Thursday, 29 January 2015

Moving can be SO hard.

When its morning its dark,
Many feel like this.
Life seems so stark,
But what do we miss?

I know when I move,
Things improve.
I know when I push,
I change the groove.

But boy do I struggle,
To stop the rumination.
Yet I know for sure,
It'll lead to aggravation.

Living alone,
Does not help my pain.
I really need someone,
To help me regain.
Some sense of perspective,
To help me see,
That things can change,
It's up to me...

I know this week,
I've progressed again.
My son has helped me,
Lose some of the pain.
We've come away,
The pair of us.
It got me moving,
Not still tied in a truss.

I intellectually know,
It's better for me,
To move and speak,
And even have tea.

But my emotions seek safety,
To stay locked inside.
My desire is too often,
To stay in and hide.

If these words can help you,
Pick up the phone.
Maybe you won't be,
A home alone clone.

Can you make that call,
Can you go next door?
Can you walk out and meet,
Can you start to seek more?

I know I can't sometimes,
Yet I also remember,
When I did move before,
It brought some splendour.

I could live in the moment,
With that glimpse of the now.
I forgot all my pain,
I was alive somehow.
I could fight on,
Instead of goodbye.
There was a life,
In my mind's eye.

What one action (tiny or otherwise) can you take today to move towards the light through your discomfort?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

As The Daffodils Fade.

Every year, when the daffodils fade, I get a little depressed.

OK – let's be honest here. Every other year I get a LOT depressed – that's the down bit of the bipolar. On the "depression lite" years (like this one) it's just the ordinary, average, every day blues.

Yesterday, however, as I saw the first sharp spikes appear in the roadside verges (Cambridgeshire – it's a lot warmer than where you are, probably) topped with the faintest sliver of pale gold, I started to get a bit down rather earlier than usual.


And I started thinking. Just a little, you understand.

I've worked out that, by the time the daffodils have started to fade, the year is a quarter over and (yet again) I won't have achieved anything. My goals will still be there, lofty and unattainable, sitting serenely far out of my reach.

Attempting to cheat by not actually setting any goals doesn't work either. Nope. Frustration and feelings of futility abound come the time of the sap rising.

So, this year (safely clear of the treacherous January 1st), I'm setting some goals that I can actually reach by Easter.

Apparently all that setting SMART goals is profoundly uninspiring. No – you need BFH (Big Fat Hairy) goals to get your blood pounding and your juices – well – juicing.

So, by Easter I will have:

Finished the second novel. (Actually starting it would be good too)
Lost 20lb of the 35lb my doctor says I need to lose.
Booked a flight to see my dear friend who moved out to Georgia five years ago and who I haven't seen since.

They're all big but the last one's the scariest (for very boring reasons).

Those may seem big goals to you, but I know I can do them. I just need to kick myself very hard on the bottom to get them done.

The other thing with goals is to publish them so you can be held accountable. Right, ticked that one off then.

And I'd really like some company here, so how about sharing your goals with me in the blogspot?

So, come April, we can ask each other how we're doing, and give each other a big congratulatory bunches of flowers.

Tulips, I think. The daffodils will have gone over.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Trading shoes.

'But you'd have to walk a thousand miles
In my shoes, just to see
What it's like, to be me
I'll be you, let's trade shoes
Just to see what it'd be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each other's minds
Just to see what we find
Look at s**t through each other's eyes'
Eminem - Beautiful

I heard this song recently after not having heard it for a long time. It really struck a chord, not just for the obvious reason that it is, in my opinion anyway, completely true in how people with mental health problems usually feel about other people. But it also resonated in a different way. The thought that sometimes I, as a person who has battled depression and self-harm for a few years now, never really seem to understand why people get so bothered and upset by the things that my illness compels me to do.

For instance, I have particular problems with understanding why people get so upset about my self-harm. It helps me cope with the horrid feelings I get and is a successful release for me. However, when I do it, everyone turns on me and asks me how I could hurt myself like that.

