Wednesday, 20 June 2018

A Moment in Time.

We started in glorious June sunshine and travelled back ten thousand years.

Not literally, of course; I have not invented the time machine yet – but we visited an English Heritage site dating back to Neolithic times.

One of my "intentions" is to spend more time with my husband as a couple. After twenty years together and with two teenage daughters, it's all too easy to slip into the relationship of congenial housemates who share a bed, but not the most intimate thoughts, hopes and dreams of the other. Our girls laugh at Mummy and Daddy going on a "date" but they also think it's rather sweet.

So, we climbed down this Neolithic flint mine; down a prosaic modern ladder, our feet clanging against steel rungs; the sound swallowed by dead dust of chalk walls.

At the bottom, room to stand; to walk around; to crouch down and peer into the crawl spaces through which our ancestors tunnelled, molelike, to prise out from the soft chalk, with antler picks, the smooth slabs of hearthstone flint. From that flint they chipped out axes and knives, scrapers and the heads for arrows with which they hunted game.  Flint was their life.

Now we tasted history with the flat greyness of chalk dust in our mouths and the smell of underground and the chill of exactly four degrees centigrade.

Arising back out into warmth, into the golden benevolence of the sun, was like being reborn. The air was full to bursting with the song of larks: their sound a cornucopia of dazzling gems, pouring down to splash into the percussive vibrato of crickets, busy in the long rattling stems of grass.

We stood, on one of the many mine-mounds in this hundred-acre site, and just – stood. The sun; the sounds; the scents; the myriad shades of blue in the sky; the green and gold and bronze and grey in the grass; the dark pine forest beyond; the feel of our hands clasped with love between us.

It was a moment.

Mindfulness is a thing more talked about than experienced – at least in my experience. But I think, last Friday, I came close. Sometimes people refer to being "in the zone." I think it means being so all-absorbed in something there is no room for self.

While I was down in that flint mine, opening myself up to history; while I was out on that mound in the sunshine, the sensations were so all-encompassing there was no room for self. There was no room for worrying about how my daughter's GCSE exam was going, or how I was going to get my newsletter out on time and put together a marketing strategy, or what I was going to say to that friend who has had her feelings hurt by another friend...

We cannot escape our problems; they need to be considered and resolved; but we can and should replace our impotent worries with the wonder of just – being in the moment.

For those who are interested, the mine can be found in Norfolk and is owned by English Heritage: http://bit.ly/2M6tGbj

And – just because – The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams: http://bit.ly/2yr2guO

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Determination, the two-edged sword

It took me some years to notice that the ten blue cards have the 'negative' feelings, while the ten red cards have the 'positive' feelings. And determination is a red card, a positive feeling.

That got me thinking, because for me, determination is a double-edged sword.

You see, I am a rather determined person. And of course, that can be helpful. My determination has kept me focused during my final exams in school and university. It helped me through the difficult times at my first job. It gives me the feeling that I can do whatever I want to do, as long as I set my mind to it.

But that's wrong, isn't it? And sometimes it is really dangerous to my well-being.

Earlier this year, I did a small bicycle tour - just along the river to the next town. I love to bike, so I was looking forward to it. But when I started, it quickly became clear that something wasn't right. I was slower than I used to be, just didn't have the energy I expected to have. The short tour soon felt long and exhausting to me.

But why? I could not see any reason for that. My bike was in good condition, the road was okay, there were no slopes to climb or anything. So I continued. I should be able to do this just fine, so I would do it. I was determined to finish the tour. And finish I did. Afterwards, I wasn't even proud about it, just exhausted and somewhat shocked about my lack of energy. My determination led me do finish the tour, but it wasn't fun and I didn't feel good about it.

My determination got the better of me. It led me to ignore my tiredness and kept me going long after my energy was spent.

This can happen to me in all kinds of situations. If there is something really difficult at work, or in my private life, something that is too much for me to handle by myself – chances are I will stubbornly tackle it and keep on working at it until I am more than exhausted, my well-being run down and my self-esteem low. "But I can make it if I just try hard enough!", I think.

But the truth is: No, sometimes I can't make it. Not alone, and maybe not at all. Sometimes, in these kind of situations, it is best to give up on that assignment, that tour, that piece of work. To admit: I can't do it alone. Or maybe I can't do it at all, at least right now.

