Monday, 30 June 2014

My Moodscope Return.

I've been away from Moodscope
I've been away from me.
I've been in a dark place
I have been all at sea.

Twenty three years of depression,
A broken marriage in there too.
Jobs I had to leave,
Now the funds are too few.

Divorce has taken its toll,
I 'lost' my daughter as well.
My son is still with me,
He makes my full heart swell.

For the last eight weeks I've hidden,
For the last two months I've closed.
I've stopped communicating out,
I'd stopped doing what I proposed.

I am now self employed,
So it affects my whole life.
I sit inside and hide,
I watch all the stressful strife.

I stopped writing my blogs,
For the Moodscope family.
I stopped reading the comments,
That help some readers be free.

I had to stay with friends,
So I'd feel safe enough each day.
To have a human conversation,
To get me through some way.

Each morning I'd wake with fear,
Each morning there it was dark in June.
And if I lay too long,
Self harm was in the room!

I'd seen it all before,
Almost each year since ninety one.
Why am I here again,
Why have I just my son?

I've lost half a stone,
I was not eating well.
Just milk and cereal.
Unless I stay in Motherwell.

My home is in Moray,
three and a half hours away.
I have to return each week
To ensure the grass is 'wee'.

Initially when I returned,
It would take three days to cut.
I wasn't safe outside,
This was a dark, dark rut.

I'm moving more again now,
But still not free to see.
That each day has its options,
Each day is up to me.

I have difficulty being at peace,
With what I can do each day.
I still think I should do more,
That inner voice hold sway.

Even although I do know,
That each year I've survived.
Each time this happens,
I don't think I'll revive.

And then I think I've had enough,
I cannot fight through again.
This really cannot be back again,
I really am insane.

But here I am coming 'up',
To face life once again.
I write again to Moodscope,
I'll open up the pain.

So my Moodscope buddies,
How are you doing in life?
I may even read the comments,
There really could be life.

How do we help each other,
How do we deal with life?
These mental health challenges,
Are really far too rife.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


I was in hospital this week as things had got too much. But that's nothing, that's not why I was overwhelmed.

While I was in hospital Moodscope published a blog I wrote asking for advice about recovery. I had no signal in there so it wasn't until I came home and saw the masses of comments on the blog that I became genuinely overwhelmed and released a few tears. Tears of what? Not joy, not relief, tears that said silently thank god I'm not alone.

I am still reading and re-reading all the advice I recieved and couldn't honestly find the words to thank each one of you. So I just wanted to say thank you to moodscope for providing a platform for so many people to connect and share.

It has been a long time since I was so positively overwhelmed and it has given me more faith in human nature than I had at the start of the week from my hospital bed.

If you are looking for some inspiration today why not flick through the moodscope blogs? There is always something heartwarming, cheery and poignant on there. Thanks to everyone in this community for the advice. It has given me such a boost. You rock people, you rock.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


I've recently been particularly low with my constant companion anxiety gnawing away at me during the day and frequently in the early hours too. However as the good weather has arrived and I've dragged myself from beneath the cosy duvet of a morning, my recently created Happiness tracks have nurtured and challenged me in equal measure.

'Stuck in a Moment' that amazing track by U2 which I'm sure has been referred to here before, has really begun to mean something deeper than some thoughtful words put to an amazing tune. It's become a deeply personal track and feels as if Bono was reading my mind! I must have heard it hundreds of times but it's only today it's finally clicked.

Last  time I listened to it I sobbed for the entire length of the track and felt utterly bereft. But today something different happened, I realised I was no longer stuck. The constant rumination that plagues me over and over again, not being able to get past certain events, watching the film on repeat in my head, was gone. My inner voice, my critical me has taken a holiday for which I'm very glad. The 'if only, why didn't you, you should'...ticker tapes have stopped and I can think more clearly and feel a weight lifting.

Despite the intensity and the sadness of the track, I love the crescendo and the uplifting words at the end.
On the darkest days remember it is just a moment, it will pass. It may not be today, tomorrow or anytime soon but one day you'll realise you're no longer stuck.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Would you like to write a blog for Moodscope?

We've had some great blogs recently from our Moodscope members which have certainly given us all food for thought.

It's heartwarming to see how the Moodscope community has grown and how it seems, whatever troubles each of us is going through, we still have time to help one another.

Well, if you've been thinking about writing a blog, now's your chance. You can write about your experiences, books you've read, therapy you may have had, poems that you like - anything really that may have helped you and could help other members or something that may just make us smile and cheer us all up. Or, you can always ask for advice if you have a particular issue you want to resolve, as Jules did the other day - she received lots of great advice.

Just send your blog to and we'll take a look and publish it sometime in the near future. The only thing I would say, is please don't make it too long!

Your blog won't just appear on the web site and Moodscope blogger site, it will also be sent out to thousands of our members in our daily email reminder.

So what are you waiting for?

Caroline Ashcroft

Thursday, 26 June 2014

How are you coping with life?

Here are a few ways that help me cope:

1) Acceptance! By allowing myself to surrender to the things that I cannot change, or that I cannot change quickely I find that allowing myself to just accept them rather than fighting them in my head, I save myself a lot of frustration. By doing this you also see the situation from a different view point and with all that saved up energy you can be more productive and imaginative in how you change things...although once accepted, I sometimes find that the situation isn't half as bad as I thought anyway. Thoughts sometimes have a habit of making a situation negative.

2) I become my own best friend. I learn to like myself and not beat myself up for every mistake. I offer myself encouraging words when I am feeling a bit low or have taken a bit of a knock. I allow myself time and comfort myself when I have taken a bit of a knock. Rather than getting back on the horse straight away I give myself some recovery time and then words of encouragement to get out there again, this time stronger and more determined. I no longer wish I was or looked any different to how I do. I embrace it and the more I do so the more energy I save and the more full of vitality I look, and the more time I have to spend on doing things that enrich my life and take the focus off all the things I previously dwelled on too much.

