Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Resolution is not for me.

Resolution is not a lovely word.

If it was able to walk, I can see it sludging along the road with teenage attitude. (Yes I may have invented a word...)

A re-solution. Nah. Not for me thank you kindly.

It somehow smacks of duty and negativity and we are really after something inspiring, something that dances, something that makes your insides go "AWYEAH" (that's "OHYES" for anyone who isn't Scottish).

And in any case, I just don't feel like starting afresh on the first day of the year.

That makes me feel free. Shrug off the 'new year resolution' mantle and release from "will", "try", "hope to", "can't", "should", "must", and all the others. Us LowLifes are constantly battling and running with change. We assess and reassess our feelings, attitudes, responses and actions on a daily basis, maybe hourly, perhaps every ten minutes and sometimes in the same thought and on either side of a doughnut! Why would we throw another tractor tyre onto the pile for our personal Strongest Man competition?

Be free my friends. Be.

Because when we are ready to make our next move in our little tete-a-tete with this unwelcoming, hostile and rigorous attack from our black dogs, our shadows, our scary monsters, our illnesses...we will. January has nothing to do with it.

Be free my friends and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you step back, it's not a fail, it's a dance move and, from there, there is a natural momentum to go forward again.

Much love from

Dances With Wolves in the room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Marching Forwards.

I love marching. There's something about March music that gets you into a good place psychologically and physiologically - body and mind marching to the beat of the same drummer. I say this even though I have no military background or interest in the military - other than a deep gratitude for those who have allowed us to live safely through their dedication and sacrifice.

I think the 2/4 time signature is far more fundamental than the institutions we have associated with it - it is deeply visceral. It is good for us.

I will often 'march' up to the local shop. There's a real sense of progress in my stride. Playing music in my mind (my iMind!!) also adds to the effect - something like the Radetzky March being a top choice. I really do believe in using 'music on purpose' and the purpose of music being to enhance life. I choose music to change my state of mind. My choice has meaning, a purpose, and great power to transform my day.

However, today I have something else in mind: Marching for something. There is a story about Mother Teresa being asked to join a protest march against a conflict in one of the many troubled areas of the globe. She refused. Puzzled, the sincere protestor asked her why she wouldn't march. Her reply was that she would never march against anything...but she would gladly march for peace.

For Mother Teresa, marching was always marching forwards and marching towards something better. It was neither 'against' or 'away from' something. This positive psychology of choosing a noble goal and marching positively towards it is a great way to feel motivated.

I'd encourage you to start marching forwards towards the New Year, and for causes you believe in - even if this is as simple as the good cause of having a positive day! I promise you that you will discover something amazing - your positive stride will catch on and you will find that other people may well choose to march to the beat of a similar drummer!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 29 December 2014

What is your refuge?

As we go through our life experience we encounter 'storms' of many kinds that cross our lives. These could be related to, or connected with our thoughts, feelings, relationships, events in the past, events in the present and much much more besides. By their nature these 'storms' will be very individual, but it is important to recognize them if we are not to be buffeted and damaged by them. Just like a real storm when we will seek refuge somewhere we need a refuge when we deal with our own  'storms'.

This refuge could be anything really and again by its nature it will be very individual. In creating this refuge it would always help if it did not need anything that impeded easy access to it. Thus any refuge you create is likely to work consistently if it goes in the flow of your life, is not unduly complicated or needs much equipment. As I mentioned in my comment to a previous blog 'It pays to play', one refuge that works for me, among others, is my daily dairy. Here I am able to put down my thoughts, feelings, ambitions, dreams, ideas, things of interest, things that went well or not, things I felt grateful for, things that made me happy. By addressing my 'storms' in this way they often lose their sting.

One refuge we can literally carry within ourselves comes from the practice of meditation. If done consistently and regularly it creates a space in our minds allowing any storm to pass through as we come to recognize the impermanence of things of which our 'storm' is just an example. For me this has been the winner.

Very aptly a couple of months ago I stuck in my diary a picture I came across of a octopus named the Coconut Octopus which has developed an incredible strategy to find its own shelter or refuge from its 'storm'. It uses two halves of a split coconut to make a spherical fortress around itself. It then can pop out an eye and decide if it is safe to venture out.

Our refuge should be a little like that. I have other refuge places too - like listening to music, painting, or going for a walk. This dose of Vitamin N (N for Nature) will often put things in perspective which I may not be able to do when I am in a middle of a 'storm'.

So what is your refuge?

Hopeful One
A fellow Moodscoper.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Are you being true to yourself?

Earlier this year I made a decision. Making this decision made me feel like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, it was liberating.

So what was this momentous decision? I decided that I would stop trying to compete with my mother. Let me explain.

Firstly, this December my mother will have been dead for 3 years. During her life she was the consummate craftswoman. There was hardly a textile-based craft that she did not do. She sewed, knitted, crocheted, wove, made patchwork, beaded, dyed, did cross-stich, embroidery, tapestry, applique and spun wool. I do not remember a single moment in my mothers life when she was not doing something. And she was good at it.

A year before she died she developed dementia. It was a slow process but gradually we watched her lose her abilities to do all the things she loved. She still tried to knit, crochet and spin but eventually she forgot how to do even these. I felt incredibly guilty that, as her only daughter, I had not learnt these skills to be able to carry on where she left off, and I had realised this too late to learn them from her and that this wealth of knowledge was lost.

After she died I felt that I had to try and learn some of these. I started to get a weekly magazine on how to crochet, and started to make squares for a blanket. I borrowed a book from the library on patchwork and started collecting fabrics and made a cushion. I got out the cross-stitch kit that she bought me one year and tried to get it finished. Hubby bought me a sewing machine for Christmas.

Then one day it hit me. I was not doing these things because I loved doing them, I was doing them because I felt I aught to do them. What I loved doing was painting and sculpting. Something my mother had never done. What I was trying to do was to compete with my mother and I would never win. She had loved what she did, that was what made her good at it, I did not have the same passion so was not being true to myself and was failing.

I had been the only one who thought I aught to do this stuff so why was I doing it? I decided to stop.

The relief at deciding that I was going to focus on what I want to do instead was tremendous.

Is there something in your life that you are simply doing as a sense of duty? Are you being true to yourself? As I realised you need to truly love doing something to be truly good at it.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Changing History: War and Peace.

How could I start making better choices? Something Wayne Dyer had said years ago had captured my imagination, "I can choose peace rather than this." This is fabulously useful in conflict situations but it goes much deeper into what I call, "The Way of Peace."

The Apostle Paul believed that the Peace of God could guard our heart and mind. I knew that a step away from peace was a step towards war. My heart and my mind were at war – not with each other but with a Universe that wasn't working for me. The war had raged for years.

It is time for peace. So, today, I choose decisions that bring me peace – decisions where my heart and mind both say, "Yes!"

A Heart Full of Treasure.

My heart has something else to contribute to the process. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." Is it taking too many liberties to suggest that where your heart is, there will your treasure be also? Could it be that what my heart loves points the way to my treasure?

Just imagine, if I could find something I loved and that my heart and my mind were at peace about, surely I would find my treasure, wouldn't I? Could it be that success lies along the path of peace and the path of that which we love to do?

Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is wisdom in the Biblical principle of establishing every matter through the testimony of two or three witnesses. I wanted a 3rd way to check the quality of my future choices.

Fullness of Joy.

When you're in the right place, when you're making the right choices, there is a richness of joy. When something isn't right, you sense it, and you can lose your joy. So here is my third guide to right choices: joy.

I thus have a trinity of guiding principles:

· Does this choice bring me peace in my heart and my mind?
· Does pursuing this choice lead me down a path that I would love to follow?
· Does this choice bring me joy?

Of course, peace, love and joy are three segments of what is called, "The Fruit of the Spirit."  The ultimate test of any right choice is going to be the quality of the fruit it produces. Good choices produce good fruit, worthwhile treasure.

Is it time to plant new choices, new fruit trees?

I know it is for me.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 26 December 2014

It pays to play.

Recently I was driving to college and I suddenly realised that I was feeling happy. Not laugh out loud happy, but that I had a deep contentment that I had not felt for many years.

I started to try and work out why I felt like this. I realized that it was because I had spent the morning playing with mud and that I had been covered in it and I didn't care.

It took me back to my childhood where, as a tomboy, I would spend many happy hours climbing trees, scrambling through woods and making mud "casseroles" out of mud, leaves and grass.

On my favourite website ( someone posed a question recently about how they could stop their 11 year old from playing with childish toys and "grow up". I was pleased to see that all the answers were along the line of why?? Play is so important to us. We learn new experiences and/or we have a chance to get away from our cares and concerns for a while. I think that it is important not to lose ourselves too much in being the "adult" and give ourselves a break once in a while.

Oh, and if you are wondering what on earth I was doing playing with mud - I was processing it in to usable clay for an art project, but by the time I had finished I had mud on me, the patio, the path and over a lot of the plants in the garden as well... It was Sooo much fun!

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Doing Christmas Properly.

