Sunday, 19 April 2015

Deep Dark Depression.

How do we connect,
To the world out there;
When we are lost,
With our souls laid bare?

When we cannot move,
To even eat.
When we have to sit,
In the same old seat.

When we cannot,
Answer the phone.
When we are always,
Home alone.

When we refuse,
That knock on the door.
When we take sanctuary,
Flat on the floor.

When it’s too much,
To write an email.
When we can only,
Always, always fail.

When I cannot,
Simply get dressed.
When answering a question,
Feels like a test.

When coming daylight,
Is the foe.
Because I’m stupid,
Didn’t you know.

Depression is a demon,
That can take you.
It’s an awful obsession,
It’s a black dark hue.

It’s a burning spear,
Right through the heart.
It’s never welcome,
Yet when will it depart?

It’s the death of life,
It’s the death of soul,
It’s the death of everything,
Including your goal.

You can lose your family,
And your job too.
What can depression,
Not do to you?

There’s nothing it leaves,
As it rampages through.
Like a windblown desert,
Burned into you.

It’s twisting and turning,
While holding that knife.
The one you’ll lose most,
Is your husband or wife.

So do not despair,
You’re not alone out there.
Get into Moodscope,
Get in and share.

Some of your hurt,
Some of your heart,
A door may open,
Then you can start.

To take that simple step
That you thought had ended.
And find some feelings,
So you feel befriended.

That single step,
Of those thousand miles.
Where at the end,
Is a host of smiles.

So if you are stuck,
All black and blue,
I ask you what,
Are you going to do?

Whatever it is,
It MUST be done.
Nothing will change,
That first step MUST come.

So good luck to you,
Fighting inside.
It’s never healthy,
To simply hide.

You have to move,
And connect to people.
I know it feels like,
You have to climb a steeple.

It’s nothing so grand,
It’s nothing so high,
It’s a single step,
But please don’t say ‘try’.

To ‘try’ is to fail,
To risk is to win,
That first step,
Is how you begin.

Begin today,
To have your say.
It’s YOUR life,
Begin today.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Can not judging others make it easier to not judge ourselves?

Some of us really believe we are worthless, useless or a failure as a person. These beliefs can be so deeply held that nothing seems to shift them. Often, we are so judgemental on ourselves that this habit can spill over so that we become judgemental on other people and events.

One way of counteracting this is to completely change the habit and give up being judgemental altogether. Like an alcoholic giving up alcohol - it can be done with a great deal of willpower and commitment.

Learning to stop evaluating people as right or wrong, good or bad is hard. But remember we don't have enough information and people are doing what they consider to be their best choice of behaviour available, according to their own circumstances, needs and values at the time.

Ironically, if we work on not judging others, we will be kinder to ourselves as well. Over time this will change our negative beliefs about ourselves.

The Moodscope team.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Human shadows.

I love my new flat. I love the freedom it affords me. And I'm not often proud (like, never) but I love what I've done with it - all on a shoe-string too.

Living alone doesn't scare me because there is always something to occupy my mind with. But then, somewhere around January I took a sickening nose dive and for the last two weeks I've lived mostly back at my mum's.

Knowing that this is what I needed was a positive step.  Sadly, however, it's caused all the ugly faces in my head to start with their toxic, negative chatter: 'You can't live alone! 'Have you made a huge mistake?' 'Yes! Because you're hopeless!'

What I've learned though is this:

A depressed person should not be left alone. You see, in previous depressions, unable to cope with seeing people, I've always pulled up the draw bridge and shut up shop.  But I've always lived at home. Ergo, there has still been some form of human contact and distraction.

For the depressed individual, every hour can seem interminable; a slow, quiet form of torture at the mercy of monsters in your head.

Now I'm starting to have moments where I can see sunbeams at the end of the tunnel, my gut still tells me it was absolutely the right move (again showing the importance of not making rash decisions when low).