3) Life sometimes works in paradoxical weird ways and it is sometimes hard to see or feel a situation for what it is. Sometimes things we think make us happy can sometimes be the things that make us sad/frustrated/obsessed with and the things we think are a bit difficult, straining, not fun can sometimes be the things that actually make us feel full up and happy inside. Taking quiet reflective time to really listen very carefully to how we feel about a situation, rather than how we think we see a situation can give you massive clues as to who or what to steer clear of. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out but by listening to these subtle sounds can clear the mind and heart so life can be joyful again!

Happiness takes work on yourself, some hard decisions, patience and persistance but is worth it.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

School Report.

You can learn a lot from your children.

Last Friday my daughter brought home her first end of year school report from senior school.

Now, if put in a corner and forced to honestly describe my daughter I would say "she's a nice kid, moderately bright; works hard." And, if her school report had basically said that I think we would have all been happy.

Obviously nice kids who work hard are at a bit of premium these days and so her report was full of superlatives that, while gratifying to us as parents was rather embarrassing and deeply distressing to my daughter.

Because she's a realist with unrealistic expectations of herself.

Let me explain: the majority of her friends are highly academic children who effortlessly achieve higher grades than she does. She knows this perfectly well, compares herself to them and so does not think the positive comments on her report deserved. She is also the kind of child who, if there are 100 marks available in a test, will only be satisfied if she scores all 100 with an extra ten bonus points for immaculate presentation. She thinks she could have done better this year; she should have done better and is uneasy with the fulsome acknowledgement of her actual achievements for the year.

Yes, you're quite right; that kind of thinking is not the ideal recipe for mental health.
So there I am, comforting my distressed child, explaining that it's absolutely OK to be happy and proud that her teachers think so highly of her; that her teachers are judging her on her own potential and not comparing her to her more academic friends and that, actually, we're pretty happy and proud ourselves to be her parents.

And a little voice inside my head is saying "And you know exactly where she gets this from don't you? Just listen to yourself and learn that lesson too."

Quite a number of us have far higher expectations of ourselves than others do. Quite a number of us denigrate our own (often substantial) achievements by comparing ourselves to others. Quite a number of us are profoundly uneasy receiving praise and compliments as our due.

So perhaps we could learn to listen to others and not just dismiss all the good stuff. Being a nice person who works hard and always does their best is a pretty good thing to be; no matter what our own opinion of that best is. And, maybe, just maybe, we might better than we think we are.

(Well, not me – obviously: I know I'm rubbish... Oops!)

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Seeking advice on moving forwards.

For about a year now, as part of my recovery, I've been encouraged to think about my future, to set goals and think about my values. I'm really struggling with this and I wonder if I'm alone?

I understand the logic and psychological reasoning behind having a purpose, moving forward with integrity towards things that make your life richer and worth living. But if I'm honest, I have a mental block when it comes to this and I could do with some advice.

I have this quote in my bedroom which says "Sometimes on the way to the dream you get lost and find a better one." I look at it every day to encourage me that things are going to be better, that what I have been through has had some meaning and is going to, some day, come good.

Maybe thats part of the problem? Maybe I don't believe it is possible to live your dream, then lose it and find a better one. I think perhaps I have become accustomed to loss, to life hurting, to losing parts of my dignity and confidence, that I just can't quite believe I will get there (wherever "there' is).

A friend once said to me, after finding me at rock bottom, that in a way I was lucky to lose everything and start again, that lots of people would love to hit the reset button given the chance. But after you press reset, you have to build a life worth living and having risked it all once, I'm scared to try again.  I'm scared to dream, annoyed that I don't allow myself to dream, and a little bit sad for myself and the life I had in the past. I don't know which things from the past I need for my new future and which things to leave behind. A lot of why I had the life I had before was due to how I had learned to cope, some bad ways, and some good. It's like trying to unravel spaghetti.

I don't mean to be ungrateful about having the chance to press the reset button or finding another dream, but I sure am struggling. My therapist asked me if the magic fairy came during the night and I could wake up in the morning and things were as I would want them to be, how would my life be? And I want to tell him I'm scared that the magic fairy won't know how bad it will feel if I have all those things and lose them again. And I want to ask the magic fairy to unravel the spaghetti for me and help me to know what to use from my old life, from the me I have always known.

So I go on reading about recovery and goals and values but perhaps it's about daring to hope? It's quite scary and I would welcome any advice.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Why Bipolar is misunderstood.

I want to kick off by saying Moodscope is a really great help to me. Seeing my scores climbing from low to high over a period of time feels great and seeing small dips on my chart is less disheartening when I can track how long before the dip I felt OK for.

However, with Bipolar Disorder the manic highs are equally soul destroying  and can have the same impact on family and friends as debilitating depression. It's no secret to my loved ones that at this precise moment I am having a manic episode. Work's going well and I feel empowered, almost invincible, I am flitting from one thing to another, want to aquire stuff I don't really need with money I definitely don't have. I'm also waking up at 4.00 am every morning, sneaking downstairs to start cleaning or even worse start sending Emails.

During these periods, when I spin the moodscope playing cards, I score 100% every time. My moodscope buddy often Emails me to congratulate me on my high scoring. When in fact I feel exhausted from lack of sleep and have probably already caused real upset at home.

I would like to hear if others experience the same thing. It's hard for people to empathise when all they are seeing in you is enthusiasm, energy and cheerfulness. In truth, under the surface, lies a debilitating condition that often reaks havoc. Maybe the cards should incorporate questions that flag up these manic spikes so they don't mask how we are truly feeling.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Healing crisis - Part 2

I class my self as a social extrovert; I like to chat to people and am good at being able to strike up a conversation with a stranger if the need should arise. When I am feeling happy, I like to spread a bit of it about the place and the best way to do this is with a smile. So on some days I go out of my way to smile, smile at the guy who cuts me up and drives away without a thank you. I smile at my daughter who for the tenth time that day is sat on her phone and ignoring my repeat requests to do her homework. I go for a walk and smile at the elderly lady tending her flowers and even stop for a chat.

