Sunday, 31 August 2014

Everybody is a genius.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Albert Einstein.

A quote attributed to Albert Einstein got me thinking how we can so easily generalize from a specific. For example, if we are not a great wit we think we are boring. This human tendency is at the core of so much of our low self-esteem and feeling bad about ourselves.

The secret it seems, is to stop seeing ourselves as a single entity. We are all made up of hundreds of different component parts - our abilities, our skills, our artistic leanings, our interests, our levels of competitiveness, our intelligences, our emotional maturity and all our different personal qualities such as humour, kindness, generosity and temperament.

We are all capable of doing something better than others. We would all accept that we have specific weaknesses but should reject that having these weaknesses makes us an overall no hoper. In fact by self-acceptance of what we are in all our facets we can also recognise in some particular dimension we are also a genius.

The Moodscope team.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Community spirit.

Where I come from, we have experienced one of nature's wonders.

Nearly four years ago the first of thousands of earthquakes occurred in the early hours of the morning of a beautiful day.

After the terrifying wake up, we all counted our blessings to be still alive, and it was mainly chimneys that came down, though some magnificent old brick mansions crumbled spectacularly.

Months later the seismic action finally drew to a halt. But it was a false calm as it turned out.

The next big one hit just before 1pm on a workday. Our city and surrounds were already so shaken that the effect was instant. When I scrambled out into the daylight, the air was white with the dust of a totally collapsed historic stone church. Men were inside attempting to save the organ. This time there were deaths.

We never returned to that office and now like most of the city's buildings, it is gone.
And yet we cannot explain, the community that has arisen from this terrible experience.

While seemingly insurmountable hurdles have been put in front of us, people have come from all over the world, to be part of the spirit which now exists.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Masking life?

Back in the day, I 'grew-up' in an organisational culture where everyone kept a stiff upper lip and wore their stress like a medal of honour. Managers exhibited - and everyone imitated - the kind of super hero behaviour that can lead to exhaustion, burnout or breakdown. It was scary and unsustainbale!

When it was my turn to lead a team, I discovered: 1) that when I was open about some of my own challenges, 2) asked for help when I needed it and 3) admitted I was wrong when I was, I set the tone for authentic communication and improved trust all around.

The resulting dialogue (EQ not IQ debate) almost always uncovered more options and creative solutions. Most importantly my willingness to be vulnerable, with humility, reduced my self-imposed pressure to be invincible/correct/right/all-knowing. I became a better manager, co-worker and friend, in fact an improved leader in life - authentic to self.

While we often are willing to be vulnerable in our personal relationships we all too often consider it off-limits in our professional lives. Some equate vulnerability to weakness and are threatened by it. Yet we have all been inspired by people who openly acknowledged how they've worked through a professional or personal issue that was emotionally challenging. Their trust scores and integrity scores were continually rising.

Being vulnerable within your own 'safe' zone, really means finding the courage to be sincere, open and honest. It also means being readily receptive to input or feedback from others. A balance of truthfulness and sensitivity creates a safe environment in which everyone can learn and grow.

Never ever use 'the truth' as a weapon...that finger pointing to them creates three fingers pointing back at you...try it.

So, take off the super hero mask. Be more authentic and allow others to learn from you in that process. You'll discover more about yourself and become a role model for honest communication and better relationships.

Trust - is the one thing that changes everything.

Do you trust yourself enough to become trustworthy - worthy of trust?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

My Three Friends.

"Your Brain is not your friend" is a cartoon by the amazingly talented Hugh MacLeod ( I love his art because it is art on purpose. All art has meaning, but Hugh's directs that meaning to an end – art as a means to an end!

This phrase resonated with me but I also rebelled against it. After all, if I couldn't have my own brain as my best friend, whose could I have? So I set about befriending my brain...

...and that's where I hit a hurdle. You see I have three brains (at least!) They don't want the same things – so I have to cultivate three friendships and spend time with each one!!! I wanted to begin with the one that gets dismissed too often – my emotional brain.  I realise now that my emotional brain often misreads other people and their intentions.  My rather arrogant logical brain would look down on my emotional brain and declare, "Don't be so stupid!"  But my emotional brain just is – neither 'stupid' nor 'wise'... What it feels, feels true.

I call my logical brain 'the fanatic in the attic'. Not all fanatics are bad – after all, that's where we get the word 'Fan' from. All fanatics are a bit short-sighted though! I love my fanatic in the attic as well as my emotional brain and I have to feed them both on different things. My emotional brain needs to be listened to and acknowledged and cuddled and accepted. My logical brain needs stimulation (and seems to require regular doses of telling it, "you are amazingly clever!")

My third brain, and my third friend, is my secret brain. This is my wise brain that lives in the basement, below the threshold of consciousness. For my girly friends, I call this brain 'the babe in the basement' and for my boyish friends, 'the fellah in the cellar'.
This brain needs one thing: space. It needs me to press pause so that I can literally 'pause for thought' and get a word in edge-wise.

If my other two brains need their own kind of attention to become best friends, the wise brain just needs quiet time and space and the respect this shows. I'm not a big meditator, but I 'meditate' happily when my body is busy about ritualised tasks like a regular journey it knows, or in the bathroom, or at the threshold of waking or sleeping. In these places, my wise brain connects with my consciousness. And it brings gifts: insight, imagination and innovation.

Giving my three brains just what they want leads to peace in my household! Ignore or dismiss any one of the three and all hell breaks loose! Each will have its say one way or another!

My brain is my best friend.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The perfection trap?

Our low self-esteem is often driven by unhelpful thinking about the standards we should be able to reach in order to feel good about ourselves. In fact attempting to achieve everything perfectly is a recipe for setting ourselves up to fail.

Often this is a legacy of our childhood where our parents or teachers drove us to constantly do better. They felt that by constantly moving the goalposts we would try harder and achieve more. Often though the effect is for us to feel inadequate, thinking no matter what we do, it is never good enough.

I find it really helps to remember that this is faulty thinking.  After all perfectionism is only a concept in our own minds. I try to accept myself as I am. Enjoy my imperfections and avoid the trap.