It may not be possible to move in with a friend or family member when you hit a depression but never underestimate the importance of human contact in recovery. Even if only for an hour or so propped up in a café, or sat in the library, pretending to read.

It can be of great comfort (I would imagine) to feel a reassuring hand on our back when awaking from a nightmare. So too, feeling the motion of humans around us can bring solace when we're feeling little more than a spectral shadow.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Would you like to export your Moodscope data?

Last week we talked about the importance of adding notes to your daily scores as it's helpful in pinpointing what may be causing your ups and downs. Because of this, we doubled the amount of space in which to write those annotations.

When we first developed Moodscope, we thought that your annotations should be private - for your eyes only - so you could be honest and totally free in what you wrote, but gave the facility to share your scores with your buddies if you chose.

The fact that your notes are private is staying as it is, but we know that many members have had requests from their therapists/doctors to see their notes as they think it may help with their therapy and others just want theirs to be able to do their own analysis.

So today we've added another new feature to moodscope - you can now choose to download all your scores AND all your annotations.

Just log in to your Moodscope account and click on the 'Manage Account' link in the top navigation. In this section you will see a link 'Export My Account Data (Scores and Annotations)'. Click on this to export all your data from Moodscope in a CSV file, which can be opened by Excel, Numbers, and many other spreadsheet applications.

We hope you'll find it helpful.

Kind regards.

Caroline Ashcroft
The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Bad Thoughts.

Having Moodscope Buddies can be a double edged sword. Especially when they do their job well.

So you Moodscopers know I'm bumping along the floor at the moment instead of flying high. It happens. It happens with predictable and embarrassing regularity. It comes. It goes. It will lift – eventually. I just have to wait it out. And we all, family and friends, deal with it.

And, with utter predictability my Moodscope Buddies deal with it in their own way. I get daily messages of support and encouragement from one. I get a salutary "I've got my eye on you. Make sure you do your Moodscope every day. If it drops below 10% you're going to that doctor whether you like it or not," from another. And from my third lovely Buddy I get the phone call anxiously asking me if I'm having bad thoughts?

So for a moment my mind irresistibly creates the thought of a leather-jacketed figure leaning against a graffiti covered wall, cigarette dangling between his lips, over-long hair dropping into his eyes as he casually tosses his flick-knife into the air and catches it again over and over... (Hey - I'm a writer: it's what we do!)

Then I realise. It's a code. She wants to know if I'm thinking about killing myself.

So, how do I deal with this question honestly but without frightening her?

Honestly? Well, yes. But not seriously. I haven't been serious about it for twenty years now.

At one point I was fairly sure I wouldn't reach fifty: the depression would have taken me out, one way or another. I'd made plans.

But the diagnosis of "bi-polar" changed everything. It means that all the dark thoughts are just another symptom. They don't have meaning or validity and they certainly don't have power to control my actions.

The last time I had a suicidal thought, just last week, I was driving along the A14 to attend a concert. And that thought is now, if not an old friend, at least a familiar enemy. It drops into the passenger seat with no warning and starts whispering.

But these days I know I don't have to listen. These days the whispers no longer get loud enough to be a conversation, they never become the insistent shouted commands of agony the way they were when I was seventeen, twenty five, thirty three.

So I can laugh at the thoughts now. Say "thanks for sharing," and dismiss them.

Would I rather they didn't turn up? Oh yeah!

But am I scared of them? No.

Tell you what though – that earlier "bad thought" image? Ridiculously clichéd. Now, that's what does scare me as a writer. I'm going to have to work on that one!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

"Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone".

That's probably the only thing I will remember my middle school teacher telling me. At the time I thought that it was a very narrow minded, bleak view of the world. Now I've been battling depression for over five years, it's been a bitter pill to swallow in realizing that there's truth to that saying.

I've always managed to "put my face on". Most of you know what that's like. Pretending to be happy. Smiling when inside you are crying. Never seeming as if you have a care in the world. But there came a point where it was all too exhausting and I no longer could continue the charade.

