Saturday, 4 July 2015

A sufferer's night.

I don't really know if this will help anyone, it's just a poem I wrote. Sometimes I find writing poetry to be very rewarding, even in the strangest of ways. It helps me rationalise my thoughts, and in some way bring me back to reality a bit. It's all too easy to get locked up in your own head, so maybe writing some dark poetry will lift you out. It did me once I'd read back what I'd written. It's a little incoherent, but hey... it's rhyming poetry :).

Thanks everyone, and many thanks to Moodscope.

A sufferer's night.

As time shifts and exposes rifts
As the hour's shower of minutes lifts
As the emotion, feeling and anxiety collapse
There is nothing but an empty, breaking expanse.

As the numbness sets in and quick
As paralysis breaks you in to it
As you become catatonic and your eyes roll back
Embrace the silence, lay back, relax

As the moments last forever and ever
As you experience the realm of an endless nether
As it engulfs you, your thoughts and your dreams
It's a marvel, a wonderful, place to be.


As reality shatters and the clock laughs back
As the seconds drift and ticks elapse
As you wake from this beauty, breathless and black
The world awaits you, plotting it's next attack

As the numbness fades and pain sets in
As tears well with the teeth gritting
As the emotion, feeling and anxiety return
There is one thing I want, this pain must burn

As my only escape, my leaving gift
As my last encore and bow to lift
As if I must die I indeed must live
Oh, please forgive me, I have nothing left to give...

All the very best to those who are out there feeling the brutality that is depression. It will fade, especially with the help of the Moodscope team.


A Moodscope member.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Perfectionist's Guide to Visiting an Art Gallery.

When visiting a museum, art gallery, or indeed, a whole city, do you find you can become a bit like a Sergeant Major embarking on a life-altering mission (hello off-the-scale-unrealistic 'To See' list)?

Even in leisure, The Perfectionist's (and many depressives are perfectionists in my experience) goals are rarely attainable.

So how does a perfectionistic culture vulture explore without becoming a cantankerous, fatigued, hunger stricken "failure", with sore feet?

1) Visit the shop first.

It was my American friend, Michelle, who first got me thinking I need to rethink the way I "attack" an art gallery. Michelle always hits the shop first. If some merchandise of a painting "grabs" her, she'll take note and go see it in the flesh.

This may sound fickle but believe me, if you're as short on energy as I am, this can save you from running out of steam before you've even reached the first gallery.

2) Forgive yourself for not stopping, staring, and reading about, every last exhibit.

The fear of missing something life-altering will not abate by adopting the perfectionistic approach - which can quickly come to feel perfunctory and chore-like. In fact, chances are, you'll only tire out quicker and thus lessen any likelihood of experiencing that inspirational, visceral, mouth agog moment.

3) Don't expect the "must see" or famous paintings to be the ones that will inspire/move you the most.

Professor James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests planning to spend about half of whatever time you have for your visit by first meandering from room to room. Make a note of what resonates with you (not what you feel should resonate with you). Then go back and spend the rest of your time with just the one or two paintings/sculptures etc you've noted (meet Mr Mindfulness. Again). That means really stopping and staring.

Professor Pawelski is conducting studies to try and uncover why the deliberate contemplating of art can increase our wellbeing.

4) Stop frequently for liquid refreshment.

A stop for a cuppa goes without saying really, doesn't it?

5) Answers on a postcard.

I love Danny Gregory's suggestion to purchase a postcard of the painting that touched/inspired/struck you the most and then post it to yourself with a few lines about why you love it so. Why did it "speak" to you? What did you feel?

We may feel a failure if we've not seen absolutely everything but what's the point of seeing everything but not really seeing anything? Sure, you can say, "Yup, been there, saw that," but did you? Did you really, see it; feel it?

As Professor Pawelski says, sometimes we get more for the price of admission by opting to see less.

What helps you to emerge from an art gallery/museum feeling inspired and sated instead of fagged and depleted?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 2 July 2015


"There are no short cuts to any place worth going" Beverley Sills

I often use this quote as people say things like, "Do I really have to do this?" or
"Can't I just skip this?"

All too often in this instant gratification, short-term world people seek a short cut to so many things they desire...a healthy body...a good career...good 'living'...a gold medal...a mindful state...a balanced life...maybe even a normal life!

