Friday, 20 April 2018

Things I have done today.

I am not doing great at the moment and this is always a difficult time of year for me. Maybe this year has been tougher than others but I am not sure.

Do you ever get surprised by how difficult depression is no matter how many times you have been there before? I know I do. Always learning and relearning.

There is a comfort for me in writing lists that are almost the same every day. Sometimes I write a To Do list. Sometimes, especially on really hard days, I write a Things I Have Done list. My little mantra is "if it is hard for you, then it is hard".

Things I Have Done Today:

- Took my medication
- Fed and saw to the cat
- Took my Moodscope test
- Did a mini-mindfulness exercise
- Did some stretches
- Drank 3 large glasses of water
- Ate some fruit
- Ate some vegetables
- Walked around the block
- Washed up a basin of dishes
- Spent 10 minutes working on my CV (I actually set a timer for 5 minutes, but got into a flow so kept going for a bonus 5 minutes, which was completely unexpected)
- Read a chapter of my book of the moment which is "Managing Depression with Mindfulness for Dummies" (today it was interesting things about how parts if the brain work.)

Now actually looking back I feel pretty good about achieving all that. And I feel really good about having made myself feel pretty good! I am reminded that this setting 5 minutes of a task is really helpful. I learned this before several times but here I go again.

Tomorrow is a whole new day and imagine what I could get done now I remembered or relearned that?

Cathy
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/things-i-have-done-today

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Nurturing.

I think nurturing is very important as I think it should be for most of us during our ups and downs. I am going through really difficult time just now. I happen to be Bipolar and am going through a bad bout of anxiety which has knocked me for six. So I need to be kind to myself or as we say nurture oneself.

Unfortunately I just don't seem to be able to slow down, so this is the area on which I need to work on most. I am lucky though as during this difficult time my family are nurturing me, especially my wife and youngest daughter, the latter being a junior doctor so has some knowledge of mental health illnesses.

To help us, my daughters have organised a cleaner to come and clean the flat once a week. I have accepted this offer and it has motivated both my wife and I to tidy the place up so the cleaner can get on with without the clutter!

I consider myself truly blessed as I have very patient and understanding psychiatrists. At present the are reviewing my medications as they seem not to be working and have some unpleasant side effects.

Nurturing for me is also being patient with myself and all those around me. Do you nurture yourself in times of need?

Flower in the Garden
A Moodscope member. 

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/nurturing

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Art of Noise.

I seem to have been doing a lot of listening recently.

A friend had his research stolen and published without accreditation. He needed a sympathetic ear into which he poured his feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and frustration.

My mother has needed to process all the emotion attached to objects before she can let them go. I have listened to all her stories about people I never knew and places I've never been.

My younger daughter needed to tell us about her feelings of anger and resentment over school, over the way things are done in the family; the way nobody ever listens to her.

Ah yes: because we're not very good at listening.

I know that when I'm "Up", I burble all over the place. I don't mean to be insensitive, but I don't speak into people's space – I just fountain joy (occasionally irritation or frustration) all around, and don't consider that other people may need to stay dry. When "Down", I am incapable of listening – all my attention is centred on coping through that dark misery.

But, we do need to listen.

We need to listen so we can respond appropriately to situations and we need to listen to meet the emotional needs of others.

We need to listen just as we need to be listened to.

I remember being taught listening skills on a management training course, long ago.

The first technique is to really listen. That means paying attention to the speaker rather than using the space to formulate your own reply.

Part of it is to make the appropriate response. This may be eye contact (it might not, depending on the situation), it may be to make listening noises: the "Uh huh," and "Mmm…" – although these must be real and not just those we make to make someone think we're listening, when really our mind is on peeling potatoes. We should also make the speaker know they are understood, maybe by reflecting back to them what they've just said, but in different words. If we've got it wrong, then they will correct us – hopefully without storming out of the room with the teenage, "You never understand anything!"