Growing up, we did Christmas properly of course.

We children would wake up early and eagerly peer down to the bottom of the bed to see what Father Christmas had brought us. Father Christmas, you note; never Santa.

We could play quietly with our new acquisitions until half past seven when it was Time To Get Up. Breakfast was at nine sharp: boiled eggs; and then we were allowed to open one present from a school friend before church.

Christmas Day Lunch was served promptly at twelve thirty (my mother usually had some kind of nervous breakdown at eleven forty-five) and was the Proper Turkey followed by Proper Christmas Pudding. The bottle of rum had its annual outing to flavour the sauce.

At three we would all sit and watch the Queen in solemn silence and only after her majesty had finished speaking could we all open presents, in strict rotation, carefully folding the wrapping paper to be used again.

Then there was Christmas Tea with Christmas Cake and Mince Pies (all these home made by my martyred mother of course) then a film on television and then bed.

We lived with my Grandfather, you see. He had been born in the last century, was a Lancashire Puritan (it's what Scottish Puritans aspire to become when they graduate) and was very strict.

Imagine my surprise, when I was first married and found out that other families Do Things Differently. Other families start the day with champagne and smoked salmon; other families gleefully rip open every single present before breakfast in one great maelstrom of shredded wrapping paper; other families have their dinner in the evening; they have beef instead of turkey; some families don't even watch the Queen!

Gradually, over the years, I have relaxed my stance on Christmas traditions. We do now open all our presents in the morning; this year we're having beef brisket with shallots and tangerines because it will travel well the hundred miles to the in-laws. I've learned that the best Christmas traditions are flexible and adapt to circumstances.

My husband would rather have beans on toast than see me having a nervous breakdown over Christmas lunch (and he doesn't even like beans). He'd rather have a relaxing day than all the bangs and whistles.

I've learned that you can keep traditions, break traditions and make new traditions with Christmas, while still keeping its true meaning.

So we still go to church to hear the Christmas story and yes, I still make them all watch the Queen.

So A Happy and Relaxed Christmas to you, your Majesty and to all your subjects too! (And indeed to you all, wherever you are in the world.)

Mary and The Moodscope Team

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wear Epic pants!

Sometimes I write because I feel I have some perspective to share, some hope, some fragment of wisdom. Sometimes I write because I feel my insides have been turned into outsides and I feel ravaged and displaced. Sometimes I write because the embarrassment or the sorrow, the grief or the burden or the sore has nowhere to go and then I can write it out. Most often it goes nowhere but sometimes I get brave and press 'send'. Today I write because of what happened yesterday.

Live music is my salvation. It's the one time I feel my whole body relax and succumb. I need it. I need to feel music in my body not just in my ears. But yesterday I was crippled and crushed. Broken and scattered. Racing heart, racing head, shallow breath. I had no place. The gig I had been scoring down the days for, for months and months, was in jeopardy. This happens a lot and frequently ends in a broken dream. I could go into great detail about all of the problems and symptoms and worries. Or I could just say that I really fought with myself. I really put into practice what I'm learning. I had thoughts, acknowledged them and made them float past me (actually I shoved them down the river much more 'your time is up' and much less 'Pooh sticks'). I had a racing heart and I made my body stop to show my heart how to slow. I breathed out, properly out (have you noticed when panic takes over we breathe in more than out, compounding the feeling of rising panic in our chests? Combat this with a longer out breath.) Throughout the working day I also worked on myself.

I did it! I made the gig. And today I am invigorated with pride. I'm still there singing.  I'm still there clapping. I'm still there shining my little light. I'm living today on the memory of yesterday...all too often that's for a bad reason and today it is for a good one. My message is this. It IS possible. It IS possible to break out and be you, even if only for a little bit. Find your thing. Be you. Superhero pants over tights are optional, but will delight others.

Until the next time...I send love.

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Nothing to fear.

The end of the year is fast approaching and, amidst the chaos of the festivities, I have sought time to reflect on what this year has meant to me. It started like many other's, with resolutions made and filled with hope and motivation for achieving them. Yet just four days in, the tone was set for a very different outcome. There has been little joy in my life for much of this year, but this dark spell has made me face up to some very difficult issues and triggered some soul searching decisions to be made. Decisions that I didn't think I had the strength or the courage to make.  

Fear has been a frequent visitor in my life this year. I have been afraid of so much. Scared to trust my judgement, afraid that my instinct can't be relied upon, fearful of not being able to cope financially and emotionally and terrified of making a mistake. Having this fear in my life hasn't felt good but it has taught me so much. I have discovered just how powerful and paralysing fear can be, how it can can completely stop you in your tracks. I have learnt that fear can be suffocating, extracting all positivity and hope away from you. I have discovered that fear is a consequence of being anxious about the future. That past events feed the fear that is felt in the here and now, about something that hasn't even happened.

I am still fearful about decisions I have made. New fears are arising all the time. Yet, when I look back at the fear I felt at the beginning of the year, much of it was unfounded. Some of the worries and anxieties I had haven't materialised. Just being able to see this is helping me accept the new fears that are arising. To face them rather than be afraid of them. I'm learning to put fear into perspective, to see it for what is it and to trust that just the other side of that fear is still a life to be led. I am also realising that, if viewed in the right way, fear doesn't have to be the enemy, it can be the ally. Fear shows up for a reason and can be a helpful tool for growth and enlightenment, if it's used in the right way.

So my new focus is, not on setting a yearly goal, but just to live more for the moment, to live in the present and take one day at a time. If fear comes knocking at my door I will strive to welcome it, because this year has taught me that it is nothing to be frightened of.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 22 December 2014

How We Learn – The Four Seasons.

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."  1 Corinthians 13.11.  Paul means this positively in the sense of becoming more mature. But I would suggest to you that there are some aspects of "the ways of childhood" that would serve us well if we picked them up again.

A prime example is learning. As a child, I wanted to walk. I saw visions of what was possible all around me – people walking everywhere. So I tried. I tried and failed. So I tried again. I failed again. I got frustrated, but I got up again.

You can guess where this is going. I tried until I succeeded, and then I kept improving.

The concept of try, try again is associated with many inspirational characters including Robert the Bruce. Hiding from the English in a cave, he was inspired by a spider's relentless attempts to build its web. It would not quit. Who knows what inner vision drove the spider to succeed?

As mature adults, we learn from painful experience to try less often and then quit.  W.C. Fields quipped, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it!"

But I am like a child, and like a child, I love the four seasons. The four seasons of learning for me are:

· The Winter of Unknowing - not knowing what I don't know – [unconscious incompetence]
· The Spring of Discovery - knowing there is something to aspire to – [conscious incompetence – "I want to do this and will give it a go!"]
· The Summer of the Joy of Learning – [conscious competence – "I can do this!"]
· The Autumn of Excellence – [unconscious competence – "I did that without having to think about it!"]

Unconscious competence is a magical state. For those of us who drive, we'll have experienced the unconscious competence of driving somewhere familiar without having to be consciously aware of some of the route. We can surprise ourselves with "being there already"! All of us can perform a skill without thinking. It just happens...

My key point today is that mastery of any skill doesn't just happen – it flows naturally through the four seasons of learning. A child stays with the seasons. As adults, we may try to skip a season. That won't work.

The seasons stretch out before you today. Somewhere on our beautiful Planet it is Winter, in another location it is Spring, Summer smiles on some places whilst others enjoy the mellow fruitfulness of Autumn.

You are a World within yourself. Somewhere in your World there is a new possibility waiting to emerge. Look for it. Seek, and you shall find.

Somewhere else in your World within, you've already seen a glimpse of how you'd like to change, what you'd like to learn, where you'd like to be, what you'd like to do – try, try again.

In your own Summer of Success, stop and enjoy those moments where you now know you are competent.

And in your Autumn of Excellence – pause and consider where you may share the fruits of your experience with others. Pass it on. Pay it forwards. Your Autumn may bring hope in someone else's Winter – and so the cycle of the seasons flows on.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Merry Moodmas.

And so the season is upon us.

I love the sound of my children filling the advent box with sweets (one for the box, three for the mouth) then working out (bickering) whose turn it is to go first, putting up outside lights, the ritual of dressing the indoor tree with decorations that represent different times, ages and people, I love standing at the final choir concert, my smallest children's arms in mine, listening to my eldest sing harmonies that make my eyes prick with emotion (torrent of tears hidden up sleeve).  I love Boxing Day when I can be a slob for my one day of the year.  But I wish I could press pause there.

This season is not all Christmas card perfect. For many of us.

One of my children became very seriously ill at Christmas a number of years ago and the memory still has the power to cut deeply.

Last Christmas we had a funeral of a very close family member 2 days before Christmas and 365 days has not yet been enough to grow a scab on that graze.