Needless to say all the usual media adverts and papers/web sites that sell such awful 'instant' stories enhance this desire for short cuts.

I believe that if you truly want to be happy and gain some real sense of achievement you will have worked hard for something that you personally thought was worth it. A relationship, a healthy physical body, a healthy mind, a good job, a positive disposition, a happy home, good friends etc.

Now for sure some people, due to their parents or luck (of which there is very little) may 'have' something that most people desire - even winning the lottery - but the very name gives it away - the challenge is, will they actually be able to enjoy it or feel a real sense of achievement or even better sustain it?

The answer almost always will be no!

People who have not had a real desire to achieve their dream and then go out and work hard to achieve it, usually fall right back to where they were before they 'won' that lucky 'prize'.

I remember a story of one of the UK's most inspirational sportsmen Chris Hoy. Chris was asked that during all his focussed training that there must be one night that he goes out and has a good drink or eats something that is tasty but unhealthy. His answer was short and clear:

"If I did go out, even for one night and not adhere to what I know to help me in my dream and agreed plan and lost the final by 1,000th of a second, which can easily happen, I would never forgive myself. If you want something enough, you have to be prepared to totally commit to a plan that will achieve that."

There is no try in commitment, either you do it or you don't. (Even Yoda said that in Star Wars.)

In mental health we will often stray from what we know helps us, maybe even stopping doing Moodscope when we know our score gives us an indication. Maybe drinking, maybe eating the wrong foods, maybe drugs, maybe sex, maybe simply not practising being mindful each day?
Most of our problems are self-inflicted through a lack of self-control.

What can you do today to start to commit to what you know WILL provide a better life for you?

Who can you ask to support you – we rarely do it alone?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Managing the Highs.

What goes up must come down. Damn!

"What does it feel like?" asked one Moodscope user. "What does it feel like when you're on the upside of the bi-polar?"

Well, it feels "normal." It feels as if there is really no other way to feel. Because, it's when I'm "up" I feel most like myself. The Mary I identify with most closely is this buzzing, energetic bundle of fun. I'm creative, I'm efficient, I'm proactive, I'm in control of everything. (Oh, and I'm humble too. Had you noticed that?)

But of course, I'm not in control. In fact, the better I feel the more out of control I am.

So, I've learned to recognise the warning signs.

First of all there is Moodscope. Now, my buddies won't pick up on this because my actual score doesn't change. On the plateau of wellness I regularly and consistently check in with scores in the mid-seventies. The red cards score a 2 and blue cards score a 0. When "up" however, the red cards are almost all 3 – but some of the blue cards, especially the hostile, jittery and anxious cards get marked with a one, or even a 2. The score remains the same, but the makeup is different. When I notice this, then it's my responsibility to alert my Moodscope buddies. My buddies are great at picking up on the times I epically crash, but the ups? Not so much.

The next symptom is sleep. Don't want it, don't need it. I find that, without noticing it, my normal seven hours a night has slimmed down to five. Then to four and a half, then to... And it's when I go to bed at 3am and still get up at 6am with bounding energy the warning bells start to ring.

Oh, and the buzz of ideas! I can't keep up with them. This week Caroline (our wonderful administrator) asked me to come up with some slogans for depressives. Well, that's easy, isn't it? I could think of at least ten just off the top of my head. And another ten today. The creative energy is amazing.

But there is the other side of all this, and that's the side that's dangerous. There's risk-taking behaviour. Oh and the fact that everyone around seems SO slow and stupid! Which means I get irritable and impatient. Not nice.

So I get my buddies, both Moodscope buddies and Facebook friends who know and understand, to watch out for me. I have friends who tell me to go to bed if they see I'm still up and on the computer after midnight, my husband and I have an agreement that we consult over any purchase over a certain amount. He'll stop me dashing over to Phoenix on a whim to have coffee with my new friend in that city.

Because the secret to minimizing the downs is to control the ups.

They feel wonderful but they're scary and they need riding on a very, very tight rein.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Head, heart, nature.

I came across Moodscope some years ago through listening to founder, Jon Cousins being interviewed on Radio 4's Midweek. I was interested so logged on and did some scores.