Very often we just need to listen; we don't have to solve their problem. Very few of us, after all, have a magic wand we can wave to make everything all right. When someone is pouring out their grief over a death or loss, then what we feel is an inadequate though heartfelt "I'm so sorry," is all they need. We may need to validate their emotion: "Absolutely I can see why you're angry; I would be too!"

And sometimes, when that emotion is directed at us, we need to say, "I'm sorry that what I did upset you."

I think we have all heard the saying that we have two ears but only one mouth and that we should use them in the proportion given.

Not bad advice.

(and the earworm to go with this: https://bit.ly/2lWqOoD)

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-art-of-noise

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Toxic time, the fast show and... tea.

I have my brother-in-law to thank for some observations. I wouldn't tell him though, as he is a little conceited.

A while ago I was crippled with anxiety and depression, so much so, that I turned to alcohol - the one thing helped keep me going. On day, walking across the common with my brother-in-law and three dogs it was made evident that my 'problem' related to not having much productive activity in my life. Hence my time was toxic to me. It stretched out as if looking into a bottomless pit. I tried petty distractions, but with little meaning or value to my actions, my time was still unwanted.

Secondly, my attitude. It was like that of unlucky Alf in the Fast Show, everything was wrong, because my attitude was so bad. And bad things happened to me. It seemed to me that everything was doom, everything was gloom, and I didn't know how to change it.

I was advised to drink tea. I had stopped drinking it, preferring Vodka instead.

I have now addressed all three issues, and feel the happiest I have been since I can remember. My time is precious and joyous, much of the day. I like my work, my son, doing up my house, swimming, playing the guitar and of course, walking on the common. I ride along on my bike, and it is Brilliant, reminding me of the happier Fast Show character. My attitude has turned though 180 degrees. And I drink lots of tea. This I see as looking after my body, and keeping it hydrated.

So, three realms of good living. Precious time used well, an adjustment away from a self pitying attitude (I apply that statement only to myself), and keeping the body supported as well as the mind.

H
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/toxic-time-the-fast-show-and-tea

Monday, 16 April 2018

Keep on keeping on part 2.

I wrote a blog for moodscope in December 2017 about creating a new routine when you lose a job and the need to keep on keeping on.

Four months on, I start a new job in a week. But the interview and experience has made me want to talk about employment and bipolar.

In my interview, I was asked to go through my career to date-which led me to explain that I had bipolar as many of you will recognise, it's difficult not to! I had gaps in my employment history and have always felt the need to be honest. But, later (before I was offered the job) I got the fear that I had made a mistake and that it may count against me. Thankfully it didn't, but I took a risky leap of faith. Equally, I don't want the condition to define me but felt the need to speak out, nonetheless.

I've been knowingly discriminated against in the past and yet still I think the need to be open, represent those in recovery (which brings its own fears, when/if symptoms will come back) and raise awareness of the illness. I also don't deny that people around you who know you and spend a lot of time with you (ie. those we work with) are well placed to spot differences in behaviour when I may not. So, there is a sense of self preservation in the decision too.

In the subsequent discussions, there was no mention of my condition which is a good thing.  I haven't had an episode for eight years... but for me, there is still the fear that it will come back. So, felt the need to prepare them, just in case.

How open are you with those you work with about your condition? Do you feel it's important to raise the issue or is it none of their business! I would love to hear your views and any advice about how to tackle meeting a new group of people when you are well but with a diagnosis.

The wee one.
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/keep-on-keeping-on-part-2

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Dinner Parties.

When entertaining, do you, as a host, make the evening as enjoyable as possible for your guests?

Or do your guests feel the need to ask you lots of questions and give you lots of compliments because you have taken the time and trouble to cook for them?

There are no rules I guess, but personally, when I used to entertain (not been up to it for a while) the evening is all about them and not me.

We were invited to two dinner parties recently, rare, just so happened that way.

At one dinner, the main subject was politics. I don't mind that but it got rather boring after a while. The hosts did all of the talking, the guests really had no choice but to make the right noises in the right places.

I noticed that the other guests said exactly what the hosts wanted to hear. After all, they had been given a lovely meal by them. All a bit fake if you ask me.

