Thursday, 19 July 2018

A message of hope

I first started recording my scores on Moodscope at the beginning of 2015 and when I look back at the early comments I can't quite believe I'm the same person. This morning I read this:

"Don't see the point of anything anymore, just don't care. Can't see how, after four years of this anything is going to make a difference. If I could go I would."

It's taken a long time and progress has been gradual, but my life is unrecognisable from where it was in early 2015. I still have occasional dips (mostly menopausal I think!) but mainly things are on an even keel. I love my life, I love my little boy in a way I didn't think possible, and boy have I learnt some big lessons about life.

This blog is very short because all I really want to say is hang in there. Whatever you are facing, whatever you are feeling, whatever space you're in, it will get better. I never thought, when I was lying face-down on the bathroom floor crying and begging not to be here anymore, that things would get better and I would love life again and want to live it. But they did and I do, and I don't just want to live it but I want to live it for a long time.

Never ever give up because you just don't know what's coming next. It might not feel like that right now but trust me, it will change.

Love to you all and much love and gratitude to Moodscope for being with me in the darkest moments of life, you helped carry me through.

Debs xxxx
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Are Your Friends Normal?

"Oh, one of your weird friends, again!" said my daughter, dismissively.

She was speaking of someone I wished to invite to visit us over the summer. And her words made me think.

I suppose, by some standards, many of my friends are a bit weird. Some of them dress as Goths, even into their fifties. In fact, one of my Goth friends is an Anglican vicar - just to buck convention! Many of the men have long hair and often obscurely technical jobs. The women tend to be creative souls who have forgotten that fashion has moved on since the tie-die era of the seventies. A couple of my friends are autistic (albeit high-functioning). They are spiritual but not necessarily religious (even the vicar), intellectual but not always academic. Their ranks include an actor, an ex-Para, a Diocesan Spiritual Director and a professor of Chemical and Theoretical Physics.

Is that weird? My children seem to think so.

Equally, I have friends who are accountants and solicitors and successful businessmen and women. They wear professional clothes and lead conventional lives of work during the week, with gardening and sport at the weekend.

Is this more normal? And why?

If you look at my family from the outside, you would think that we are "normal". Certainly, my husband and second daughter feel, like Mr and Mrs Dursley, "Proud to be perfectly normal, thank you very much." They are more comfortable with people they feel are also "normal".

My elder daughter however, though not an outcast herself, has found friends in a set of congenial outcasts: her local Explorer Scout group. Apparently, it's deeply uncool to stay in the Scout movement beyond, well, Scouts. In this group are the geeks and the nerds; the people not quite sure of their sexuality, but assured of a safe place to be while they work it out; the people who don't quite fit into "normal" life. They are happy to accept being "Weirdos". At the same time, they rival Bear Grylls in woodcraft and survival techniques. They walk and kayak and build rafts and dens. It all sounds like the best fun to me – but at 55, I don't think I could keep up. And, does that makes me a weirdo too?

But – going back to friends – it is the first group of friends I go to when I need a deeper connection. Many of that first group have experienced depression. They are happy to talk about emotions, or just to sit in silence with me. They don't try to jolly me along or cheer me up; they understand. They are my tribe. I feel comfortable and totally accepted by them.

In the end, people are individuals. Each of us is unique and no-one is ever totally "normal". But it's an interesting exercise to look at your closest and most trusted friends and to see the connection between them.

(And – it's alright – I don't think you lot are weird at all!)

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Why do I feel this way?

Sometimes when I am upset over what someone has said to me, people quote the following:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." That is a quotation attributed the Eleanor Roosevelt.

What does it mean? Does it mean that if we feel bad about ourselves that is the only time someone's thoughtless heartless mean comment can have an effect. I do not know. It never seemed to make sense to me.

When people say critical things to me I often fall to pieces. Maybe I am giving them power, maybe I am giving them consent to upset me. It is so hard, especially when I am trying so hard to do something when everyone is criticising me.

I think one of the hardest things is when I have felt criticised in my role as a mother. Whether it is by a loved one or a stranger, I find I am very sensitive to negative feedback. Does that mean I have given consent to these people to make feel inferior?

I was not one of those mothers that made amazing birthday cakes out of a book or someone who had an immaculate house, no that was not me, that is not how I judge a mother. I loved my children dearly, I had a house full of books and we did many creative activities and went on long walks in the bush. So why if I know this do I let others' words and judgment affect me.