However, more than the scoring, I found Jon's daily blog inspiring and thoughtful and it  became my habit each day to read this and this deepened further with all the blogs from the Moodscope members.

I have never known or been sure – am I depressed? Sometimes I think I am an imposter – yes I get sad sometimes (quite a lot of the time), I struggle to be happy – but depressed – no, that is surely when one can hear someone is dead to the world, their tone of voice becomes dead pan.

I don't know if there is a definition for "depressed" – lately I have begun to say (at least to myself) "I am depressed" or to others "I have been very low lately". There are some happy days but they seem to be in the minority. I think it is as a result of personal work I am doing on myself and I hope I will soon come through to the other side.

I have made myself a list of "Things to make myself feel better" which I may share at a later time.

Today I just want to share one: go in to nature.

When I had some unexpected time today, I let my car drive me to a place where I know I can walk in the woods, hear no traffic and hopefully meet no-one. I parked and opened the door and my heart opened instantaneously – through hearing the sound of the high pine trees swaying in the strong winds today. Five minutes later as I walked, I realised all the depressive thoughts in my head had gone, replaced by a heart awareness of the sounds of the wind, the shapes of individual trees, the bright luminescent green of some moss, the colour and textures of the different barks, seeing many young shoots as a plant springs to life on the forest floor. For a while I feel connected, expanded and not at all depressed!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Enemy of My Enemy.

The wise say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I would love to be a man of faith. I admire women and men of faith. But 'doubt' is far more often my companion. It's a dour campanion too! All doom and gloom - but it means well, I guess.

I've had an idea.

I think it is a revolutionary one.

If I learned to doubt my doubts, would they be overcome or even transformed into faith?

Would this be like fighting fire with fire?

For example, I'm not a natural administrator. I even fear doing my accounts because, for me, it is really unpleasant. I 'doubt' that I'll ever be any good at it.

But actually, I doubt that statement. I know I'm pretty intelligent. I know that maths is one of the few fair things in life - it just works. And if it doesn't work, that just means I've not learned the best pattern to use to get it to work. I have faith that it can work and that I can make it work. I therefore doubt my doubt.

There's an interesting concept called "Force Field Analysis". In it, you draw a huge arrow and in this arrow you write the change you'd like to move towards. Then you do a set of arrows, pointing in the same direction as the change, thus supporting this transformation.

Then the fun begins. You also draw a whole army of arrows against the flow. These are the 'doubts' - the factors that would stop the change.

What excited me about this technique is that it is equally as effective to disempower the factors against the miracle as it is to strengthen the forces that move towards the miracle. It's like knocking the legs out from under the table that resists you. It must fall.

What are your doubts? Many young people doubt that they'll ever own a home of their own. Many older people doubt they'll have enough to live on in retirement. Many of us doubt we'll ever meet our soul-mate, or even doubt that soul-mates exist. Some believe that happiness is for others, but doubt it is for them.

I doubt that.

All that.

I doubt that I'll never have a home of my own or enough to retire on or even that I'll never find my soul-mate. Hey, you might even be reading this!

So will you join me in my doubts?

What shall we doubt together today?

How shall we create happiness together?

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Thank you for helping me gain some balance.

I've been a "Moodscoper" for about three years now.

It took me a while to see the benefit but now it's one of the most valuable tools in my mental health first aid kit.

An individual daily score tells me something. Where I am in relation to my 'norm'. In particular it tells me where I am in relation to HEALTHY.

Over time I've been able to learn what a range of scores mean for me. As it's subjective, the numbers themselves mean little. But you know that for me, health lies between about 50 and 65.

Above that and I'm probably doing too much - getting a bit over busy, over excited and likely to tire myself out.

Below this range is cause for concern - I may be, or may be heading towards depression.

This has been fantastic because it means I spot a mood trend before I feel it myself. I notice a week of lower scores and can take steps to help myself.

Equally I can see progress as I start to improve - something that I usually find difficult to recognise.

Over time, I've learnt that daily plotting is best - I get a fuller picture... But I do what I can! When I'm well I'm organised and there's a great graph. As things slide downwards I'm a bit more erratic initially then start plotting like mad - I want to be well and this helps!

If I'm 'very' well I get too busy and eventually I realise I need to slow down... Much as I might be enjoying the buzz I know what I really need is stability.

