Friday, 28 February 2014

Who inspired you?

"Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I wonder how many of us were 'inspired/guided/challenged/nudged/prompted' by a wise and mature adult when we were younger - or even lately?

My mother and father did not get on and I grew up, as an only child, in a house of evening arguments - especially after my father had had a drink. I used to constantly have those 'falling' nightmares - where I could not stop falling - down and down and down...a real lack of security in my senses.

After my father physically abused my mother one evening she left and I was bundled into a taxi at 02:00hrs aged 9.

My mother then died of cancer when I was 15, not long after I had moved back in with my dad. (we were living with my grandmother with 2 bedrooms between the 4 of us and a fold down bed in the living room).

Soon after I went off the rails. I started breaking into the school - not doing any damage but stealing the odd football and parts off cars. I also attempted to rob a garage where my friend worked and I rode a motorbike with no license, insurance or MOT.

I did so badly at school that I was held back to repeat my fourth year. This was the school that everyone was so proud that I gained entrance to, especially my mother. So here I was, I'd just lost the only person that really mattered to me and now the very system that should have been supporting me also separated me from all my mates!

Anyway, the head Geography teacher started to take an interest in me as a person and surprise, surprise that, without me really knowing, made a difference. I excelled in Geography and I was made a prefect. I now had to take the names of the late comers and not be one of them. I became rugby, basketball and volleyball captains and gained more qualifications in my final year than I had in the previous two.

That little bit of care and compassion from a wise teacher, when my father at home couldn't care whether I was home or not, turned something inside me to offer a different view of life.

Twenty years later I became the second youngest local authority Chief Executive in the UK and now Chair a youth befriending charity, where we have around one hundred volunteers to weekly befriend troubled youths between 7-17.

What stories have you of such 'nudging' from a wise human being I wonder?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Please don't let me feel misunderstood.

Do you yearn to feel understood? Do you sometimes find it a challenge to be true to yourself when you are misunderstood, perhaps feeling it's easier to simply be what everyone thinks you are, or ought to be?

I ache to be understood but rarely do I feel it. I often feel a primal need to protect myself and to live by the sad reflection of Elbert Hubbard: 'He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.' Now there was a fellow who must have known what it was to feel Alone. And yet, the sad truth is, is that often trying to explain how one feels does indeed, lead to further loneliness.

Trying to explain feelings can lead a friend to go away and put your tears, depression or feelings down to X, Y or Z and yet for me, it never feels quite as simple as that. Can anyone know what you're feeling if every tear we've ever shed becomes part of what we weep for today? And can anyone know why so we're happy or excited, perhaps over something seemingly simple, when every tear, disappointment, sadness, laugh or joy is an integral part of who we are this moment? No. The answer has to be no. If a friend acknowledges this, I feel less alone. Often though, friends like to box up your sadness and pigeonhole it neatly and concisely.

I find this an interminable challenge; to open up or not to open up. I never seem to get the balance right and often feel it's easier to simply withdraw altogether and never reveal my true self to anyone, ever again.

I suppose the key then is to know ourselves and to learn to take care of our own feelings.  This is dashed hard, no doubt about it. When I give a quiet, gentle nod of acceptance to how I'm feeling, however, I'm less needy for the understanding of others and it's less likely that I'll make the mistake of opening up to someone who can't understand. That in turn, can free us up to be ourselves, even if we are misunderstood.

A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Once upon a time feedback was what you got when you took your microphone too close to the speakers – or at least it was when I was in a band way back in the early eighties.

While that is still one of the meanings the more common one we know is that of helpful information or criticism that is given to someone in order to improve a performance or product.

I think I'd like to put the word "helpful" in inverted commas because, in my experience, feedback can very often be negative.

Is it feedback or is it just somebody else's opinion?

Feedback can surely only be given by an expert in the particular performance or product. The man on the street is probably not an expert, but you may be sure he has an opinion.

One of my friends is very good at taking feedback/criticism/opinion. He listens politely, says "Thank you" very genuinely and then processes the information much later. He doesn't get emotional or defensive and he doesn't give anything back; the "Thank you" is all.

Weeks later he might say "I found your comments most helpful. Thank you again." But he never has a problem in dismissing comments he considers unfounded or mere opinion.
He certainly does not take hurtful or spiteful comments to heart and chew over their bitterness in the small hours, or waste time wondering how to modify his behaviour in order to comply with the expectations of others, and grieving over his inability to do so.

Wise sages encourage us to "just be yourself" and we know that they're right. After all, if we are not being ourselves, then just who is going to do that job for us?

We're always going to get feedback, but we have to filter it carefully. Some of our friends, some of the members of our family may be experts in who we are and we may take their loving feedback on board. They want us to be fully expressed as ourselves. Most of the rest of the world just doesn't have a clue about who we are, so how can they possibly give meaningful comments?

What's more; experts normally wait to be asked. They know their opinion carries weight and rarely scatter it around like confetti. So, if you value someone's opinion and wish for it – then ask. If an opinion is given without asking, you have full permission to ignore it. But, say thank you anyway; it's only polite (and it really annoys anyone who is just trying to upset you!)

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


One Moodscope member often quotes John Lennon and other Beatles' lyrics and today I heard Lennon's 'Imagine' on the radio. I thought of the Moodscope person (and wondered how you were) and the lyrics.

He sings that if there were no countries there would be no wars. Now whether that would happen I don't know. Who does, but what an interesting thought. He also says imagine if there was no religion too.

War and fanatical religion go hand in hand sadly. Religion is used as an excuse for war. (How on earth did that happen??)

I love everything about this song, the words, the meanings, the guitar, his voice and the way he sings it.

I spent a very happy few minutes listening to it this morning.

I almost felt empowered and liberated from everything that controls me.

I know other songs can do this for me, not many hold this position but a few do.

Words are so important and if expressed skilfully as Lennon and others do (I am sure you can name some more), they can break isolation and sadness, if only for a short while.

I felt calm and myself, almost cheerful.

