Monday, 31 March 2014

Why smile at a stranger today?

Hello everyone.

As I slowly get to grips with understanding the reasons behind my depression, I'm finding it easier to talk about.

I'm also a lot more comfortable sharing my experience with people at work, now that I'm lucky enough to be back in a place staffed with friends.

All of which, I hope, does a bit to help destigmatise the subject.

I've found the response to telling people I write for the blog as one of curiosity, at the very least. In fact, it's been great. They often want to know more about it, get the address, read a post or two.

One of those friends is a writer called Piers. We got chatting about the importance of feeling connected to the world around, which led to a conversation about the contagious nature of smiling.

As it turns out, he'd written an ad that never ran, but has got to be worth an airing. So here it is.

Why smile at ten strangers today?

Well, because you'll spread the good feeling, a little kindness... and you never know; maybe you'll inspire one of them.

And maybe that person then holds the door for a lady running for the train...

Which in turn, means that lady makes her big meeting and wins a new client...

And maybe that success inspires the lady to take her whole company out for a slap-up lunch...

...which inspires Kelly in Finance to cook a nice meal that evening for her boyfriend, Steve...

...Steve then realises just how lucky he is to have someone as kind and wonderful as Kelly...

And as he watches the sun streaming in through their window, he makes a decision.

Tomorrow, he'll go and buy an engagement ring and get down on one knee.

And the world just got a little bit better, all because you smiled at 10 strangers.

Much like the smiles, sharing our stories can help make the world a better place. So if it's within you, smile at a stranger or share your story and you just never know what you might start.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

There's good news and there's bad news.

My beloved and I went for a hike yesterday; I suffer from a chronic fatigue condition so we have to make careful preparations if I am to accompany him… about one hour in he turned to me and said "there's good news and there's bad news".

"Tell me the bad news" I replied.

Gloomily he said "We are only half way round"… My shoulders sagged. My face fell. I felt depressed and anxious; would I be able to do the whole hike? And he seemed so low at the prospect of being only half way round.

"So what's the good news?" I asked.

Grinning broadly and very brightly he replied "We are already half way round!"

We are all experts at making ourselves feel anxious, miserable, inadequate, angry, guilty… the list is endless. Why not become expert at looking for the positive, putting another spin on it, acting "as if" all is well? Or, if that is not possible, reminding ourselves that "all things pass in time, and this too will pass".
Let us be our own "best friend" and reassure and encourage ourselves.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A smile wrapped around some lovely wisdom.

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water...

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.' The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?'

'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.' For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.
SO, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Don't forget the Cracked Pot that sent it to you!!

A Moodscope Member.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Side effects.

I was reminded the other day of what our tenacious bodies go through as they endeavor to contend with the everyday, and sadly, how little I will thank, apologise to or love my body in return.

At a routine hearing test, the doctor drew a short intake of breath as she popped an otoscope into my ear and looked at the mess within. She said: 'That must feel intolerable!' It was said with such empathy that my eyes welled up. The doctor was referring to the psoriasis inside my ear. (It covers my head too and it started over 20 years ago, when my cat was run over; it's never left me since. Fudge's parting gift.) It's not something I give much thought to (apart from the infernal itching), my case is relatively mild but still, it got me thinking.

Sometimes, symptoms that stem from sadness, or depression, can be as vexing and challenging as the depression itself. Take psoriasis for example - it is skin cell production in overdrive. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every 3 to 4 weeks but with psoriasis the process is sped up to every few days. It reflects well the interminable, anxious pathways that my brain traverses each and every day.

Films often portray this malady as belonging only to unhygienic individuals (always accompanied by halitosis it would seem!). It's distressing enough without having this stigma attached. Here is how a potential conversation could roll:

'Oh wow, is it snowing outside?!'
'No, I don't think so?'
'But you have'

There are other physical complaints, some embarrassing, that result from poor mental health, aren't there? IBS, shaky hands, insomnia, weight loss, weight gain, excess sweating and other skin conditions.

That acknowledgment, that validation, by Rosie, the doctor above, made me feel sad for my body.  I'm not talking of self pity here, oh no. I simply mean that it helped me feel a little more self compassion for myself.

If we look at just one side effect that is symptomatic of a bigger picture, it can, just maybe, help us to see what our bodies and minds are contending with as a whole. This, in turn, can help us want to be more nurturing of ourselves.

Writing this post, the quote by Henry Maudsley, a psychiatrist, was brought to mind: "Grief that has no vent in tears may make other organs weep." Given that the skin is an organ, those words could surely be a definition of psoriasis.

In conclusion then, the next time you observe "snowflakes" on either yourself or someone else, try to see them for what, in all probability, they are - visible, tangible evidence of someone's deepest emotions, sadness and fragility. Looking at it from that standpoint, one will see only beauty and feel only sensitivity.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Pain yet hope inside.

I wrote this when I was Chief Executive of a local council back in the early 90s and was fast losing the will to live with such duplicitous behaviour and self and political service rather than public service.

It was also when my depressive bouts started - age 38...I am now 60 and still susceptible.

I put my life on hold
As the air around grew cold,
I went inside to hide
But I lost my peace and pride.

I lost my way in life
As I dealt with stressful strife,
Other people's problems not mine
Plus a porous and poisonous grapevine.