The Moodscope Team.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


The same day I learnt in counselling that I 'might' be depressed I was also encouraged to look at Moodscope. I was shocked at my scores. I had no idea that my mood was so low, probably because it had been for a very long time and to me it had become normality.

I cried some more, lots more of course and realised that there was no point seeking help if I was going to ignore their professional judgement. This spurred me on to go to the doctors and of course I came out with a prescription for anti-depressants. I have been on the medication for 4 months now and attending weekly counselling sessions.

I regularly track my moodscope score and can see I have come a long way. A low day now would have been a really good day for me 3 months ago! I believe that the combination of counselling and medication is working for me. I needed the latter in order to relieve the tears, the guilt, the crippling sadness. This in turn has enabled me to engage with the therapeutic process.

I have a long way to go in healing myself, I still have low days but I am learning to be kinder to myself, I am learning to try and show myself some compassion. I am building up a toolkit of strategies to help myself through this difficult time. One of the biggest achievements I have made is recognising that it is ok to seek help and support, it's a strength and not a weakness.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 25 August 2014

'That which does not kill us makes us stronger ...'

Isn't that the quotation? By Nietzsche I think? I have usefully trotted it out as a platitude to myself whenever I have suffered any kind of hardship over my life, in an attempt to chivy myself into bouncing back. As I get older though (I am closer to 50 now than 45) I realise how untrue this is for me now.

I can only speak for myself obviously but where I used to feel able to bounce back from adversity, I am now feeling my own increasing vulnerability.

I have always been fiercely independent, but sadly not through choice, having had to take care of myself from quite an early age. In doing so though I became quite proud of the toolkit of coping mechanisms I developed in tandem with various mental health services, which I subsequently shaped with my experience and wisdom. But I have frequently had no one other than myself to implement them with, having only been able to rely on an extremely limited social support network (I find it peculiar how some people seem to think you can 'catch' mental illness), while battling depression, secondary to severe Gender Identity Disorder. All things I have nursed across my entire life.

But now with each knock back, however minor, (a recent job application rejection set me back about two days and I already have a job!) I am feeling that what little social capital and coping resources I have accrued in my life, have been progressively depleted to almost zero now. And I know that my only two remaining friends (who are significantly older than me) are themselves becoming more vulnerable and less leanable on.

So where does this leave me?

I have now realised and accepted that the five year downward spiral I have been experiencing is a long-term trend rather than a blip, and is now irreversible. As I will get older (unless of divine intervention) the progressive number of knocks I will continue to receive will hit harder and hurt more.

Perhaps when we are younger our coping mechanisms are quite resilient, and the quotation is true enough...maybe we can learn from that which does not finish us off. But over the course of my life that damage has now added up, to a point where I soon will no longer be able to cope...then...then what? I know this for sure - that which has not (yet) killed me will get me in the end.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The seasons of mood.

Caught up in my ever changing mood, I wished that the good would last and the bad would leave. From both experience and thought, parents to the mood. But it seems as Seneca said "To be always fortunate, and to pass through life with a soul that has never known sorrow, is to be ignorant of one half of nature"

So it is the whole of our nature we have and not just a part of it. Not just growth but decay. Not just vitality but exhaustion. Not just satisfaction of needs met, but needs unmet. Not just sunshine but rain. The vibrant spring following the barren winter. The luscious summer leaves shrivelling in autumn. The new idea sprung from creativity, the deadness of a cold forlorn mind. The warm happy thoughts of a life well lived and the madness of trying to control the thoughts in your head like trying to hold autumn leaves to the tree on a blustery day.

A common theme I know, but a comforting one. Nature is all change, even the rocks and sky. Happiness can be fleeting, but so can sorrow. My advice, let life ebb and flow, it's going to anyway.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Too much information?

"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."

As an avid reader, this [mis]quote hits home. Reading is my coping mechanism. Presented with a problem, my instinctive reaction is to buy a book (or five).

It started as a child at the library, where you could take out six books at a time. One day I discovered the self-help section. From then on I'd regularly leave with an armful of self-help books. I rarely read them all, but their mere presence in my house was a comfort. I discovered that same comfort at university, when buying all my course books and stacking them up made me suddenly feel smarter.

Today, I treat Amazon like my library. I buy vast swathes of books. Some sit, like a comfort blanket, on my bookshelves. Others are read – occasionally all the way to the end.  I supplement these books with an inbox flooded with blog posts and TED Talks and 'Thought of the day' emails.

With the rise of the internet, the number of writers has grown exponentially. The volume of content available is mushrooming by the day. We have access to a vast sea of thoughts within which to see ourselves. Yet all of these words are nothing more than a distraction if the reader doesn't use them effectively.

Taking in all of this information is clearly impossible.

I attempted to implement a strategy with the books and blogs that I read. I read very quickly, marking things to revisit and reflect on as I go. Yet I rarely return to reflect on these thoughts. Instead, I move onto the next question and the next question. I search in more and more places for answers, but never take the space to think about the clues.

Today, I have realised that the most important part of reading is the thoughts triggered afterwards. The words on the page are just an optical instrument, and we must take time to look through it. Without time to process our thoughts, all we see is glass.

Books are comforting because they suggest the solution to our problems lies externally. This is comforting, but flawed. Whatever our mode of searching – books, meditation, travel - the answer will always lie back inside of us. Our task is to create an environment where we can hear the answer from inside.

So, how do we create space to process all of this information? Well, I've decided to take the first step of reducing the stream of incoming information. This year I'm giving myself just four books to fully explore this year, two of which I have already read. And I'm unsubscribing from all but one blog – Moodscope.

I hope that you have time to think and reflect on these blogs, so that they can serve as an optical instrument for you too.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 22 August 2014


I wrote a few weeks back now about my positive experience with a therapist, and I wanted to share something we discussed within our sessions: visualising. I've always found this difficult as my butterfly brain tends to flit from one thing to the next without being able to remain settled on anything (sound familiar to anyone?!) and whilst I have a vivid imagination, my focus and concentration on any one image is minimal. I'm working on this (see future blogs!) but there was one thing that really stuck with me.