I have learnt (to some extent) to keep my mouth shut if I do not agree. I will never be the one that says just what people want to hear. Even if they have just served me a delicious meal.

At the other dinner, we all complimented the host, as you do, but it turned out he just wanted to talk about his problems. Is that why he invited us?

I was depressed and didn't want to go out. But people say, don't they, "Make yourself go, you will feel  better for it".

I burst into tears and went home.

Neither dinner party took my mind off things. Great food but the conversations were grim!

It has not restored my faith in people, as I believe they often have an ulterior motive.

They invite you to dinner so they can talk about themselves!!

Personally, I cannot talk much within a group of people, so I am grateful not to have questions fired at me.

But light entertainment and a bit of fun, would not go amiss.

Should dinner parties or even general get togethers, be about the hosts, or the guests?

Molly
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/dinner-parties

Friday, 13 April 2018

Is significant change possible?

I was nearly 40 before the penny dropped that some of the problems I'd been experiencing — pain, low mood, compulsive behaviour, inability to maintain relationships, social anxiety — were being driven from within my own mind.

There were several reasons why it took so long and here are two of them:

Firstly, I isolate — few get to see me beyond superficialities. Secondly, none of my symptoms were florid enough to stop me functioning; I could get by. Imagine a car slowly driving along the edge of a busy road, the sound of its flat tyres making you wince.

It's doing about 10mph, it has not got its hazard lights on, other vehicles passing it by. You wave at the driver and yell, "Stop and fix the tyres!" but he can't hear you so he just smiles and waves back and carries on down the road. In fact he's got the radio on quite loud and it's playing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on a loop.

My mind was both the car and the radio. I'm quite grateful for its tendency to tune to a station with a cheerful song. However, when I eventually noticed those flat tyres I also saw that the radio's tuner had a problem too.

I can't remember the year or the month but I do remember it was 7pm and it was winter. I'd been sat in a chair staring at a wall and I realised I'd been there for 12 hours. With clarity it occurred to me that this wasn't right. In fact it occurred to me that I'd been wall-staring on and off for months. Secondly, it occurred to me there was only me and the wall — and there was nothing wrong with the wall. I put my trainers on and went for a walk and started thinking. The rain wasn't a problem.

It wasn't exactly an epiphany but sometime around then, after I realised I needed to physically move, I saw "the car" needed a few things fixing. Funnily enough the first thing I did was turn the radio off; it was a distraction. Of course turning off my happy song lowered my mood but with less distraction I could start to focus on what was wrong with things.

That's pretty much where my journey into "car mechanics" began. It has taken about 15 years so far, gone down some dead ends, but also made some progress too. About the only thing which has been consistent is the belief that significant change is possible and, if I write any more of these pieces I guess I'll unpack the metaphor and get to details.

But for now, what's your basic outlook? Do you believe that significant change is possible? How do you maintain that belief?

Oli
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/is-significant-change-possible

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Race to finish line.

Many years ago, I watched the end of a marathon on television long after the main runners had finished. There was one runner who was not far from the finish line but who kept falling and was dizzy and disoriented. He could not be helped, or he would be disqualified so it was fascinating and heart breaking to see this athlete so determined to reach the line, yet he kept falling over and looked defeated.

In the end a decision was made that he needed help and I can only imagine how disappointed he must have felt to get so close yet so far to the finishing line. I think to have prepared your mind and body for so long for such a race of endurance only to miss out within feet/metres of the finishing line would be so frustrating.

Many of us will never go in a marathon, but we have undertaken challenges big and small only to get so close to completing the task but for some reason we can not get over the finish line.

A friend of mine went back to university in her 50s and was doing well with her studies. In her final year she had a virus then became very depressed and even though she had only 2 units to finish her degree she was not able to. The university offered her extra time, but she lost hope and confidence in herself and gave up. Her friends and family kept encouraging her, but she told me she had given it her best effort and that was not good enough, so she decided to give up gracefully.

Everyone is different. Seeing the end so close would have inspired others to finish the degree even if it did take longer than planned.

It does not have to be a big challenge, it can be a small task that you were close to finishing but never did.