But listening to this song made me realise that as much as I'd like people to walk around in my shoes to see how I feel, I probably ought to 'trade shoes' with them and see how they feel. Not only could it help me understand why what I do upsets them so much, but it could also help me see how they're coping with this upset. As much as I want to be selfish when I'm feeling low, maybe trying to understand other people could, paradoxically, help me understand myself.

So, maybe we should all try and 'trade shoes' with other people before we launch ourselves into a defensive attack of our coping methods. I wear fives, what about you?

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Blue Monday.

Our local Parish Magazine (the fount of truth...) boldly declares January 26th to be the most depressing day of the year. Experts differ but the challenge remains the same: what do we do if "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down"?

I thought I'd turn "Blue" into an acronym, a recipe for joy – a cure for Blue Monday and every other day like it.

It's got not one but four flavours to lift the spirit.

My "B" would be "Beauty". I love to focus on beauty – natural beauty, real beauty like Nature's finest, rather than the accentuated glamour of the fashion industry. I continue to rejoice in the fact that my mind really can only focus on one thing at a time, even if that focus is momentary and fleeting. So, I deliberately focus on that art, that Nature, that music, that moment that I find full of beauty: Beautiful.

My "L" definitely follows Pam's Moodscope blog on "Laughter"... the best medicine alongside a good sleep! If I could laugh myself to sleep, that'd be perfect! Giggles or guffaws?

My laughter-preferences are definitely old-school. Catching a series of programmes on Ronnie Barker last night really sent me off to bed with a smirk on my chops!

My "U" is to celebrate being "Unique" since, even though I regularly wrestle with unhappiness, I still wouldn't want to be anyone else but me... flaws-n-all. Of course, to make this work as a cure for (or at least a distraction from) the blues, I have to focus on those unique characteristics and skills I actually like! I'm sure I can find three!!!

My "E" is for "Entrainment" - the strange phenomenon where our bodies and minds can synchronise with a rhythm and change for the better. To exercise more effectively, we know that upbeat music helps to get the system pumping. To chill out, the right gentle music not only soothes the mind but actually changes our heart rate. So, on Blue Monday, I choose my music on purpose - I choose it carefully, mindful of the fact that music has magic in it to change the mind.

Happy Mondays!

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Compassionate Mind.

Compassion is the concern for the suffering of others and ourselves. It is a wish that our fellow beings do not suffer... It has the capacity to expand itself to include our loved ones, our friends and those who we regard as our enemy or who cause us hurt. It can expand to include all living things on our planet and beyond becoming awareness itself. It is liberating. Compassion is in all of us. We need to nurture it and make it grow.

We have two wolves in our mind. They are called 'love' and 'hate'. The wolf you feed is the one that will grow in your mind. The wolf of hate narrows and reduces our world to 'us' and 'them'. If turned against oneself it leads to self-loathing and self-hatred with all its negative consequences. The wolf of love neutralises hate, reduces anger, resentment, or jealously. It is the easiest way to destroy one's enemy. Compassion is very helpful to feed the wolf of love as it makes 'them' as one of 'us'

So what makes a compassionate mind?

To me its main features are:

It has empathy (the ability to see the world through somebody else's eyes) and sympathy (the ability to commiserate with others) who are in pain or are in mental or physical suffering.

It is the first to forgive, including oneself, and the last to condemn.

It makes an effort to help achieve other's happiness.

It is non-judgmental and accepts imperfections in one's self and others.

It listens with kindness and seeks solutions, never attacking but seeking to heal.

It does not 'price' people but 'values' them as fellow beings.

Acquiring this mind state is a prize worth fighting, particularly for those who suffer from depression. You can start by praising your own efforts, accepting your failures and rewarding yourself (preferably non-alcoholic) for your achievements great and small.

Another great way is through learning to do a loving kindness meditation. One can be no more compassionate to others than you are to yourself.

Hopeful One 
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

What I make you mean.

Quite some time ago a very dear friend said to me "You don't want the fact that you're bi-polar be one of the first things that people find out about you. Let them get to know you first; because many people have prejudices against any mental health issue." (By the way, some of you may remember that I started my first Moodscope blog with the words "Hello, I'm Mary and I'm bi-polar." You guys are a slightly different audience.)