For many of us who struggle with our mood, this season brings new challenges.  Changes in routine can bring devastating results as the routine was what was keeping us on the straight and narrow.  Time with family, particularly the extended one, can have us biting our tongues almost in two as we struggle to steer our course through the unexpected, the expected, the pressure of gifts unwanted, the pressure of providing, the excess, the relative you wish would stop drinking so much, the noise, the endless events and the realisation that the ones you wish were here, aren't.  Some of us will be alone and wish we weren't.  Some of us will not be alone and wish we were.

So how do we navigate?  How do we steer ourselves through?

For each of us our challenges are different and so there is no magic wand of survival.  However, just by investing a little time, to think of the time coming up, and asking ourselves what will jangle our delicate balance, we can invite in the magical state of awareness.  This in turn brings us the opportunity to lay down little bricks of survival.

Invest in you.

Step back and plan your Christmas season.
Know what will not work for you.
Know what you will need to do in order to surf the waves.
Look through the season and decide how you wish to come out the other side.
Write it, draw it, record it, share it, or keep it private.  Commit to it.

I am aiming to come through on my terms and reach the other side with anything higher than exhaustion.  I will not be bullied into what others wish me to do and I will say no thank you and then say it again.  This will make me unpopular.  So be it.  Because this year I wish to be me, and that will be a gift to myself.

It is also ok not to like mince pies. No judging here.

Love from The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Don't let your 'Stress bucket' overflow.

Here's some great advice from our friends at Mental Health First Aid to help you over the Festive period and beyond.

The Moodscope Team.

Christmas can be a magical time... from the social gatherings with family, parties with friends and work colleagues, the exchanging of gifts, to a break from work…  But, for almost everyone, Christmas can be a busy time – and ultimately create another 'layer' in our 'Stress Bucket'.

A key concept during Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is teaching participants how crucial it is to be able to effectively reduce layers of stress using our 'coping tap', to prevent our 'Stress Bucket' from overflowing.

The Stress Bucket analogy is an excellent demonstration of how indiscriminate mental ill health really is, and how easy it is for anyone who doesn't use helpful coping techniques, to develop problems.  The size of our buckets (and we all have one) varies - and so for someone more vulnerable to experiencing mental ill health or at the very least, the ill effects of excess stress – may have a smaller bucket.

The 'stress-layers' that flow into our buckets are often those 'normal' daily life events - but they can also include other sources of stress including environmental stress –for example at Christmas time there is additional pressure whether it be financial, social or just the feeling that time is running away from you.

In basic terms, LIFE fills our stress buckets, and in order to reduce those layers in our buckets MHFA teaches self-help strategies i.e. 'the coping tap', to reduce those layers of stress to a manageable level.

Examples of helpful coping may include: talking to a friend, asking for help, ensuring you get adequate exercise and are eating well. This Christmas, try not to spend more than you can afford on presents because those who value and love you will know that it really is the thought that counts. Or if you feel you are running around like a headless chicken, it is time to build in some proper R&R. It is also worth thinking about how much alcohol we drink over the festive season because the cumulative effect can have negative impact on our mood.

Most of all this Christmas, enjoy the time spent with loved ones and take a moment to reflect on what changes you would like to make in the New Year to ensure your stress bucket doesn't overflow from January through to December.

Dawn Collins

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Community of Support.

I missed last week as things weren’t good,
I lost my way inside.
I still get tripped and fall at times,
I then go off and hide.

So many thoughts go through my head,
And I live in the past and future.
I cannot seem to touch the ‘present’,
To go inside to nurture.

I was touched by the comments from my previous blog,
From my hurt and loss in Spain.
Such caring humanity and searching words
Both with and without a name.

What can I say that binds us all?
What can I write to show?
That if we are courageous and vulnerable,
A path to balance can flow.

I know I stop looking, I know I stop reading,
In the times when I fall and hurt.
We need to seek out those who support us
And stay away from the ‘curt’.

We each have our individual histories,
And each our singular lives.
So different and so varied
Some heal, some cut like ‘knives’.

So many stories that people offer,
Each with their own fingerprint
Some will touch us more than others,
Some simply nudge with a hint.

It’s the friends we don’t have to fit in with,
That accept us for who we are.
We feel we actually belong with them
They love us from near and far.

The secret is that they love us,
Almost due to our individual ‘faults’,
We really don’t have to fit,
And fulfil the societal ‘oughts’.

Moodscope can also act as a ‘friend’
The community offering thoughts,
They help in the healing process,
And never have to be ‘bought’.

Are we open to learning? Are we open to change?
Or do we look elsewhere, week after week?
Are we seeking outside what is within range?
Or is it inside us that we need to seek?

What thoughts, if any, emerge from this for you?
Who can you discuss them with?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

So Who Are you – Really?

It never fails the amaze me, the different ways people want to be seen.

It's the first question in my class on finding your personal style in clothes.* "How do you wish to be perceived?" I ask, and back come all the answers I need to guide them to making the right choices when they next go shopping.

Yes, of course I need to analyse their body architecture and think about their lifestyle, but in the end it all comes down to the question "Who Are You?".

So some people will start with "Warm and Friendly" and some with "Approachably Authoritative". I get "Controlled and Assured", "Sexy and Confident", "Intelligent and Passionate", "Fun and Quirky" and many, many more.

My job is first to make sure that these descriptors are authentic; because sometimes we think we want to be something we admire but could never really aspire to. For instance, if I were to list "Elegantly Understated" it would be all wrong for my Mischievous Pixie persona. Oh so, so very wrong!

But twenty years ago I didn't know I was a Mischievous Pixie, and I craved "Classic Elegance". It was never going to work, but I didn't know that because I had spent a (then) lifetime trying to fit in with my sensible family, with a highly academic school, with a career in chartered accountancy (no – I still don't know why I thought that might be a good career choice), with all my classically elegant friends (I still have a lot of those) who didn't realise they loved me for our differences, not because we were the same.

So, if you are constantly trying to achieve something that is impossible for you, if you are existing in inauthenticity, then maybe it may be a good idea just to spend some time thinking about how you really wish to be perceived within the structure of being authentic. Remember to be positive. "I don't want to appear nervous" becomes "I want to be seen as confident."

I've spent the last twenty years in my clothes rather than in the clothes that the classically elegant self I aspired to be would choose. I wouldn't have "elegant" now if it came free with Rice Krispies, because I've got something much more real and natural and "me".

Your real "me" is worth a hundred fake pretends; even if you think the pretend is what people want.

They don't: they want the real you.

And if they don't want the real you, then you don't (really) want them.

A Moodscope member

* I'm an Image Consultant by profession. “I help people have more fun putting their clothes on than taking them off!”

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

I am nervous. I am frightened. I am sure.

I am going to tell you, my Moodscope comrades, something fewer than 10 people in this world know. On 31st December 2014 at 11am I am to be wed. This marks a commitment to another soul of which I believed I was incapable.

My relationship history is a source of shame. I have started and abruptly finished a number of relationships, leaving people hurt and somewhat bewildered. My sudden change from apparently loving girlfriend to mad doubting anxious fiend inexplicable to those I have run from.

There is no trauma in my past to explain this, I was brought up by parents who love each other dearly. Yet time and time again when I took the risk of committing, something happened within me. I began to obsessively pick faults with my partner, consumed with the idea they were trying to control me, that I would lose myself and I had to GET OUT. The voices telling me to do this got too loud and were ultimately intolerable. I never let myself express any of this as I thought it was wrong and not how someone should feel. So I put my game face on, behaved the way I thought I should, then ran screaming when it all got too much.

I hurt people who trusted me, who had opened up to me and allowed themselves to be vulnerable, because I couldn't open my mouth and speak. I built a wall between us because I couldn't return their honesty, I censored myself and my feelings therefore didn't give us a chance. I was selfish and thoughtless. I withheld out of some extremely misguided belief that to speak would break the spell and risk destroying everything. I eliminated risk, instead guaranteeing destruction.

This pattern has repeated throughout my current relationship. I have hurt the woman I will marry on a number of occasions, and she has stood by me throughout. She has forgiven me for things I am unsure I would be capable of forgiving. Time and time again she has told me I have to speak up, share my thoughts and feelings, that she truly wants to know. At times this has been a gut-wrenching struggle.

As someone who finds it difficult to say 'could you please do the dishes before you leave in the morning', sharing any doubts or fears is like stepping into the abyss. Only now I am learning to believe that she will be there to catch me. I am learning to speak and to trust – it is terrifying. It is liberating beyond measure.

On 31st December at 11am I am to be wed. I am nervous. I am frightened. I am sure.

A Moodscope member. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Your Gift of Time.

Time is one of the Universe's fair resources. Prince or Pauper, Goose or Gander, we all have 168 hours per week. No one can buy more time for us – not really, and no one can, in reality, buy our time. (Of course, we can agree to spend our time in a certain way on behalf of someone else – but it remains our time.)

Here's the scene... A long journey lay ahead of me the next day. I was going to use Public Transport and the potential for delays and complications was magnified by each additional connection. I knew taking responsibility by driving to my destination was actually only an illusion of control. I would be subject to the choices other people made to use the same roads. Their choices could also delay my planned progress. So which to choose?