That's when I realized who my true friends were. They could be counted using fingers. Less than a hand.

Even to this day the fact remains that people I learn to trust suddenly stop calling once they find out I am having a blip. Or I'm being very negative.

But I've learned valuable lessons. Firstly, and most importantly, those that stayed are now closer to me than ever. They mopped up my tears, sent me positive messages and were there for me on the days I hated myself so much, that I couldn't even move. Secondly, I am more discerning when it comes to telling people about my mental health. I am not embarrassed by my depression. I am not at fault. This isn't my doing. But I know now that there are people who are true friends and people who pass through your life. And learning to differentiate between the two has been the hardest task.

I'm still learning. I'm still trying to live with depression. But I feel like those rose tinted glasses have been removed and suddenly the world is a clearer place.

It might not be the happy shining place I once thought. But I know there really are genuine caring people out there, who won't let you cry alone.

Value those people in your life, whoever they may be. They are as rare as four leaf clovers. But once found they give you far more than you can ever return.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 13 April 2015

BAM. Change. BOOM. Regret.

Did you wake up today wishing things would change? They won't change. Not of their own accord. If you need a change, you need to make the change.

Now if you are, like I have been, in the midst of an oxygen sucking depression where every moment is about making it to the next one, then the time is not right to make any changes. In fact, change is likely to be detrimental to your survival through the worst. But when you are through the worst, you are unlikely to be an all-singing, all-dancing animal, you are likely to be exhausted, in need of rebuilding and perhaps a tiny bit grateful that you made it out the other end in a shape roughly resembling the real you. At that point you can think about change.

I learned the hard way how changing things overnight is a recipe for disaster. I've been doing that for years! I remember 'The Banana Diet'. BAM. Change. Eat only bananas in as many different ways as possible for all but one meal of the day. (How many ways can bananas be?  I did this! I could be blushing right now.) It was less than 2 days before I was cheating myself and stuffing chocolate raisins down my gullet. BOOM. Regret.

I've thrown out bundles of clothes that I was fed up wearing because they 'weren't me' then had barely anything to wear because I had neither the money nor the inclination to replace them. BAM. Change. BOOM. Regret.

We can only make real change happen when we size it up. Know how it looks from all its angles, remembering to look above and below as well as the sides. Try it for size. Allow ourselves to play with it and then leave it for a bit. Slowly include it. Abandon it.  Dance with it. Get angry at it. Throw energy at it. Ignore it. Look at it from a distance. But never, ever, let it go.

If you know you need a change, keep it with you and never let it go. Go slowly with it and just keep on returning to it even when you have ignored it for a long time. That is how you will wake up and not be wishing for change, but realise you have the key.

Love from 
The room above the garage.

p.s. the one exception is pants which should be changed a lot and without any consideration!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Myth No. 91 - Depression is like the flu in that recovery is consistent.

If, like me, you feel you are currently ploughing furrows through darker days it can be excruciating knowing how to connect with people; how to feel part of the life/lives going on around you. It's hard, manual labour. And sometimes, it's the simple, silly things that can knock me sideways.

(I know I'm probably talking to the converted here but let's pass it on!)

Please, I implore you, never (ever!) ask a depressed soul (unless of course you're wanting some facial rearrangement!) if they are feeling better now. Neither end texts with, 'hope you are feeling better now.' Seriously, it is like waving a whopping great big red flag to a very vexed bull. Why?

With a cold or flu, once passed the worst and the fever subsides, the road to recovery is normally straight forward and the person can hope to feel stronger and stronger, better and better with each passing day. So much so, that when somebody asks the patient if they are 'feeling better now' the reply can, quite reasonably, be 'Yup, definitely on the mend, thanks.'

The main direction in the recovery of a depressed person will be up. But the recovery will more than likely have more ups and downs than a bouncing ball. Speaking personally, I'm all over the place! I can feel hopeful one hour only to feel utterly felled the next.