I went in search of spirit
But there was no breath left in it,
It was my direction I had to find
To leave this pain so far behind.

Someone has to make a stand
And get back to those shaking hands,
This sign of trust and honesty
For a culture which will save the day.

No paper signed in triplicate
No contract clause to squeeze and fit,
No doing you down immorally
We need to find integrity.

So when my blackness then befell
I mostly could then always tell,
That it would touch me from inside
Of how we live in a world with pride.

So if you wish sustainable success
It's not about the push and press,
But trusting in yourself and staff
And making sure you have a laugh.

Only then will all your friends and foes
Clearly see the way to go,
Is open and honest with respect
It is only then you can 'collect'.

The happiness you search inside
The one that's never found outside,
The one we never clearly see
Until you find what's inside 'me'.

We I believe need to 'inscape' (inward journey) more (individuals, organisations and communities) and 'escape' (outward distraction) less.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Giving it Up.

Giving something up is often hard; even when you know it's the right thing to do.

This is not a post about relationships (or chocolate), but about the relinquishment of tasks and duties that we have performed faithfully for some time.

We take these jobs on; to be the club treasurer or secretary, to edit the school magazine and three years later, we're still doing it – often with increasing resentment and bad grace. We would really like to be relieved of the duty, but fear that, if we don't do it, then it won't get done. People depend on us and we can't let them down. We start to feel trapped.

For some of us, our periods of depression are so debilitating we hesitate to take on any responsibilities at all, fearing that we will inevitably let people down in our bad times.
Last week I wrote my last post for a wonderful website that was set up just to take happy news stories into people's lives. We all need a dose of that when the regular news seems to spread only sadness and suffering. I had written every week for more than two years and it had been my first ever blogging role.

But I'm now writing for Moodscope, have my own weekly blog and am working on that novel. The first blog was becoming a chore, rather than a delight.

So, eventually, after much heart searching, I tendered my resignation. It was a hard thing to do, but the right thing to do: my heart just wasn't in that blog any more.

Yes, I will miss not bringing that little piece of happiness to people every week, but I won't miss the grinding anxiety of searching for good news stories, uploading them and writing about them. I feel much lighter in spirit and greatly relieved. A burden has been shed.

When we do take on responsibilities like this it's good to remember that we can always lay them down again. Actually, until we have laid them down, nobody else will come forward to pick them up. While Jon was writing for Moodscope every single day, it never occurred to any of us to offer him help.

It's a good discipline to carry out a commitment audit every so often; once a year, maybe. Our lives can get very cluttered with busy-ness.

But don't worry, writing the Moodscope blog is always a joy; I'm not giving this one up!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Giving my soul a chance to heal.

There is lots of good advice out there for those of us who struggle with our mood and emotions. However, often it's of the 'go and have a cuppa with a friend' variety. This is good advice, and there is much truth in the old adage 'a trouble shared...' But what happens when it's the connection with people that's at the heart of the problem?

As a person who is both sensitive, and an introvert, people are a problem. Often, I feel a deep sense of isolation and disconnection from those around me. This would amaze those who know me; I have a job which entails constant engagement with often troubled people, and I am practiced at helping them feel at ease. I am happily married, with children and a number of friends, people tell me I am approachable, and turn to me with their problems. On the surface, all seems well.

And yet...I struggle to talk about my own feelings, and when I do try to risk vulnerability, people's responses can be problematic. Conflict and criticism often feel like nails down the blackboard of my soul. I spend much time listening to others, but rarely feel heard or understood. And so, I have had to search for alternative ways to form a connection outside myself, and for me that has come through spending time in nature and with animals. When I am upset, the soft fur and inquisitive twitch of my rabbits nose is a soothing distraction. My dog's insistence on a walk gives me a much needed chance to regain perspective through recognising the vastness of this beautiful planet on which we live. When I am distressed, my dog curls up on the sofa next to me, and the simple companionship and friendly wag of the tail offer an undemanding love.

This gentle affection and warmth gives my soul a chance to heal, and renewed, I can face the world again, a little more whole than before.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Hello? Anybody there?

Like others, I contribute to this blog in the hope that my words sometimes resonate with other Moodcopers, and somehow make them feel less alone. It's also selfish, in a good way, because expressing ourselves in writing can be cathartic for us all.

In my last post, One for The Men Out There (March 7th), I explained how my reluctance to take anti-depressants prolonged my depression. It made me think.

Without trawling the archives, I couldn't tell you when the one before that appeared. I never intended the gap between my contributions to be so great. But one of the symptoms of my depression was that I felt I had absolutely nothing worth saying.

All the words tumbling out of my mouth sounded the same. It didn't matter where I was, who I was talking to, or the topic of discussion. My preference became to say nothing at all and my comfort zone shrank to the size of my flat.

Ironically, a friend recently said he'd seen nothing from me on Facebook for months. Because of a settings glitch, to friends in my wider world, it looked as though I'd disappeared for a year. I did sometimes wonder why no-one was commenting on the few things I'd said.

As I fell quiet, it was other friend's posts that reminded me the world was still going round. Better still, the daily Moodscope blogs and ever-helpful comments gave me the sense I wasn't on my tod. They helped me believe that I'd feel better one day. Thankfully, I am.