But today was quite different. I am sat firmly in my bed writing this blog. Knowing that I need to walk the dog before going for my hospital appointment but not relishing the thought! My smile has gone, replaced with a side ways grimace that actually hurts. My right eye does not close and so I cover myself up with a scarf and glasses and hope that no one will want to speak to me as I will have to explain that I am suffering from Bells Palsy.

But with every crisis comes a moment of clarity and suddenly I can understand what it is like to want to hide your self away. I have suddenly gone from being an social extrovert to being painfully withdrawn and really hoping that no one will want to engage with me. And so this is what it is like to suffer depression. This is what my sister feels like most day's, and now I understand why it was difficult for her socialise even in a small group of people.

I feel low and know that this will soon pass but whilst I feel like this I want to do something with it. I want to say to all Moodscope users, that I understand for some of you how it must feel. I am in awe of the way you all cope and support each other and I am grateful for knowing that there is a community of people out there that are non judgmental. So, as difficult as it is, I will get up and walk my dog and face the world and if a young lady passes by you today and gives you a little sideways grimace, smile back.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A Healing Crisis - Part 1

As a daily Moodscope blog reader I have gained much insight into the highs and lows of living with depression. I, myself do not have depression, but suffer from low moods and a bad temper. But reading the blogs has allowed me to understand depression and look at it from a different angle. There is a history of depression in my family, my mother and my sister both continue to live with it daily.

My story begins a little differently and starts with me finally reaching the end of a devastating divorce that has left me emotionally and physically exhausted. With my Fiftieth Birthday approaching I celebrated this new chapter in my life with a long weekend away with my daughters. On my return I threw a drinks party and danced the night away with my supportive family and friends and then also took the decision to put myself on to an online dating website to boost my confidence and get 'back out there and have some fun'!

Feedback from the site was great, comments like "Gorgeous Smile" and 'Fab Profile – would like to know more" were common. Just little comments like this could make my day and made me realise that there was life after divorce. The sadness and the melancholy feeling that I had carried for the past three years soon started to dissipate. How ironic that the one comment that was to pick me up "Gorgeous Smile", was also the one comment that would soon lead to me sinking quickly into another bout of low mood and possibly even depression.

It started on a Wednesday, an aching in my neck and back of my head, quite different from the migraines I had been plagued with. The pain in my ear was intense and although I managed to get through the day I started to worry as I fell asleep that this pain was not normal. I awoke the next morning still in pain and unable to sleep so took myself off for a walk. On my return I felt unwell and noticed the taste had gone in my mouth and face was feeling numb. My daughter thought I was having a stroke and I was rushed to A&E. Later that day I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy. By Sunday the facial paralysis had completely set in and my smile had literally been wiped off my face. This condition is different in every sufferer, it can take weeks, months or even years for the facial nerve that has been affected to repair.

I went to have some acupuncture yesterday; it's meant to be very good for Bells sufferers. My therapist talked at length with me and as she was leaving said "this too will pass, it is your healing crisis, when you get through this, you will be liberated". Kind words from a stranger that I will cling to and hope that I have the strength to do this.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Guest House.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new  delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

A poem by Rumi (1207-1273)

Chosen by Adrian
The Moodscope Team.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Creating pockets of freedom in the mind.

There is a people called the Ndebele and they make up just 2 percent of the South African population. The Ndebele women are known for painting beautiful, colourful patterns on their homes. They are always creating and designing because these huge murals, owing to the fact they are made with mud, do not withstand the sun and rains.

One source says, 'These wall paintings done by the women was their secret code to their people, disguised to anyone but the Ndebele. These very simple-looking painted houses are really a complex system of tradition and creation. This painted tradition is still alive. As every generation passes it down little changes begin to exist. This is their way of communication and expression through their home. The women work long and hard to finish these walls and are noticed by the outside community because of their talent and expression.'

What was significant for me when reading this was the release these women must have felt.  It allowed them great freedom of expression, even despite indenture and horrible punishments to their people following the Boer War. It must surely have given them freedom, even if that space, that roomy place, was created in their head only. They must surely have experienced (and still experience) what many of you know psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls the 'flow state', that tranquil place in the maze of our mind, that we can all find, if focused and concentrating on something that feeds our often hungry souls. We become so intensely absorbed that it's as if we don't even exist for a time.  A blissful state to be in if your mind is as fraught as mine often is.

Watching a TED talk with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi this week, about the flow state, I realised, for the first time, that I don't necessarily have to dig out all my crafting equipment to enter the flow state. Many things can transport us there but it will, of course, be different things for different people. I now appreciate that I enter the flow state whilst I'm running as well as say, painting or crafting. I'd not quite understood that before.

When we discover what creates pockets of freedom in our head, we owe it ourselves, to our mental wellbeing, to visit those pockets, those places, as often as we can.

I think the Ndebele people teach us something else too. For me, what makes a house a home is when it's ever evolving (like the Ndebele's homes) and ever reflecting the person/s living there. Generic in the home is a doleful thing. Our homes too can shout out Self Expression and Individuality. We can make our own canvasses and wall art, even if it's simply flicking paint. En route, we'll surely find ourselves in the world of flow. Not a bad world to land in, believe me.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Grief and the bank – revisited.

In Early March I wrote about my experience of dealing with the Estates Department of the bank my late uncle held his account with.

The bank (Nat West), have been unfailingly kind, helpful, professional, supportive and empathic: something which, these days, we no longer expect to find.

On Friday I needed to contact them again (because, as many of you who have done this sort of thing know, winding up an estate is a very long drawn out process).

Again, the person I spoke to was helpful, professional but also warm and friendly. In the course of the conversation I mentioned that I had blogged about how good they had been.
There was a slight pause and the lady said "That was you? One of our staff found that blog and our manager pinned it up on the notice-board with a note to say that this is how we know we are doing our job right.