I love language and its power to liberate our feelings and insecurities and I know for many of you, your mother tongue is not English, so today maybe some of you would like to tell us what are your favourite words, sayings, songs, lyrics, etc etc. In any language; we can use Google translate.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Tea and biscuits anyone?

One of my weaknesses or rather, one of my 'elements of being me' (as I grandly refer to them!) is my love of dark chocolate digestives. After a frustrating day at work when I feel I've accomplished little or had a tiring time at the allotment when nothing seem to be growing or flowering there's nothing better than sitting down, snuggling under a blanket with a cuppa and a digestive coated with smooth, dark chocolate.

Some things just need a quiet and comtemplative approach and so it is with drinking tea and eating certain biscuits!

I try to bring mindfulness into the actions of drinking tea and chomping biscuits because enjoying these small pleasures can be so restorative after a long unsatisfying day. When the kids clamour for attention and squabble over the tv remote, I try to schedule in little pockets of five minutes just for me as I know I'll deal with their disagreements so much more effectively when I've taken a few moments for myself. I used to think it was selfish not to want to be with my kids all the time but I'm beginning to realise it's selfish not to take time as it makes me a much calmer, tolerant and happier person to be around.

Back to the biscuit. The crunch, the smoothly melting, sticky chocolate, the crumbs on your tongue all little things to savour. The slightly too hot, dark, subtly-frangranced tea slipping down your throat and the warmth of the comfy blanket. Just the thought of those things as I sit here typing makes me calm and content and not a digestive in the house!

A Moodscope Member.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

EQ before IQ Except After Death.

"A wise man does not use knowledge (IQ) to select his direction, but will on occasions use it to guide him on that path."

Do you remember learning the rule 'I before E except after C'?

My play on that and resulting life rule is - EQ (heart) before IQ (head) except after death - i.e. E before I except after D.

Since it was created in 1902 the IQ test has dominated our lives, jobs and careers.

All of us will have been indoctrinated into this lifestyle, with at least 11 (up to 18) years of Newtonian cognitive 'schooling'.

It is no surprise then, that many of us who are not cognitively gifted (an ability to memorise facts and solve puzzles) often feel left out, if not left behind in society.

In Scotland here, I believe that over half 14 years olds will have been told they are failures by the very system which is meant to educate them. That system actually 'schools' (not educates) us and in many cases, reduces self esteem and self respect.

Correspondingly, Scotland has the highest knife crime, highest prison population per capita and highest teenage pregnancy levels in Europe - correlation?

So while each of us travels our own 'Road Less Travelled' - unfortunately for most, it is actually a 'Road Most Travelled' and socialises us into a lifestyle taking us down a very unfortunate path, mostly measured by our 'usefulness' to work and not society.

The clever person (IQ) will easily fit into this world often of ego and selfish greed, as they succeed in the key measurement of governments - IQ.

The wise person however, will find their own path. It is a path that also enhances the life of those around them. A path that enables them to believe in themselves and thus be strong enough inside, to be of service to others in a way that 'others' require - wise and not clever.

So, as we see from the starting quote, a wise person walks a different line and on occasions rightly uses IQ to assist that journey.

Life is predominately an internal journey with an external outcome.

One which serves and supports others, emanating from an ability to be compassionate; to see life from another perspective; to treat others as they want to be treated and not to hang onto what feels safe and 'right' for you.

So as I've said before 'compass before clock', heart before head, morals before money.

Which do you choose to move towards today? To change the world (even if it is your own household) you first have to change yourself.

Give yourself a score out of 10 for changing yourself today - with 10 being high and share this with your closest friend who can help and support you on your way.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

I feel.

Life as a highly sensitive soul isn't straight forward. Often I just want the mind to hush and my heart to stop feeling so intensely.

Were there to be a pathology report on my heart I'm sure they would struggle to lift it intact. It would be like trying to get a biscuit you've dunked in your tea that moment too long, out, whole. It would simply disintegrate. And what of my brain? It would show signs of great wear and tear from the constant analysis. It would sag in parts where the anxiety has driven, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. And my gut would reveal rawness and bruising. Such is the sensitivity I feel in life. Everything can feel like a kick to the solar plexus.

Maybe you too feel that you wish you'd been born with some kind 'Fragile, handle with care,' notice.

If you buy one book on psychology, I hope it's 'Dibs, in Search of Self.' It's a moving, true story book about a disturbed young boy and how he comes to terms with the complex world about him through play therapy. At our core though, are we not all little children in some way, trying to glue together tiny, broken pieces of the little boy or girl inside?  This is surely why the book resonates with so many.

As Dibs starts to heal he exults in his sensitivities and feelings. 'However I feel.' He rejoices, 'However I feel, I will be.'... He walked around the playroom, patting his chest and calling out, 'I, I, I, I,...I am Dibs...I can do things. I like Dibs. I like me.'

The author and psychotherapist, Virginia M. Axline, who treated Dibs says: '...many times we have little control over those (outside) elements, but if we learn to utilize our inner resources, we carry our security with us.'

We can carry our own security with us. Just dwell on that for a moment. Now isn't that something worthy of attaining? Imagine how much happier we'd feel and how much healthier our relationships would be if we all carried our own inner security.

So, no matter how sensitive or fragile we may feel, know that it is okay to feel. Be like Dibs. When asked: 'And how does that make you feel?' 'Like that,' he said. 'I feel'.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Just some thoughts...

Suzy, Mary and Les' recent blogs have given me a few things to think about in the last few days.

Briefly the issues which came up and I chose to dwell on were:

1.What motivates me when depressed.
2. Who is the real me? and
3. Contradiction in ourselves.

For me the onset of depression was out of my control; it came upon me gradually without noticing, many years ago. I didn't find myself suddenly depressed one day but I guess in a way I have always had low moods. They say that this can happen at or around the age of 7 and before that if treated wisely by family etc, one can change. I don't know but perhaps I have the sort of personality that falls easily into depression if a trigger occurs.

So what motivates me is trying to gain some control on its progression and how it makes me feel and operate on a daily basis... I need this control over something, which could so easily get out of hand and totally take over.