Up until now, my life has been lived "at the last minute". By this I mean allowing just enough time to get from A to B so that I could spend my time on other interesting or distracting things as well. Unsurprisingly, this often allowed stressors to mount up like a wave and flood my ability to cope every time I was late. 90% of the time, this was my fault. It was a result of how I chose to allocate my use of time.

For my long journey, I chose a new strategy. I would get up ridiculously early and get ready as if it was a day off with no pressing commitments. No rushing my bathroom time. No panic. No outbursts of bad temper when something (usually an inanimate object) was "stupid" for not doing what I wanted it to do. I would also catch the train that the timetables said would get me there just in time.

The plan went well, and I got ready in a calm and pleasant manner. In fact this was so efficient that I was then in a position to catch an earlier train... if I hurried. The sense of panic was horrible. It made sense to get there early just in case anything went wrong... My heart beat faster...  Time to choose...

But my willingness to maintain the experiment prevailed. I decided to catch my intended train, giving me plenty of time to get to the station, get my tickets and park without panic.

So I drove sedately to the station while other commuters, dancing to the beat of another drummer, zoomed past me at illegal speeds. There was no queue at the ticket office – after all, I was there at the wrong time! I had a chat with the member of staff who sold tickets. He was amazingly clued in on how to get the best deal – and I even got a better deal that what the internet had suggested as the best deal. We had a nice chat.

I then had time to pop into the independent coffee shop in the station and have a life-affirming chat with two very charismatic members of their team. When I came out, the queue outside the ticket office was long and filled with frustrated time-pressed people.

I caught the train, on time. I got to my final destination, on time. I got back in a similar way. And I had lots of very pleasant encounters on the way. I left the computer behind all day. I read books.

My experiment was a success, and I was nice to be around. I did good business. I hope I've learned something.

Give yourself the gift of your time... there's nothing like this present.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

If a Con's Worth Doing...

I met a con man today.

At least, I'm fairly sure he was a con man. A very smartly dressed chap flagged me down on the road holding a (very obviously foreign) map and explained that he was from Germany and had run out of petrol and needed me to buy him some and would I take his gold bracelet as payment...

But he really wasn't a very good con man. I wanted to take him to one side and explain that:

1. If he wanted to persuade me he was from Germany he needed his ethnic accent to be overlaid with tones from Munich, not the East End of London.

2. If he was going to wear such a beautiful pin striped suit he needed to wear it with authority, as comfortably as if he were wearing his jeans, because people who wear suits every day look as if they wear them every day. He looked as if he only wore a suit for weddings, funerals and – oh yes – con jobs. (It was English tailoring too – not German. I know things like that.)

3. Further to that, chaps who wear suits to work every day don't normally wear five or six flashy gold bracelets. And they certainly don't give them away to strangers for the promise of petrol.

4. His whole body language was inauthentic. He wasn't confident in himself; he was obviously acting the part and his character wasn't convincing.

5. He was rushing the whole business. A good con takes a bit of time and you have to let the mark set the pace. You have to let them think it's all their idea.

He was all wrong and nearly all my instincts were rising up in force, bayonets out, telling me to move along smartly because this was absolutely not right. The minority of instincts remaining just wanted to give him some coaching on how to do a better job.
I mean, I'm not a con-merchant myself, but I've read books!

So I drove away, reflecting that, had he been a genuinely stranded motorist who had run out of petrol and discovered he didn't have his credit card on him I would have:

1. Driven to the petrol station a couple of miles up the road to get him a can of petrol and then

2. Followed him to the petrol station and paid for enough petrol so he could get to where he wanted to go.

I wouldn't have wanted him to have taken my details with a promise to pay me back and certainly I wouldn't have wanted a (supposedly) gold bracelet. I would ask him to pay it on in his turn; to help someone else in need when he met them.

And that's why I'm a bit cross. It might have been nice to have done a good deed for somebody really in need. I'd have had a nice warm glow all day.

But mostly I'm frustrated because I hate to see anything done badly, even a roadside con like that.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A safe place to be.

I was recently triggered to think about the notion of "safety". To me this conjures up the notion of feeling safe from harm and danger in both a physical and emotional sense. It's taken me a long time to realise that the biggest threat to my own safety, recently, has been my mind. Thought processes have kept me stuck from letting go of an unhealthy situation for far too long, eroding my self confidence and self worth along the way. For quite some time my mind has been full of guilt and self doubt; negativity that has been harming my emotional well-being. Acknowledging this has felt quite empowering, I'm beginning to realise that I can work to take the control back from my mind to reduce the harm it has been causing.

I attended a meditation course recently which has really helped me grow my understanding of why it is such a useful tool and how it can help to let go of painful emotions and reduce negative thoughts.

I now use an imagery of the ocean to help me. The bottom of the deep sea is my mind. It is a vast and unobstructed space. It is always calm there, unaffected by anything happening up above. The negative thoughts, the painful emotions that come up, cause movements on the waters surface. The quantity and intensity is reflected in the ferocity of the sea. It could be a gentle ripple of the water or an almighty storm with waves crashing everywhere. Regardless, the bottom of the ocean remains calm and unaffected by the changes above.

It is comforting to know that this calm space is always there, always available to retreat to. Taking myself there when the sea gets too rough, even if just for 10 minutes, will offer me, if nothing else, respite from the negative mind state. However, whilst there experiencing the peace and expanse of the mind, free from the intrusive thoughts, there will be space and clarity that can assist in dealing with whatever is causing the storm up above. The more I take myself into the bottom of the ocean, the better equipped I will be to cope with what's on the surface.

If I reflect back upon this year it is clear that I was in the midst of a very dangerous storm, it was relentless and ferocious. But I have  fought hard against the storm, using several resources and guidance to find the bottom of the deep deep sea and gradually the storm is quietening down. It is teaching me that my thoughts and feelings can't cause me any harm if I don't allow them to. They are formless, colourless, can't be seen or touched. The clear space of my mind is beautiful, a safe place to be.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 12 December 2014

My song about the kind of love that sustains us.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 23 and it is basically all I have known my entire adult life.

It is an extremely difficult disease that affects me every day in a myriad of ways. On the other hand, it has shaped who I am and I like who I am. And I really like my life. And I really like the people in it.

Finding what there is to be grateful for in every day is one of my helpful strategies. Another is singing. I sing and study with an amazing teacher and that time spent is more healing than any medicine I have ever taken or any therapy session I have ever received.

Eating right and exercising are not only good for me, they give me the smallest sense of control over a situation where my own body is attacking itself (and for a Type A personality trapped in the body of a passive aggressive, that is a huge win).

Surrounding myself with awesome people is the other secret and the secret to finding yourself surrounded by awesome people is to be awesome to the people around you. When I am at my lowest it is in helping someone else that I usually find relief to my own suffering.

Finally, I am blessed enough to have a partner who sees through the limitations that I see or that my physician sees. Someone who believes in me and in my future even when I don't. Especially when I don't. So, if there is someone that you trust, listen to them when you are full of doubts and can't break through the noise in your own head. Trust them when you can't figure it out yourself and give yourself a break. And then, do the same for them.

This song is about the kind of love that sustains us and it is about my husband. But it is also about my mother, my sister, my best friend, my physiotherapist, my singing teacher. We all need a team and I am so grateful for mine.

Who's on your team? Whose team are you a part of?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me...

Really?? Why then did a comment from a friend (an ex university lecturer) saying that if she had been marking my work I would have got zero, make me flee from the room and sit in my car sobbing my heart out?

She did not mean to be cruel, we were having a debate about whether referencing was necessary in a project proposal, but in that one thoughtless comment she managed to push all the wrong buttons!

She did not realise that I am in the process of moving house with very little support from my family, or that I have to get up at 6 every morning to get my son to his bus and I am finding it exhausting, or that I am having to deal with the emotional turmoil my husband is in about the sale of his family home and deal with his solicitors or that I am going to have to put my cat down soon and she did not realise that I am struggling to do my university work and am convinced that I am useless at it.

I think it was Plato (although this is in dispute) who said

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"

Wise words, so be careful with yours!

Oh and I got 71% for the project proposal, so there!

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Ticket To Ride.

"We all got a ticket to ride the crazy train" said a friend of mine the other day. "The only difference is our destination. Mine is OCD Control Freaksville: what's yours?"

Obviously this was said in jest, but it made me think. The crazy train is obviously my bipolar disorder, but what is my destination?

After a moment it occurred to me that maybe I could choose my destination. Would it be the town of Ordered Management or the country hamlet of Calm Acceptance? If I have faith in the railway system and look far, far ahead into the misty hills of the future, could I opt for the lofty heights of Healing or Cure?

The thing about the railway track and the train on it is that it never runs straight. It curves and carves its way through the countryside and towns; now clattering across bridges, now flirting with the seashore with the sunshine sparking diamonds from the waves; now plunging into the darkest tunnel - so long one feels the ultimate destination must be Hades itself – and then out into the daylight again, but now with a whole mountain between it and any recognisable destination.