He described a person walking along the road; a tired, dejected person who seems to have the weight of the world on their shoulders; almost like a heavy backpack or as I like to think of it, a long stick with a bundle of "stuff" on the end, very reminiscent of Dick Whittington when he walked to London actually...I digress...

Our person is someone struggling to put one foot in front of the other; someone dragging themselves along; moving slowly and obviously in pain from the burden they're carrying. Not just their own troubles, but picking up everyone else's along the way, until they become so accustomed to feeling like this, that for them it seems normal, and an alternative doesn't cross their mind. I'm sure we can all recognise this person...

My therapist explained to me that this person eventually comes to a crossroads. Here, they have a decision to make. Turn left or carry on, taking the troubles with them. Eventually, the weight becomes so heavy that they have to stop altogether; they can't carry on. Eventually, after some time, that path will bring them back to where they are now, and they'll have to make their choice again.

Or, they can turn right. They can put the burden down, and walk away from it. Imagine that...

Now I know things aren't that simple. If we could all put down our problems and simply walk away, just like that, life would be full of happier people, and higher Moodscope scores. But it did make me think. I can put the burden down. I can walk away from it. I can take a step in the other direction. I can make a choice (there is always a choice). The path to the right may be a long one, with hills and pot holes but I can still make it easier on myself and choose to travel it without any unnecessary baggage.

An analogy yes, but I feel it's a powerful one. Every day now I check in with myself and visualise myself in the scene I described. Where am I? Have I put that burden down? Am I walking away from it? Some days I can see myself slipping back closer to that burden, and I realise I have to take action before I end up back at the crossroads picking it up again and setting off in the wrong direction.

So where are you today? Which path are you on? Can you put that burden down?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Memories are made of this...Emotions.

When she was alive, I would visit my grandmother's flat and often look at the photograph of two little girls in the typical fancy-dress of the day.

She had many photographs, but I loved this old sepia image of her and her sister. Yet initially, each and every time I pointed it out I would hear, "She got the bigger bow." So I soon stopped mentioning it.

Yet, even after more than 80 years had passed, every time she looked at the photo she didn't see the big sister she loved and cherished all those years ago. All she 'saw' was what she remembered most (and felt) about the day: the regret, the hurt, the disappointment, the frustration, even the anger.

However subtle, these are the emotional reactions that stress is made of, that often start a cascade of physiological responses that can limit perspective, partially close our brain down and eventually wear us out!

What old memories/images/sounds/locations are you still carrying around on your back or in the back of your mind?

What triggers your brain into stress and/or discomfort?

What's been living rent free and unknown in your brain and yet is still hurting you?
And also importantly, what are you not seeing and opening your mind up to?

We can't go back and change the past; but we can change how the past impacts us today - if we are aware of it.

We start seeing (and feeling) the past differently, when we find just one thing to appreciate about it. It does work! Once we find even one thing, our perspective changes, so it's then easier to grow that list to 2, 3 or even 10 things to appreciate!

And remember your list when the old emotional feelings come up. After all, I would inform my grandmother, 'It was a pretty bow and you had a lifetime of such a good relationship with your sister!'

And to improve your health, have that small yet precious notebook by your bedside - the one in which you write down the 5 things you appreciated about your day, each day, just before you go to sleep. Ensure you make it a habit - a habit to be happier.

This way, you will start to 'overwrite' any negativity with the good stuff for the day, before it is hardwired in, as you sleep.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What colour glasses are you wearing today?

Long phone call from a very anxious and upset daughter (studying away from home) - usual anxieties of looming deadlines; financial worries; friendship concerns; worries about the future; all crowding in on her; we have all been there.
"How do you do it, Mum; how do you cope with it all?"  How indeed!

I started by advising her to eat sensibly, get out for a walk, tackle some mundane chore; then I tried to tackle each worry in turn. Anything I suggested she countered with more negative responses; In the end (and in some desperation myself!) I talked about seeing the world through different coloured spectacles;
The eternal "Polyanna" optimist is accused of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses; everything in the garden is rosy!

In a similar way, my daughter was seeing her world through black glasses – nowhere could she see any glimmer of light that day; As it happened that same day I was seeing the world through grey glasses – nothing was terribly black, but then again nothing was very bright - just a monochrome grey which left me feeling dull, uninspired, listless...

So what colour spectacles are you wearing today? If they are black or grey, can you take them off? If you can't take them off, can you remind yourself that you are wearing them today, but that it doesn't mean you will be wearing them tomorrow, or the next day or next week.
It's like the weather; sometimes it rains, sometimes the sun shines, but it does change; maybe not today or even tomorrow; all we can do is acknowledge the "bad weather" and remind ourselves that it will pass in time.
A Moodscope member.

P.S. As easily happens, she hung up feeling much better – I went to bed worrying about her! And spent the following day wondering how she was – until I had to ring her, only to discover that she was out with friends and that she had "sorted" some of her deadlines and did I mind if she hung up now as she wanted to be with her friends!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Taking care of the feelings. How?

One of the responses to Mary's reassuring post, Don't do something, just sit there! read in part like this:

"...that sense of going for brisk walk always clears my head. What when I can't do this?? Mindfulness comes in here but I struggle with my raging feelings, mainly directed against myself (or the world in general). Then I feel ashamed for my "self pity", I end up in a self loathing space that only makes the whole thing worse. I feel like a hamster on a wheel...What to do with rage? I think rage, and regret can eat one up. I'm not an angry person as such - no friends would recognise that description - but inside I feel eaten up with it, and there's no channel for it - nobody to blame (but self?)."

Taking care of feelings. How?

This comment sounded so much like how I sometimes feel that I had to think twice as to whether I'd written it! You may even remember my post entitled, Letting out the mad.

Yes, of all the feelings or emotions, for me, rage is the hardest to deal with and yet can be such a strong player in my lows. It's akin to wanting to hang up your wet coat but finding that there are no pegs left to hang it. Where to put it?  What to do with it?