"It made us all so proud" she said "And it made me cry."

Which made me feel very humble – because all I'd said was "Thank you; good job."
A lot of the time at the moment I can't face people in real life. I can just about cope with a telephone conversation and (thank goodness) I can still write, but I was feeling rather guilty about physically isolating myself so much and withdrawing from the world while I recover.

Knowing that the writing is reaching even people for whom it was not intended is really quite powerful medicine. I'm feeling a warm glow and even a little pride. The feeling of worthlessness common to depression just got eroded a little more.

So we're all more powerful that we think we are. In these days of the internet, emails and the phone, we have to work really hard to isolate ourselves completely. Reaching out is easier than we assume it is – and we never know who we will touch when we do reach out!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Keeping an eye on things.

I'm a fellow Moodscope user who's been meaning to sit down and write some posts for the blog for a while now and today I've finally got my rear into gear,​as it were.

I look forward to reading the posts every morning before starting my day in earnest - they've become part of my loose ritual for steering my brain to a good place as best I can before facing the outside world, and I'm most thankful for them; they're a great humanity-connector. I don't tend to actually take the test until later in the day, by which time I've hopefully dipped more than a toe in the water and know where I am a bit more.

I've never been diagnosed with depression, despite some of my close family members having been, but I have certainly experienced the black fog that seemingly comes out of nowhere, draining me of any joie de vivre, mostly just for a few days but occasionally for a few weeks, with varying degrees of regularity.

Moodscope helps me feel like I'm keeping an eye on things - sometimes my score has been a bit of a surprise which reminds me of the need to check in with myself regularly; I have had a tendency to power on through, numbing myself out then picking up the pieces later.​  It's also good to actually see the peaks and troughs and realise that the troughs aren't actually as dominant or last as long as they feel - oh the dragging of time in a trough...

I'm not sure if my own particular fog is chemically or thought induced, most likely a heady mixture of both, but it's great to feel like I'm not entirely at its mercy (it doesn't have much mercy). Things are shifting all the time, even if it's only by the smallest of degree and as my awareness grows, so does my strength.​Onwards.

A Moodscope user.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Thanks for always being there.

Over the last few weeks or more, life events have taken over my home life, my routine (which I need to keep to), my work, my ability to feel in control and at points, the most important thing to me - my parenting ability (which I am very hard on myself about).

I feel dragged down, tired when I've slept, hungry when I've eaten, nothing seems to be lifting me.

So far, this year has mainly brought me bad news, ill health, death, stress and trauma. I haven't had any time to 'work' on myself. Even my Moodscope daily emails have been skipped until a later date as I have felt so overwhelmed.

Until now, as my poorly princess is still asleep I'm trying to be quiet and I'm bored of Facebook, so I thought I'd make better use of this quiet time and read all my unread emails from Moodscope.

It's now I wish I had allowed myself 5 minutes each day to read them, as reading these has brought hope back to me.

Today is a new day and refreshed with some new strategies I think and hope it will be a better one. I can't change what life throws at me, but I can change how I deal with it.

Thanks for always being there :-)

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


I have just finished reading a fairly recent biography of Leonard Cohen. It's by Sylvie Simmons. I couldn't put it down; it was so fascinating.

Leonard Cohen as many of you will know suffered from depression. This is examined, explained and well documented in the book.

However, despite severe depression throughout his life, Leonard Cohen managed to write the most beautiful poetry and songs. He will be 80 in September and is still writing.

He had many set backs like we all do but he kept on at what he loved doing. He was asked once in an interview if he thought that his depression formed the basis of his sometimes mournful lyrics but he categorically said no. What he did say has remained with me. He said that his writing was "a victory over depression" that despite it, he was able to write. Not all the time, not easily and not without tremendous effort and determination, but his poems represented for him a victory over and not a reflection of his depressed state of mind.

And now finally I come to the solitude bit.

Leonard Cohen is largely over his depression and has been for some years; it is not age that has relieved him of it but solitude.

After a long tour one year, he returned to Montreal and booked himself into a Buddhist monastery, which he had frequently done before when his schedule allowed. But this time, after over two years of touring with his band, he needed solitude and he stayed at the monastery longer then ever before. He still wrote in his room but was subjected voluntarily to a harsh regime, getting up at 3am some mornings. He emerged afterwards refreshed and energised. His years of depression had gone.

We all need solitude, time to think, write, just to be free of noise and demands. We may not have the luxury of a Buddhist retreat, we are not Leonard Cohen, but we can learn from his experience and try to take some time off for ourselves every now and again. A room of ones own will do.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Who are you?

"Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have." Doris Mortman

Often I ask people to answer the question, 'who are you?' The best way to do this sometimes, is to grab a pen and paper and write something down and see what falls out.
You may have written about what you do, or what you believe, or how you feel - but have you tackled the key question - 'who are you?'

Very few people actually take the time to 'be' and not just 'do'...and of course we need to participate in both, to play our, or any part in this world.

It is all too easy to journey outwards - to 'escape', to fill your head with 'busyness' stuff and spend your time 'doing' yet more stuff to occupy yourself - especially in this instant internet world of today. Going in - 'inscaping' is by far the scarier yet far richer place to journey than 'escaping'

The journey 'in' however - is the only real journey there is, to each and every one of us. Who am I?

If you have not gone 'in', before you go 'out' what, or dare I say 'who', are you taking into that world of family, community, workplace or even place of worship? What is it like to meet a truly authentic and open person? Someone you feel totally safe with. Someone you can offer whatever is in your head - you do not have to filter your thoughts to be safe - you can simply 'be' you.

Those people, have all 'inscaped' first, to find and be comfortable with themselves, before they are secure enough, like a lighthouse on its rock, to deal with all the 'storms' that life will throw at them. So how secure is your footing - your base - your authenticity, for you to be able to shine your light?