I've found that emerging from depression is a time to cherish. I'm rediscovering the little pleasures in life and truly reconnecting with friends and family. (Incidentally, I've now fixed the Facebook problem and by saying hello to the world once again, got some lovely messages and meeps* back.)

So wherever you're at today, take comfort from the fact that however you're feeling, you're not alone. And if you're not at your best, trust that you will one day, as one Moodscoper so beautifully put it, be 'enjoying life with all its sparkles'.

(*My gorgeous friend bet me I couldn't get the word 'meeps' in to this.)

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Time to think.

My mood swings can turn me from an affable, friendly, cheerful, life-and-soul-of-the-party type into a manipulative, calculating, revenge-seeking egotist.

Now, just the physical act of typing has helped me rationalise my condition.

I've been on Moodscope since last August, and at first I was sceptical. However, now I feel that doing the cards daily gives me at least one small task to do on my bad days.

Looking over my scores monthly helps me to watch for repeating patterns a few days in advance. The great part to that is:

a) if a mood dip or swing occurs, I don't berate myself as much, and
b) if a swing or dip doesn't occur, I feel better.

Time is a great healer. It is a cliche. But cliches are cliches because they contain a grain of truth.

Peace and Love, always.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

I Am What I Am.

I was listening the other morning to Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2, as I do, and heard this song by Gloria Gaynor:

And here are some of the words she sings... I've edited them a bit but, by the end you will get my message! The ones I want you to shout out today, preferably in front of a mirror and with the music playing:

I am what I am.

It's my world and it's not a place I have to hide in
Life's not worth a damn till I can say 
I am what I am
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle

why not try to see things from a different angle

I am what I am

I am, I am, I am good

I am, I am, I am strong
I am, I am, I am worthy

I am, I am, I belong
I am, I am

Whoo, whoo, whoo

I am
I am, I am, I am useful
I am, I am, I am true
I am, I am, somebody
I am as good as you.


Now click on the You Tube link, turn up the volume and get singing.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Do you ever H.A.L.T. to help yourself?

"The real value of the acronym 'H.A.L.T.' is that when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, it's best not to make any important decisions about what to do, where to go, or your direction in life."

I find this quote can be very helpful in ensuring that when I am not in the best 'place' I either do not make any important decisions or more often, involve trusted others if a decision is required to be made due to a certain timescale.

It is now well researched, as I have said before, that there are more 'messages' sent from the heart to the head than the head to the heart and as our hearts are the primary source of how we feel, they influence how we act.

The emotional state we are in, will always 'colour' and even reduce our thinking. If we are upset, annoyed or disturbed, the strong signals from our heart to our brain will close down crucial parts of our thinking capacity and capability. The decisions we will then make will not involve some of our higher brain capacity and will often be far poorer in the bigger picture of things.

The classic case is when we are angry and our emotions take over and we say something or make a decision which quite clearly we later regret.

There are tools around which can be purchased (e.g. Heartmath) which I use and is great for this, as it visually shows in real time, what state our heart is in - as we often need this feedback to become more self aware. I sometimes work with people and offer the thought that they cannot speak unless they are in green (high heart coherence). In this 'state' they are using all of their natural capabilities, intellect, intuition et al and will therefore make the best decision they can as a complete human-being.

We see this demonstrated in a physical sense when a sports person will demonstrate 'great balance' to do something quite special - they are in full control of their body, aware of all its parts and can thus do something quite unique with that full body self awareness.

What can you do to practice being more self-aware, fully mindfull of your thoughts and feelings?

How balanced are you when you make decisions?

Maybe use H.A.L.T.  as a tool to keep yourself more in balance and avoid poor decisions which in hindsight we find were not helpful.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

What really makes us happy?

This year Moodscope are partnering with Action for happiness to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Happiness. I hope you'll all join in. Here's what it's all about:

If you ask parents what they want above all for their children, nearly all of them say something like "I just want them to be happy". Happiness is the thing we want the most for the people we love the most.

But the problem is that our happiness has been hijacked. We're bombarded with false images of happiness. Advertisers say it comes from buying their products. Celebrities and the media pretend it comes with fame or beauty. And politicians tell us that nothing matters more than growing the economy.

I could point to many studies confirming how wrong this all is - lasting happiness does not come from what we consume, how we look or how much we earn. But, let's be honest, you knew that already!

Today is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. To celebrate this special day, Action for Happiness is running a global campaign with support from over 40 organisations and many thousands of people around the world. Their mission is to show the world what happiness really looks like - and in doing so, to reclaim happiness back from the advertisers, celebrities, media and others who try to manipulate us.

Here's how you can get involved...

Step 1: Find. Look through your photos right now for a picture of something that really made you happy.

Step 2: Capture. When something makes you happy today or in the coming days, remember to take a photo of it.

Step 3: Share. Share your images of happiness with others using the #happinessday hashtag (e.g. via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc)

People have already shared hundreds of great photos of what makes them happy - and you can see a collection of these on this inspiring wall of happiness. Unlike the fake images in adverts and magazines, these authentic photos help to remind us of what really matters. We may not be able to change the world overnight, but together we can share a vision of happiness which is far more real that the one we're sold.

So why not take a moment to find (or take) a picture of something that makes you happy and share it right now. It might be profound, or perhaps profoundly silly! But however small and personal, the fact that you have noticed it makes it quite important enough.