Who the real me is is much more difficult to answer. Once upon a time (!) there must have been a "real me" but I dare say over the years I have adapted my personality to meet other people's expectations of me in different situations, work, family and socially. Lack of self-confidence played a major part in this.

So now I am wondering, looking back over my past.

I guess I have to conclude that the real me is how I am today, the sum total of my life to date. But it's difficult to accept me as someone I don't like much of the time.

And lastly my contradictions, so eloquently expressed by Suzy. Some days, (and I have written extensively about this, you all know by now!) I feel great and am a very different person to, for instance, the one I perceive today. I am totally unrecognisable to someone who had met me on a good day. I share all the contradictions Suzy wrote about. For instance, I don't want to miss out on anything in life and yet shy away from events, which will mean I will have to perform, be sociable and interesting.

I am writing this on a badish day. The words aren't flowing as I would like them to.

There's always tomorrow!

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Emotional Cost of Clutter.

William Morris once famously said: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Some of you may be very good at keeping your living spaces clear and living a minimalistic life as far as personal possessions go. Most of us can only aspire to that. "Stuff" seems to come into our life and sticks like glue.

The emotional cost of this clutter however, takes its toll on our mental well-being. Common forms of clutter that can have a hugely negative impact are: (and I speak from personal experience)

1. The gifts from loved ones.

Mothers are particularly good at this. They give you gifts and then you feel you have to keep them always. A friend of mine has a great saying: "Keep the love it came with. Pass on the object that contained that love; it's just the wrapping".

2. The "just in case" objects.

I once kept a Savarin mould for twelve years without once actually making a savarin. I'm not even sure if I know what one is – certainly I've never missed it in the five years since I found the courage to pass it on.

3. Objects connected with past unhappiness.

I don't care how useful it is, or how beautiful; if it makes you sad or feel bad, it should go. Replace it with something that you do feel good about.

4. Those "bargains"...

Most often found in our wardrobes, these items remind us of the time we bought the shoes that pinched because they were cheap, or that third tee-shirt in drab olive, just because it was buy-two-get-one-free. Let these things go: they only remind us of bad decisions.

5. The stuff that isn't really you.

In the past I've kept books that I thought looked impressive. But I could never get beyond the third chapter of Stephen Hawking's "A Short History of Time" and, quite frankly, I really don't enjoy Dickens. So what's the point of using up valuable bookcase space on him, just because it looks more erudite than the Agatha Christies and Nora Roberts? It's lying by implication really, isn't it? It eats away at your integrity and authenticity.

6. Excess.

Would someone please tell me why I have 126 wineglasses? And why there are 15 ball-points and 24 pencils in the pot by the phone (I've just counted)? This must be insecurity clutter here. The resistance to getting rid of it is just about resistance to change. Take a deep breath and get over it. Move on and keep that energy moving.

7. Other people's stuff.

It doesn't belong to us, so we can't get rid of it. If we have agreed to keep something on behalf of someone else then there has to be a time limit. After that, we start charging!

8. General stuff that arrives.

Magazines, receipts, junk mail etc. We need a system and a regular diary date to deal with them. It becomes an issue when the quantity builds up to unmanageable proportions and it just gets overwhelming.

So – some of the above points I think I've mastered. Others – well, just writing this has inspired me to get started. I'll let you know how I get on.

A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The need to re-balance.

"You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him."  Leo Aikman

This quote came to mind as I looked through the Moodscope blogs and comments.

How often are we triggered by something that someone quite innocently says and then we react in a way that is far more revealing about ourselves?

Some, or even much of what is written, especially on Moodscope, are personal experiences, or offers of what has helped in what can be very emotional situations.

Each person that writes is opening their own soul, and showing vulnerability which can take personal courage to put words on a page for others to read and at times comment on.

The Moodscope community is certainly one where there is I believe a sense of sharing where people are often 'serving' others with their wise and supportive comments and replies.

I have noticed that some comments seem to be in response to a feeling that has emerged inside that person due to their understanding of what they have just read from perhaps a slightly coloured or hurt place in which they sit.

All too often we can almost 'react' to something which may well be close to our sensitivity, which can show our imbalance or vulnerability to be able to deal with whatever is emotionally disturbing us in the first place.

The key to me in any constructive comment, is to either build on what has already been said, or to offer another alternative that enriches the possibilities of a solution or moving on from a different perspective, especially in the emotional areas so richly mined by Moodscope users.

We can often see the Moodscope community 'in action' - when the first comment is sometimes 'reactive' and almost an attack at what has been written (no one in this community writes I'm sure to put anyone down) and this is immediately followed by others who are not imbalanced by the blog, stepping in to offer words of comfort, or even an alternative viewpoint to re-balance the blog.

When we write emotionally, in a less balanced state, we may be 'revealing' much of the disturbance that may have drawn us to want to do daily Moodscope in the first place.

Any such reaction, is quite possibly more revealing about themselves and their own challenges, than the writer of the original blog who has taken time and courage to openly 'show themselves'. And with the community we have, usually by the end of the comments, balance has been restored.

A bit like life really and in the challenges of mental health, ideally a bit like the internal conversations we all have in our heads, where hopefully after being knocked off balance we re-balance.

And for many of us, it is through our trusted friends and family this re-balancing conversation is sought - as the people who love us, forgive us for any imbalanced outburst and walk this ongoing journey of re-balancing with us.

A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Breaking down my emotions.

I started using moodscope as I felt myself struggling.

When I began I was at an epic low point. I had good intentions galore, but after a break away, I returned to my world and was affronted by a myriad of problems. I was lost. On my worst day I decided to do the Moodscope test. I also did it the next day and the next. I found myself allowing it to work for me. It wasn't worth fighting because it could actually help.

Moodscope has helped me to break my emotions down into manageable chunks. Instead of being overwhelmed by negativity, I have become able to identify on one day that perhaps I am feeling jittery and distressed, but in fact I am not scared and I can actually still say that I am excited about at least some aspects of my life. It makes the whole thing less categoric, and I can get to know my daily ups and downs a lot better.