Admitting that is hard for me. It feels like admitting defeat. But on the other hand – as soon as I do it, I feel relieved. The weight lifts, the sorrows grow smaller, and I can breathe again.

Mirjam
A Moodscope member

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Monday, 18 June 2018

What would you do?

If I were standing in front of you and told you that if you gave me £5/$6.60 we could make someone who is suffering from depression's life a little easier would you give it to me?

I'm sure you would as you understand how awful it can be to suffer with a mental health issue, and what little help is available.

If every person reading this email donated just £5/$6.60 to Moodscope today we would reach our crowdfunding target tomorrow!

We are hoping to raise £50,000/$66,340 to develop and launch an App version of our online service, make all the wonderful blogs and comments by members easily searchable and to reach out and offer Moodscope to the millions who need it.

So far we have raised £9946/$13,203 from 137 early contributors which is fantastic and I'd like to personally thank everyone who has donated.

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Thank you on behalf of the many who will benefit from your generosity.

Kind regards.

Caroline
The Moodscope Team

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Message to myself.

I have a confession: my name is Leah and I like to write letters to myself.

Long time readers of my blogs would know I have written a letter to my bipolar, and an interview with my inner critic.

I don't expect a reply. It may sound quite strange but even since I was young I just felt a need, if I was experiencing difficult times, to write letters to myself.

When I read them back they had a calming effect on me or if not calming I could see what I was writing down and the mere fact I had written something really helped me.

These days is it more likely to be written on the computer as I am at the computer a lot and it is easy to access. Sometimes I will email myself, so it seems like I am getting an email from someone else even though I know it is from me. Does that sound weird?

When I address myself as another person it helps to get things into perspective and I can give advice and sometimes I see my problems from a different perspective.

Now this isn't going to work for everyone. Some of you will think Oh dear, Leah has so many more problems than I realised.

Just in case you think I am not strange enough, I have written a conversation with myself usually when I have a decision to make.

It can be comforting to write everything down and things will appear that you didn't see before.

People say that you should treat yourself as you would a friend because we are usually kinder to friends to yourself.

So, a letter to myself is usually kinder and more understanding as I write to myself like I am a friend.

If you have you tried writing a letter to yourself, how did you find it?

If not, would you be willing to try it?

Leah 
A Moodscope member

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Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Little Food for Thought...

Waking up feeling lower than low is nothing new to many of us.

I wrote a blog quite a while ago about how I pulled myself out of a bad spell of miserable mornings, by watching uplifting YouTube videos, just to distract my thoughts. I didn't have to keep it up, just knowing it was possible to feel better in itself helped.

That was then. I've been going up and down since, as you do, with a particularly tough time late winter, when it should've been spring!

I've been dragging my sorry self through ever since, then about a week ago, got back to questioning this really low feeling when I wake up. Negative thoughts spinning round in my head before I'm awake enough to recognise them. Drowsy, sad and just downright crappy!

Then one morning, when I wasn't worrying about anything in particular, I thought "This really feels physiological, could it be just low blood sugar?" Obvious I know, that it doesn't help that we fast at night, but I also noticed that my body clock was regularly waking me at 4 am.

So I got some oat based (therefore slow release energy) breakfast snacks and kept them by my bedside to see if eating one at 4am made a difference.

It's unbelievable the difference it's made! I quickly learned not to keep a whole box nearby, : ) but I do have a sleepy snack with my anti-depressant tablet then, with food, (instead of in the morning with tea) and drift back off. I then wake up in a couple of hours able to ease myself into the day without feeling dreadful.

There are no magic answers I know, if it were that simple, we'd all know about it by now, but just wanted to share something that has made a difference, at least for now, every little helps (Ok not the most profound quote you'll read on Moodscope!)

Sending warm well wishes to all.

LP :) xx
A Moodscope member

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Friday, 15 June 2018

Coping with people being nice after a complaint

Recently I have taken it upon myself to complain about two issues which were plainly wrong or shouldn't have happened. One involving a faulty machine here in France and the other involving hedge cutting in our garden at home. Both boring topics I know.