Let's focus on the things that really matter. Let's reclaim happiness.

Mark Williamson

Dr Mark Williamson is director of Action for Happiness, a movement of people taking action to help build happier communities, families, schools and workplaces.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The value of the closed door.

Are you an introvert or an extravert?

The answer to this question is not always as simple and immediate as we may suppose.

Rather than looking at whether we are happiest at a big party or would rather book a two hour session with the dentist than attend that same party, we need to look at where we derive our energy. Some of us gain energy from being with others, while for many of us periods of solitude are vital for our mental and emotional well-being.

That person who appears to be the life and soul of the party may actually be an introvert, needing a quiet place to recharge for a few hours after expending all that energy being with other people; whereas the quiet character at the side of the room, who you thought was more interested in talking to their own shoes than to yours, may actually be absorbing energy from the social interaction around them, just like a solar panel.

When we are depressed our natural energy patterns are exacerbated. While our instinct may be to withdraw from human interactions as much as possible (Eric put it beautifully on Sunday when he said of his family "they look 'odd', like there's a barrier between us, and I think I don't like them.") we need to be self-aware. Are we withdrawing because we can't afford the energy it would take to be with others (because our self-recharging power has slowed down to a trickle) or is fear or a skewed perception of reality preventing us from being with the people who do recharge us?

I am an apparent extravert who needs lots of solitary time, especially if I have been in the company of others for an extended period. My husband is a much quieter character who actually loves being around other people, and always comes home from his voluntary work at the local school jumping and buzzing with energy.

If we understand just where our energy sources are, we can put interventions in place. For me, it's time with my study with the door firmly shut, which means "Family, friends – stay out, I'm recharging." For you, it may mean telling your friends they have permission to batter down that door to get to you if necessary and they are not to leave you alone.

First understand yourself, and then educate those around you to serve you well when you need it. Because you'd do the same for them, wouldn't you?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A means to an end, or making the means the end?

I've indulged in strange behaviours over the years. For example, I'd often skip breakfast so that I could be at a meeting 100 miles away early instead of merely on time. It was amazing how often so many other people would then turn up late (you know, the ones that lived around the corner!)

I conned myself that I was being 'professional', that sacrificing those precious moments needed for a breakfast, a good coffee, or even a shower was a "means to an end".

Well, I mean to make an end of that!

This week, I've put breakfast higher on the agenda. I've put taking photographs early in the morning higher on the agenda. I've put 'moments' higher on the agenda. And I've taken pleasure in 'necessities'.

I am often childish (embarrassing at 53) but occasionally I stray into being 'Child-like'.  When child-like I regain my sense of wonder. In these moments I love the simplicity and luxury of the shower. I say, "Hello!" to the daffodils who have remained steadfast through the storms. I even greet my favourite trees. I talk to my fish. And I'm happier for it.

As I grow increasingly unattracted to the later part of my life (the end) I see a need to enjoy the means as the end. The ritual of making a 'posh' coffee becomes an end in itself.  Buying unsliced bread so that I can cut it myself and enjoy the process – this becomes an end in itself. Deliberately walking to the shop so that I can see how the Spring flowers are faring in neighbours' gardens – an enjoyable end in itself.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that others have said more eloquently before: I need to enjoy the journey... step by step... moment by moment... simple wonder by enchanting wonder...

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Unafraid of murder!

Over the past few years there have been over twenty murders in my house.

The police were never called; no one was ever arrested, and all the cases were all solved very satisfactorily with the help of a good dinner and rather a lot of wine. Yes, these were murder dinner parties (very popular in the late eighties and early nineties).

Now, none of these murder mysteries came out of a box. Instead, I had enormous fun writing them all. I can remember driving home from the very first one I had been invited to thinking "Well, I can do better than that!" I started plotting the next day and three weeks later sat down with seven friends for an evening entitled "No Mark of Drowning" (a misquotation from The Tempest).

Why am I telling you this? Not because I want to brag, but rather the opposite. I have a confession to make. Ever since I was thirteen I have wanted to write slushy romance stories. Some aspire to great works of literature; not me: I just want to write the soppy stuff.

Up in the loft are half a dozen started and abandoned stories, in my head are a hundred more but none of these have seen even one word onto pc screen or paper.

Why? Because I'm scared. Unlike the murder parties I have no sense of "But of course I can!"

I'm scared they won't come out the way I see them in my head. I'm scared that they will all peter out in chapter six; that my characters won't want to play with me; that my readers will sneer at me; that, in short, this will be yet another dream at which I've failed.

And that would be depressing: overwhelmingly depressing because it's such a precious dream.

But at fifty, I've realised that there's more writing time behind me than ahead; that if I can consistently write a blog a week then I do have the discipline to write a full length novel; that publishing has never been easier; that I don't want to die with my stories still trapped inside.

So I've taken the risk and started. Yes, it's terrifying, but it's only words after all.
So what do you think of "75 Hues of Purple" as a working title?

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


I've always been prone to occasional bouts of 'sadness', but until a few years ago they
were mild and usually manageable. To cut a long story a bit shorter, in 2012 I started to feel very depressed. CBT helped a bit, but things got worse.

Luckily, as I realise now, my eyesight started to deteriorate and as a result I was diagnosed with a tumour on the pituitary gland near my brain. I'm on medication and my vision is fine now.