The test works for me as a sort of magnifying glass, through which I can examine my reactions to each different emotion card and how they fluctuate, or don't.

Take the determination card for example. I am a person with set goals: I have an aspiration which I have been working towards most of my life and it is, in fact, a huge part of what I am. I'm forever working for it and, for my sanity, forever trying not to let it be everything I am. This aspiration and these goals have largely caused the depression which I have battled with since my early teens, from the pressure that I, and others, put upon myself.

However, having these aspirations and goals gives me an unwavering sense of determination. On a really bad day, when my goals seem very far and I would like nothing more than to never leave my bed, I can still comfortably give myself a two or a three for determination. On a great day, I can be elated and have achieved something good but my determination will remain the same. I am determined. All the time. And I'm quite proud of that. It's a life raft, in a way. It keeps me from scoring a zero, it's a small comfort when everything else is going wrong.

Maybe there's a card that's always flipped to the positive side for you. If there is?  Well done you. That's fantastic. It's certainly a quality to hold on to. Unfortunately this goes the other way too. I'm usually distressed and almost always nervous. But seeing these cards marking high most days lets me address the problem. Better the evil you know than the evil you don't, right?

Well, ten months after joining moodscope, I'm still scoring myself every day. Sometimes it's low and sometimes it's high, but on the whole it is a great deal steadier than it would have been this time last year.

I want to wish you a wonderful day, but in the case that you aren't having a wonderful day, I offer a knowing smile and I hope that your tomorrow is better. Record your emotions, good or bad, and learn from the patterns and repetitions. Get to know yourself better.

All my love and best wishes to each of you.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The right prescription...

Since the age of 11 I've been a spectacles wearer. I still remember that momentous day so many years ago at the opticians. I'd been suffering headaches, was falling behind on school work because I couldn't see the board properly and my eyes were always tired from having to squint. It was such a relief to finally receive a 'diagnosis' and to hear the optician say that I was mildly short-sighted.

I will always remember walking out of the opticians, with my NHS brown metallic rimmed glasses pushed against my forehead, and for the first time really seeing things: the trees now had individual leaves and branches, rather than the blurred mess I was used to looking at; I saw detail in shop signs and peoples faces as they walked by; I appreciated the colour and vibrancy of everything so much more. Over the following weeks the problems I was experiencing improved dramatically: no more headaches, I caught upon on school work and actually did quite well and my eyes no longer had to tire themselves out.

Fast forward to my late teen years and I experienced these same emotions and feelings again. I'd been having horrible mood 'attacks', feeling extremely sad for no apparent reason, my university work was suffering and I was constantly tired. Finally, a very helpful GP diagnosed me with low mood and depression. It was such a relief to actually know my problems had been recognised. Receiving this diagnosis meant I could now finally receive the help I needed.

The GP explained about serotonin levels and how some brains like mine were just different and gave me a prescription for anti-depressants. The following days and weeks after taking them, I experienced the same clarity and relief as I did when I first put on my glasses. I felt back to my normal self, the countryside looked greener, I heard birds sing, saw smiles on peoples faces and even smiled myself.

Both of these episodes resulted in a prescription for my problems. I'd never now leave the house without my glasses - to do so would cause me to not see things in the right way. The same goes for my anti-depressants. If I neglected to take them I wouldn't see things properly and most importantly I couldn't be me. I view taking anti-depressants the same as I do my glasses - it is not a sign of weakness wearing/taking them (as many people think) but a sign of strength that a problem has been recognised and is being treated. You wouldn't tell a spectacles wearer to stop wearing their glasses as they should be 'cured' by now, so the same applies for anti-depressant takers (yes, I have been told this!)

Everyday, with the help of my glasses, anti-depressants and mood tracking, I'm seeing more - and liking what I see.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Walking into the fog.

I had an Executors' meeting a couple of weeks ago – back at my old home, the farm.

Driving my old silver Volvo into the silver fog, along narrow and twisting rural roads, it struck me again that this is what my family is doing: walking into the fog.

I've already written about my dearly loved uncle (who was more of a father than an uncle): I won't bore you again. My sister, my brother and I are suddenly at the head of the family, steering the ship – or maybe the plough would be a better adjective seeing that the main family asset is the farm – through the minefield of legislation and tax.

Having got in all the valuations, we can just about see the next step ahead – which is to meet with the accountant and solicitor. But from there – it's fog. We have a vague idea of what is exempt and what falls into the estate, we know which beneficiaries get what (although we've no idea yet about how we reach resolution on those legacies if the Inland Revenue demand their full pound of flesh with interest), and the only thing we are certain about is that, whatever happens, we will continue to love each other and will maintain family solidarity.

Very often we're all walking into fog. We can see maybe one or two steps ahead. Possibly we know where we would like to end up (our hoped for destination), but we have no view of it and no guarantee of arriving there. It's tempting to give up. After all, what's the point?

It's all about faith. Maybe not in a God presented by religion (although I'd never knock that), but faith in yourself. Maybe you can't see more than half a step forward, maybe the destination is as vague as a dream and no more substantial or achievable than a mirage – but at least you can take that half step forward. I hope you can lean on loved ones and walk together with them for that half step – and then the next one...

My brother and sister and I were pretty clear. Right at the beginning we made a pact that, whatever happened with our uncle's estate, we were going to stay close and love each other. And it's been fine. Money and perceived value have not caused problems, the criticism by other family members, while distressing, have not fractured our solidarity.

It's not been easy; least of all, because we're not perfect: my brother doesn't communicate, my sister micro-manages, I try to appease everyone. But we have managed, somehow, to appreciate our strengths and to laugh at our weaknesses together.

Our increased love for each other, in the end, is my uncle's most valued legacy. Even if we're still not sure where we're going with the rest of it.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Emotional Cost of Clutter.

William Morris once famously said: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Some of you may be very good at keeping your living spaces clear and living a minimalistic life as far as personal possessions go. Most of us can only aspire to that. "Stuff" seems to come into our life and sticks like glue.