So a lot of this journey has to be fuelled by faith, and by choice.

Because there are many destinations out there and the one I'm clear I don't want to end up in, although I may have to pass through it on the journey, is that dark city of Despair.

So, fellow travellers: want to compare tickets?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Feeling on top of the world.

I'm feeling on top of the world at the moment. I have come through my monthly darkness out into the sunshine (the fog has burnt away).

Everything is bright and funny and connected. Synchronicity abounds. Everything and everyone is interesting. I am euphoric as opposed to dysphoric. I have been out walking three days in a row, joined a brand new gym.

When I am in the midst of my monthly depression I have NO energy, no motivation, nothing is funny, nothing is interesting, everything is a struggle, I don't want to go out, I don't want to see friends, I put the landline phone out of earshot, I put my cellphone on vibrate. I feel sad. I feel like a bad wife and mother. (I'm not feeding my kids nutritious meals, my house is not organised enough. My husband will probably leave me soon.) I feel very self conscious. AND, this is very important - when I see friends out and about and they are a little way away I don't have the vitality to smile or wave, I just look through them. please if I have done that to you, know it is my illness, NOT you.

My children make me feel better!! They make me smile, they hug me and kiss me, they amuse me with their funny ways. They are so beautiful. (Maybe that is why God has blessed me with children!)

My husband is my kauri tree, tall, straight, strong, and supportive.

I am hoping that if I take some mild anti-depressants during that bleak time things will be better.

We shall wait and see! :-)

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Amazingly Simple.

I watched a young child race his mother to the pedestrian crossing. Why did he dash to the crossing? For the amazingly simple pleasure of pushing the button! How many children get a wonderful amount of pleasure from being allowed to push a button or turn on a switch? Of course, celebrities enjoy this too – turning on the Christmas lights or cutting the ribbon to open something.

I've just made my first cup of tea of the morning. I was suddenly thrilled by the concept. Here was tea all the way from India (Assam), processed in a way that I simply had to add water to experience that taste of the East in moments – amazing! The experience was made possible by the electric company, the kettle manufacturer, the water company, and the dairy who had prepared the milk to such exacting standards. I was in receipt with a little miracle of modern life...and in touch with it again like the child's thrill in pressing the button.

Of course, I could go on. My father's shower is one of the most glorious experiences on the planet! I am very often grateful for the engineering skill that allows me to enjoy hot water coursing over my grateful nerve endings.

And in case you're thinking I'm the most positive person on the planet...just talk to someone who really knows me. I fight against clouds of gloom on a daily basis but I know that where my attention rests can change my state of mind. I am enormously grateful that I still have a child-like sense of awe about the most seemingly simple of pleasures: the morning tea, the shower, the joy of rain drops on a pond, the sight of a Mistle Thrush...

My hope for you today is that you enjoy that same tingle of pleasure from things that are simply amazing.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Build only with the smallest bricks.

When you have no strength, seek out a story of someone else's strength.

When you have no energy, no enthusiasm, no motivation, borrow someone else's energy, enthusiasm and motivation.

When you have reached the end of your patience, challenge yourself to find one little scrap more. It's more than you thought you were able to find and yet you will find it.

When you believe you are never going to break out of whichever cycle you are in, remind yourself you have before and you will again, only this time more so, because you know more.

When you are having the day that we all know, the one you want to wipe away, take encouragement from anything...and build only with the smallest bricks.

Last Friday a huge, glossy, black crow flew in as I walked along the pavement. He stopped on top of a bin, beside and close to me, cawed loudly whilst eye-balling me, at the very same time as I was doubting myself. I took it as a telling off and was glad to find a new, very time-savvy friend :-)

Build only with the smallest bricks.
Love yourself a little more than you did yesterday.
I know that's hard but easy things don't bring the biggest rewards.
Build only with the smallest bricks.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

When was the last time you felt happy?

My therapist asked me this question last week. I was being re-assessed, after claiming that many of my depressive symptoms had gone and I believed I was recovering. I was thrown by the question, but still trawled through 30 years of memories, to try to find the point where I last felt that serene, stable, elusive positivity that is 'happiness'. Oh no, I thought. Don't make me say it.

"I can't remember the last time I felt happy."

And suddenly my claim that I was on the road to recovery sounded utterly foolish. I cried, and she passed me a little box of tissues, and wrote something down.

The question plagued me for the rest of the session. How could I have felt that I was recovering without being happy? It was only later that I started to think that perhaps my answer wasn't the problem. Perhaps the problem was the overly-simplistic question.

If depression is defined as 'prolonged unhappiness', it seems logical that not being depressed should mean the opposite. But in my case, the beginning of recovery didn't mean a sudden onset of happiness at all. It meant a gradual emergence of any feelings that weren't despair. When I felt hopeful after a lovely first date, I knew I was recovering. When I felt joy holding my niece for the first time, I knew I was recovering. When I doubled up with laughter at a comedy gig, I knew I was recovering. Have I felt sublimely happy recently? No, maybe not. But I have felt, and that is the important thing.

Depression is not the negative end of a binary scale, and recovery is not the polar opposite. Recovery is complicated, it looks different for everyone, and there is no tick box that covers it.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Are you going to be alone this Xmas?

Xmas can be a really tough time for people suffering from depression. The jollity and good cheer can exacerbate our mood if we feel left out of it. Since my divorce and the early death of my parents I have often spent Xmas on my own. Sometimes I have received well-intentioned invitations from family and friends to join them, but usually being on the fringe of other people's enjoyment only serves to emphasise the exclusion.

Not being a christian I went through a period of denial: no dinner, decorations, cards or anything. (One memorable Xmas dinner was beans on toast as I couldn't be bothered to do anything else!) However in recent years I have embraced the concept as a traditional mid-winter festival and resolved to recognise it. I remember telling a friend I was going to spend Xmas with someone I was really fond of, but who I had neglected recently. "Who" she said, reeling off some names. "Me" I said, and she laughed.

Nowadays I do the whole Xmas day thing just for me. I buy a duck, walnut and orange stuffing and the full range of vegetables and trimmings (including pud!) I also have stollen or panettone, bowls of nuts and dried fruit and sometimes a selection box of other sweets, together with beer, malt whisky and wine. I get up at a reasonable time, open any presents, then start cooking the meal (having a beer or two while cooking.) I have wine with dinner followed by a flaming pud (whisky is just as good as brandy) and settle down with a glass of malt to listen to music/radio/watch tv feeling very satisfied.

There is usually a mountain of leftovers which take some days to consume (duck soup anyone?), and a huge washing-up pile which I do in shifts, but the satisfaction of doing the whole works "just for me" carries me through.

So if you are worried about being alone at Xmas this year, why not lavish time and attention on your favourite person?

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

How do we lead?

This week I am struggling.

I talked of my robbery in Spain last week and I thought I'd get through, but already I am lying in and my thinking has altered.

As always, people say rational things like 'you know more than anyone else that exercise will help', or 'get outside and walk' or 'focus on one thing at a time'.

I struggle...

So, I am going to write something for Moodscope to focus on doing something for others and thus move my mind to something positive, something that shows that being vulnerable can be a real leadership role.

Managers maintain the status quo. Leaders spark and sustain change and both are needed, yet to advance and deal with change, leaders are a pre-requisite.

I often view the leader as the initial 'snowball'.

The initial snowball is the one that goes first, the one who is willing to be vulnerable – to show their authentic feelings first with their colleagues, family or subordinates. They then 'collect' and attract more snow...

It is this vulnerability that enables, inspires even, others to offer their true selves. It is also such vulnerability that inspires others to trust and it is after all this trusting of the leader that creates the all-important person/employee/family engagement.

In many ways the leader only becomes a leader when they are followed (gathering more snow). It is the followers that create the leader, which is why leadership is never about power or control as is so often talked about in the media.

Leadership is about serving others and creating a world to which others wish to belong.
Think about Mandela, Gandhi, M-L King and consider who are your 'leaders'. Who would you follow. Who would you trust?

Can you name them now?

Moodscope is a 'leader' through serving and enabling people to serve themselves and others through the blogs. Showing a vulnerability which is perceived as courageous by readers can even motivate them to feel understood and thus crucially 'not alone'.

I feel very alone today. I have not been outside yet due to my sense of community with Moodscope... I can connect and feel part of something.

Can some of you that remain anonymous offer your thoughts? Can you offer a name or even a nickname to enable a further sense of community?

Can you even say to the 'leader' that came to mind above how much they inspired you - as they too will have their struggles?

How can you improve your sense of connection? What courageous act can you perform today to connect, to lead, enabling someone else to show their vulnerability and authenticity and sharing more deeply?

A Moosdcope member.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My Drug Of Choice.

Oh, why do I do this to myself?

No, I'm not talking illegal drugs here (I am that terribly boring person who has never even smoked pot) or even the lovely lovely drugs that keep my Black Dog from suffocating me entirely in the bad times, but the stress "drugs" of adrenaline and cortisol. And yes, for my fellow pedants out there, I know these are hormones, not drugs.