Have you ever got so close to finishing something but at the last minute you could not reach the line?

Or did you put in an enormous effort at the end and finish only to feel exhausted and sick for weeks later?

Leah 
A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/race-to-finish-line

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Lap of the Gods.

It's a stressful time in the Wednesday household.

Yes, the air fairly hums with tension and sparks fly at the least ill-chosen word. There are emotional storms, tears and slammed doors.

The reason? The dreaded GCSEs.

Talking to the parents of other children facing the same exams, I find not all families go through this. Some children exude Zen. They are the ones comforting their parents. "Don't worry," they say, "What will be, will be."

Not my daughter.

We could blame the school, I suppose, for setting her predicted grades so high. But not all academic children go through this. We could blame ourselves for inflicting our expectations on her, but realistically, we have always supported her regardless of her academic performance.

No – in the end, the person who is putting the pressure on my daughter is my daughter herself.

I know how she feels. I can remember revising for my exams, nearly forty years ago. I was convinced I would fail, convinced that I had no future without those exams. Looking back, it was one of the worst times in my life.

So, how do I guide my daughter through this nightmare?

At least she has a mother who understands, and to whom, thank goodness, she can talk. And we do talk.

My husband and I support her through revision, attempting to convince her she does not need to know every text by heart, or to know enough to write each text book herself.

We can persuade her to take time out, to go sailing and to enjoy her scouting activities. I can cook her nourishing meals and provide her with healthy snacks. I can encourage her to do some guided meditation and to practice mindfulness.

But after that, there's nothing we can do. The exam system is what it is. She has done the work and she's got a good brain. We must leave it in the lap of the gods.

And that's the toughest part. It's hard to accept that you have done everything and that you can do nothing more. As parents we cannot do more, and as the one facing the challenge, she can do nothing more – even though she always thinks she could do more revision and yet more!

And – in two years' time she will be going through it all again with A levels, and then in university and then in life.

There are always challenges for us for us to go through. Some people meet them with a happy-go-lucky relaxed air. But - if you are reading this, the chances are you're not one of those people.

So – do you have a methodology for coping? Do you set yourself reasonable goals? Do you take time to do the things you enjoy without guilt? Do you nourish your body with healthy food and take exercise? Do you practise meditation and mindfulness?

You can see it makes sense for my daughter. I think it makes sense for us all.

(Oh, and for any of you chasing an earworm on this title – here you go.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIk9rPHj9FA )

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-lap-of-the-gods

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Shapeshifter.

My depression is a shapeshifter. One week I am sitting in front of the Doctor saying 'I have great insight into my depression, and I know I'm managing it OK at the moment'. A fortnight later I'm sitting in front of her, crying saying 'I don't want to be here anymore' and I realise I've been sliding back into that hole. Maybe I didn't know depression as well as I thought.

This frightens me. Before Christmas I wrote about falling into a hole that I couldn't find a way to climb out of. That was as bad as it had been in a long time. I thought I'd been managing it since then, my Doctor says I am, I'm managing it to a degree and where would I be if I wasn't doing what I have been... watching my diet, exercising, fresh air, yoga, writing.....?

This time it was so sneaky. The symptoms had shifted. I hadn't even realised that these things were part of my low mood: I was isolating myself, I didn't want to see people and pretend, or bore them. I was dreading going to work each week, teaching, which I love once I'm there. Planning meals, kids activities, weekend logistics were straying beyond my capabilities. And clothes! Clothes have become a problem (don't worry, I'm not about to ditch them completely!), I just don't feel comfortable in anything. Finally, I just feel exhausted, totally wiped out, achey and my bed is the most attractive place on the planet.

I took the Moodscope test cards this week, I was clicking on different symptoms, here was some clarity. So I'm here again, and I realise it hadn't really moved away, just shifted it's grasp to a different part of my life. But I'm getting help and I'm trying and I won't be so naive next time, if I don't feel right, it's probably because I'm not!

How do you know when you're slipping? Are the symptoms always familiar?

Lizzie
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/shapeshifter