The word vocation comes from the Latin 'vocare' meaning 'your voice'. How many of us take time to find our one true voice - our passion? You will know people who have found their voice. They have endless energy - are happy to show humility while offering their heartfelt thoughts with the most compassionate intent - as they know how it feels to receive 'offerings' from a false intent

So today - go 'in' - and then go 'out' and help others to feel safe in your company, to be able to be truly themselves and with compassionate care enable them to feel truly listened to. After all, to be truly 'heard', feeds the soul.

To serve is to lead...

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Don't do something: just sit there!

My doctor (understandingly): "You have to accept that rest is the best medicine."

My friends (caringly): "Mary, look after yourself: you've been doing too much; you need to rest."

My husband (annoyed): "Will you please just go and lie down! Just rest, for goodness sake!"

My eldest daughter (anxiously): "Mummy, get some rest today please; promise me?"

My youngest daughter (impatiently): "Mummy, when are you going to get better? You're really boring like this!"  At least she's honest.

Oh I hate this. I absolutely hate it!

I hate that feeling of weakness and exhaustion that swamps me like a tsunami after every minor physical exertion (and even after every meal). I hate the fact that everyone else is out there, doing things, having fun and I can't (and even worse, absolutely don't want to). I hate the fact that the house is dirty, the ironing pile resembles the Matterhorn and that even a short trip into the garden requires a machete and compass to find a way back.

All that even without the terrible feeling of guilt over rescheduling and cancelling all my business commitments for the next – oh well, how long is a piece of string?

I love to read, but at the moment can only cope with old favourites; anything new or demanding requires too much energy to cope (Sorry, Sarah, I'm looking forward to reading Another Night Another Day just as soon as I'm better), and there's only so long even I can spend reading before my eyes start to jitter uncontrollably.

I love my crafting, but run out of energy after only one card, so it scarcely seems worth getting all the supplies out.

We all know that exercise is good for depression: ha! Someone tell me how to go for a brisk walk when I have to stop and sit down for a rest every fifty metres.

Last Saturday I managed to go out for dinner (with some very good and understanding friends). We left early (much to the children's disgust) but I was still wiped out for the next two days.

It's embarrassing; it's frustrating; it's humiliating.

So, of course, the moment I have even a little energy I'm up ironing, cleaning, gardening – and then collapsing exhausted again having only licked the very tip, the very tip of the iceberg.

Back to the sofa again. (Big sigh).

If I could honestly believe that I will get better faster if I just sit here it might be easier, but I'm really not sure. This thing seems to come and stay as long as it stays. Seventy two days so far and counting...

Yes, yes – I'll rest. Can't do much else really. Darn it.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Glass half empty?

I'm someone who often fails to appreciate what I have. Or so I rather harshly tell myself. So I thought I'd put down exactly what I do have in order to make me feel more grateful. That was a few days ago and apart from it feeling like another chore to do, nagging away in the back of my mind; it didn't work.

It's not really that I don't appreciate what I have. It's just that I don't necessarily consider that other people would think of my attributes, skills or relationships as anything special. I devalue myself at every turn and undermine my own self confidence with the negative outlook I have.

But why do this? Why see the glass as half empty all the time? What do I gain from taking the pessimists view of life? I often strive to find an answer but this is as close as I can come to it.

It's about getting it wrong and feeling foolish or embarrassing myself or not looking good enough. It's about taking risks and living with the outcomes. I'm pretty risk adverse as you might suspect and struggle to change this outlook in most areas of my life.

However, just by putting this out there to those of you who read the blog I've taken a big risk (for me). I've faced rejection (it might never make the Moodscope blog,) and done it anyway. I've confronted some difficult thoughts (that I am a glass half empty person) and it's made me more determined (to keep on trying to see the glass as half full,) another thing I sometimes struggle to be.

So for today I'll be grateful even if there's only a drop of water in the glass.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A standing ovation.

When in a depression, my mind either, for short intervals, flutters from one thing to another, (the mental version of channel hopping) or closes down completely and asks for sleep only.

When in the former state, I've noticed I gravitate back to moving videos on YouTube. Last week, I wended my through a whole load of touching first auditions like Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent or Australia's Got Talent, Emanuel, singing Imagine. And trust me, I don't even like TV talent shows! Yet, for some reason, it's these clips that release pent up tears that have been locked within a soul always accompanied by sadness.

Another of my favourite videos is of Derek Redmond at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. These clips all tend to have a few things in common. They are often edited to powerful, touching music. They are triumphs of human tenacity overcoming adversity or sadness of some description. And the audience watching at the time, whether in an Olympic stadium or a small arena, are visibly moved. They are on their feet, crying, shouting encouragingly and applauding.

I've re-learned these past few months that mental poorliness is surely one of the most lonely sicknesses to endure. Unlike my experience with cancer or the sudden loss of my dad, there are no deliveries of my favourite flowers, no cards daily plopping through my letter box with bad poetry and silly jokes about hospital food. My phone falls deadly quiet. There'll be no "Hello" text alerts one after the other today. No kindly nurses to mop up the mental vomit that can't be kept down. No calling of "Time please!" on the visitors around my bed. What visitors?

I probably sound bitter. I'm not, not really. I know to a very large degree the fault is mine. Feelings of worthlessness run through me like the crack in our chimney breast; it just keeps reappearing despite fresh plaster. Therefore, I struggle to reach out and ask for help. I removed my brother, my only Buddy, when my score started to plummet well below 10, everyday. I haven't even had the heart to get to the doctors. (Apt duly booked for tomorrow, 5pm.)

It feels with  mental illness, to a large degree, I must be my own healer, detective, friend. There are so many questions surrounding this latest bout. I won't bore you with them. Whether physical or mental, the road, I'm sure you'll agree, is long.