You see, I actively like stress – or at least, I choose to actively subject myself to it – which comes to the same thing, doesn't it? Or does it? My latest stupidity is to announce to various networking friends that the first draft of my romance novel will be written and delivered to them to read on Christmas Eve!

I just finished chapter five this morning. That's approximately half way through the book. Of course, it was supposed to be a novella, but at 18,927 words already I have reluctantly concluded that I don't do short.

But, I'd been writing this thing since February and had got as far as the beginning of chapter three by mid-November. Something had to be done. The only way I could see of actually finishing the thing in this lifetime was to put myself under pressure to deliver; hence my rather foolhardy promise.

But it was a stupid thing to do from the health point of view.

 Most of us are familiar with the effects of the "fight or flight" hormone adrenaline, but this is what the experts say about Cortisol*.

The stress hormone, cortisol, is present in your body all the time, but levels increase in response to danger and stress. In the short-term, its effects are positive, to help you deal with an immediate crisis, but long-term stress means that cortisol builds up and creates a number of stress-related health problems.

Short-term positive effects:
a quick burst of energy
decreased sensitivity to pain
increase in immunity
heightened memory.

Long-term negative effects:
imbalances of blood sugar
increase in abdominal fat storage
suppressed thyroid activity
decreased bone density
decreased muscle mass
high blood pressure
lowered immunity
less able to think clearly.

And yes, at the moment I am on a roll with the novel, all the energy is zinging around like nobody's business. I'm longing to get up at 5am to start work on it and then to work again until gone midnight.

I'm not quite stupid enough to do that, but I am tempted.

But with my GP expressing concern about the nosebleeds (see previous post) and muttering darkly about high blood pressure, with the menopause indicating that decreased bone density is a legitimate concern and with my desire to lose weight (yes, from the tummy, alright?), all those long term health effects are worrying.

So, it's a quandary. I can't work without deadlines and deadlines cause stress. Ergo, I need the stress. It's just that I know it will inevitably present a stinging bill; one which I'd rather not pay.

So – if anyone has any ideas about how to be enjoyably productive without the buzz of stress, please let me know. Answers on a postcard to…

A Moodscope member.

*  This piece courtesy of

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Coming out of the dark.

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new part of my current journey. I attended a short course for people who are in my current situation. It was an amazing experience as I met seven other people, all of whom are in a similar situation, going through similar struggles and facing similar challenges. All of us had in common the fact that for many years we have all felt incredibly isolated.

As the course progressed the bonding of the group intensified. Being able to talk freely without fear of judgement and to know that there was such a depth of understanding was a profound experience. Without exception, this was the first time we had shared our stories with other people (outside of a counselling room). It was emotional, empowering, and validating.

Leaving the course and returning to reality felt daunting. I was wobbly for a little while after. I felt exposed and vulnerable, having shared my deepest thoughts, insecurities, my secrets. Going our separate ways felt like the protective bubble we had been in had been burst. Yet the truth was, these people now belonged in my life and were a part of my reality. We had formed a new support network that we could turn to when needed.

Some of us met again the other day. And just the sight of each other caused the tears in each of us to flow. I woke up the following morning and sat in my new friends garden. It was raining (I don't do rain!) and it felt magical. As I took in the beauty of the flowers, the sound of the rain, the feeling of the water, the smell of the garden I had an overwhelming sense of peace. A heavy burden is being lifted through the sharing of our lives and the learning we are encountering. The difference in each of us, in just a few short weeks was staggering.

We are all at different stages, facing difficult decisions but the one thing we are all doing, for the first time in a very long time, is focusing on nurturing ourselves. It is never too late to start that. I am so thankful for finding the courage to push past my fear and showing my vulnerabilities. I have found my voice and I no longer feel constrained by being alone.

This world is a very big place and somewhere out there is someone else who knows exactly where you are at. None of us are ever truly alone.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 1 December 2014

5 Star Inspiration and 1 Inspiraction.

There are six great stimulants for open questions. Rudyard Kipling, in a quaintly old-fashioned British way, called them his six serving men:

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

The 5 words beginning with "Wh" offer us a great structure for exploring "inspiration".
The last one, "How", offers us a path to what I call, "Inspiraction".

"Inspiration" is such a great word. Literally, it means to in-spire – to breathe in. In my experience this is the opposite of what happens for me. When I am inspired I usually stop breathing for a moment – something makes me catch my breath. I hold my breath and I lean in to gather more from the source of inspiration. I get the point of the word though!

Add a "c" to inspiration, as if to create the future, and you get "Inspiraction" – which is inspired-action or action-on-inspiration!

Let's get inspired to inspiraction...

What inspires you? This could be a work of art, a quotation, or a song...
Who inspires you? Who are the people who give you goosebumps!
Where inspires you? Where are the locations that make your heart sing?
When inspires you? What events in life, days of the week, or even times of the day inspire you? When are you at your most inspired?
Why inspires you? Not great English but a great concept: what's your "Why" in life – why do you do what you do? Why are you here?
And then "Inspiraction"...

How can you deliberately turn on the state of being inspired?

One of the answers sits beneath the above list of "Wh" questions. Sitting below your threshold of consciousness is the very operating system of your mind: association.

By just thinking about your sources of inspiration now, you will tap into the feelings of inspiration associated with those magical moments, what matters and the significant people in your life.

You could, of course, create a physical inspiration board – a set of pictures and other reminders of your sources of inspiration. With a little practice, just looking at this inspiration board will be enough to trigger a heightened sense of readiness to be inspired anew!

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Bad Days Depend on the Way you See Them.

If you're reading this then the likelihood is that you know all about bad days. You could draw a map of the Slough of Despond, you could describe intimately the fifty shades of grey and darkness that make up the colour of those bad times and you have measured exactly how deep is that pit of despair.

And we have days that start off bad and just get worse; days when we end up thinking that we are a worthless individual, unworthy to even pollute this planet with our presence. Our sins and iniquities weigh us down and we just want to die.

No – that's not an exaggeration, but it is often an exaggerated response to small hurts and minor transgressions. I remember that the last time I felt like that, I was looking at my bank statement which showed I had gone £8 overdrawn.

That £8 might as well have been £8 million judging by the way I felt. I'd been overdrawn before; I've been overdrawn since (admin has never been a strong point), but at that particular time, even a small unplanned negative balance was enough to throw me into the blackest despair.

Even in the midst of that despair however, I could hear distantly the voice of my more sensible self, telling me I was overreacting, and even laughing at all that drama.

I had a bad day recently too. A migraine meant I had to cancel plans and disappoint some clients. In the afternoon I decided, against husbandly advice and still feeling very woozy, to keep my appointment to donate blood, and had the misfortune to suffer a dramatic nosebleed while in the chair so that everything and everybody (all the nice nurses anyway) had to stop to mop me up and disengage me from the equipment. Apparently one is not allowed to donate blood through one's nose. I crept from the local town hall in abject humiliation.

Sensible Mary laughed at that one too – and advised me to write a blog on it! This time she was loud and clear.

That's because I'm well at the moment. Those same events, happening when the Black Dog of Depression was in residence, would have been enough to put me on the floor, to make me feel useless; an unsightly blot on the landscape of our fair land.

So sometimes we need to take a step back and look at things in proportion. We might not be able to feel any differently about the situation, but we need to intellectually know that we are over-reacting to minor events. They feel big and overwhelm us because our view point is from the dark pit of despair (that's something lower than the viewpoint of an ant, by the way). It's OK to feel this way, but we need to think as well.

The bank is used to people going overdrawn. They slap a £35 fine on you and forget it. The nice nurses at the blood donor sessions are used to people fainting, or being sick or having nosebleeds, they've already forgotten about it.

And I got a blog out of it: hey – everybody wins.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Learning to Live With Life!

My son is studying the book "About A Boy" at school. My son is Aspergers a form of autism and even though we have watched the film over and over as he finds visual learning works better for him than reading, he still has not grasped the fact that Marcus one of the main characters in this story is also autistic, and that both are having very similar experiences in their lives.

As a mum, I am finding this story quite difficult to handle, because you see I'm Fiona, Marcus's mum. I'm the depressed women from this story, it's like looking at my own life reflected on the big screen for everyone to see.

Not suicidal like Fiona in the film/book thank goodness, but at the bottom of that black pit of despair, desperately trying to crawl out of the hole, only to be pushed straight back down again, on a regular basis.

I'm glad that my son doesn't see me in Fiona as he has enough to cope with, and I have pondered over the school's motives in making him study this book. I did ask the question and was told it was part of the curriculum, and that the other option was "Of Mice and Men" both equally way over the top of my son's comprehension.

So I've decided to use it as a positive, in that my son can see the bullying that Marcus endures, and my son can then talk to me about how he felt when he was bullied, through Marcus. He can learn empathy for his mum, something my son is only just starting to show.