The wonderful doctors explained that the tumour upset the balance of hormones and caused low mood and mood swings.

Just knowing that there was a 'reason' made a huge difference at first. If I felt bad, I just ignored it because 'it's me hormones.'

It's getting tougher to keep thinking that way though. Looks like the mood swings will continue for a long time, possibly for good. When I'm 'up', I'm good company I think. I think (or at least I try) to think of others and be kind.

When I'm 'down', everything seems hopeless. My wife, my dad, my cat(!) and my workmates have all been so nice and supportive to me. But when I'm 'down', I can't see that. They look 'odd', like there's a barrier between us, and I think I don't like them. And I feel awful about that. Then, when I'm 'up' (sometimes the same day, sometimes two weeks later) I wonder what on earth I was thinking.

The only thing that helps (but I can't always do it) is to call the sad feeling 'Arnold'. (Remember Tony Blackburn's old radio dog?) I let Arnold rest in my mind. He's always there, sometimes barking, sometimes padding around. So I pat his head and just get on with things, even if I feel odd or other people seem odd. And sometimes, Arnold goes to sleep!

Some days, Arnold isn't there and I think I'm 'cured'. Then he comes back. I try to welcome him now, however phoney that is. Maybe one day he'll go for good. Till then - 'Down Boy'!

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Is your dustbin overflowing?

If you throw all your rubbish straight into your dustbin without sorting it out for recycling, the bin all too soon becomes full and overflows.

I think emotions are similar. If you try and dump them all together without sorting them, they build up and overflow, they spill out and overwhelm.

Items such as plastics, glass and paper are recycled over and over again becoming part of something new. Maybe trying to decide which emotions or experiences are worth recycling and becoming part of something new might be useful.

Equally, instead of perpetual rumination it may be refreshing to choose not to hang on to some thoughts or thought pathways and consciously put them into your "emotional baggage" dustbin! That way hopefully it won't overflow quite as often.

Best wishes

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Good Deed Feed.

Whenever I happen to be aboard a regional train or bus, I'll pick up The Metro paper that someone has left behind. (Unless I'm experiencing a random 'Germ Fear' day. Everyone has those days right?) Being a sensitive soul, ever attempting to avoid grim or distressing news, I'll always pluck straight for the page containing The Good Deed Feed. It never fails to bring a salty, feel-good tear to my eyes.

What is this Good Deed Feed? The Metro is a national daily paper (mid-week) distributed for public transport users. If someone has been the recipient of a good deed (often while using public transport), they can text a "thank you" for the Good Deed Feed box.

Simple acts of kindness are often the order of the day, like: 'Thank you to the kind lady on such and such a train who offered me a tissue when I was crying after a very bad day'.

There are two things at work here:

1) Folk that are soft-hearted and gracious enough to offer a stranger a helping hand in some form or other.

2) Folk that feel so much gratitude and appreciation towards the giver, that they make the effort and take the time to express their thanks.

When we are out and about, going about our daily business, we can't know what individuals in the flurry of faces we pass are going through. If we know what it is to experience a dire day, chances are, someone we share fleeting contact with are going through their dire day, today.

What is interesting, is that on the adjacent page is a Comments box and this is sometimes (not always but sometimes), used for comments more querulous in nature. (Although I'm pretty sure that even some of these are tongue in cheek in nature and succeed in providing a welcome chuckle for bleary eyed travelers on their mundane commute to work. For example: 'Lazy commuters. The poles on trains are for passengers to hold onto and not for lazy people to lean on!')

If you were to be placed in a figurative box today, which would it be? The Good Deed Feed, for either doing, or being a grateful recipient of, a good deed, or, the Complaints box?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Blogging Your Way to Growth...

"Every reader finds themself; The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this blog, they would perhaps never have seen in themself."

If you look at the daily blogs and how people respond to them, which is rewardingly in a mostly positive fashion, we see that what the blogs do for people, is open up a different view – a different feeling or a different emotion.

The beauty of Moodscope and its community is that it offers 'inputs' that strike/move different people in different ways.

One can often see that people's days are altered by simply reading a few hundred words.

One key aspect of this 'shift' is that the person as an individual has 'wanted' to come onto the web site - they 'desire' to explore what is there. This is of course the EQ (emotional quotient - emotion from the Latin 'emotere' meaning 'to move') I have spoken about before.

Unless we are perfect, we all want to change in some way and almost all personal change, comes through a change in self awareness.

A developing of self awareness is the door to the ability to move on, to let go, to take another step, to shift in a way that lifts us up to the next level.

So I wonder which blog enabled you to 'see', or is it feel something different, to become more self aware?

Maybe you can write a blog about what it was that shifted things for you and what made it possible for you to have that 'aha' moment that opened a different door that day or even changed your life?

What thoughts appeared while reading this...?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Welcome to my world.

A friend recently told me how ashamed she is about her fears for her health. She goes to her doctor often for reassurance. She knows I am the opposite, and felt I would judge her as pathetic.

The fact is, none of my friends are 'normal'. Looking at a list of personality disorders, I can match them all to someone I like/love dearly.