On both occasions, I wasn't happy and what happened was wrong so I decided to have it out with the shop owner here who sold us the tractor mower and the gardener at home who cut the hedge.

That took a lot of effort, backwards and forwards in emails and face to face confrontations all done on my part in a kind way but ever so slightly argumentative. I was like a dog with a bone as I needed to make them see that they had made a mistake.

This wasn't easy since there were two ways of looking at it, one attempting to absolve themselves of all liability and blame and my way; the issues got muddied. Ultimately though I knew I was right. My OH tried to persuade me to just let it go and pay up. He got fed up with me "going on and on about it" and sought a solution rather than hear me out.

Well... and here's the point of my blog. Eventually I succeeded in getting the wrongs put right but was I happy?? NO! I found it so difficult to be proved right and to accept the appropriate action as recompense.

I was just not used to being assertive like that and achieving my goal and then being apologised to and having the machine mended for free and having the hedge cutting bill reduced. I felt guilty! Very guilty. So much so that I apologised to the tractor shopkeeper and thanked the hedge cutter profusely for his kindness.

I still feel bad about it all. Was it worth it? Maybe my OH was right after all and it's best to let these things go.

Has anyone else experienced similar emotions in a similar situation? The need to get something put right but feeling guilty about it when it is.

Jul
A Moodscope member

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Do you ever catch yourself using...

Do you ever catch yourself using coping strategies that have long outlived their usefulness and are now not helping?

I know I have and found that by suddenly being aware of what was happening was able to change my behaviour (at least a bit). For example I grew up in a large family and had four big brothers who were all good at sports. In order to cope I became very competitive and used speed, determination and cunning to try and beat them.

This worked well and served me right through school and growing up.

When I was in my early 30's and I caught myself playing football aggressively to win with my young son of 3! Likewise my student coping strategy seemed to be never to let my feelings show and adopt a cynical jokey front in my social interactions. Not helpful in later life and slow & difficult to change.

What outmoded coping strategies have you spotted?

Did being aware of them help you to change?

Adrian
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Come Sweet Slumber, Shroud Me in Thy Purple Cloak.*

They say history repeats itself. I know that I repeat myself; this is the third time I have written about sleep.

Considering however, that we spend a third of our lives asleep, maybe that's allowed.

A third of our lives, did I say? Oh yes, and therein lies the rub.

How many of us get our recommended eight hours a night? (Counts raised hands...) Not very many of us, it seems.

We live in a culture where sleep is viewed as a self-indulgent luxury. The concept of early rising has long been considered virtuous: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." The first part of that aphorism, however, tends to be forgotten.

I read recently that a sleep specialist, after many years of research, has concluded that our lack of sleep in the Western culture is contributing to morbidity, obesity and depression. He recommends that we should sleep for at least eight hours per day and, for himself, insists on nine!

I know that everything in my life works so much better if I am in bed by 10pm with lights out by 10.30pm. If I stay up even fifteen minutes beyond that time – to complete some task or other – that is the time I give in to those self-destructive habits of drinking alcohol and eating high calorie snacks. If I stay fifteen minutes over 10pm, I'm unlikely to be in bed before the small hours and, given that my day starts before 6am that's not enough sleep for anyone.

This blog is not aimed you who suffer insomnia; who would like nothing more than to sleep, or at you who care for others and can only dream of a night's uninterrupted rest. It is aimed at those of you who, like me, find the discipline of sleep difficult.

I have an alarm set for 9.30pm to remind me to switch off the PC and start going to bed. If the Facebook app on my phone is still active after 10.30pm, then a kind friend in Australia texts me. That normally works!

Other tricks, such as not drinking caffeine after lunchtime, having a bedtime routine, a sleep-inducing herbal tea, all help. I have an app on my phone with some soothing bedtime stories (I particularly like the shipping forecast). It's a free app called Calm. It includes useful breathing and meditation exercises, and music for relaxation.

Following my blog last week, I have built sleep into my "intentions". I intend to get at least seven and a half hours' sleep every night.

Of course, there will be times when this can't happen: social events rarely finish by 9.30pm, do they? And sometimes I might be watching a film with my husband until later; but this is my plan.