I know, through therapy over the years, that the key is to take care of the feelings but it's something I still seem to grapple with. In fact, sometimes I feel rage at the mere thought of 'taking care of the feelings', and often the word feelings is preceded with an aggressive imprecation!

If you've had any form of counseling you maybe familiar with the therapist asking questions like: What does the feeling look like? Where do you feel it? What colour would it be? And so forth. I find it so dashed hard! Until, last week, I realised that really, it's no different to some advice I was given about writing.

Helen Drysdale asked: "Are you telling when you could be showing? Don't tell your reader what something is like or how someone is feeling but show it instead. Showing makes the reader feel they are there. If you tell when you can show, you create a distance between the narrative and the reader, which undermines their emotional investment in a scene."

By failing to take care of our feelings then, are we creating a distance between us and our true selves?

So, sitting in a car full of people last week, feeling stressed, under pressure, anxious and claustrophobic, I closed my eyes, looked down and asked myself what the feelings looked like.

I saw an egg smashed under a bag of spuds. I saw a foreigner in a strange unfriendly land.  I saw a goldfish in a small glass bowl and I kept seeing...

Is this taking care of the feelings? I'm not sure - it's work in progress but let me tell you, by the time we had reached our destination I felt less like a broken egg and more like a wee chick. I felt less of an alien and more of a local. I felt less like a rabbit in head lights and more like the rabbit that had escaped, just. I felt less like a goldfish in a small bowl and more like a small fish in a big tank...

Help!  Somebody stop me!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 18 August 2014

T-Shirt Rolling.

One of the sites I follow allows people to pose (relatively) intelligent questions and then experts give answers.

One of the questions that was posted by a young man was "What can I learn to do in 10 minutes that will change my life?"

There was lots of answers as you can imagine but the one I liked best was "When you put your t-shirts away roll them, don't fold them. This way they will fit in the drawer better, you can identify them quicker and they don't get so creased"

It was a simple thing but I thought how clever, and so this morning I cleared all my t-shirts off the shelf in my wardrobe where I keep them and rolled them all up. By doing so I learnt a few more things...

1. That I have found a mysterious odd sock in with them...
2. That I seem to be missing one of my favourite winter shirts (I know I have not worn it for a while so it can't be in the wash)
3. When they are rolled up they seem to take up half the space they did before.

My father says that "You learn something new every day", I think this should be "That you should try to learn something new every day." We should never stop growing up and even if all you can manage is to go on Google Maps and 'virtually' explore a part of the world you have never visited, try and learn something today.

Oh, and I can strongly recommend rolling your t-shirts!!

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Is it important to love yourself?

Loving yourself. This comes up again and again in these daily Moodscope reminder emails I get every morning.

And that's the bit that I really struggle with daily - loving myself. Always have done. Never picked for the sports team, 5th place when only 4 scholarships available. Eyesight too bad to do my first career choice. And now?

Well, now I only have one Moodscope buddy, I'm not the best at doing the Moodscope daily test, I'm fatter than I should be, depression seems to always be there, no 'significant other' to share daily life with, and I can't get motivated to get fit.

Then there's that middle aged bloke looking back at me in the mirror every morning asking where did it all go wrong? Or, maybe more to the point, when will it go right?

But lots of people say that it's important this loving myself thing, that happiness is there, that if I can learn to love and accept myself I'll be a better and fuller person. So, I need to ask that fat man in the mirror - how come others seem to see things in me that I can't (or won't) see? People at work, in church, my family, those few people I can call friends? They like and (I hope) love me. So I think I'll add a little something else to my 'three good things that happened today' journal entry that I do before going to bed; I'll add in a daily 'one good thing about me'. Oh yes, and get out on that bike!"

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I am far from perfect.

First of all: English is not my mother tongue, so please excuse any wrong words, any strange sounding sentence or just the fact that this text will not be perfect.
There we are, this is what I am struggling with. I am far from perfect.

I do not expect myself to be perfect; perfect meaning without any fault. I just expect myself to be more often my better self than my sad, depressed, destructive, idle, angry, non-productive self.

That is why I do not think that it would just be enough to stop wanting to be perfect. I think it is a good thing, that I do not want to be the depressed me.

There are all these simple truths out there, which sound reasonable: just be yourself, you do not have to achieve something to be loveable, your friends love you just the way you are, do not judge your feelings... and many more. It all sounds very nice.

But I can not find it logically:

When I am just myself, I am most of the time struggling with me and everything around me.
When I do not achieve anything - like doing sports, have some results at my job, not arguing with my boyfriend – I feel like I've failed.

My (not too many) friends sometimes do not like my negative attitude (and I understand).
I think, when I just accept my bad feelings, I will give up fighting them; because it is much easier to just let it happen. To be angry, to explode, to just lay around, to be impatient.

Instead I find my truth more logically: I am not a very happy person, thus I have to try to be a better person in order to become happy more often.

This is what I try to do every day to become a better person, to find the best possible way of being myself. On bad days it just means stopping myself from thinking that the world would be a better place without me. On the rare good days, it means that I am even able to make somebody else happy.

On days like that I actually understand these simple truths. Then, it is not about achieving something, judging my feelings or wanting to be perfect. I just am. And it is fun.

Remembering that those days exist, helps a lot on the bad days and with trying to become a happier person.

I hope all of you have those good days to remember. And I hope that for all of you the good days are far more often than the bad days.

Have a good day today.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Where do you find your solace?

Sometimes, you just know. From the second you wake up and the world seems somewhat asymmetrical and you feel bad - you just know that it's going to be a bad day. For me, these are further categorised by a deterioration in my speech (I stammer), an intense desire to be alone and all this underpinned by a lethargy that takes me little further than from bed to sofa and back again. Oh, and crying at crap adverts on TV. So, what to do? Now that I'm unemployed, I have no reason to chi-chi myself up (eyeliner, tights and a shiny handbag) to send me on my way to, if not a better mood, then a better faked mood. My other half lives 150 miles away and even if he was nearer, I'd probably growl at him to keep his distance. Meanwhile, my friends are there but we know that we really don't like to 'bother them,' when we feel this way, even if we know - especially when we know? - that they'd be gutted to know we were suffering in silence. So, where do I find my solace?