I have one buddy. My husband didn't manage to read my reports so I felt uncared for. We agreed it was best to take him off.

Initially my other friend commented on my scores. I found this unhelpful... If he misinterpreted things I felt unheard. If he was too anxious I felt pressurised. If he didn't see the significance I felt invalidated.

Now I've asked him not to comment it's much better. He sees the score and I can use it to help me talk if I need to.

So thank you moodscope for helping me gain some balance and for helping me be real about what's going on.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

In the End, There Is Only Room for Love.

This is the title of a very beautiful, touching letter I read last night. It was a letter published online, written by Poorna Bell, Executive Editor of The Huffington Post to her husband who took his own life in May 2015.

Have a read. I think you might find it insightful, interesting and extremely touching:

Let's all help Poorna 'bang that big drum' to raise awareness around depression by passing this link on to everyone you know who may be feeling down or may have been affected by a similar situation - or, in fact, everyone you know as sometimes we don't know if people are affected or not.

Thank you.

Kind regards.

Caroline Ashcroft
The Moodscope team.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The three Marriages of Life.

"In the midst of a seemingly endless life, however, we can spend so much time attempting to put bread on the table or holding a relationship together that we often neglect the necessary internal skills which help us pursue, come to know, and then sustain a marriage with the person we find on the inside." David Whyte

I just love this quote.

The type of work I do takes me in to organisations and families who have asked me in (I don't do tenders – that places money before morals – I only work where invited).

They would like to reduce stress and become more coherent as a group of human beings ie. human-doings that many people feel in work – or more aligned as a family to reduce hurt and disturbance.

The challenge is, most of us will have what David Whyte would call 3 marriages in our lives and the most important one, with the person inside, we'll leave to last - if at all.

We all know the 'marriage' to work and most of us will know the 'marriage' to a partner.
The latter can suffer due to the 'marriage' to work and in the IQ world we'll talk (falsely) about 'work/life' balance – a very divisive phrase which pitches work against home, when in actual fact work is a part of life – not interfering with it!

I once refused to do a 'Work/Life' balance event in Spain (global Plc) – I did do it, after they changed it to 'Life Balance'.

Until we have become comfortable and have gone 'in' to explore and know and control ourselves, how can we possibly bring ourselves fully to either of the work or partner marriages?

I would offer that most human discomfort falls out of us not truly knowing, understanding and controlling ourselves!

This means being emotionally intelligent (EQ) far more than it does cognitively intelligent (IQ), as well as being physically intelligent (PQ) and spiritually intelligent (SQ).

To Live – PQ – Human Living
To Learn – IQ – Human Doing
To Love – EQ – Human Being
To Leave a Legacy – Being Human

Most of my own depressive illness was in the EQ & SQ area– drugs did not help me PQ and IQ were fine.

I had to 'inscape' to really find out who I was BEFORE I could have a sustainably happy personal relationship or find my true vocation.

Have you found your vocation?

Have you found that true marriage to self – where all happiness actually starts?

The amount you know and love yourself is the exact amount you can love anyone else.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Cheer squad.

Have you noticed that when a baby is learning to walk everyone encourages, cheers, smiles and claps at every faltering step. Each time the baby falls there are so many smiling happy faces to motivate the baby to keep on going. The first step is met with huge cheers, big claps and many photos and videos and calls to the grandparents and aunts and uncles. This is a wonderfully supportive environment in which to learn and grow.

When we are adults and learning to cope with our low moods, our change in mood, where are the smiling encouraging faces? All we get at times are well meaning family and friends telling us "Stop feeling sorry for ourselves", 'Make more of an effort" and many more 'not so helpful' words of advice.

Where are the cheer squads the smiling faces the words of encouragement we had when we were learning to walk? When we are trying to negotiate our life while feeling depressed this is when we need lots of positive enthusiastic words and actions.

We don't need gushing and advice, just encouraging words like "That's great you managed to get to the letterbox today, well done."

"So you didn't leave the couch today but I am so pleased you showered and got out of bed."

"I know it is difficult for you to come to my party, so I really appreciate the effort you made."

I am going try to be my own cheer squad as well as offer support to others. Who can you cheer on?

A Moodscope member.