The emotional cost of this clutter however, takes its toll on our mental well-being. Common forms of clutter that can have a hugely negative impact are: (and I speak from personal experience)

1. The gifts from loved ones.

Mothers are particularly good at this. They give you gifts and then you feel you have to keep them always. A friend of mine has a great saying: "Keep the love it came with. Pass on the object that contained that love; it's just the wrapping".

2. The "just in case" objects.

I once kept a Savarin mould for twelve years without once actually making a savarin. I'm not even sure if I know what one is – certainly I've never missed it in the five years since I found the courage to pass it on.

3. Objects connected with past unhappiness.

I don't care how useful it is, or how beautiful; if it makes you sad or feel bad, it should go. Replace it with something that you do feel good about.

4. Those "bargains"...

Most often found in our wardrobes, these items remind us of the time we bought the shoes that pinched because they were cheap, or that third tee-shirt in drab olive, just because it was buy-two-get-one-free. Let these things go: they only remind us of bad decisions.

5. The stuff that isn't really you.

In the past I've kept books that I thought looked impressive. But I could never get beyond the third chapter of Stephen Hawking's "A Short History of Time" and, quite frankly, I really don't enjoy Dickens. So what's the point of using up valuable bookcase space on him, just because it looks more erudite than the Agatha Christies and Nora Roberts? It's lying by implication really, isn't it? It eats away at your integrity and authenticity.

6. Excess.

Would someone please tell me why I have 126 wineglasses? And why there are 15 ball-points and 24 pencils in the pot by the phone (I've just counted)? This must be insecurity clutter here. The resistance to getting rid of it is just about resistance to change. Take a deep breath and get over it. Move on and keep that energy moving.

7. Other people's stuff.

It doesn't belong to us, so we can't get rid of it. If we have agreed to keep something on behalf of someone else then there has to be a time limit. After that, we start charging!

8. General stuff that arrives.

Magazines, receipts, junk mail etc. We need a system and a regular diary date to deal with them. It becomes an issue when the quantity builds up to unmanageable proportions and it just gets overwhelming.

So – some of the above points I think I've mastered. Others – well, just writing this has inspired me to get started. I'll let you know how I get on.

A Moodscope user.

Lost in the 'Busyness' of Life.

"The vacation we often need is freedom from our own mind. Appropriately curtailing our obsessive thought patterns is our plane ticket to the pristine beach, the vibrant jungle, of our deeper hearts." Jack Adam Weber.

Most organisations are in my mind, dealing with constant 'busyness' and not dealing with the real business of creating human engagement thus energising passion. This can be the same in people and families.

How many of us are caught up in processes, procedures, programmes or policies instead of dealing with the only things that can change our lives - people?

It is well documented how meditation can help and now mindfulness is appearing regularly - so why don't more people, people who constantly talk about how busy they are, actually change their behaviour?

Is the issue, simply the addiction of being a 'Human-doing' - almost entirely created from 'schooling' (IQ) (not education - EQ) and busy parents; rather than emerging as a Human-Being, comfortable with yourself in body, mind, heart and spirit.

'Busyness' is an addiction to IQ and keeping the mind occupied - almost like a surface escape - never having to look inside at oneself and thus the inscape.

So, can you simply sit with yourself and be at peace? Or do you have to be doing something to feel OK about yourself? Try sitting silently right now for say at least 5 minutes and watch your mind and see where it goes? Can you do that? If you are already reading on 'busyness' is attractive to you.

How can you switch off? Take time for yourself? What do you spend your time on?
Does it make you happier? And in doing so, importantly, what are you teaching your children?

Those with children, are you rarely at home due to working to pay for what your kids want and what makes you feel secure; thus showing your kids that money, even although you may be unhappy at work, or absent from them, is what is required in life?

Time is the most important thing you have - how are you spending it? Feeding the 'busyness' and perpetuating the predominately IQ world around you? Or feeding your heart and spirit and offering the most important example to your family and friends - that of balance and happiness, morals before money, people before process, compassion before control, wisdom before work and heart before head.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 14 February 2014

A Hopeful Romantic.

Does "Valentine's Day" have anything to offer those of us who have suffered bad relationships? Or to those of us who are not in a relationship?


People are strange! They often choose strange, disempowering ways to describe themselves.  For example, they say, "I am a hopeless romantic!" What an effective way to doom one's relationships to hopelessness!

I describe myself differently. I am a "hopeful romantic"! This is so regardless of whether or not I am in a relationship and whether or not I am in love! Like the Pre-Raphaelites, I focus on hope, on potential, and on beauty. I focus on what I may rather have than on what currently exists. This is how humans often grow, mature and blossom.

In fact, my favourite saying is, "Reality leaves so much to the imagination!" What is the imagination? It is the ability to project an image in the mind's eye. It is the act of creation of an image in the mind. This is wonderful news because, with practice, you can choose what you create - just like an author of fiction.

On Valentine's Day I choose to focus with the eye of my heart on:
what is good and beautiful;
what is edifying and encouraging;
what is kind and thoughtful;
what is loving and what I am passionate about.
On Valentine's Day, I choose to live with passion.

After all, "All You Need Is Love" da da da-da da...because, "Love never fails."

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A contradictory enigma.

Do you sometimes feel like you are a mass of contractions? Ditto!

I feel strong and yet feel that at any moment, I may snap in two. I'm happy to interact with strangers but put me in room full of people I know, I can feel panic. I'm an extrovert but a virtual recluse. I'm calm and laid back, yet ever anxious. Going to bed, I often feel like I did the day before the start of a new school term - I want the world to end so that I don't have to go through with it. Yet, I push forward with life, scared of missing anything.

I despair at life and yet I love it with equal passion. I feel sadness in everything. I see beauty in everything.

Living and loathing life with equal passion is a delicate and sticky deal. It's like trying to take a tortoise for a walk at the same time as a lively puppy. It's frustrating and wearisome for all involved. When there are two parts of you, complete opposites, constantly vying for supremacy, it's hardly a recipe for emotional equilibrium. I want to 'dance as if no one is watching' and yet I want to fall to my knees and howl at the sadness and disappointments of life.