Can you imagine 14 years of your child's life with no hugs or kisses from them, it breaks my heart, but I'm starting to turn this around, and have to say have had more hugs since starting with this story. He can also see how brave Marcus was to sing in public and that he was able to make friends, as I'm sure my son will do one day. (Another aspect that breaks my heart). So from something I first considered insensitive, it now does seem to be having a positive side to it.

But now it has become very obvious to me how lost I am, and that it has been so long now, that I don't remember actually when I did feel like me, or felt real happiness. So the facts are, that not only do I feel I lost my son at the time of diagnosis, but also myself. Life has become a constant battle for his needs, and I have totally forgotten about myself.

Recently I was forced to make a stand as it has got to the point where my mental health is seriously starting to suffer. So I decided to quit my job, take some time out to try and reassess my life. To look at who can and is willing to support me with the massive responsibilities that I have held and juggled for the last 14 years. To come to terms with the fact that I am not super woman and that it's okay for me to admit that to the world, but more importantly myself.

That I now need to focus more on getting myself well, starting with plenty of rest. So please excuse me I'm off for a nap.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 28 November 2014

What do we value?

This week I have just returned from Spain where I was robbed of all my treasured possessions – lap top, passport, credit cards, dead parents photos, loved ones photos, all business contacts, my glasses (so I could not even read at the police station), all passwords, all contacts, all bank cards, my diary, treasured notes (all kept in one safe place)...everything that enabled my life to work.

So here I am back in the UK having to face up to the fact that not only do I live alone, I also run my own business on all the stuff I write about – leadership, values, trust the four quotients (PQ, IQ, EQ & SQ, To Live, To Love, To Learn, To Leave a Legacy).

Now as most of you will know I have also suffered from depression for the last 23 years except one, with one suicide attempt.

My immediate worry was not about losing my 'normal' every day personal and professional life, but would I go down again and with such a loss, would I lose myself again and see more 'clearly' that I didn't have the courage and strength to fight back again from this new and deeper 'low'?

So, once again while I am still mentally 'OK' I have a choice, do I look back and continually say what if? Or do I push those thoughts away, as I talked about in my blog some time ago about not becoming attached to these thoughts, and simply put the first appointment I can remember into my totally blank diary and step forward?

Also, going through my divorce has continued to challenge what I consider important, i.e. no matter what it costs I must do it based on my values, we should not give in to bullying, lies and deceit.

I also ask myself what am I teaching my son in all this?

Do I tell my son or daughter that I will always listen to them and then when I am busy, say sharply to "go away I'm busy"?

The differences between what you say and what you do creates the exact and equal level of disengagement with you, whether at home, work or play.

What's your level of disengagement with self and others?

Do you walk the talk of the values you purport to have? If not – you are disengaging from yourself – the cause of much mental illness.

Give a number between 0 – 10. For full engagement (10) or complete disengagement (0) to yourself, your boss, your peers, your family...simply think of the person and the number WILL appear immediately in your head.

That FIRST number is true, no matter how uncomfortable it is, your subconscious tells you the truth (EQ), often before you attempt to 'alter' it by thinking (IQ) why it cannot be that number!

If you wish to deepen that engagement of love, talk about that number and why with whoever it is?

Remember  though, the only person you can change is yourself.

You may however be changing to be courageous enough and vulnerable enough to simply talk about tough stuff to people who matter. If you don't face it, do they matter?

All else, like my passport, bank cards, credit cards, diary, lost phots, lap top, notes is surface stuff, it is the relationship to ourselves first, in valuing ourselves that is the basis for a healthier mind and heart.

And in this materialistic, busyness, short term  world, that is not easy, and right now I am searching inside.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Changing your mind: Becoming a child again.

For my fourth blog on Mindfulness I am going to talk about a silly technique that I find helps to settle me if I am going somewhere and I start to get anxious.

When my kids were little we used to play a game on car journeys. We would look at the letters on the number plates of passing cars and try and make phrases out of them. They did not have to make sense but the funnier they could be the better. So for example DFB would be Donkeys Fart Better, GCU could be Golden Coloured Unicorns and so on.

When I am starting to get tense just focussing on thinking up silly phrases helps to stop the thoughts running around my head and gives me a few seconds breathing space.

Maybe you have silly games like this that you played as a kid, try doing them again as an adult. But if you don't have kids with you I would recommend doing them just in your head!!

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Piggy In The Middle.

There's a family row going on right now.

Well, no; it's not a row. It's just that there's a decision to be made by the extended family (six living members) and there are eleven opinions on what that decision should be (because five out the six are married or have partners). Inevitably there is conflict and equally inevitably, brothers have fallen out with sisters, nieces with uncles (or at least, aunts by marriage) and there is a whole lot of dissonance going on.

But everyone honestly wants the best for everyone. It's just that they have different ideas of what that best is and how it should be achieved.

And who is in the middle of it all? Who is still talking to everybody? To whom is everyone involved pouring their heart out to?

Yes, that would be me. (Sigh)

My job, at which I seem (reluctantly) to be good at, is listening to everybody, validating their concerns and then (diplomatically) presenting eleven different points of view to eleven different people in eleven different ways. Quite frankly, it's been exhausting.
And time-consuming.

Apparently it's all the fault of having a sun sign of Taurus with Sagittarius rising and a moon sign of Libra: I can see both sides of the story. Even when it's a dodecahedron story. And no – I don't understand all this astrological stuff either.

But at last we seem to be getting somewhere: we have a way forward. And everyone has been listened to; everyone feels that their opinion is valued and, even if their preferred actions are not being taken, they understand the thinking, reasons and logic behind the decision.

Which, in turn means I can invite them all to the family gathering just after Christmas.
Oh, I know full well there will still be tensions; a couple of cousins won't be speaking over something that happened last Christmas (and when I find myself thinking "how petty" I have to remind myself that I have not experienced that particular injury/backlash, so I don't know how it feels) but hopefully I can still get all eleven adults (plus six children and two hangers on) round one dining table in a spirit of reconciliation and harmony.

It's an ambitious project, but I remind myself that the family was exceptionally harmonious before the death of its head (my uncle), in July 2013. It can and will be harmonious again.

It might just take a tanker full of oil to pour on the troubled waters though, and, just at the moment, I'm fresh out of Fry-Light!

But I draw a deep breath and remind myself of Stephen Covey's first principal: "Begin with the end in mind." Quite frankly, I don't care what the family decision is, I just want a united family and I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to get my united family back.

Even if I have to see, show and tell eleven different sides of the same story.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


It's Tuesday.

Monday hadn't gone well. I'd pinched a nerve in my spine and my lower back had locked into a spasm of fear. I walked as if I was crippled – as if I'd had an 'accident'. 'Everything' had gone wrong. Of course, it hadn't, but it seemed as if it had. Good riddance to Monday, I thought.

Tuesday morning came. I tore a sheet off my 1950's style calendar, and the comment was, "Time for Decision". I posted: "Good riddance to Monday," on Facebook, and a new friend challenged me with the thought that today was 'Chooseday'. She asked me, publicly, what I would choose today? I was getting a new message, loud and clear.

What would I choose?  Well, I chose to look after my back – I took the pain to be a sign that I wasn't taking good enough care of myself. I chose to defer a couple of meetings to give my body time to reset and heal...

But then I got to thinking. My whole life was off-track. There was compromise leaking from every pore. Wrong job, wrong partners, wrong location, wrong attitude, wrong choices! How had I let matters slide this far off the path? Answer = my choices. Tiny choice by tiny choice.

So, from now on, my Tuesdays are going to be 'Chooseday'.

A day for good, purposeful, fresh choices.

What will you choose today?

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 24 November 2014

I can fight this demon.

The world has a funny way of changing you into the next person you are to be in this life.

As I have been ill these past few weeks with a chest infection, I have lost track of the two capsules a day I was to take of my antidepressants, only taking one most days. Yet, a strange feeling came over me with a reduction of the medication. Not worry I could go back. But courage.

I felt that I needed no help. Well no professional help. No psychiatrist or counsellor opening my files and putting me on show with a variety of outlandish assumptions about what defined me. I could do it alone. I would firstly learn to love myself. That is the key to all. Then I would work upon discovering triggers. Everyday. Non-stop. No rest. No relaxation. Stressful stuff! But that's how I feel about most things in life, without focusing on my depression each day, so why not be productive in my distress?

I could do it.

Off my own back. Fight this demon.

At first my plans were to destroy the deep blackness inside of me. Suffocate it with happy colours and style. But that is exactly how I fell into an earlier relapse last year. Pushing it further down.

But then I realised, it's not about storming in, all guns blazing, chucking the icy bucket of water over that dark ocean. It's about accepting it's there inside you. The harsh waves crashing against the shore. But just like the movement of the tide, coming in and out, there is a natural ebb and flow to the movement of emotions. Some days the ocean is lost in the horizon. Other days, its nibbling at your feet. Accepting that you will always walk alongside the tide is the first step. Yet the hardest.

I am grateful for that horrible cough. An incredibly insignificant moment in the grand scheme of things, yet it was the first stepping stone to effective recovery.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

I Am Not My Thoughts or Emotions.