Well, not too far down from my house lives a good friend who lets me circumnavigate those pesky pleasantries, instead simply whispering, 'they're in there,' and pointing to the garage. And in there lie 2 Golden Retrievers, Arthur and Jonah, whose tails begin to wag as they snuffle around me, sometimes putting a paw on my leg as I fuss around them, getting their leads, slipping them over their necks and armed with each other, we walk out into the sunshine. Forty minutes later, I return them and am somehow more primed to talk to people. The Retrievers have loosened up that part of me that was so reluctant to engage because when faced with the unconditional, low-maintenance and innocent love that dogs present, there really is no option other than to surrender.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Living or hoping, dying or coping?

I'm reviving again
Releasing the pain.
Coming up for air,
Letting go the despair.

Seeing the light,
After months of night.
After turning the tide,
In seas of suicide.

I can wake and be calm,
No longer with alarm.
I can relax in the shower,
From which I would cower.

I can go and buy food,
Not hide in a mood.
I can answer the phone,
Not just be alone.

I am free to read,
Not just a TV 'need'.
I can open my emails,
Without 'reading' my entrails.
I can go in the garden,
Without waiting for Aladdin.

As I lost my mind,
Mental thoughts so unkind.
I can go out with friends,
And think it's the end.

I can think ahead,
And find ways to be dead.
I can drive on the road,
And look for heavy loads.

I cross the rail junction,
Unable to function.
I look at the train,
That would end my reign,
In this disturbed world,
Pain bare and unfurled.

I can't go to meetings,
Traumatised with feelings.
I can't eat a meal,
Without needing to reveal,
That I'm dying inside,
I no longer have pride.
I'm a burden to anyone,
My heart weighs one ton.

So where are you,
On what is so true,
For many who live,
That need to forgive?
Themselves and their lives,
The husbands and wives.
The girls and the boys,
Lost and so coy.
Who can live out of sight,
Not showing how slight.
The difference can be,
Between thee and me?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Robin Williams, Super Hero.

And so this morning I woke to the shocking news that Robin Williams has left this earthly planet.  A loss.  A huge loss. A talented and beautiful man. We all have a favourite film don't we?  Whether it be his thought provoking performances or his funny ones, his madcap ramblings or his quiet thoughts that he made public, it cannot be denied that he wore himself on his sleeves, and his trousers, and his shirt. My life, for one, will be less.  I adored it all. Like many, I could see pain underneath the smile. I could see regret within the eyes that did not always manage to maintain eye contact. I could see shame in his shadow. I do not claim to have walked a path anything like his, but, when you have pulled on the 'I'm entering the building' mask for many years you begin to recognise the make-up.

I like that his passing has been felt by so many. Worldwide. Everyone is shocked.  Everyone talks of how happy he made them. One girl said that he made her happy over and over and that the first time he made her sad was 'his' last time. He made everybody happy. Happy with humour but also happy with acceptance. If he can be so happy, in the face of his demons, then so can we.

Something else I have seen much through social media today is phrases like "omg, but he was so happy", or "why couldn't he just tell someone he felt so bad", or "please people, if you feel so bad you get to that place, please just call a counselling service and save yourself". I've read "poor, poor man", "how desperate", "how sad to find yourself in a place where you have no options". Whilst all of this is true it is not right.

(Before I continue, I am not condoning suicide at all, if indeed it was.)

It occurred to me that perhaps the "stigma that surrounds mental illness" is a stigma because of these phrases. Whilst they are meant with love and with compassion I feel these phrases only compartmentalise mental illness when it needs acceptance. For Robin Williams to have lived with his demons for an indeterminable length of time is truly heroic. He has formed an enormously successful career, held down the day job, worked through relationships with people, drugs and alcohol, parented, been public, been private, all whilst wearing the enormous coat of depression. It is an enormous task. It can be like holding a tsunami, using every fibre in every muscle not to give in to its strength. That takes equal strength. It takes superpower! He has held the tsunami for year upon year. He held it back trying to prevent it from taking him under and instead of saying "poor guy, it got him", perhaps we should be saying "On my god, what a hero! He held that tsunami for so long, he held it away from people as much as he could, some people got sprayed, some got soaked, but millions felt the sun instead of the water, he held it on his back and he did it for years."

He is my hero.  He has super powers.

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

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Depression film club.

I have danced with depression for most of my life, but have somehow always been able to make my excuses and exit the dance floor before its grip became too strong.

This year however, at the age of 34, something changed. To put it mildly everything changed all at once, leaving my life resembling a twister spinning erratically and relentlessly. I waited for the natural calm to restore order. But for the first time, it was nowhere to be seen. The panic attacks started and my local Starbucks staff eyed me warily as I burst into tears yet again while sipping my vanilla latte.

Desperate for the despair and panic to stop I found solace in the little pockets of escape that watching my favourite films gave me. Little did I realise that the eclectic group of films would serve as a wonderful metaphor for my then mindset, giving me comfort, relief and a glimmer of positivity for the future.

So sit back, draw the curtains and take what you will from the first instalment of the depression film club.

Drop Dead Fred

Starring one of my favourite comics of all time, the late Rik Mayall, Drop Dead Fred is the story of Lizzie, who returns to her overbearing mother following the end of her marriage to the smarmy and equally controlling Charles.

From her dowdy clothes and Alice bands Lizzie looks like a lost child, until the return of her childhood imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred.

Fred is loud, fun and rebellious (and no one else can see him). It becomes clear that these were qualities Lizzie also possessed as a child until her mother stifled her through fear and manipulation.

After many ridiculous scenarios including breakages, a house boat disaster and dog poo, Fred releases Lizzie from her mental child-hood prison, enabling her to stand alone as a confident, independent woman.

One of the final scenes of this film shows Lizzie enter a dream like state where she finally releases her childhood self who is shackled to her bed with sellotape. The perfect metaphor for self acceptance and letting go of the past.