We all love to see someone pull off something truly inspiring but for most of us, and the context here being depression, our bravest, most courageous moments won't be stood on a stage in front of a wildly applauding audience with judges on their feet, tears streaming down faces. Nor will it be in a packed out 65,000+ Olympic arena. It'll be when we pick up the phone and make an appointment with the doctor. It'll be when we accept there is more work to be done and fix some therapy seesions. It'll be when we phone that friend, who we know, just 'gets it' and utter those oh so difficult words: Can you help me?

This is the reason then that I'm drawn back to those excerpts. I may have no intention of entering the 400m race at the 2016 Olympics or a singing slot in next year's X Factor but watching those people "succeed", makes me see that by merely choosing to continue, I, you, we, all of us, deserve a standing ovation.

Did Derek Redmond fail?  Far from it!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Trees are cool.

There's a secret about trees that I think you should know. Trees know how to just be. If we could see ourselves as trees we could be more forgiving, more appreciative, more hopeful and peaceful and perhaps allow ourselves to just be. (Bear with me).

Think about the seasons and cycles a tree goes through...

Summer; glorious, abundant, often flowering and attractive to the world.

Autumn; drying, changing, blowing leaves and shedding in a glorious cacophony of an autumn rainbow.

Then comes winter; bare, darkened colours, perhaps a bit frosty and bleak.

Followed still by spring; the smallest buds popping their heads out and gaining energy day by day, blossoms and small leaves keen for summer.

And on and on it goes. But I don't look at a tree in summer and say it looks too fat, needs to lose a few pounds and I don't look at the leaves in autumn and say how horrible the skin is on the leaf.  Nor do I prefer a winter tree to cover up its skinny frame or think less of it for being covered in frost. I don't think the small buds in spring are useless and not strong enough or big enough. So why do I not judge the tree and yet so frequently judge myself?

Am I not in a cycle of seasons myself? Am I not as beautiful as nature intended? Would a tree not gaze upon me with such affection as I do a tree, in all its seasons?

I cannot remember ever criticising a tree. More often than not I am impressed by them. They're just cool. And whether I have my favourite season or not I find beauty in all seasons with trees.

So maybe, trees have something to teach us that is simple and quite amazing, just by being. Maybe this is your winter and maybe that is absolutely fine. Because sure as the sun will rise, the seasons will change. Your spring will come. And many people happen to think trees are beautiful in the winter.

Trees are cool and so are you.

And remember...

"The tallest oak in the forest was once just a little nut that held its ground"

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Have you reached your ULP?

I recently read a book by Gay Hendricks called 'The Big Leap'. It suggests that when we worry, blame or criticise ourselves or others, we have simply encountered what he calls the 'upper limit problem' or ULP. This limit is set in childhood and it's what stops us from achieving our true potential. Just by developing an awareness of when we have reached a ULP (some clues are criticism, blame or worry-thoughts) it's a sign that you are about to break through to a new reality, in to something entirely different, outside your comfort zone (the big leap). But our ULP stops us. Hendricks says that if you overcome it, you will lead a happy and fulfilled life ALL OF THE TIME. (The view that life is yin/yang, all about ups and downs etc. is a myth, he says).

I wondered whether the new mindset I acquired from reading Hendricks book could help me with the ups and downs. In fact, my mission is to conquer them (I haven't done so yet, but I think its down to practice).

Now, every time I have a worrying thought, I deal with it if it is within my power to act, and I dismiss it immediately if it is outside my control. When I find myself criticising others or myself, I think 'how intruiging! What's going on around me that's making me reach my ULP?', and have then turned my attention to naming the fear inside.

For example, when I over-reacted to my 5 year old spilling some apple juice the other day, I realised that the real issue was a fear brewing inside me of a meeting I had to go to the following day. It had been bugging me all morning and the kitchen/life/everything was getting more chaotic by the minute as it played on my mind. When I blamed my 5 year old for making the place a mess, I realised it was my mind that was messy. When I realised the problem, I apologised for overreacting and explained to my son that I was worrying about a meeting I had the following day. I was afraid that they would coerce me into leaving my current job to work for myself.

I decided not go to the meeting the next day. But I did name my fear. The big leap for me is to leave my job and work for myself. It will happen - but in my own time.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Judgements - Are you both judge and jury?

"Judgments are tricky. They pop up automatically. Practice catching yourself judging someone and consciously shift your focus to a heart attitude. The head tends to judge but as you shift to the heart, you will learn to release the judgments and replace them with compassion." The How To Book of Teen Self Discovery, Doc Childre.

We all judge - its what humans do - we do it without thinking and then if we are more wise than clever (or is it simply older?) we put that instantaneous judgement through a more compassionate 'filter'.

I always remember the Stephen Covey story of the man on the underground.

Picture yourself on a quiet subway ride home. Everyone is quiet, there are several people sleeping while others are reading. Everybody as usual, is minding their own business and avoiding eye contact. At the next stop, a man gets on with some children. The children while OK initially, progressively become noisy, then very disruptive by throwing things and finally running up and down the aisle. Just kids behaving badly?

You now catch other passenger's eyes, and clearly 'see' that you would all like the man and these kids, to get back off again. You attempt to let it go - simply unruly children out of control. Then as it gets worse, the kids start bumping into people. You now attempt to catch the father's eye to indicate to him that things are getting too much - but his head is down - it's as though he just doesn't care - yet his kids are now dominating the whole carriage.

Finally as the stress and noise levels rise, you turn and say to the man ˜Excuse me, but your children are being noisy and disruptive, maybe you could do something to control them please." The man almost in a daze, as though he simply doesn't care, lifts his head up, slowly turns and states "Oh sorry. We have just come from the hospital, their mother just died and I guess they don't know how to handle it, neither do I."

Now, right away, you feel bad for the man and your whole paradigm (the way you see the world) shifts and you now want to help him not chide him.

How many times a day do you judge without knowing? How many times a day do you have that internal conversation about how you perceive other people - due to their actions, or size, or dress or car or hair or their overt religious beliefs? How many times do you talk with whoever you are with about what you 'see' or even worse, agree with their instant judgement of something or someone, to 'fit in' and not rock that judgmental boat? To be a peer popular?