Having had over a 554 day lag since the last time I recorded my Moodscope score, today was the day I decided it was time to revisit and record.
Let me tell you a bit about my life leading up to today, in a nutshell.

I was diagnosed with post-natal depression eleven months after the birth of my first child, some nineteen years ago now. However, I can predate that particular period of darkness with many years of undiagnosed and life sapping anxiety, even right back into my childhood.

After the PND diagnosis, I took a roller coaster ride through medication, psychotherapy, and cognitive behaviour therapy – followed by the happy days of recovery and being thankful to be alive. Three times I travelled this path. It's hard to say which breakdown was the worst. The life-saving anti-depressants transformed me mentally, but oh-so-slowly – much longer than the suggested 6-8 weeks. Each time I was also transformed physically, by those same drugs, into a perspiring, vomiting skeleton. But, I learnt to endure, as did those around me. Each breakdown had its own horrors. And yet, each time, like the Phoenix, I rose out of the ashes, to the glorious days of recovery.

And now my babies are young adults, and I feel a huge mixture of happiness and sadness.

Recent months as a mother and a human being have contained more highs and lows than my psyche would like to deal with, and I feel depleted. It is about eight years since my last and final breakdown, and since then I have gained so many tools for my mental health tool kit.  Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, expressing my feelings, reaching out rather than shutting down – all of these continually help to correct my course, maintain my equilibrium.

And then today, I remembered the cards on Moodscope, and revisited them. The score was unimportant to me really. The process however, made sense. Just looking at all those emotions, and calculating how intensely or not I was experiencing them, reminded me how all our feelings and thoughts fluctuate so much. Bringing my awareness to them, and assessing them, brought me back to the sense of who I am. My inner self. The awareness that is "the Real Me", so-to-speak. I am not my thoughts or emotions, and I am thankful to Moodscope for reminding me of that. I will come back to do the cards again tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, whilst I find my feet again.

Someone suggested to me that I might be experiencing something akin to PND, as my babies fly the nest, and it's an interesting thought. Life is full of births and deaths, and rebirths, for all of us. As humans we have to keep learning to let go, over and over again. And we learn how to find our feet, over and over again too. We're not all in the same boat, but our boats all travel the same river.

A Moodscope member. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

So sorry Spike.

In the 70's and 80's,I used to be involved in organising protest marches and demos,campaigning against blood sports and vivisection, the fur trade etc.

Like many of my generation I grew up listening to the Goon Show, and it was common knowledge that Spike Milligan had suffered a major mental breakdown, and spent a long period in hospital. It was said that the pressure of being the only script writer on the team, having to produce perfection every week, pushed him over the edge. He was later diagnosed as manic depressive (or bi-polar as it is now called). I remember hearing him say that the only peace and comfort he could find in hospital was when the resident cat would come and lie on his bed.

Although I have always been a very "highly strung" person, at that time I still had some resilience left, and could summon up the energy to take on projects as long as they were planned well in advance. In my mind, people like Spike had been ill, then cured or at least put back on an even keel.

He was a patron of several animal rights organisations, and so I and others would approach him asking for his attendance at various events. This of course would be announced in press releases and the like. Television crews would turn out, press would attend, members of the public, who would never normally attend a demo, would come from all over the country. In fact the only person missing would be Spike. Sometimes his agents or family would cancel at the last minute, saying he was indisposed, sometimes we would have no warning at all. It became embarassing, the press thought we were making it up to get publicity.

There were a couple of similar no-shows from a well-known continental film star. I later heard that she was battling depression and becoming a recluse.

Now, all these years later, I am still doing my best for the cause dear to my heart. But now it is rare to see something highlighted in my diary that does not cause my heart to sink. I must have been having a good day when I agreed to it, but now I am praying that it will have to be cancelled, not my fault, no need for guilt.

Of course, I hardly ever back out, I know how it feels to be let down. I go along, and usually end up doing a grand job, but oh, the relief when it is over. It will take a few days for the adrenaline I have had to produce to calm down, for my sleep to return. Until the next time.

Spike, for thinking you were rude and unreliable - I am truly sorry.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Sex And Depression.

Now come on, confess: how many of you clicked on this email because of the title when you haven't clicked on a Moodscope email for a number of days/weeks now?

Hmmm. Thought so.

There's something about sex, isn't there?

So – my own confession: I'm in my 50s and I still really like sex.
(Ah, a moment here – please forgive me but I know my teenage daughter sometimes reads these blogs).

You have to understand of course that I have never actually had sex and that both my daughters were created by Immaculate Conception. Now, stop reading this, darling and do some homework.

Gone now? Good.

So – we've established that I am a normal woman with a healthy libido, lucky enough to be married to a man more than happy to satisfy that libido (and that's quite enough of the personal information, I feel).

But when that grey monster of depression comes and swallows me up things are very different.

In that wonderful video by the World Health Organisation "I Had A Black Dog, His Name Was Depression" there is an image that shows the narrator in bed with his wife/partner with the black dog lying, like a great bolster, between them. He says: "He would take my love and bury my intimacy." Those of us who suffer depression know how very true that is.

When depression shows up we not only don't feel like making love, we are often incapable of it. You may think that it should be easier for women, because, after all, we can fake it, whereas for you guys if it's not happening then there's really no pretending, is there? But if you're in a loving relationship there's no faking anything with a man who knows you better than you know yourself.

Sometimes it's better to say "Let me make you feel good, darling. Don't worry about me: I can't at the moment; we'll make up for it when I'm better." It's not perfect, but it's better than lying in the same bed with a whole universe in the shape of that black dog between you. Often it's just a loving touch or hug that we need, and need to give, not necessarily sex.

It takes trust, a depth of love and intimacy (not to mention patience) which not all of us are lucky enough to have.

But at least let's have honesty: it's not you, it's not me; It's this bloody illness! It will pass – eventually and then (please!) – Game On!

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A way to say thank you…?

You don't actually have to do this quiz, although you can ;-)
Simply read the email straight through, and you'll get the point!

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world?
2. Name the last five Booker prize winners?
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss UK contest?
4. Name Ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize?
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress?
6. Name the last decade's worth of World champions in your favourite sport?

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. They have the most of what you may seem to want, wealth, money, beauty, intelligence, influence, creativity, talent.

But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Money is spent. Health replaces wealth...physical (PQ), mental (IQ), emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ).

Accolades, certificates, are buried with their owners and you cannot take 'materials' with you.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one?

1. Name a key teacher who aided your journey through school?
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time?
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile?
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special?
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with?
6. Name half a dozen 'heroes' whose stories/lives have inspired you?


Lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who both care for and forgive you the most.

One could also say, that the ones who love you most are the ones who have forgiven you most - as you moved from young to older, dependent to interdependent (not independent) and clever (knowing the answers) to wise (knowing the questions).

Why not send this on to a few on your list above, those people who have made a difference in your life with only two words in the subject line - "Thank You."

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You can't condemn it until you've tried it – at least three times...

Well, I should hope there are actually some things we would condemn without trying them first; torturing puppies, playing tag with the cars on the motorway, filing our teeth to points and then lurking in dark corners pretending to be vampires – I could go on...

But what about those things that we completely write out of our lives without trying first? These are things that are not illegal, immoral, unaffordable or even just silly; but things that we just dismiss as "not for me, thank you."

Skiing was definitely "not for me". If you had asked me a month ago, I could have listed for you at least fifty different ways I would have preferred to break my leg rather than by skiing. No, you were never, but NEVER, going to get me on a ski slope!

So why am I now three lessons in on a "learn to ski" course?

It's all the fault of my ridiculously sporty daughter. She's going skiing with the school next February and her father decided that it would be good if she learned at least the basics of skiing first, before venturing out onto a high and snowy Austrian Alp.

Excellent thinking, darling. I agree.

Then he thought it would also be a good idea if the rest of the family learned to ski too, and promptly booked us all in on this "learn to ski" course at our local dry ski slope.

I understand (because I've looked it up) that booking your wife into skiing lessons does not constitute unreasonable behaviour adequate for divorce.

So, there we all are, uncomfortable in tight boots with five feet of sole sticking out, shuffling our way through what seems like a million bottle-brushes sewn together in a grid pattern. I daren't look up because I'll cross these skis and fall over before we've even started. And this is before we even begin sliding slowly, ever so slowly, down the nursery slopes.

"ARGHHH!" – Thump. Yes, that was me falling over.

Oh I hated it the first time.

I hated it the second time.

I really wanted to hate it the third time, but, you know what? I actually have to concede that I was having fun.

My family have taken to it like Penguins to an ice-slide and love every minute. I still resemble a hippo emulating Bambi in the frozen lake scene; the moment when I skied straight off the side of the slope into the patch of ninja stinging nettles ranks as the funniest thing the instructor has seen all week.

But it is kind of fun. And I'm sort of glad hubby booked me in too.

Even if I'm not quite prepared for us all to swap February in Tenerife for Austria just yet.

A Moodscope member.