Summary - When life comes crashing around you, it can mean the eventual start of a new life armed with skills and strengths that can only be found by fully experiencing and facing your pain (and maybe smashing a few things).

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 11 August 2014

When will I get better?

This really has gone on too long now.

It's my third bout of depression now. More than a couple of years of medication this time. Some counselling and now I've asked for more.

My average Moodscope score has gone right up. It was 94 on my holiday! Yet I still have the days when I don't want to get out of bed. Days when showering and dressing seems too hard. Days when my normal extroversion disappears and I want to hide away from the world.

Sometimes I get frustrated. I want to get on with my life. I want to know that I can cope, so I can go for more challenging work.

Sometimes I am thankful. This bout has made me look within, look at some of my insecurities and triggers. When I come out of this I will be stronger. Does that make it worth it?

Sometimes I am accepting. This is the way I am right now. I do not know how long it will last and there is no point in fighting it.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

You can overcome anything.

I grew up as an immigrant child. When we first moved I could not speak the language and was constantly afraid and intimidated by unfamiliar things. I grew up poor, and the more I came to realize this, the more I felt worthless and insignificant. My parents worked long hours and I would often be left in the care of a much wealthier relative. I would spend hours in her sitting room quietly staring at a display shelf. I hated being there, because every time I looked at that shelf, I was deeply intimidated and felt completely eclipsed by the things that other people had.

She placed photos of her son's graduation on the same shelf as a set of vintage encyclopaedias. As a child I felt weak and hopeless, lamenting the impossibility of ever having a display shelf like hers. I would always leave her house hanging my head in self-deprecating shame, wondering how I would ever be able to go to university when I was struggling so much at school. I barely knew how to use the dictionary, why would I ever find the need for encyclopaedias? How would I ever be as impressive as other people? I placed my self worth on who I thought I was, instead of focusing on the potential of what I could become.

Now, 15 years on and a great deal of assimilation later I have a Masters degree and am hardly ever intimidated by the same things. Bit by bit over the years I fought against the odds. And sometimes when I look back I realize how unnecessary it was to have felt unreasonably devalued and illegitimated.

But, like every other human being, there are still many moments when I feel like an obstacle in life is too big, too scary, too much, and that it can't ever be overcome. In moments like that I stop, take deep breadth and remind myself of all the challenges in my past which were once thought to be utterly unconquerable.

Slowly, but surely, I'm convinced that when we are committed, we can eventually outgrow our biggest and most frightening challenges. Adversity can vary from person to person. Sometimes you may find that you are completely down on your luck, stuck in a comprising and unfortunate situation. I hope that you are able to remind yourself that even the greatest odds can be overcome. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, persevere and before you know it, you will have climbed a mountain.

Your potential is always much bigger than your problems.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

A time of reflection.

I waken to a world of gray cold drizzle. It is my favorite weather. I especially love it if I can be at my lake cottage (the Fort). It is reminiscent of a tree house. Located in north central Florida, it is a very old cobbled-together patch of two cottages and three outbuildings. It is a deeply fragile ecosystem. So fragile that, if I were God, humans would never have begun to inhabit Florida.

Wild animals romp across the beach and two rescue dogs along with three rescue cats fill my world. I am an educator/writer.

The year has flown by with five hospitalizations. Two heart issues, one triple-fractured pelvis, one cardio monitor implant, and one new hip. These medical issues join osteoporosis in my hips and lumbar, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, severe arthritis, two years of blacking out with a few falls and broken bones, anxiety, depression, PTSD, nerve damage to my hearing, and eyesight failing .

For the first time in my life, I am not working ~ I am on a Family Medical Leave of Absence while my pelvis heals and I get my hips replaced. It is a time of reflection. A time to write, to sketch, to design, to compose music, to choreograph and to take a really truth-telling look at my life's journey.  It has been a richly-textured non-traditional journey.

Most days I have no regrets. Okay. Some days I have no regrets. IF I could do a 'dream makeover' version of my life I might:

Avoid humans who suck their teeth and spit;
Do away with childhood violence;
Crush violence brought on by 'significant' others;
Refrain from free-floating anger;
Keep a distance from humans who leave one feeling less than and lacking;
Do away with having to listen to cell phone conversations;
Conquer war, hunger and disease;
Avoid an intolerance to alcohol (my ethnicity is Cherokee Nation/Irish - think about it);
Do away with having to clean my house;
Avoid the word "tolerance"; I prefer "acceptance" and believe it is far more significant; and refrain from romantic relationships where my partner leaves me when confronted with twelve-foot alligators on the cycling trail;

If I could avoid all these things then maybe I would be a much different human being. Yet, I adore who I am. Right now.

A Moodscope Member

Friday, 8 August 2014

Self Awareness - the Door to Healthy Change.

"Awareness is not a giver of solace - it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and an awakener." R K Greenleaf.

It is in the inner awakening and growing self awareness that we begin to meet the person that we truly are.

I once read that most people may never really have met the person who they themselves really are, because at every moment we identify ourselves either with our thoughts, our self image, or our feelings. The challenge is to find a way to get behind our thoughts, feelings, and self image, to find that real person able to take a long loving look at what really is. This for me is to become more fully self-aware. It is that Inscaping (inward) journey and not the easier one of Escaping (finding security and value in externals) that brings us face to face with ourselves.

We are sometimes encouraged to simply let our thoughts drift by and not to hold onto them, so that they affect our behaviour.

Suzy's great blog on Monday talked about allowing feelings 'to flow and pass' and I always had difficulty with this concept of 'letting go' until I read about the following method.

Imagine a river or stream. (I chose a river with boats and ships; you could choose a stream with leaves if that is more easy to visualise). You are sitting on the bank of this river or stream. where boats or leaves pass by.

While the water flows past your inner eye, I ask you to name each one of these 'vessels'.

For example, one of them could be called 'my anxiety about tonight' or 'my objections about my spouse', or 'I shouldn't have said that'.

Every judgement that you pass is one of these 'vessels'. Take time to give each one of them a name and then let it sail on.