How about today - 'seeing' it from a different perspective and seeking the back story as to why this person that you are judging - behaves or dresses or whatever, in the way that they do? Could you give up your own position of 'knowing' (or is it ego?) to move more into your heart and offer a different spirit to that mostly silent interaction?

What's your score out of 10 for judging today - and what could you make it tomorrow?

Your world is your choice.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Put your hands in the air, put your hands in the air.

When poorly, my mind struggles, very much, to home in and concentrate on anything with any degree of integrity. One thing that did, miraculously, manage to enrapture me this week however, was watching Coldplay on BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend in Glasgow. Watching the concert, you'll observe a phenomena peculiar to such events and that is this: 60,000+ people feel compelled to hold up their arms and point up to the sky. Heck, I was lying in bed and felt the need to do it!

It got me thinking did this. Our bodies obviously mirror how we feel, we know that. Yet that gesture of holding our hands high and into the sky is, I feel, almost spiritual in nature. It screams, 'I'm open to the world, I'm open to life and I'm open to the universe beyond'. (Strangely, just writing those words down caused something visceral to occur within me. My stomach lurched and my eyes welled up. I think it's saying, 'See! There is life within me. I do want to live!' But I've interrupted myself...)

What causes that compulsion to throw your hands in the air on such occasions? Well, in this instance, it was listening to the music. Somewhere deep inside, it offered the opposite to attrition; to a deeply languid soul it gave nutrition. Instead of enervating it was invigorating.  

Watching Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, you see that using his body, he is a master of self expression. He becomes almost amorphous, if that's the right expression, as each limb feels the cadence of the music.

It made me ponder upon the circumstances when my own body moves of its own accord, as if separate from my mind. Whenever I've been abroad, for example, on returning home I seem to naturally comport myself differently; almost floating instead of walking, like an eagle gliding on thermals. It's as if tasting the air of another land, living a different life, helps me feel that despite the caged circumstances I currently find myself in, I've at least managed to spread my wings and fly, even if only for a short time. The way I move then reflects that.

I often quote the final words from the poem Words From a Totem Animal by W.S. Merwin:

Send me out into another life
Lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way

Another life may not be possible today, but I've learned this week that moving my beautiful body (not beautiful in a super model kind of a way but beautiful in a 'I'm wonderfully made' kind of way), even if it's stretching up to the sky, keeps life surging through me. It offers small pockets of air in a suffocated mind, thus granting a grateful nod from my mind to my body that says, 'Ok, you win today, I'll curl up and die another day'.

A small but important victory for the body over the mind.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Find your verse to find your voice.

Today's blog is written by Moodscope member and best selling author, Rachel Kelly. Her book, Black Rainbow: How words healed me, describes her journey through depression and how poetry helped her recover.

'My grace is sufficient for thee: my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Sixteen years ago these thirteen healing words helped me through the worst of depression. I was in the midst of a severe episode, bedridden for six months and taking antidepressants, but a sentence helped reverse my negative thinking. This one was from Corinthians, but anything with a concentrated, hard-hitting message will do. My mother would say this to me by my bed. As I couldn't find my own words, and was only able to absorb a short phrase, I would repeat these words endlessly, mantra-like. At my worst, single lines became rungs on which I could pull myself out of depression. Words are free, have no side-effects and can either free your mind or fill up the spaces that worries want to fill.

So first thing's first: find your lines. Other favourites of mine, to get you started, include: "This too will pass" and "Westward, look, the land is bright" – the latter is by Arthur Hugh Clough and helped Churchill through the war.

When you're well enough to concentrate beyond a line, learn a verse, and then move up to a whole short poem. Stay with me on this. Get rid of the schoolroom context from your mind at once: this isn't an academic text, but a compassionate voice – a specific human being from history who has gone through your pain – giving you advice from outside of time. In fact, they have been trying to get through to you for centuries. They've gone through the hard part of setting down what despair or hope can feel like. It's right there, neatly packaged. If you're too unwell to express yourself, this person has articulated it for you. Let yourself feel the poems in an instinctive, intuitive way. You will feel less alone. If you've committed the poem to memory, you can call on these helpful people at any time. Like you, they are awake at four in the morning.

Here are some poems which have helped me, but once you've begun you will find verse that answers your own needs. Try "Love" by George Herbert, with the opening lines: "Love bade me welcome, but my soul drew back/ Guilty of dust and sin". That's what depression feels like to me: I'm guilty of "dust and sin". But in the poem Herbert says, allow "Love" to talk to you instead; develop a more compassionate voice. This is one objective of CBT.

Next up "Invictus" by W. E. Henley, supposedly recited by Nelson Mandela to fellow inmates when he was incarcerated on Robben Island. It has a very good opening description of the darkness of depression "Out of the night that covers me/ Black as the Pit from pole to pole...". But the last two lines will bring back your own sense of self, so often diffused by depression: "I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul". There you go. You are the captain of your soul. Remember that, and you will get better. Now find your verse and you will find your voice.

A Moodscope member.

Black Rainbow: How words healed me – my journey through depression is published by Yellow Kite Books, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton. All author proceeds are being given to the charities SANE and United Response.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

We Don't Always Know.

I don't refer to her as my oldest friend. There comes a point in a girl's life (some time after she has reluctantly accepted that she's not a girl any longer) when such descriptions are less than kind. She is instead my friend of longest standing.

We met on our second day at senior school when we literally bumped into each other in the dinner queue. The reason we bumped into each other was that we both had our noses in a book instead of looking where we were going. In the moment of discovery that we were both reading a Captain W E Johns' Biggles Book, was our friendship formed; a friendship still strong after – well, perhaps I had better not say after how many years.

She was the first person to know I was bi-polar. I only wish she'd thought to tell me at the time.