No other human will ever understand you as you understand you. Plus, understanding how complex and contradictory you are can lead to a greater understanding and empathy of others, not to mention, help forge peace with your biggest nemesis - yourself!

I like me. I dislike me. But I'll always be me. Better to nurture the former then because I sure can't take a holiday from myself.

A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

There are many more poems written than are ever read.

I was asked a very interesting question recently: "what keeps you motivated during times of depression?" Resisting the urge to collapse into unseemly howls of hollow laughter, I took the time to think about it.

Motivated? Oh no, that's asking too much; far too much. But the question "what keeps you going?" is a valid one.

In the end it comes down to dogged determination, a refusal to give up, a stubborn resistance to just lying down and waiting for death, even when that is what you want, more than anything, or as much as you can want anything in that state.

I realised that one of the things that does really help in those times, is poetry; the poems particularly of people who have gone through this before me. Gerard Manley Hopkins is best known for his poems The Windhover and Pied Beauty, but his Desolation Sonnets, as they are known, speak powerfully of just hanging on. A Modern poet, Shane Koyczan, speaks straight to our heart with his Instructions for a Bad Day. Psalm 139 is an important one to me. Not quite poetry, the lyrical prose blog (with great illustrations) of Hyperbole and a Half tells of her journey through depression with the slightly bitter humour many of us can relate to.

And what of all my poems written in the torment of wakeful nights - in purple ink using a quill pen, because yes, it seemed appropriate at the time - that were (mostly) binned with the break of day - or at least, in the late afternoon when some kind of literary sanity and good taste prevailed?

Art, in its widest sense, can be one of the resources that keep us going. For me, putting words on paper helps. It doesn't even have to be published. It doesn't matter if nobody else reads it. Somehow it creates a drainage channel and some of that grey blankness flows out and onto the paper. Other people paint, or sew, or plant flowers; build brick walls all round their garden (hint – it's usually best to keep these walls less than four feet high, otherwise they increase your isolation and the therapy becomes toxic).

The flip side of depression is often creativity. If the chains of inertia are not binding you fast at present, consider which form your creativity takes and if you can use it usefully in the bad times. If your world has turned grey, can you paint fifty shades of it? Just as an academic exercise of course.

You choose whether to go public with your art: it's therapy, not exhibitionism. But it just might be a gift and a lifeline to someone else.

Gerard Manley Hopkins: (Carrion Comfort)
No Worst, There is None
I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark
Shane Koyczan: Instructions for a Bad Day
Hyperbole and a Half:

A Moodscope user.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Who you are is what makes the difference.

"Nothing you will ever do, will ever improve who you actually are." Hans King.

Who are you? This is a question I often ask people as we start to dig deeper than the normal intellectual attempts, when doing some work around changing teams, as you can only help teams change, by enabling the people as individuals to change FIRST. (The resistance to this individual focus and consequent failure to change, is to my mind, why most change processes fail).

What would you write down right now to this question.

And if you are moving quickly to read on - you are not really up for change are you? So stop, get some paper or bring up a blank document and start writing.

Are you, by NOT challenging yourself to write down who you are, simply staying comfortable? Only through discomfort of some sort, will you change your life - by doing something you have not done before.

Discomfort is to be embraced positively. It is not a negative thing like pain, you have to be comfortable with discomfort for your own growth.

Because once you distill the many thoughts that will appear to something that 'feels' right - right to you (no one else), you then at least have a starting point of authenticity and authenticity is THE key to doing some work on yourself.

The most powerful and swift experiences I have ever had in working on leadership and personal growth was working with horses.

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is just the greatest experience I have had in my life.

To see a horse who has been totally avoiding you and completely frustrating you for up to 45 minutes suddenly come to your side to support you, as you break into tears, as the layers of protection and insecurity fall away - is just spellbinding. The horse will only work with you if you are REAL - truly you.

This is the crucial 'inscaping' journey and not the 'escaping' route that most take due to societal pressures. The journey in, is the only real journey we will ever take.

If you are seeking yet more answers externally, looking to the supposed experts, then find someone who loves you enough to truly 'listen' even when you are not speaking.

Their role is to help you discover yourself, not to 'tell' you anything.

So what are you going to do today - to look inside - to inscape - to establish who you are, as only from there can you start? Who are you?

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Help! When did this happen?

I signed-up to Moodscope after a doctor friend of mine declared one day she felt I was depressed. It perhaps takes a friend of more than 20 years to get through to you, but it still came as a surprise. I shared this conversation with my wife, whereupon she stated that she too knew I was depressed. Help! When did this happen?

I have always been one to over analyse something and can derive major anxiety from simple tasks like buying a replacement mobile phone. What if there's a better model (yet to be discovered), or there's one negative review out of a pool of otherwise positive comments. I can turn this self-doubt into a major issue and blame myself for not being able to take a decision. However, anxiety can easily build and overcome you; often you don't see it coming.

Through the Moodscope cards I discovered some of the triggers for my mood changes and set about finding ways to avoid them. A colleague who is a passive bully is now avoided; I've deleted old emails from him using the mindful tip of never reopening them. I also had to manage somebody who was in a much deeper depression than myself; I have found a colleague who has agreed to take this person off me.

I never realised how hard it was to manage somebody who themselves was depressed, it takes energy that you cannot afford to spare. Without this management burden, I'm able to see things in perspective and can start building a better year. We all need friends to share worries, but better still is somebody who can shoulder one for you.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Life is an Inside Job.

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."  Rumi

How many of us are programmed to look for the reasons we cannot completely let go - to truly trust, and to deal with the outcomes of such a belief?

I'm sure we have all had relationships where for a time we feel so safe and secure, that we can truly be ourselves. We are lost in the acceptance of a lover or friend, that we literally are as one.