It is not just as my role as a mother that I am sensitive to feedback, I just find it hard not to take it personally where other people tell me the words were not meant in a negative way. So, what is wrong with me?

I have been told I am too sensitive and even if someone comes in to my shop and tells me I have a lot of stuff, which I do, I used to get upset.

Why can't I accept what people say without getting teary?

How do I stop giving people the power to make me feel awful?

I don't know how to do it.

Do you know how to stop giving people consent to make your feel inferior or the power to make you feel awful or to put you down.

Maybe you can help me with some tips?

Leah
A Moodscope member

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Monday, 16 July 2018

An unintended gift from my Dad...

I grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland with four brothers and one sister. I am number 5 out of 6! It was a happy childhood, but fair to say my relationship with my Dad was never close. He was a fine upstanding Victorian farmer and sure we had conversations about issues of the day or about the farm or football or cricket. But we never talked about how we felt about each other. Feelings were hidden and their were no hugs or physical contact.

I seemed to pick up on this and went through my teenage years and young adulthood trying to hide my feelings and be a young alpha male focused on other things.

So when he died it hit me as a shock that I really never knew him. We never said we loved each other. I never heard him say he was proud of me. I would never hear some of the things I most wanted to hear from him. By then I was becoming more sensitive to better human communication and had developed the skills to have those conversations. But it was too late and I was struck by regret and disappointment.

But slowly I began to see this differently. Perhaps this was his unintended gift to me to use my time to communicate more openly and more effectively. I started to make up for lost time in my relationships especially with my Mum and family. His gift led to greater happiness and more fulfillment. And it keeps on giving.

Is there some unintended gift that you benefit from? Could there be if you re-framed something that gets to you?

Best

Adrian x
The Moodscope Team

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Sunday, 15 July 2018

Working on the chain gang

I pound pavements, woodland, beaches or parks as one of my weapons in this battle to stay well.  I rarely (never) want to go but I do it because I know I need to or perhaps because I know I have to. I always, without exception, end up having enjoyed it.

Today I walked with my eldest daughter. She is on the final leg of exams and we've had a little more time together. The air was warm even early. It was laden with life. Bees, butterflies, flies, all manner of tiny bodies with wings floating around. The pavement carried dogs and walkers, elderly folks and there were nursery children out for a walk, like little prisoners on the chain gang, harnessed together, some happy, some unhappy, some wearing the runny nose 'number 11' with their sun cream and hat.

Life was abundant. And I was aware of my mood going the same way. I think more of us may be more seasonally driven than we give credit to. I don't just mean that on sunny days we dose up on Vitamin D and the brightness should lift us – I have frequently felt worse on sunny days – I mean that coming out of and into a different time of year can take time and adjustment.

As always, go small. Try open windows. Try drinking that tea outside. Just listen. Creep slowly back into the world if you have to but do it. Even if you only stretch your neck out the window for one wee peek, stay there until you have some thoughts, you may find a new perspective out there. And remind yourself that, as nature teaches us, we have our times to hibernate and we have our times to unfurl. Both serve us, deny neither.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 14 July 2018

To Cuff or not to Cuff...

I recently bought a lovely jumpsuit from a well known beauty catalogue. I've decided it's going to be my "relaxing" playsuit instead... and I am taking the cuffs off the bottom of the legs. Maybe it's an association thing but when I think of cuffs I think of restriction and sometimes, formality. Shirt cuffs, sewn on cuffs.... you name it. For me a shirt can be casual but often in a work sense, it's usually smart. When I see cuffs on more casual clothes, I think of tracksuit bottoms. I'm the sort of person who rarely wears sports gear for other than its purpose. But other people re-purpose the sports wear and make it what they want and that's okay too. My husband said I looked like MC Hammer in it. If it makes me dance as energetically as him, I don't mind... I could dance in it, lie on the sofa in it or even take the dogs out in it!

I think you can re-purpose anything you want if you set your mind to it. Whether it's a jumpsuit, your life, your work, your garden. If you have a job you hate, visualise yourself actually walking out the door one day... going to something better. I did and still do if things aren't quite working to plan and I set myself goals in place to work towards that. I had one job that I hated (a council contract job working in social services) and the person I was answerable looked down on everyone. Her name was Amanda. Every time she got me down or feeling stupid (which was frequently) I thought about escaping... and I wrote a silly poem about her called "Queen Bee" which I have shown to other people and it made me (and them) laugh. There must be something about restriction though that I keep coming back to as I used to feel so very trapped there... there were locks, and codes to remember – some of which I didn't have... making my anxiety so much worse and the clock-watching a crippling reminder of my unhappiness... why do those hands take SOOO long to go round to five o clock. Boom! I'm out the door.. and one day eventually forever ;0)

My husband and I moved 500 miles away from everything we knew and loved... into the wild unknown... re-purposing our life for a for a better one but with consequences that we had to adjust to and, certainly not without its challenges.