I won't ask you how much sleep you need, but how much would be beneficial, and what changes you can make in order to get that sleep.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Life is too short to hospital a corner

When I was 10, Shirley Conran, the English writer, wrote a book called Superwoman published in 1975, and in this the wonderful phrase was coined... "life is too short to stuff a mushroom". I've been pondering on this since as recently, as one of my jobs in my new role as a housekeeper in a castle, has involved making perfect hospital corners. Well, as try as I might, even with a diagram, I cannot master this seemingly simple task. Last week, this rendered me tearful, in need of more than a few glasses of Sauvignon with heightening anxiety levels and my personal and internal "I'm so stupid" button being pressed so much my fingers hurt.

It's strange, as I sit here typing on my new sofa, that, as a housekeeper, I don't keep "house" in my own house too well. Earlier, I wiped down my kitchen cupboards and cleared the crumbs off the floor, constant dog detritus that needs doing on daily basis but always gets left till last. At least my constantly scavenging terriers Barney and Timmy know that there is always a bit of a ready meal on the floor if they are still hungry!

I don't keep "house" very well in my mind either. Filled with useless information that occasionally might be useful in a pub quiz, I juggle this relative randomness, with to do lists as long as the little penguin's in the current British Gas adverts. So what do I try and do now to help myself? I leave the fridge to stay cool and crazy with its menagerie of weird and wonderful contents - past-its-sell-by-date Stork, French violet syrup and courgette chutney to name but a few and I take the dogs out for a walk.

What am I trying to say through all of this? That life is really too short to worry about how clean your house is... and does it really matter if you can't master a hospital corner? I can't and I doubt I ever will and do I care – not really (compared with last week!) I have other meaningful talents and I am worthy of feeling good about myself. I can find a use for the courgette chutney which is an acquired taste to my mind (add it to soup) and add the syrup to some prosecco... I do think however the Stork will be binned soon.

I reckon we all need to have a good clear out in our houses and our minds, ready for fresh challenges, new starts and most importantly of all, to make space to enjoy the things we love doing and for practicing kindness to ourselves on a regular basis. After all, if we don't start this process, who else is going to do it for us? I intend this year to fully forget the hospital corners and perfection, hang up my hang-ups on the nearest hook and go out and enjoy life.

Sláinte.

Liz
A Moodscope member

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Monday, 11 June 2018

What doesn't kill you

As a bit of a last-minute thing I nipped out with my son and collected my dad en-route.  We had such a gorgeous hour being shown around the workshop of an older gentleman who crafts bagpipes. He is old school. Everything made by hand, learned from the generation before, it was as though we had stepped back in time and my soul just sang to be there. It was magical! I cherish these moments. It's a time I can really stand up to depression and say "look, I'm doing it with or without you". I felt ten feet tall on the way home.

My phone began ringing on the journey home, a number of calls, and I returned to find three police cars, five police officers, a screaming alarm and a wolf-like dog waiting to search my home. A break-in. His swag bag will keep him in meals for a long time.

For my mental health I was concerned. For my children's concerns I was concerned. But there is choice. There is always choice. Would we be fearful and sad and cry and change the way we live? Yes. All of that. I was scared, we were scared, I cried and we have changed the way we live. I couldn't sleep in my bedroom partly through disgust and discomfort and partly as there was blood and other evidence to be forensically looked at.

And then, a day or two later we took stock. I'd always expected a break-in and I'd always said they were welcome provided we were out. My wish came true, we were out. We were unhurt and we don't need things, they are just things. Beautiful things, valuable things, treasured things, but just things. I could hear my granny "ye cannae take it wi you hen" and I looked at her picture and I smiled, she is still with me.

We had so many messages. Family love, neighbourly empathy, Facebook consolations, a Twitter stranger defiant on my behalf, tiny stuff but so many lovely things that I realised that while our burglar has possibly a lifetime of running scared with zero support and limited happiness, we have unlimited happiness and choices over what happens next. For having one un-invited person in our lives, we had so many others wishing us well. I chose to take that as fuel in order that my friend Depression would merely sit beside me and not on me. It seems this week I'm winning.

Rise up. Grit your teeth and plan how today is going to be. Even if the choice is sorely limited, there is always a choice.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

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