Then as time goes on, we start to 'see' things that we did not before. This new 'seeing' opens the door to doubt and once doubt sets in we will start to 'see' other things that then justify our backing out; possibly our ego then starts to take the reins to look after ourselves, rather than nurture the joint relationship.

Much of this will have been 'programmed' from our own childhood and how our parents behaved and also how our relationship was with family and friends.

The old nature v nurture argument has diminished since the 70s with the latest research into genes and how they react; clearly now showing that nurture is by far the greatest dictator of our lives.

It is the situations that we find ourselves in that can switch on or off key gene groups and affect out personality and health.

When we clearly know and understand that the only person we can change is ourselves - it is our responsibility to become wise (win/win - EQ) instead of clever (win/lose - IQ).

Internal barriers that we build to somehow make us safe, in actual fact can make us more brittle and ego driven, when we have to prove we are right - to somehow believe that being right creates more self-esteem. Giving up behaviours which demonstrate the existence of barriers e.g. evasion, procrastination, lashing out, refusal to talk or listen, helps us become more balanced inside which will enable our growth.

We are programmed mostly through Newtonian thinking and our schooling rather than the education of life which shows that there is no black and white - no right and wrong – no simple brittle barriers, simply a world of infinite answers in a life of endless possibilities.

So - can you today start to diminish some of the barriers that this IQ dominated world has enabled you to create and move towards a love and embracing of self.

After all - to find the ideal partner or friendship for you - you have to firstly find the ideal and balanced you.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Remember to put the glass down.

This is an article from Sajeev Nair's Facebook page that a Moodscope member thought might be of interest to other members. Something to think about...

A Psychologist walked around a room while teaching Stress Management to an audience.

As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "Half empty or Half full" question.

Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired:
"How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.
It depends on how long I hold it.

If I hold it for a minute,
it's not a problem.

If I hold it for an hour,
I'll have an ache in my arm.

If I hold it for a day,
my arm will feel numb and paralyzed.

In each case,
the weight of the glass doesn't change,


The longer I hold it,
the heavier it becomes."

She continued,
"The Stresses and Worries in Life , are like that Glass of Water...

Think about them for a while and nothing happens.

Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt.


If you think about them all day long,
you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.."

Remember to put the Glass Down.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Humans of New York.

I treasure sharing a fleeting moment with a stranger. A giggle on the train, a warm smile, asking someone a question, offering a compliment or a simple exchange of words. I bow as leave a person or salute them. I'm definitely an introvert but find human interaction and contact, with fellow citizens of the planet, an absolute pleasure. Rarely do I feel close to any one person but seem to prefer a general friendliness with everyone.

It's probably for all of the above reasons that I love the blog, Humans of New York (you can follow it on instagram too). HONY is a photographer who goes out each day amidst the hubbub of New York and takes photographs of the people in the Big Apple. What pulls you in though, is the comments made by these people in response to a question the photographer, Brandon, has thrown at them. Many of the comments are so poignant. A pithy statement that can really pack a punch.

I think it's actually the sadness that I'm drawn to. It makes me feel less desolate in my own heart, just like my own wee encounters with strangers. The blog shows old folk to be anything but invisible, young people to be wise, grieving or depressed souls to be beautiful and the frail, strong.

Ah human contact. It's the stuff that makes us feel Hope. Every city ought to have a Brandon. Or maybe, it already does?

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Don't yuck someone else's yum.

I have been thinking about the cycle of negativity that ensnares during a depressive period and what I could do to reduce it. Another blogpost came to mind, this time about Alina Adams' New Year's resolution on and how she was seeking this year to follow the advice given to her daughter's first grade class:

"Don't yuck someone else's yum."

In the case of her daughter the rule is regarding the varying diets of her multicultural class and their subsequent variety of lunchbox foods, don't say "yuck!" to what someone else considers a delicacy, a treat or a staple of their diet.

The author mentioned how she thought this was a good rule for life and I quite agree. She had been struggling with getting caught up in arguments firstly on social media, and then in conversation, being the 'no' to someone's 'yes' and feeling she had to always correct others.

There are certainly times when playing devil's advocate is the right path to take, but how often do we throw negative talk at the trivial, someone else's excitement over an activity or movie or book or venue, a something that they clearly enjoy?

I know in my own life I "yuck" my husband's "yums" - his choice of shirt, aftershave, take away - a constant stream of unnecessary negativity which hardly adds to the joy of our relationship. I also have that bad habit of commenting on complete strangers' hairstyles and clothes, about the state of the roads, the weather, the latest advertisements, celebrities - a never-ending stream of "yucks" and they hardly add to the joy of my existence.

So why not join Alina and myself and today try and not yuck someone else's yum and let's all try to lessen the negativity that surrounds us and those we love.

A Moodscope user.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Forewarned is Forearmed.

It's 2014 and I'm scared.

Not enough to score a three on the scared card, so maybe apprehensive would be a better word.

You see, I'm bipolar with a two and a half year cycle and my ticket's booked to get on that rollercoaster about April this year.

In some ways it was easier when I didn't have the diagnosis. Because I didn't know what was happening, it was always a surprise. The hypomania (the most common form of bipolar features this milder form than the full blown mania) was wonderful and I would ride it with joyful abandon. The subsequent exhaustion (physical and mental) would ambush me without warning and I would spend the next few months wondering what was wrong with me, getting tested for everything and mourning the loss of my vivacious and bubbly "normal" self. Not being able to work and subsequent financial anxieties added to this.

The bipolar diagnosis made sense of it all.

Now, of course, I know that a major part in minimising the "down" is to control the "up", so from about now I will be watching that Moodscope score like a hawk. Tight discipline seems to be the key: lots of sleep, even if I think I don't need it, healthy food, the minimum of alcohol, enough but not too much exercise; making sure I follow the therapy routines (EFT and TAT*), which seem to work better for me than drugs.

All that is easier said than done, and this is where my lovely (but frequently irritating) Moodscope buddies come in. They know me and my scores. They email or phone when I'm up or down. They email me when they don't see a score for a few days. They are always on my case. I love them and I'm grateful to them, even when my heart sinks as I see yet another email, subject line "Moodscope Score: are you alright?"