As always, with a bit of positivity for everyone who reads this and gentle encouragement I say, go for it... de-cuff that jumpsuit, leave that job for something better, re-purpose what you love if it needs it, re-purpose you if you feel you need to, be brave, you can do it. In the words of another well-used slogan you might know... JUST DO IT! You know you can. Feel it and go for it :0)

Liz
A Moodscope member

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Friday, 13 July 2018

Relational Frame Theory 101

A few years back I came across the intriguing notion that language is responsible for rather a lot of our problems. In 487 words I'll be honest: it's not an area of expertise so this is just my dim understanding and I'd welcome any thoughts. I also suspect some might be thinking, "My wretched childhood/relationships/brain chemicals/genetics etc. are responsible — not language!" Some of those at least might be significant in how personal language rules developed.

No other animal does language to the extent we do. Furthermore, humans have a repertoire of self-destructive behaviour which is extensive. There may be a link. Language is more than just words. It's the entire symbolic system that allows thought to be created internally.

A lot of observable behaviour is rule-governed. You see this clearly with animals. Rats will press levers for food and learn to avoid pain. Rats are clever and they learn rules quickly. They assess situations too: is this situation like that other situation where the rule applied?  (Maybe it's a trap?) We also learn fast, e.g. If I do this then he won't love me. Is this situation the same or different? Rule following is really quick: you judge the situation and you follow the rule. If it's different, you might slow down and evaluate or quickly apply another rule. If you can't tell then you will have to deal with uncertainty (which is uncomfortable).

The connecting thought is that language follows deep rules and therefore is part of our behaviour. These are not rules of grammar that we were taught in school. These are simple relationships between concepts which allow infinite combinations of ideas. Take the relationship of "opposition" for example. Say a child gets placed with a foster family because his mum is having problems with addiction. His real mum and foster mum are radically different in some obvious ways so the child frames the relationship between his mum and foster mum primarily in terms of opposition. Because he loves his real mum he rejects the kindness of the foster mum.  He's applying the rule of opposition which frames how he behaves with them.

Language/ thinking is far from transparent and the relationships and categorisations which we think with are more like the operating system of a computer — you can't see it but it's how the machine works. Similarly, our operating systems drive a lot of our behaviours.  Some operating systems are buggier than others! (Windows 95 anyone?)

The basic thought is that rule-following behaviour is quick and efficient but by definition it is inflexible. Inflexible behaviour/ thinking/ rumination drives a fair share of our problems.

I know this may be fairly esoteric, or seem like nonsense, (or poorly explained/understood!), but there are some nice studies on it and I thought I'd share this notion of a small number of relationships within our language that drive rule-based behaviour.

Oli
A Moodscope member

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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Just, No

A Sunday morning after a long week of bottled/postponed emotions and nothing going to plan and even simple tasks seem overwhelming. Even this morning getting washed and dressed and ready in time was a struggle. (A failed one, I was late).

I sit here with family and friends listening to people talk and it comes to me. "Just, No."

No to sitting here and having to be social when being around people is the last thing I want.

No to the BBQ later of the girl who has invited me over for the first time during the eighteen months I've tried unsuccessfully to make myself available for friendship just because I now feel obligated; privileged to have been asked.

No to beating myself up about the cake I ate yesterday and the workout I missed in the week.

No to tiring myself out driving to see a friend who has also had a rough week this evening - although I desperately want to - I must accept it's not within my personal resources today.

No to holding in the 'I feel...' chat with my boyfriend because I'm waiting to ask for what I need at a time that's not stressful for him.

No to worrying about not feeling beach 'ready' for holiday next week.

No to checking the work group chat on the weekend because they might 'need' me.

No to thinking 'What could I have done' for the old school friend that died a couple of weeks ago and the 'Why didn't I find the information sooner' because I missed the funeral.

No to having to know right this minute what is wrong and not being able to allow/accept an emotion.

So I ask for the keys. Almost make it to the car. Family friend spots me. Cuddles. Appreciated. Questions. Still appreciated but difficult. Here come the tears. More cuddles. Kind Words. Empathy. Much appreciated, but bring more tears. Take care.