So, just this year I discovered the joys and use of Facebook — because I always was an early adopter (ahem). I've joined several writing groups and have begun to get to know other writers around the world.

One particular writer accepted my friend request. I started a chat thread initially asking some innocuous question about the time zone they are in and we were off, exchanging details about our families (our kids are roughly the same age), the fact we never get enough sleep, and so on. I read a novel by this writer and sent a message of appreciation and we were off again. Somehow we got onto the fact that this author uses a generic image on their FB profile instead of a photo, to preserve some anonymity regarding their writing and oops, my blabber-keyboard struck, sharing how I'm completely "out" about my bi-polar in spite of my husband's ambivalent views...

...and silence...

For two days I fretted and made the silence mean – well, you can imagine what I made it mean. I thought about it in the car while waiting at traffic lights. I thought about it while looking at Facebook and seeing that this writer was not on line and so was obviously avoiding this mad stalker from the UK. I thought about it in bed as I lay waiting for sleep.

Pretty silly, huh?

Eventually I plucked up enough courage to post "OK, embarrassed now. Oversharing too much? Promise I'm sane and not a stalker at all." After which I felt much better.

And hugely better when the writer came back and said "Sometimes I fear *I* am the one who overshares... Sometimes I read messages and don't reply straight away...then get bombarded with other things and forget to get back!"

That writer was not concerned that somehow my bi-polar is contagious and will spread from the UK to affect them via their computer; they're not concerned about me being a stalker. It's just that life got in the way. It has a habit of doing that.

We need to remember that life happens to other people too. Incredible though it seems, it's rarely just about us.

Think I'll write that one down and stick it above my screen for the next time I'm on Facebook.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 23 January 2015

You've got to laugh!

Laughter therapy is probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

You cannot laugh and be depressed at the same time. TRY IT! Where you are sitting right now - start laughing, be it a small giggle which develops into hearty laughter or laughter pushed from your tummy all the way up - do it for about 1 minute. How do you feel?

The real beauty of laughter therapy is the FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT aspect. You don't have to be really laughing you can start by pretending to laugh. Your brain doesn't know the difference and the affects are the same. The more you do it – the quicker the laughter becomes genuine. When I'm laughing I become a more compassionate person and in turn more humble. I generally become the person I really want to be.

I have a knee problem which can be quite debilitating at times and the last thing I feel like doing is laugh. However, there are a couple of laughter exercises I do which really help me get some pain relief. Norman Cousins published a book in 1979 called "Anatomy of an illness". He described a potentially fatal disease he contracted in 1964 and his discovery of the benefits of humour and other positive emotions, in battling it. He found, for example, that ten minutes of mirthful laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep.

There are so many benefits. Laughter quickly reduces levels of toxic stress chemicals, releases a natural pain killer, provides an excellent cardio and aerobic workout, increases energy levels, oxygenates our blood and major organs, boosts our immune system and levels of cancer fighting cells, reduces blood pressure, improves our digestive and sexual performance, protects us from cancer, colds, viral and bacterial infection, speeds healing and has a positive effect on heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.

It boosts our emotional intelligence, allows us to operate at peak performance and quickly reduces harmful negative emotions including fear, anger, distrust that lead to anxiety and depression. It increases positive emotions that make life a wonderful experience for us and those we come in contact with.

I can go on and on and on because it is such an exciting extensive subject but to actually see what I am talking about look up "laughter therapy" on YouTube. Participate with the videos that come up. Then look for a laughter therapy coach in your area. You will never look back.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

To know and not to say = trouble.

I went to work in Switzerland with a group of women on 'Deepening their EQ'. They have been together now for 3 years in a very focussed and sharing way. The organisation they are in is a prestigious one.

The 36 hour session in the mountains went very well and the disclosures they offered blew me away...things that had not been revealed in 36 months...things that had been in people's heads and not out in the open.

