Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What is 'Normal'?

What's normal for me is probably not normal for you.

Three instances:

• My therapist regularly scores 100% when she takes the Moodscope test (she doesn't have depression, but many of her clients do, so she monitors herself to keep on track with them).
• When I am well my score is regularly 75%.
• My daughter will feel quite well but will score 45%.

This may have less to do with our actual mood than our scoring system.

For example, after each one of my classes, my clients are invited to submit a feedback form (anonymously if they wish) to my Head Office. I am always rather amused by this form as they can only say that I am 'good', 'very good', 'excellent' or 'outstanding'. If they have been disappointed in the consultation I think they are supposed to phone up and tell my directors how appalling the experience has been. In thirteen years only one person has done this: you always get at least one, don't you!

The point of this is that, for me, if I get anything less than outstanding, I feel I have failed. Yet there are some of my clients who could never bring themselves to rate even the best experience in the world as more than 'very good'. Yes, they were satisfied, even pleased, with the consultation, but their personality is such that they would never use the rather fulsome words 'delighted' or 'outstanding.' They are British, don't you know!

So some of us can never bring ourselves to score a three on any of the cards; it's just not in us. Personally, I've never scored more than a one on the pride card, but regularly score a three on determined, enthusiastic and inspired (when well, that is: just at the moment if they get a one it's a good day).

So don't compare yourself with other Moodscope users. If you have a mutual buddy system going then do try to follow your buddy's pattern rather than thinking their scores are regularly higher or lower than your own. You might be having a good day at 45%, but if your buddy scores 45% it might be a very bad day for them.

Like a lot of things, the Moodscope system is subjective. It is the pattern over time that is most helpful for us. If you can afford to upgrade from Moodscope Lite then I would recommend it highly. Now that I can see three years' worth of scores the pattern is illuminating and helps me manage my condition. It was extremely useful when I recently changed GP; she could clearly see my bi-polar cycle: the evidence was there, all neatly plotted out on the graph.

But the most useful thing of all: taking the test every day. You can't see the pattern if you don't have the basic data! Don't get disheartened when your result is consistently low, and don't neglect Moodscope when well. You need the good and the bad, the ups and the downs to effectively see the landscape of your emotional health.

Good luck with your own very personal (and subjective) map-making!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Happy Talk.

Once as a small child I watched the musical South Pacific on TV. I remember very little, if any, of the storyline, but what stuck with me was the music. I've said before that music is something which really connects me to my feelings and emotions and not always for the good. That time it was a positive and really enjoyable experience. I loved the song Happy Talk and the melody and cadence of the music still make me smile to this day.

I recently added it to my 'Happiness tracks' and I listened carefully to the song driving to work one morning last week. How true for me those lyrics are, I suddenly thought.

'Talk about things you'd like to do'. If you talk about the things you'd like to do research has shown that you are much more likely to do them. Maybe it's just the verbal commitment or maybe we're all too scared to go back on our word, but we feel we can't back out once we've shared an idea with others. Whatever it is you want to do; wherever you want your life to take you, share that idea or thought or plan with someone; anyone who will listen; and it might just be a help in achieving your goal.

'You gotta have a dream - if you don't have a dream - how you gonna have a dream come true?'

So start right now. Share your dream; talk, talk, talk, about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. Keep happy by planning your dream: writing about it, photographing it, pinning it, tasting it, visiting it. Whatever 'it' is, talk happy about it until your dream comes true.

Happy Talking...and just for the record I 'm going to learn how to keep bees.

Share your dreams...

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Into every life a little rain must fall.

I have blogged before about making the positive choice; focussing on the sunny side; nurturing instead of nagging ourselves; being our own best friend rather than our own worst enemy. But what about the times when we can't do this; when we can't even see the positive let alone focus on it; when we feel swamped by our own personal black cloud – whatever that may be? How can we continue then?

When we manage to focus on the positive, it is not a question of doing so at the expense of the negative; nor is it trying to deny the negative feelings. On the contrary, it is important to acknowledge the bleakness, the negativity and perhaps even to accept it as being an integral part of us.

Throughout my life my default position has been to deny the reality of my negative feelings; but I am slowly coming to realise that this strategy has served only to make matters worse.

Diana Ross once sang about having a broken heart with the line "Good morning heartache; sit down." and several Moodscopers have referred to their "black dog". I now try to be more accepting of my bleak and negative feelings. Sometimes I will deliberately listen to music which makes me sad – almost as if I am giving myself permission to feel bleak (but always with a time limit and always with a cup of tea afterwards). Hubby's current phrase which is helping me is: "Into every life a little rain must fall".

So in the bleak times I try to remind myself that I just have to trust that it will not be like this forever; that one day, maybe even later today, it will pass, like a heavy shower, or a dense fog...

I loved Rika's final paragraph on her blog 18th February and think that it is well worth repeating:  "I wish you a wonderful day, but in the case that you aren't having a wonderful day, I offer a knowing smile and I hope that your tomorrow is better."

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

I just have to remember I'm still me.