Yes, forewarned is forearmed. I have my mental weapons, I have an army of friends (well, three – but believe me, these girls are an army in themselves), I have a wonderful GP who understands and I have the drugs on standby.

So I'm prepared, but still apprehensive. Last time was manageable; unpleasant, but the mildest episode to date. Maybe this one will be milder yet. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I'll keep you posted.

A Moodscope user.

*EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique or "tapping". TAT – Tappas Acupressure Technique

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Looking for an alternative.

I am reminded of an incident in my late teens/early twenties. I was at my parents house sleeping in my childhood bedroom. In that fuzzy waking moment I could see the top of my chest of drawers and what appeared to be an imperial mint on it. I squinted, trying to make sense – how was it there? Not me. Who could have put it there? It was not a sweet that my family ate. So how come it was there?

Convinced that it was an imperial mint, even though I couldn't work out how it came to be there, I leapt out of bed – only to discover that it was the handle of my hair brush...which I still have.

It reminds me that sometimes in my darker moments I become fixated on an idea, a thought, a feeling; and nothing or no-one can dislodge it for me. And yet, often, my nearest and dearest try (often unsuccessfully) to change my thought patterns.

So, what thoughts are dominating you today?

What alternative thought patterns can you apply to your situation? Perhaps by talking about yourself as if you were describing someone else?

For me this would be along the lines of:

"Frankie is feeling low today; she is tired so that is understandable, but she cannot or will not accept that; she feels low and she feels that it is her fault – she feels that she is failing (which she isn't). Frankie needs to accept that sometimes she does feel low, and that is alright...tomorrow is another day and maybe she will feel better then.
It is like the weather; sometimes it is fine, sometimes it rains; and both are alright.

Tomorrow is another day and maybe things will feel different and better.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Playing the excited card.

Here's the last in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please don't forget we'd love you to add any ideas, tips, insights or advice you may have that you'd like to share with other Moodscope members that might be of help. Many thanks. Caroline.

Excited – looking forward to things.

My last Moodscope card, and what a beautiful red card to finish on. This is pure, focus-driven dream power. It is the power of hope. Hope is called the anchor of the soul – it is a sure and certain belief that "tomorrow" can and will be better...whenever that "tomorrow" will be.

Action can only follow attention – and excitement follows too. So, regarding the future, on what specifically will you lay your attention? You really can choose.

My research into the scientific basis for happiness suggests that a stunning 50% of my future happiness is based on my genetics – not always good news. Interestingly, only 10% depends upon what the marketeers suggest will bring me happiness – the new car, the big house, the material aspects.

I'm happy to work on the 40% that is within my grasp, within my power to change. If I really can choose what I focus on, and this could make 40% difference to my happiness, I will choose to look forward to specific things and events.

I've added 'events' there because the consensus is that 'stuff' is pretty impotent at changing your state. Buying 'things' gives the equivalent of a sugar rush, but it is soon over. Doing things is much more enduring in terms of the benefits you reap.

My youngest son posted on Facebook that 2013 was the best year of his life. Why? He then listed all the things he'd done. There was nothing material in the list. It was travel.  It was meeting new people. It was spending time with friends. These moments of truth are the stuff of life – the stuff that endures – the stuff that is worth getting excited about.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


Acceptance. I've read a lot about it lately and it is perhaps one of the most important things I have overlooked so far in my life.

If you live with a mental illness you probably think somebody rattling on about acceptance doesn't know how bad you feel or how hard your daily battle can be. That's what I thought anyway. That's why I never paid it much attention. Until now.

What if you can accept every thing just as it is in this moment right now? What if you can accept your past and let it be? It's tough isnt it? So why bother? Why learn about acceptance or try to do it?

Acceptance, is not resignation, nor is it condoning something. It is about saying everything is as it is. It is about letting go and about less struggle. It's about freedom and change.

Acceptance might sound a bit like this:

What happened happened, I dont condone it but I am going to stop trying to avoid it or hope it never happened. I accept what happened and I accept where I am now.

That last sentence took a lot of effort, I wont lie to you. But letting go will allow me to change, will allow me to be happier so I am willing to see if acceptance will help.

Just so you know, it took a long time for me to even entertain the concept of acceptance, let alone practice it, but I thought, what if it truly might help me to move forwards with my life? Wouldn't it be worth exploring?

Acceptance is a concept practiced in Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). There are some really good books and websites out there that can give you more information about it.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Walking the Talk in Health.

"It is difficult to bring people to goodness with lessons, but it is easy to do so by example." Seneca

The last 22 years (except one) has seen me deal with depression. Not just darkness, but pain and constant suicidal thoughts plus my first and last visit to a psychiatric ward.

During that time, I only ever found one 'expert' psychiatrist or psychologist that treated me as a person and not a patient. Chemicals have never worked for me, although I have taken them every time, to 'fit' with my last hope - the NHS.

Each time it has been something to 'move towards' than move 'away from', that has created life and hope again. This is why the above quote from the wise and ancient Seneca strikes a strong chord.

The NHS kept giving me lessons. Lessons on self respect - on sleeping habits - on CBT - on group therapy. Lessons which I'm sure work for some people - as the chemicals do for others. And yet I kept being given them, even after I explain they hadn't worked for me in 22 years!

What HAS worked for me, is when I was treated as a person - with care, love and compassion (CLC). One wonderful doctor modeled that CLC. She even gave me her email address and answered ANY email I sent within 24 hours, because she trusted me not to abuse this. This provided such support and hope, it enabled the breakthrough I had been seeking for 20 years. She gave me belief that I could get through and also helped me form an ongoing support group.

We need to make time and have the passion to truly walk the talk of health. It is the heart that heals not the head. The greatest and most sustainable change, is a change of heart.

Who can you help heal today by being there, being vulnerable and being open to what they need and not what you may want to give them?

You rarely remember what people said - you ALWAYS remember how they made you feel.

A Moodscope user.