For some, this can be a very challenging exercise, as through habit, we jump aboard one of these 'vessels' immediately and unknowingly, and as soon as we own a 'vessel' and identify with it, it picks up energy; the thoughts and feelings still being part of our identity.  What we have to practice is the un-possessing, the letting go.

If I miss becoming self-aware of a boat and jump on, rather than let it go by after noticing it, they have the energy to head upstream and return again and again.

I also must not attempt to torpedo my boat! This is an exercise in non violence to ourselves - you are not allowed to hate yourself.

The point is to recognise things, to become more self-aware and to say 'That's not necessary, I don't need that,' and let it gently float on by.

If we learn to handle our own thoughts and feelings tenderly and lovingly through inscaping, then we'll be able to carry this compassion and mental health for ourselves into our external world.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Feeling sad.

I started monitoring my mood with moodscope a couple of years ago, mainly to keep my husband motivated to keep monitoring his. He'd been struggling with depression and selfworth for a long time - trying to keep on the positive side after we had our first and later second baby was proving very hard for him, so I wanted to be supportive.

At first I thought it was quite fun flipping the cards every day, getting points and seeing my tendencies and seeing the monthly wave of optimism vs pessimism and back again. But then I started feeling worse, life was hard, stress was building up at work, family life wasn't all great and some of my relationships weren't making me feel good.

About then I stopped using Moodscope. Well, I didn't feel it was helping me any more. I was disappointed because I was expecting it to be clear - good mood or bad mood. Instead it was just a few points up or down around 50% no matter how my feelings were.

I realized my answers had become habitual. I was so trained in not complaining, not allowing myself to feel weak that no matter what my mood was, my answers were always "Yes, I'm Determined! No, Not Scared! Yes, Strong! No, Not Worried!"

So, part of me was balancing on the edge but my Moodscope was saying I was a good 45% so I decided to quit. Mostly I was fine. I was happy, busy, occupied, I thought this is ok, staying aware of my moods, minding myself but then suddenly, my husband left me and depression hit me hard.

I stopped reading the Moodscope emails. Stopped reminding myself to take care. Stopped existing beyond the daily musts.

As a mother I felt supported by needing to keep it together for my kids. It doesn't work for everyone, and some depressions are too deep to be helped by family, but for me, now, making breakfast every day and keeping them fed, dressed and warm and making them happy is the only reason I get up in the mornings. The only reason I get to work and pretend to be a human being is for them.

Slowly I started doing Moodscope again. First score, 13%, but I continued and I'm now making it a habit and trying to be honest about my feelings. At first it was scary, but now I feel relaxed telling the truth.

I'm sad but I'm not dead. And I've started eating too when I feed the kids. And sleeping when they sleep, and before long maybe I'll start feeling worthwhile about planning for the future again.

Not sure what life will bring me. Everything is new now. And this is a day when 23% would be good, but I'm hopng the day will come when I start feeling bored with "always circling round 50%" like it's a bad thing feeling fine. That would be nice.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Cat Among The Pigeons.

I feed and house two cats. Like all cat lovers, I will never admit to owning them. In moments of inebriated honesty, I might admit that they own me.

They are litter-mates, both neutered male black and white domestic shorthairs (read moggies), but there any resemblance between them ends. Firstly there is the cat known as LMKM (Lean, Mean, Killing Machine) who considers his day incomplete if he has not contributed to the household meat ration in some significant way. Then there is CP (Couch Potato – also known as the Thief of Dad's Bag for reasons which will become obvious), who is so ultimately laid back that my daughter carries him around like a handbag, dresses him in dolls clothes, gives him slides down the climbing frame and (their latest trick) wears him as Batman's cape on her back as she rushes around Gotham City righting wrongs and fighting off animal rights protesters! (My sympathies are with the protesters, but I remind myself that CP does have claws and he could use them if he really wanted to).

They are both affectionate creatures, but whereas CP may be hugged and cuddled, LMKM tends to inflict his affection upon his chosen recipient. The 'victim' finds themselves abruptly invaded by five and a half kilos of determined feline, subjected to involuntary and painful acupuncture as all their most tender places are enthusiastically kneaded, and nearly deafened as the Lancaster Bomber engine resident in his chest is revved up to full throttle!

A couple of evenings ago my peaceful evening (good book, glass of wine) was rudely interrupted by my husband who stalked into the library (OK – the dining room where the bookshelves are – but it sounds good, doesn't it) declaiming "Your blasted cat has got a pigeon in the kitchen!" He resisted the urge to say "again!" for which I was grateful.

As a second body was just about to be discovered by the feisty heroine I refused to be discomposed. "Leave him: I'll deal with it later." I muttered, returning to my story as a steady drip of blood fell upon the narrator's ears and a tremor of trepidation shivered her skin.A couple of spine-chilling chapters later I reluctantly opened my kitchen door to deal with the expected carnage.

Unsurprisingly, the floor was more covered in feathers than a Mallory Towers dorm after a girls' pillow fight and the mighty hunter was crouched over his kill, growling ferociously and watched, with interest and anticipation, by CP.

I removed the pigeon (and not co-incidentally the cats) to the garden, swept up the feathers and retired to bed. Peering out of the window a little later I was entirely unsurprised to see LMKM again prowling his hunting grounds, while the best part of the pigeon was being consumed with gusto by CP.

That's always the story. LMKM catches the prey, eats his favourite bits and the rest is stolen by his brother.

Does CP beat himself up over his woeful inadequacies as a hunter? Does he suffer self-doubts, crises of confidence and bouts of depression? He never seems to: he just gets on with being a cat and eats the pigeon (and anything else he can find to steal). I wish I could take a lesson from him.

Although I've never been that partial to raw pigeon.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Who am I?

I am more than my disorder.
I am more than 'suicidal'.
I am more than 'depressed'.
I am more than my self loathing.
I am more than my self harm!
I am more than my 'social anxiety'!
I am MORE than my 'depersonalization'!
I am more than what has happened to me!

My name is Kayti.