The friend who goes (at her own expense) to work in animal sanctuaries in remote areas of India every year, despite being in her 70's with spinal problems. Yet, she takes a calculator to the supermarket, and sends for the Manager to have a rant at if she thinks she is overcharged by a penny. I would rather have root canal work than go to a restaurant with her (if there are any left where she is not barred!)

The successful businessman who will not let anyone wash his coffee cup in case he is poisoned by detergent, and who hoards bags of crisps in his desk.

A neighbour who mows her grass every day of the year when it doesn't rain, making a hell of a racket, yet will nurse and care for dying friends with endless kindness.

A friend who trains police dogs, who has a huge collection of knickers in every colour and pattern. Traumatised by an incident years back where a tear in her trousers exposed her underwear, she always colour matches her bottom half.

My partner with Aspergers - where to begin?

And me: Having once been very fat, I maintain strict calorie counting. I get weighed once a week, but as I don't want to know exactly what I weigh in case I go bonkers, I get my partner to write it down in a diary I never see.

First I try on a pair of tight jeans, then do my measurements with a tape. To be weighed I have worn the same cotton nightshirt for 25 years. It is torn, but I do not mend it in case the stitches make me weigh more on the scales. I am also accompanied by a small yellow pikachu toy who sits on the cistern to lend moral support, (squeeze him and he says "I wuv you!)

But I'm not mad - am I?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Let Me Ask My Manager.

How many of you have read Gretchen Rubin's excellent book "The Happiness Project"? Ms Rubin, originally a historical biographer, has made a new career from writing about happiness and how to facilitate it (rather than pursuing it). I'd certainly recommend that book.

This week I read another of her ideas, which sounds pretty good advice.

We've all been in a situation where we have asked someone on the other end of a phone line to do something and they've said "Well, I don't know: let me ask my manager." There's a pause while the phone plays Beethoven's Ode to Joy, or Bach's Air on a G String (but never the Hallelujah Chorus, I've noticed) and then, if you're lucky, the person comes back with an answer.

Ms Rubin suggests that we should all have our own manager. Our manager is the one who always knows what the company policy is (she reminds us of our values), she knows our work commitments and priorities ("No – you don't have time to take on that project because I need you to deliver on this one) and because she is a good manager she wants to develop us to our best and fullest potential ("Yes, this is something new for you, but it will be good experience and I think you'll get a lot out of it.")

Very few of us have the financial wherewithal to employ a real human manager, but we can all be our own manager. Rather than immediately saying "yes" to something (c'mon, we all like to say "yes" don't we? We like to make people happy) or "no" because it sounds scary, we should take a moment to consult with ourselves. Is this project or request I'm thinking about in keeping with what I really want, long term? Do I have the time or other resources to commit to it? Will it contribute to my growth as a human being?

Does this sound selfish to you?

Maybe we need to consider that, with a predisposition to depression, that working on something that is misaligned with what we believe in, which exhausts our time, energy or finances, which stifles our growth and self-expression is just plain stupid.

If we are more, we can give more.

So let's start interviewing ourselves for that manager's position right now.
You can find Ms Rubin's original article here.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Managing your magnet.

There is something inside me that hones in on ‎people's vulnerability and wants to fix it. From family members, life-long friends, to work colleagues - even strangers I meet in passing. It's a skill I treasure in some ways; almost like x-ray vision which allows you to see into somebody's emotions. But in other ways it's a burden and inevitably leads me to feeling overwhelmed with emotional responsibility and wanting to hide away.

I call this my magnet. It's very much part of me and instinctively pulls people in. And, like a magnet, I don't want to let them go. As a result I am blessed with a large, diverse group of amazing people in my life. But in as much as I'm drawn to them, they're drawn to me and I get so much joy out of being an important part of their lives and investing time, emotion and energy into maintaining those relationships.

About a year and a half ago, my husband suffered a brain haemorrhage. Against all the odds he survived, but the journey from critical illness to recovery has been all-consuming.

Initially I used my magnet to full capacity and pulled in everyone I knew for support. But then something changed. My poles switched and I wanted to repel everybody and hide. I've been hiding for about eight months now and desperately trying to understand why.

After much un-tangling of head threads, I've come to realise my magnet is unmanageable. Holding on to others lives whilst coping with the weight of my own is unsustainable. But repelling them during such times is also not the answer. Functioning in polar opposite ways is difficult and confusing for everybody and that in itself is not maintainable.

I don't want to lose my magnet; it's my ‎power and my protector. But I do want to balance its poles so that no matter what life throws at me I can use it to help me and never have to hide again.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

In Praise of Buddies.

Especially mine!

I have a Moodscope buddy and wanted to write about what I see as benefits of having one.

To be honest, I resisted having a buddy for a long time. I didn't want someone checking on me every day and I also thought having someone monitor my card scores would make me answer the cards dishonestly, in a way which wouldn't shock them if it was too low or make them think I was so much better (recovered even!) if my score was high one day.

In other words, I didn't want to have to answer to someone. It was hard enough answering to myself most days and having to explain my complex character, moods etc, was just too much effort.

I am sure there were many other reasons going through my mind when resisting the idea. Many of you might have some.

However one day, I hit on the idea of having my husband as my buddy. Wrong choice! He never looked at my score and I could sense irritation in his manner when an email came through alerting him to my score. So he went. Then I asked a semi friend to be my buddy. She didn't seem to respond at all! Strange. She went too and I decided no buddy.

