and spend time with each one!!! I wanted to begin with the one that gets dismissed too often – my emotional brain.  I realise now that my emotional brain often misreads other people and their intentions.  My rather arrogant logical brain would look down on my emotional brain and declare, "Don't be so stupid!"  But my emotional brain just is – neither 'stupid' nor 'wise'... What it feels, feels true.

I call my logical brain 'the fanatic in the attic'. Not all fanatics are bad – after all, that's where we get the word 'Fan' from. All fanatics are a bit short-sighted though! I love my fanatic in the attic as well as my emotional brain and I have to feed them both on different things. My emotional brain needs to be listened to and acknowledged and cuddled and accepted. My logical brain needs stimulation (and seems to require regular doses of telling it, "you are amazingly clever!")

My third brain, and my third friend, is my secret brain. This is my wise brain that lives in the basement, below the threshold of consciousness. For my girly friends, I call this brain 'the babe in the basement' and for my boyish friends, 'the fellah in the cellar'.
This brain needs one thing: space. It needs me to press pause so that I can literally 'pause for thought' and get a word in edge-wise.

If my other two brains need their own kind of attention to become best friends, the wise brain just needs quiet time and space and the respect this shows. I'm not a big meditator, but I 'meditate' happily when my body is busy about ritualised tasks like a regular journey it knows, or in the bathroom, or at the threshold of waking or sleeping. In these places, my wise brain connects with my consciousness. And it brings gifts: insight, imagination and innovation.

Giving my three brains just what they want leads to peace in my household! Ignore or dismiss any one of the three and all hell breaks loose! Each will have its say one way or another!

My brain is my best friend.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The perfection trap?

Our low self-esteem is often driven by unhelpful thinking about the standards we should be able to reach in order to feel good about ourselves. In fact attempting to achieve everything perfectly is a recipe for setting ourselves up to fail.

Often this is a legacy of our childhood where our parents or teachers drove us to constantly do better. They felt that by constantly moving the goalposts we would try harder and achieve more. Often though the effect is for us to feel inadequate, thinking no matter what we do, it is never good enough.

I find it really helps to remember that this is faulty thinking.  After all perfectionism is only a concept in our own minds. I try to accept myself as I am. Enjoy my imperfections and avoid the trap.

The Moodscope Team.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


The same day I learnt in counselling that I 'might' be depressed I was also encouraged to look at Moodscope. I was shocked at my scores. I had no idea that my mood was so low, probably because it had been for a very long time and to me it had become normality.

I cried some more, lots more of course and realised that there was no point seeking help if I was going to ignore their professional judgement. This spurred me on to go to the doctors and of course I came out with a prescription for anti-depressants. I have been on the medication for 4 months now and attending weekly counselling sessions.

I regularly track my moodscope score and can see I have come a long way. A low day now would have been a really good day for me 3 months ago! I believe that the combination of counselling and medication is working for me. I needed the latter in order to relieve the tears, the guilt, the crippling sadness. This in turn has enabled me to engage with the therapeutic process.

I have a long way to go in healing myself, I still have low days but I am learning to be kinder to myself, I am learning to try and show myself some compassion. I am building up a toolkit of strategies to help myself through this difficult time. One of the biggest achievements I have made is recognising that it is ok to seek help and support, it's a strength and not a weakness.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 25 August 2014

'That which does not kill us makes us stronger ...'

Isn't that the quotation? By Nietzsche I think? I have usefully trotted it out as a platitude to myself whenever I have suffered any kind of hardship over my life, in an attempt to chivy myself into bouncing back. As I get older though (I am closer to 50 now than 45) I realise how untrue this is for me now.

I can only speak for myself obviously but where I used to feel able to bounce back from adversity, I am now feeling my own increasing vulnerability.

I have always been fiercely independent, but sadly not through choice, having had to take care of myself from quite an early age. In doing so though I became quite proud of the toolkit of coping mechanisms I developed in tandem with various mental health services, which I subsequently shaped with my experience and wisdom. But I have frequently had no one other than myself to implement them with, having only been able to rely on an extremely limited social support network (I find it peculiar how some people seem to think you can 'catch' mental illness), while battling depression, secondary to severe Gender Identity Disorder. All things I have nursed across my entire life.

But now with each knock back, however minor, (a recent job application rejection set me back about two days and I already have a job!) I am feeling that what little social capital and coping resources I have accrued in my life, have been progressively depleted to almost zero now. And I know that my only two remaining friends (who are significantly older than me) are themselves becoming more vulnerable and less leanable on.

So where does this leave me?

I have now realised and accepted that the five year downward spiral I have been experiencing is a long-term trend rather than a blip, and is now irreversible. As I will get older (unless of divine intervention) the progressive number of knocks I will continue to receive will hit harder and hurt more.

Perhaps when we are younger our coping mechanisms are quite resilient, and the quotation is true enough...maybe we can learn from that which does not finish us off. But over the course of my life that damage has now added up, to a point where I soon will no longer be able to cope...then...then what? I know this for sure - that which has not (yet) killed me will get me in the end.

A Moodscope member.