These revelations truly made the group uncomfortable and some people feeling very guilty.

Briefly about one exercise (after building trust for 24 hours):

Everyone writes a post-it note with some feedback for each of the others in the room in silence. They then stick them on each other's back. I explore how comfortable they feel when others can see the feedback and they cannot. When sitting at lunch they take time to then read out in front of the others what they are seeing for the first time

One participant who had taken much thought in writing down feedback for all other seven members on post-its, was tearful at lunch but didn't reveal why.

When we returned to the workshop and during another exercise, the same person bursts into tears and states that everyone had had great feedback except for her and that she felt completely undervalued – WOW!

What courage to 'dare greatly' as you could feel the room shift and the EQ deepen. Now no matter what anyone then said – to DJE (Defend, Justify or Explain) – the damage was done.
No one had really spent any time talking deeply with this person over the 36 months that the group had been together to make her aware of how they felt about her behaviour.

So...they had always been positive with her, but, not truthful, authentic and transparent.
Now all the pain was pouring out in front of their eyes or more importantly their hearts.

If we wish for a sustainable relationship in work or even family we have to live 'in the moment' and speak from our heart not our head. If two people say exactly the same thing but one does so with the intent to grow the person and one is attempting to control a situation, the first will be welcomed and the second will be refused or even rejected.

How do we speak - heart or head? How do we offer - kindness or curt? What is our intent when feeding back? How many of us do not tackle a relationship with deep heartfelt intent?
How many of us avoid the discomfort in the hope that it will get better?

If you know and don't say – you don't know and neither do they.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

I Believe I can Fly!

When he was four years old my brother broke his arm.

Now even in those days (the early 70s), doctors were well aware of the darker side of life and any parent presenting a child with a broken limb was faced with a gamut of hard questions about how that broken limb had come about.

Our mother was embarrassed and searched desperately for the right words to explain.
"Well, it's like this," she said finally. "He was balancing on a fence post pretending to be a bird. Then he tried to fly away..."

The doctor gave her a hard stare before bursting out in laughter. "You couldn't make that one up!" he said.

Now, if my mother had seen my brother balancing on a narrow fence post she would probably have said "Get down from there: it's not safe!" Because we spend a lot of our time and attention as parents trying to keep our children safe and protecting them from dangers. If we look back we can hear some of those messages our parents told us.

The problem with that is that our children can emerge as adults scared to try anything new because it's not safe. We can also fear things that are benign or at least neutral because of the messages we have heard over and over again.

So I've tried always to encourage my children to climb trees, to swim in the sea (not the local river; which really can be dangerous), to take on every new challenge and opportunity that comes their way.

But I've also made sure they had gymnastics lessons to help with the climbing and balance, swimming lessons so they're competent and confident in water, and all the support and coaching they need to help them with those challenges and opportunities.

Fortunately neither of them has yet broken a limb as a result of falling out of a tree, or off a horse, nor has drowned in the sea, and both embrace every chance of having fun that falls in their path.

I'm rather in favour of taking sensible risks. After all, you don't know if you can fly until you try, do you?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

An important list.

1.  Take the time you need. Apply liberally to all areas of your life.

2.  Have a plan for your day. Every day before you rise. Any plan. Your plan.

3.  Have a basic, and rough meal plan for the week.

4.  Look at your photographs. We always photograph the good bits.

5.  Take the time you need.

6.  Find one achievable thing that makes your day good. Now do it every day.
(The above can be anything at all. My own is to do a headstand for up to 5 minutes, EVERY day. The blood flow on your brain is remarkable and I might write about this particular thing, if you can at all bear me. Opening a window, sticking out your head and breathing in and out to the count of 5 is very achievable and will change your perspective.)

7.  Sleep in the day if you need it. But never after 2pm.

8.  If you can't eat healthily, limit the trash to mornings.

9.  Ask yourself "what does this do for me" and apply liberally to all areas of your life.
(This is not as harsh as it sounds. Often we give more than we should.)

10. An oldie and a goodie…if you can't be good, be careful.

11. Forgive. Start with yourself.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.