This is possibly why it is so dashed difficult to be around folk when very low because we know it is tough for friends to understand why, for example, Marion is back in bed seeking oblivion today when, 'she seemed fine at lunch yesterday.'

Knowing the myths or judgments that can surround depression sometimes helps. It may push us to verbalise and explain to those (and only to those) who we just know will listen with non-judgmental understanding. Thus educating, little by little, and helping to fight the secrecy that depression often thrives upon.

I'm painfully aware that it's not always easy being around someone who is depressed, and so when someone doesn't understand I must learn too. I must learn, relearn and practice the art of shrugging my shoulders and mutter, in Claire Week's words, " 'I'm not going to be silly. It will come right in time. Time will fix it.' It will."

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

You're A True Gem.

In literature, there is a certain archetype described as the "fatally flawed". Anna Karenina, for example, possessed character flaws that ultimately led to her downfall. Hamlet was one. Achilles was another. The Hare (of tortoise fame) was another.

Depression is often characterized by its ability to foreground our flaws and too many times, through its murky veil, have I viewed myself as fatally flawed.

But what exactly is a character flaw?

I think it is something embedded in our nature – usually acquired during our formative years – that can cause problems for us and the people around us. Essentially, a flaw is something that makes us imperfect as a human.

In gemology, flaws are called "inclusions". These tiny pieces of entrapped foreign debris can serve as valuable clues to help unravel the secrets of a gem's past. Not only can inclusions reveal the place of the jewel's formation, they are also hallmarks of the processes which gave rise to the precious stones.

Flaws? They are clearly not seen as such by everyone. A certain type of "inclusion" in a sapphire, known as "silk", actually adds to the value of the jewel. As the sapphire tries to push the impurities out over time, the process creates tiny, beautiful, light reflecting streaks.

Pink, blue or canary coloured diamonds are far more valuable than their perfect white cousins, and yet it is their flaws – imperfections in their formation – that gave them their colour.

Learning this about gem stones has led me to my current mantra. I have typed it on a "sticky" on my laptop screen and I urge you to say it to yourself now:

"Having flaws and trying the best I can makes me more lovable, more beautiful and more rare than if I was perfect".

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 10 April 2015

What have you done since Les's blog last week?

Here are the three questions posed last week:

1) 'What do you do?'
2) 'What are you passionate about?'
3) 'What is it that makes your heart sing?'

With the last question we shift the conversation to an almost spiritual/emotional level. It really connects and gets to the core about what truly moves us, which is quite different from the first two.

Now, if you did ask those questions of yourself last week (or have asked them now) and felt that your 'real self' emerged – what have you done/what will you do to move towards, what makes your heart sing – towards the real you?

All too often I speak to, or work with people who are clear what makes their heart sing and yet stay stuck in something that they 'do' – human-doing without embracing who they actually are – human-being.

When I then push to ask what they are going to change the tendency can be to Defend, Justify and Explain.(DJE).

DJE is simply another way of saying we are not truly committed to what we believe – another way of attempting to explain to our subconscious that we are not following our heart – another way of subsuming ourselves into the world of grey.

When Chief Executive of a local authority in the early 90s and depression descended, my values were diluted while I hardly saw my family; I made the decision to follow my heart and leave this secure, high profile, highly paid post to keep my dream and thus myself alive.

I then left two further posts for the same reason after that and now I am still following my own dream – to be a true public servant ten years on.

If you stay unhappy in a job – you teach your children that work is about suffering for the money.

If you stay in an unloving marriage – you teach children that marriage has much suffering and even little love.

If you attempt to 'lose' your pain in drink or drugs or sex, how can your heart be heard?

If you do not talk about and explain your mental health challenge or your partner doesn't want you to – you teach your family to stay closed and often needy.

Have you moved one step towards what makes your heart sing since last week? What steps do you need to take this week? And if not this week - when?

A Moodscope member.