I've had long spells of 'low mood' for a good few years. For ages, I wanted to know 'why'. My life is good. My wife truly loves me (I've stopped wondering why - no good can come of pulling on a thread!) I have a good job and am well-off financially.

It wasn't until recently that I realised that knowing 'why' doesn't really help. I discovered that I have low testosterone. That causes (amongst other things) low mood. Having T treatment helped my mood enormously, though the levels do vary a lot - so often, low mood returns.

When it does, life seems as hopeless as ever - even though I know 'why'. But I've realised that it's still 'me' underneath the fog. My values are still the same, no matter how I feel or how temporarily grouchy I might be sometimes. When I can keep that in mind - 'I'm not the feeling. I'm not the thought. The moods pass and 'I'm' still here' - it's much more tolerable. I just have to remember I'm still me!

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Mindful and Soothing.

I would like to invite you to pause for a moment, and imagine walking into a kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Take a breath, and allow the smell to fill your nostrils with its warm richness. Perhaps it is a tin loaf, just turned out on a cooling rack, its crust split by the work of the yeast and the warmth of the oven.

Perhaps there is a pile of rolls, soft and golden, inviting you to pick one up and break it open, savouring the steaming aroma and taking a first bite of that taste of heaven!
There is, in my opinion, nothing like freshly baked bread, and if you have made it yourself, it's even better. The entire process of measuring, kneading, proving and kneading again is inherently mindful and soothing, its rhythm and pace relaxing and satisfying.

Often, when I am struggling, it can be a means of distraction from my thoughts, slowing me down and giving me an opportunity to gain a sense of achievement. When all seems hopeless, I contemplate the ingredients, and remind myself that despite their unpromising dryness, the simple ingredient of yeast will transform them into something that is life sustaining.

What are we waiting for? Let's get baking!

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Just do one thing each day.

I have been experiencing severe anxiety for nearly five years now and along with this have been periods of low mood.

My career involves counselling and so I spend my days supporting people to move through these difficult stages in their lives but actually, I don't take the supportive advice myself. I know all of the things that I should be doing, I understand the nature of what I experience but getting the motivation to fight the anxious thoughts and go out and do these things is somewhat challenging. I allow anxiety and low moods to get the better of me and I'm not afraid to admit that.

Admitting this is what has allowed me to get to the point now where I can do something about it and start taking the suggestions that I give others. Getting to this point can be difficult; it's taken me five years! Up until now, I have outwardly said that anxiety does not define me but internally I have allowed it to and now it's time to change that.

From experience, I have found that it can be something that you hear, see, read etc. that prompts this change in perspective. It might be something huge that prompts this turning point but it also may be a series of small things that gets you there. For me, it has been a series of small things. Lots of little things that have challenged my way of thinking and taken me one step closer to making change. The latest thing (which has tipped this change process over the edge) was something that I read about how we spend our days when we are feeling low. We often hear that exercise, getting out of bed, eating well and doing things are important to moving the low mood and while this is true, I have found it difficult to simply 'do' these things.

So, to share the advice that I found helpful: Each day, do one thing that makes you feel like you have accomplished something and one thing that you enjoy - it's a place to start and feeling like you have accomplished something in your day can be a really great way of shifting the low mood.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Young girl crying.

All too often we may find ourselves feeling lonely and all alone - or we view or feel  through a song or film, something that stirs something in us.

Many of us know that feeling and being trapped in it - even although we are desperate to find some connection and communication through a social interaction.

Many of the blogs written help us feel connected, or as Trisha stated in her comments last week - she no longer 'felt alone' and it enabled her to 'feel'.

As I had recovered enough to come home last week to the house my children grew up in, next to their village primary school, needless to say I was struggling after staying with wonderful friends.

I managed to go out of the door a few times into the garden but not actually out of the gate, which adjoins the primary school, until I heard deep sobbing.

It was a 10 year old, sitting alone in a concealed corner sobbing her heart out.

It reminded me of my daughter, who I have not seen in 6 years since my wife left, but first my heart went out to this poor child and I walked over to see if I could console her.

When I came back in I sat down and and wrote this poem. I rarely change words, they simply flow intuitively.

Can you 'feel' her? Where does it take you if you sit with your feelings at the end of it..?

I saw a young girl crying,
On the back of the Primary school.
It struck into my heart,
How life can be so cruel.

I thought of my daughter,
Who sat there years before.
Right next to our home,
50 metres from the door.

I haven't seen my Ria,
In over 6 years now.
I saw this young girl crying,
What can I do somehow?

My heart bleeds for people,
Who sometimes cannot see.
How they are going to get through,
To be all that they can be.

We are just the same as adults,
As we often sit alone.
Trying to make sense,
Of what and where is 'home'.

So many minds,
Struggling to get through.
What life throws them,
Likely, one of them is you.

Yet another day,
Passes through and goes.
Yet another week,
Flashes past and shows.

How many are weeping,
Inside ourselves  for hope.
How many are keeping,
Their emotions in to cope.

That young girl sitting crying,
Alone and hidden from sight.
How many of us are hoping,
Day will turn to night?

Les (Not Lex - an error!)
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Your comments count!