How wrong could I be.

I am not sure how my buddy and I hooked up. But we did and it has been so beneficial for me and I think her. We don't have to write long emails each day but keep in touch via the messaging system in a smallish box for buddies which Moodscope sets up for you. It can be two words,"good morning!" or a few more, "how are you?" or we can "chat" in a bit more depth.

We both like each other, really like each other. We are quite different in our approaches I feel, but she cheers me up no end with her quirky look on life.

Admittedly I have found a buddy who clicks, who is so good for me, who always and I mean, always, says the right things. She is spot on in her observations. I am so so lucky. I wish she could be all your buddies.

So before you do what I did and reject the idea out of hand, maybe think again. I think having a buddy is a good idea. But what works well for you is the main thing.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Finding a key to your cage.

I have a pair of earrings that for many reasons hold a lot of meaning to me. They are two small terracotta tiles, on one there is a small painting of a key and on the other a rudimentary cage with a bird in it. My current circumstances often lead me to feeling like that caged bird and in trying to change my lot in life (primarily through writing), I'll often quip that I'm trying to find the key to my cage.

By the same token though, I often stand and watch the little birds and marvel at their courage to fly, sing and forage for food, when the odds seem so stacked against them - birds of prey, cats, harsh winds etc. I frequently ponder, that if I were a bird, I may risk starvation and remain huddled in the safety of my nest. Maybe remaining in the cage is a safer bet.

And It's not just our circumstances that threaten to incarcerate us. We may have built our own walls and barriers, in an attempt to keep us safe and invulnerable. My all time favourite winsome words, in a film, are delivered by George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

'...You call yourself a free spirit - a wild thing - and you're terrified that somebody's gonna stick you in a cage, well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself; it has no boundaries, it's wherever you go because no matter where you go, you only end up runnin' into yourself.'

I have long since cherished the words of Anais Nin: 'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.'

Growth, especially through a depression, can be excruciating, slow and hard work. But just as we feel joy and relief when spring flowers come into bud and the harsh, darkness of winter begins to pass, when we take the risk to blossom, there is a healing; a Spring time in our hearts.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 7 March 2014

One for the men out there.

I'm pretty sure I’m announcing nothing new when I say that many of us men are often foolish enough to want to tough out, ignore or play down pain, whether it’s physical or mental.

Now I’ve been blessed with a certain amount of intelligence, but clearly not enough to recognise the degree to which I was falling out of sync with ‘normal’ life and stop the downward spiral of depression that’s gripped me in recent years.

I’ve done everything I can to avoid anti-depressants for no other reason than I saw it as failing.

In place of taking a little pill I did a lot of things to try and make me feel better – therapy, mindfulness (good) drink, smoke, gamble (not good).

It really hit me in early January, kayaking in the breathtaking Waikato river, with the woman I loved and had not seen for over a year. The beauty, passion, humour and excitement of being together was ebbing away. What was obvious to others suddenly became crystal clear to me, I was desperately unhappy.

I was barely recognisable from the person I vaguely remembered as me. In not wanting others to worry, I’d stopped caring for myself. And in not caring for myself, I’d made others worry.

All because I was too stubborn to ask for help.

It’s now March and what a difference. The misery, self-pity and introspection is fast receding. I am on a low dose of anti-depressant and with the good habits and Moodscope, of course, slowly but surely I’m returning to me.

From sleep-walking through life it’s as if someone has opened all the windows and let in the sights, sounds and smells of spring. My humour is returning as is a calm confidence. Relationships all round are on the up. I see more and more of me in me. And I like it.

So if you’re reading this, and recognise the part of you that doesn’t want to rely on others for help please do yourself a huge favour, swallow that pride and let them. There’s no better time of year.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Who Are You Travelling With?

"To travel with the unawakened makes the journey long and hard and is as painful as travelling with an enemy. But the company of the wise is as pleasant as meeting with friends. Follow the wise, the intelligent, and the awakened. Follow them as the moon follows the path of the stars." Dhammapada.

This quote, after my story last week about my 'distant and violent' father and the compassionate actions of the inspiring geography teacher and how it changed my life, clearly strikes a chord.

For me, we can all too often mix with, even live with, people who do not energise us.

We all have people in our lives who lean and people who lift.

If we spend time with those who lean, we weaken ourselves and for some of us, it can, as it did me while I stayed married, tip me into depression, as I was worn down by constant power games or materialistic attitudes.

Yet it is clear to us who we feel good with - even lifted by. Write these names down now.

So let me ask, who are you spending your time with?

If it is not those who lift - why is that and what can you, are you, going to do about it? All too often through family situations, or work, or some co-dependent situation we spend time with people who lean on us and drain us.

Unless we value ourselves enough to say no to certain people and situations, while even explaining why that is, we devalue ourselves. No one will place a greater value on you than you place on yourself.

How much do you value you and what action can you take, even with the assistance of those you value and trust - and who love you enough to lift you?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Grief and the Bank.

Grief is not a linear process. Since July last year when our uncle (effectively our father) died, my siblings and I have all at various times found ourselves suddenly crying for no apparent reason and then for weeks at a time we've been fine.

We knew that the first year would be tough as it's a year of firsts: his birthday, the first family Christmas without his quiet presence in the corner, the children's birthdays with no birthday letter.