I make it into the car. Tears still coming.

Dad comes. Talks. Do I want to talk? No. Am I 'just' emotional? Yes. Awkward but well meaning 'Dad talk' about periods. (Not the issue today). Do I want water? Yes. Water. Thankyou. Windows open, keys there if I want to come back in. Thankyou. Don't want.

My Boyfriend comes. Know what's up? No. There's always something. True. Maybe you're just not ready to say it yet. Maybe, or maybe I'm past ready and now it's too difficult. Cuddles, smiles, tries to make me laugh. I'll leave you to it, see you in a bit. Thankyou.

So I sit and think, why don't I write it out then maybe it will make sense. At the very least it will finally give me something to share to Moodscope. (No to 'not having time' to record my score or contribute).

So I vow to myself I'll keep saying no to whatever won't make me feel better until I feel better.

How long will it last?

Lolo
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Demon Drink.

All my blogs are honest. This is particularly so. It's taken some heart-searching, but I'm writing it because it might ring true for you too.

I became teetotal at eighteen, after three years of underage drinking. Not serious drinking: more for the look of it than anything, but my soon-to-be husband was teetotal. It was an easy decision and – for as long as the marriage lasted - alcohol was not a part of my life.

Single again, in my early thirties, there was no reason to be teetotal. I enjoyed drinks with my friends. I got a little tiddly and suffered the occasional hangover; but drinking was only ever a social activity.

Motherhood changed that.

Some women love being mothers and enjoy every moment. I found coping with my daughter, and then two daughters, the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. It didn't help that my episodes of depression were becoming more frequent and more severe.

I started to have a glass of wine in the evening, just before their bath time, to get me through that nightly routine. And then another while I cooked dinner. And then another with dinner. And then another during the evening.

At one point the thought of drinking a bottle of wine a day would have horrified me. It's frighteningly easy how soon it becomes the norm. How soon, to salvage your self-respect, you switch to spirits, because it doesn't seem like you're drinking quite so much. Then you find yourself getting up from your computer late at night and stumbling up to bed, drunk. You find waking up in the morning with a thick and muzzy head is your new normal.

As my bi-polar became worse and worse, I drank more and more. I started hiding alcohol in my office. I would sometimes drink during the day.

I found I was having to lie on medical forms because my weekly consumption of alcohol was about five times the recommended maximum.

And – at some point - I realised I had a problem.

I enrolled with the Alcohol Counselling service provided by my GP, and that helped me cut down – temporarily. But they work to get you to give it up completely, and I still wanted to drink. Just not as much.

Now that medication is controlling my bi-polar rollercoaster, I can't use it as an excuse to drink.

I started to work on the reasons why I drank to excess, and to put those right, and to stop drinking completely for a while.

So far, I have only made it for a week at a time, but thankfully, my blips have been small ones. I had one such blip last night. Waking up this morning tired, lethargic, unmotivated and generally "meh", made me realise how much better I have been feeling without the alcohol.

The price for drinking is too high. I don't want to pay it anymore.

I guess that means I'm teetotal again.

Well, that's the plan anyway.

Mary
A Moodscope member

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Parenting

"Lord, why did I ever have children?", I said silently to myself as I attempted to be UN negotiator. My two were tearing chunks out of each other and the air was blue.

Parenting can involve enormous highs and lows. I am just experiencing the start of parenting teenagers who are going through their own emotional rollercoaster. Add into the mix a sporty, lively alpha male 10 year old and it doesn't take much to imagine that it's quite a potent combination.

Parenting when also suffering from mental health problems has additional challenges. Tonight felt like an epic fail... I lost my tether and ended up screaming in frustration. I've had two challenging days at work, the uncertainty of a restructure and with my first Fathers' Day looming without my Dad, it all seems overwhelming.

So what can I tell myself that makes me feel better? Both children do well at school, and behave. They save misbehaviour for me!! We managed two family events at the weekend with both myself and their Dad, despite not being together.

So one sidled up to me on the sofa later and gave me a cuddle when I had a cry about missing Dad. They have a lot of emotional intelligence. They have had to and I try to teach resilience, although not my own personal strength.

As for me I took some spare medication, picked some red currants and made a cup of tea....

So to those who are parents or grandparents, what are your tips for dealing with kids when you are having an 'off' day or your mental health is not at its best?

BrumMum
A Moodscope member.

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