I like books and music and art, and I enjoy being around people like me. I like to cook. I like to smile. I like the mountains. I like trees. I like flowers. I like nature. I like dresses. I like combat boots. I like leather. I like owls. I am funny and creative and nice and caring. I like helping people. I like twizlers. I like wish bracelets. I like tattoos. I like being an individual.

This is who I am!
I am not what I 'have'.
I am ME!

This is something I often forget. I forget who I am and only remember what I am. Today, I will remember who I am and what I like and what makes me happy. I will remember that I am me and no matter how many labels I have, that will never change. It's about time I did.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Who are the mad ones?

Listening to Chris Martin of Coldplay speak about their latest album he humbly acknowledged how ruthless folk are about them and especially this latest album. Why has their latest album been so rebuked? "Because it (the album) has been so open and some people really don't like that." Yes, there is no doubt, people are afraid of feelings, be it their own or that of others.

Speaking to an older lady just recently, she kept saying, "You've just got to keep busy haven't you? Just got to keep busy."  This is a sentence that makes me feel perplexity, sadness and rage all at once. Yes, I know the busier one is, often the happier one is.

Alas, what if health means that you can't always go, go, go? What then? And what's truly painful about these words is that all too often they are aimed at the very people who can't keep busy: the depressed and grieving being at the top of the list. The very ones who have done everything in their power to keep busy. The result? The've run away from feelings for so long they've got sick.

When I gently prodded the lady about this sentence, her words were both telling and heart wrenching. "You have to say that because that is the only thing people want to hear," she admitted. "No one wants to know your pain or feelings lovey, they just want to see you functioning." This was a lady who has just recently lost her adult son; her only child.

I really do treasure a paragraph in Sunbathing in the Rain by Gwyneth Lewis:

It's not the people who get depressed who go mad, it's those who don't. Those who experience its emotional short circuit have a chance to check the wiring throughout the house and prevent the start of a fatal electrical fire."

I know I'm talking to the converted here but if we allow the feelings to um, well, feel, they actually become fluid, like water, and like a river or waterfall, they flow and pass.  They then create strength.

Feelings can hurt very, very much but run away from them or treat them unkindly and they get bigger, stronger, and wield more power over us. Look after the feelings, however, and they flow and pass.

Oh how I wish folk who don't understand depression could grasp this! We who are, or who have been, souls accompanied by sadness are ever learning, reading and studying about ourselves, psychology; our emotions. We find beauty in it. We find beauty in feelings.  We'll carry this information, this learning, with us for always.

This is not being unhealthily self-focused or a failure to "keep busy". It's studying the very stuff that makes us human. We feel and that's OK!

We're not the mad ones, you are!

Oops, did I say that out loud?

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Recording the Good Days.

Sometimes I don't record my score.

This is usually at the weekend, and often when I am happy. And because good feelings are hard to keep hold of, those good days are forgotten very quickly.

At work I like logging in to Moodscope first thing to read the blog through then record my score and mentally warm up for the day ahead. However if I'm not at work or I have a lot to do, I won't record my score.

There are a few reasons why I do this:

I simply forget because I'm away from a computer.
I'm busy and have lots to be getting on with.
I don't want to take the test because I am happy and don't want to be reminded of     being depressed.

Then my graph is out of shape because the data is incomplete. Potentially if I'm having a miserable time of it I could look at my graph and see all those happy day dots and know that it hasn't been all bad and that it will be good again. Instead I see only the not so happy times and use that to feed the monster of depression inside me.

I really hope the hardworking guys at Moodscope are working on an app, maybe even with a little reminder popping up on my phone to encourage me to take my score (that can be turned off as well!)? Also the app could store my score when I am on holiday (without internet connection!) and load it back up when I am home, so I can always have my good days with me.

But until then I will try harder to record the good days, and the good thoughts too.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Getting Better.

It's been quite odd for me, the last few weeks, to read the blogs on Moodscope that I sent to Moodscope some time ago.

You see, on 7th July, I came out of this particular depression.

It happens that way with me: flip, and within a space of twenty-four, or even eight hours I come out of it completely and it's as if that bad time had never been.

So reading the posts I had written while in the belly of the whale (because I think of my depression as a great grey leviathan which swallows me up whole on a regular basis) has been interesting.

I remember doing the Moodscope cards each morning was a huge effort because I had to work out just how scared or anxious or jittery I was. For instance, was I just feeling on edge (1); or did my children notice and comment that I was trembling as I hugged them goodbye in the morning (2); or was I shaking so much that I couldn't even pour out the breakfast coffee my husband had made for me (3)?

It's been so lovely for the past couple of weeks to put a zero for jittery without thinking about it, and just to debate (for a micro-second) whether enthusiastic gets a 2 or a 3!

Everyone tells you this, but it really is true: colours are brighter, the air is fresher, food tastes better and (for me this is fantastic) just one glass of wine tastes lovely and has enough of a buzz for me not to want another one and oops, another one after that.

This is a respite, not a healing: the whale is still out there and next time he swims round (in 2016 if past performance is anything to go by) little Mary will abruptly be slurped up like some kind of blue slush-puppy, yet again.

But oh, it's so nice to be well for the moment. Maybe we can appreciate the days when the darkness lifts all the more because we are intimately acquainted with that dark.

I wish for all of you too this energy, light and peace, and, if it is not with you now, at least the hope of it in the future.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Don't Panic!

My scruffy back garden was yesterday visited by a dainty young fox.

She trod back up the steps in almost uneasy haste, finding there was no way out.

However she didn't panic, but just kept her cool, and didn't miss one garden step.

We are prone to panic sometimes, aren't we? (Do you remember "Dad's Army": "Don't Panic, Mr Mannering! Don't Panic!")

This is quite natural at times – however we tend to go into 'panic-mode', as I title it, perhaps too readily.  I believe that recognising we are gearing into this state could be one of our little talents.

One method I find is to realise that most things are not immediately essential, although it may feel, at the moment of thinking of them, that they are… so: don't panic; "Just Cool It, Man."

We could be more like that fox, and less like a scared rabbit.

A Moodscope member.