The healing is not smoothly gradual however; we can all be unexpectedly swamped again in the emotional mire. When I heard last week that someone else had moved into his cottage it was like a physical blow.

Yesterday was particularly grim. We are just on the final push to obtain probate. There is a lot of administration and it feels as if the whole of his eighty plus years of loving kindness and gentlemanly conduct has been reduced to a mere balance sheet and set of official forms. The accountant and the solicitor are gentle but relentlessly professional and there's no comfort there.

The bank is not the place you would immediately think to find solace in grief, but the Estates Department of my uncle's bank have been wonderful. They too have been professional but yet compassionate and yesterday the lady I spoke with reassured me that it was absolutely OK to be in tears on the phone to her as I organised the closing of his account. Everyone I have spoken to in that department exhibits the other side of banking – the side that never hits the newspapers. They understand that when the material things a person leaves behind are distilled into a list of numbers on an official form, the inadequacy of those numbers to represent all the love left behind triggers a lot of emotion. They have been very kind and understanding.

The acceptance and kindness of strangers is always a surprise yet it is immensely valuable. If we allow people their feelings and emotions in even the smallest and most business-like transactions we validate their humanity and raise immeasurably the quality of that transaction.

So Nat West, thank you for your assistance and understanding. Today the forms have all been completed. The sun was shining from a blue sky this morning and yes, it's a better day today.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A sense of humour is really important.

Being a sufferer for many years, it's only recently that I have joined a community of like minded people.

Although there will always be prejudices and misunderstandings of mental health conditions, I feel I have spent too much time worrying about that particular group of people instead of celebrating the people in my life that do understand.

I have a very good friend who takes a very lighthearted and irreverent approach to my condition that could be misconstrued as him not understanding or sympathising, when in fact, it has the opposite effect on me and he is one of the people I can actually tell how I'm truly feeling.

So humour through really tough times is important to me and can be empowering! The rubbish joke that goes "When I found out I had Bipolar, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry" is funny (slightly), but also reminds me that a sense of humour is really important and helps me feel more in control and is something you can share with your friends and family.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Be a tap not a cup.

As one of life's introverts I'm quite a private person so my pool of people to whom I can ask life's challenging questions is quite limited. For now my therapist has taken on this role.

Recently I've focused on love and understanding; what it is and how it feels when it's real. I asked about getting love; the hows and whens. My therapist talked about how it's better to be a tap rather than a cup.

I'm a cup, I'm empty and looking for someone to fill me up, to fill my sense of lacking. My therapist's advice is to be the tap, be the person who gives all of the things you want to receive, the giving makes life all the more beautiful.

I've discovered it is easier to like myself when I know I've done a kind or thoughtful thing for another human being. Today I will be going out into the world with the aim of trying to add to the happiness quotient. I'm going to be a tap not a cup.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

More Blogs Please.

I feel there is much untapped talent out there amongst the Moodscope community and I know Moodscope would welcome more blogs.

It is generally true that people with mental health issues and worries are the more creative types. Our imagination overflows with ghastly scenarios which might happen to us. We can be quite dramatic people. We like life when it's good and hate it when it's bad. We (I!) can be people of extreme emotions.

All these qualities are interesting and make for good writing.

But really it doesn't matter how good you consider your writing to be. We will love it.

After all, I wrote something recently when I was feeling low and I still cringe when I read it. But it was me at that particular time and it expressed how I felt. (And actually someone told me that in their comments, so you see it helps to write even when you think what you write is just too awful. I learnt something which will stay with me now.)

Why don't you express how you feel? I know you write well. I've seen your comments on the blog pages.

You, I, us, all of us, are here to help each other get through each day. One way of doing this is to write a blog.

It's a great boost to see your words out there and I can absolutely guarantee someone will love what you write.

If I've inspired you in any way, just send your blog to

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Flip the biscuit.

Following my post about tea and biscuits I started thinking - sometimes a cup of tea and a dark chocolate digestive is enough to knock frustration, anger, rumination and anxiety on the head for a moment. But often that sinking feeling overwhelms me as I rise from my seat to tackle the next task or even think the next thought.

That's when a change in how you think about something can really make a difference. Sometimes a physical manifestation of this helps put things into perspective.

I noticed my mind wandering into dangerous territory a couple of days ago. The rumination which so often blights my waking hours was there, grinding me down once more. It felt a bit worse that it has recently and the 'What if I'd done it like that..., I can't cope... why didn't I say...,  phrases sprang forth from an over flowing drawer in my head that I just can't seem to keep shut.

But then I wondered, what if I thought about things in a different way? I stopped and looked hard at the biscuit I was eating. (you guessed it, a dark chocolate digestive!) What if I flipped it? What if I turned it over, changed the way it felt on my tongue; might I enjoy it a little bit more? Well, eating it the same way wasn't changing anything that day so I took the new approach.

Even something as simple as flipping my biscuit gave my mind a rest and gave me something else to focus on. It stopped the ruminating and frustration for a moment.

How often do we keep repeating actions over and over again expecting different outcomes? I think Einstein had something to say about that!

So today approach your challenges with a light heart if you can, and consider the possibility that just by looking at something in a different way or approaching it from a different perspective the outcome may be closer to what you hope for.

A Moodscope member.