It was only when we watched the Stephen Fry documentary together more than thirty years later that she realised that I still didn't know.

Of course, it wasn't called bi-polar back when we were at school.

"I knew you were a manic depressive when you were thirteen." She said (shockingly). My mouth open, I just stared at her. "Yes" she said, "I read Spike Milligan's autobiography and thought "Ah, now that explains Mary.""

So my best friend has always known, has always accepted it and has just given me all the space I needed to be both the life and soul of the party and to withdraw totally for weeks or months at a time. It has never affected our friendship in the smallest degree.

Now that we both know a lot more about the condition, she's also invaluable for telling me when I'm going down and need to make an appointment to see the doctor. Because I don't always know.

It's not just my lovely friend (of longest standing) who assists me in managing things. I have a couple of book club friends who keep an eye on me, my husband always knows better than I do what's happening and gradually a few of my business networking friends are becoming close enough to know.

No – I have no idea how they know. They just say they can see it in my face.

These days, Moodscope is invaluable. I look at the pattern over the last three months, with all the yellow dots for the comments and can see the point at which I said "Oops – better start the fluoxetine again". I can fool myself into thinking I'm better, but then I play those cards and know better. Still down: still need to take it easy. Grrr.

So when we say of someone "They know me better than I know myself" – yes, we're probably right. It's not just mother knows best; it's our friends and family probably know best. But we do need to trust them. They're right. We know they're right. Blast it!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Abundant Life - 7 of 7 - Sensitivity.


And so we come to the conclusion of my series on the seven signs of life (movement, nutrition, reproduction, excretion, growth, respiration, and sensitivity) as a means to enjoying more of a life to the full.

Sensitivity, the seventh sign, has dual-aspects: internal and external. I remember hearing an account of a frustrated PA informing the boss that her 2 o'clock meeting had been moved forward, her 4 o'clock had been cancelled, and that her feelings had been trying to get in touch with her for the last 6 months! We need the inner sensitivity of knowing ourselves, and we need the balance of sensitivity to the outside world – knowing others and knowing our environment. Only then can we be 'present' and 'safe'. We are not isolated islands on the sea of consciousness but dancers in the ballet of life. We need the other dancers, the orchestra, the backstage support, the theatre and the audience. And we need to be able to spot our cues.

To be successfully sensitive, we must tune in to the 'now'. When our gift of consciousness is assailed by fears, we can allow it to flee to the sanctuary of past or future thoughts.  Whilst I celebrate these journeys at times, the fact is that the abundant life is the gift of the present. 'Mindfulness' or 'Presence' are attractive concepts to be embraced here and now.

Of course, "Sensitivity" involves the nervous system as the pathways from the 5 gateways of the senses. To practice presence, you might like to have a go at the following exercise:

Place your fingers and thumbs together touching in a mirror image of one another (sometimes called "Steepling"). Now, allow your index fingers to press together a little more firmly than the rest. This is your trigger to switch on a focused awareness of what you are seeing in the present. What can you see now that you had not been noticing moments before?

Relaxing the index fingers, now put extra pressure on your middle fingers.
This is the switch for a higher awareness of the sense of hearing. What can you hear now that you weren't tuning into moments before? I will even close my eyes at this point and suddenly become away of the 3D sound environment in which I am present.

You can guess the rest – just work through your fingers and thumbs until you've checked in with physical sensations, scents and tastes. It really brings you into the 'Now'.

Whilst there are issues to address such as inner hyper-sensitivity, let's save that for another blog. To conclude here I would like to share one of Leonardo da Vinci's suggestions for living a life to the full. He encouraged his apprentices to develop their senses. He asserted that we can all too easily see without seeing, hear without hearing... even taste without tasting.

Be here now – this is your moment – this is your life.  Live it to the full.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Handbook of life - a few more tips...

1. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
2. Don't have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
3. Don't overdo it. Keep your limits.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
6. Dream more while you are awake.
7. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
8. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
9. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
10. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
11. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
12. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
13. Smile and laugh more.
14. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

That's Me In The Corner...

I've wanted to write a post about depression and faith for some time now, but it was always going to be a tricky topic to tackle. In gentlemen's clubs, apparently, there are three topics of conversation that are forbidden; you don't talk money, you don't talk politics and you don't talk religion. Apparently real gentlemen don't discuss women either. This is probably why a lot of chaps seem obsessed by (one of the few remaining topics of conversation) sport; and leads to the obvious joke about men talking a lot of balls...

I'd better nail my colours to the mast right now and own up to be very common or garden vanilla flavoured C of E. I have no idea how other Faiths deal with mental illness, I can only relate my own experience.

Although the term "depression" is not found in the bible, many of the characters obviously suffered with mental health issues. King Saul suffered from black moods (described as an evil spirit) and Elijah suffered great lowness of spirits after his triumphant defeat of the prophets of Baal. St Paul relates of his anxiety and depression caused by his pastoral duties.

But it does seem that depression in the bible is related to events, duties or to a decision to turn away from God. I can't find anywhere the clinical depression that regularly falls from a blue sky to cloud the sufferer in inky darkness for no apparent reason. Yet Christians and people of other faiths are not immune to this disease.

What I have found extraordinarily unhelpful in the past is the attempts by well-meaning Christian counsellors to blame my depression on "sin" and to posit that, once that sin had been identified and repented from, the depression would lift automatically as day follows night.

No doubt unwise life choices contributed to this depression from time to time, but I find much more positive Jesus' reply to a question asked by his disciples of a man born blind: "Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

So, that's what I try to do: use this condition for good. I'm pretty open about being bi-polar and happy to be known (affectionately) as "Mad Mary". I'm not going to pretend; in the bad times God seems as far away as everything else; but just as I know I have the support of family and friends, even though I can't always feel it, I have faith that God is there too. Each time it gets easier to bear and get through the black fog to the sunshine on the other side; each time the dark tunnel is slightly less oppressive.

And that's a great blessing.

A Moodscope member.