If you're anything like me, you avoid the comments page at the end of online articles, especially that of online newspapers, feeling that it can be full of time-wasting, back-biting, negative sniping.

Indeed, until I started to write to write for Moodscope, it never really occurred to me to check out the blogspot page at the bottom. What's really very impressive about the comments page here though is the ongoing wisdom and support of the offerings. Here is a response to Mary's post, 'Don't do something, just sit there!'

"My psychologist told me to move forwards towards the mountains of desire (and figure out what they actually are) and I said some days I cant even walk or stand up and I'm in so much pain! And he said, 'well then shuffle your bum towards them and shuffle your bum every day towards your goals 'cause if you give up and just sit there nothing will change.' Yes I could have slapped him. But I shuffle my bum every day towards the things I want and my depression is slowly lifting. I had to lower my expectations from walking tall towards those mountains to a pathetic bum shuffle but I'm glad he annoyed me into doing it. Chronic fatigue is such a mental battle I hear you!! Shuffle your bum Mary! I'm cheering you on!! :)"  - Jules

I thought that was fantastic! I've since used this in cards for those going through physical illness too: it's a 'keep on keeping on', 'keep looking up', 'keep setting small milestones' message and it carries energy.

These comments are like an addendum or post script that reflect many folk dealing with different shades of the same colour.

I've even been grateful for 'negative' comments, from the The Grammar Police, for example.  (I hope I'm reforming from my heinous crime of 'redundant apostrophes' Anonymous! A cringeful moment, I can't lie, but helpful too. I'm reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves for you!)

Life is busy. Not everything can be read and digested. Impossible to try. But if you go down to the blogspot page sometimes, you might find a nice surprise. I certainly do.  Thank you Jules!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Golden Gate.

Anyone who heard the Today programme on Radio 4 on 28th June will have been astonished and moved by the piece on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Since it was built in 1937 over 1400 people have committed suicide by jumping from it.

Now, after a successful campaign, it has been voted to spend money on a stainless steel safety net. Among those involved in the decision was Kevin Hines,and we heard him interviewed by John Humphries.

Kevin is bi-polar, and aged 19 he jumped from the bridge. At the split second his hands let go of the rail he says he was snapped out of his psychosis and filled with regret, praying to God to let him live.

He hit the water at 75 mph, like crashing into a brick wall. He was then vacuumed 80 feet down. Still praying, he struggled to push himself to what he hoped was the surface. He started to see a circle of light, and tried to aim at it, when he felt something brushing his legs. All he could think was that he had survived the fall, only to be killed by a shark. He kicked at it, but it would not go. Then he found himself at the surface, where he stayed bobbing around until the coastguards rescued him.

In hospital he nearly died of pneumonia. His teeth had been knocked out, but worse was the injury to his spine. Some lower vertebrae had shattered, and shards had embedded into internal organs. Surgeons painstakingly removed them, then mashed them into a paste which was inserted into a titanium tube and inserted in his spine, thus saving him from life in a wheel chair.

In a strange twist of life, he later met with one of the bystanders who had been there next to him when he jumped. Kevin mentioned he was convinced the shark would kill him, and was astonished when the man told him there was no shark. A sea lion had stayed with him, supporting him right up until his rescue.

He now takes nothing for granted, every day he recalls how he wanted to live.

Sadly, there are no sea lions or rescue boats where I live in the Midlands. But there are the great people on Moodscope, helping to keep each other afloat just that bit longer.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

To understand all is to forgive all.

For the last ten days or so there has been the most annoying sound just outside my back door; a "Weeeep, Weeeep, Weeeep, Chirrrrp, Weeeep" sound. It was obviously a bird of some sort but it was high up in the tree next door (yes, that tree that sends it roots into our garden to uplift our patio paving into an interesting and ankle-risking adventure playground) and we couldn't see what it was.

The sound was incessant and really rather irritating. It didn't get to the point where I seriously considered giving my hunting cat (not the couch potato one) a helping hand up that tree (because, while I applaud his sterling efforts in rodent control I do not at all espouse his predatory interest in our feathered garden friends), but it has to be confessed that the thought did cross my mind.

Yesterday we actually saw the bird; it is a male chaffinch. Upon looking it up I discover that the reason he is singing so loudly this late in the season is that he is probably a lonely bachelor who was unsuccessful in finding a mate earlier on.

Some of you reading this may be ornithologists yourselves and will be saying "No – that's not a chaffinch call, she's got that one wrong" and if you do know of a bird that looks exactly like a chaffinch with the above call, then please; I'd love to hear from you.

So my feelings for this bird have now completely changed. So I suspect that my poor chaffinch is the bird equivalent of the somewhat nerdy systems analyst who lists mountaineering, financial investments and canoeing as his hobbies and who would make some lonely female chaffinch an excellent husband if she could just get over that rather unfortunate mating call.

I now feel compassion for him, not annoyance. I've even become rather fond of him and listen out every now and again to see if he's still advertising in the garden equivalent of the lonely hearts column.

I have to admit though, that his song is really unattractive. Now, if I knew some lady chaffinches I would introduce them right away - if only to shut him up and get him out of that flippin' tree!

A Moodscope member.