Tuesday, 30 September 2014

"I am the master of my Fate, I am the captain of my soul"

Invictus- a poem written by William Ernest Henley, is the latin word for "Unconquered".

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

To me, these words are a reminder, that I am not the only one who struggles through dark and tumultuous times. We all have hardships, whether that be our outer reality or a struggle with our inner emotional landscape, or both. The poem's author Henley wrote this at a time when he was suffering through immense pain, he had already endured an impoverished childhood and had his leg amputated due to complications from tuberculosis.

Nelson Mandela drew inspiration from this poem while serving his 27 years in prison at a time when there was almost no hope for a brighter future, he read it to his fellow political prisoners.

When life gets tough, I remind myself that even during the darkest and most difficult of times, there is still an unyielding opportunity for someone to achieve self mastery.  That there remains regardless a small part of our souls and our minds that does not need to be overwhelmed or tainted by life's hardships. That in all of us, no matter how difficult our experiences, have a part of ourselves that can remain "unconquered"- that can remain Invictus.


A Moodscope member.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Flip side.

I have been reading about 'dualities' in the past few months and have realised how beneficial it can be to look at the alternative.

I'm a pessimist by nature, somewhat melancholy and a bit of a malcontent (got it all going on here eh?!), anyway, my inclination is to look to the negative in an attempt to plan for the worst case scenario.

There was a time when this seemed like a survival skill and a good strategy in a world where I felt beset by problems. In reality I had no power of prediction and wasted lots of time expecting and planning for the "worst" which rarely, if ever came along.

None of this was helpful to my depression. I thought at the time it was because I was planning and being realistic, when in fact I was wiring the neural pathways in my brain through reinforcement, it was self-defeating, I couldn't look for the positives because I was repeatedly wiring my brain for the negatives. Which is where the dualities came in.

Every thought I have has an opposite, a 'flip side' and this has been a revelation in terms of tackling my negativity, helping my mood and gaining an understanding that my thoughts are not a fail-proof gauge on the world.

When I'm feeling unhappy I remind myself that happiness also exists within me. I don't have to generate happiness I just have to remind myself that it's in there. Likewise, reminding myself when I feel angry, there is also peace, or anxiety there is also calmness, or worry there is also acceptance. By reminding myself that each of my feelings has an opposite which I have experienced before, I am able to get a handle on my emotions and head them off from overwhelming me. It's not a cure all, but it is one of the tools in my kit bag to support me when the world and life is looming too large.

I have a postcard from a friend and the quote on the front sums the duality thing up for me, it says:

Q. "But what if I fail?"
A. "But my dear what if you fly?!"

It's a beautiful way to remind me that my ship can sail in sunny seas rather than lurking in stormy waters.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Keep in touch - it's easier than ever.

My best friend has recently moved to London following a job offer.

We were room mates for 4 years around 14 years ago, until he moved to another city. Accepting this change was very difficult for me at the time and I missed him quite often.

My first reaction to the news he was moving to another country, was a wave of despair. We'll be even more separated, we'll have even fewer chances to spend time together. Then I thought that although we hadn't been room mates for many years, it didn't end our friendship.

Another more important observation is that living apart from him didn't prove to be impossible. I built a career, start a family. I've had my fair share of small and big successes.

So anyway, I just called him. We talked for over half an hour. It made my day.

Before I reached for my phone I had a long internal monologue: "What if he's busy and doesn't have the time to talk? What if doesn't answer the phone? What if he's in company and can't excuse himself to talk to me?" All those fears obviously proved to be insubstantial. Once I dialled the number our chat flowed most naturally, and all my gloom melted away.

The moral of the story: try to be more proactive about keeping in touch with your loved ones, it will make you feel great and it's now easier than ever.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Let me compare me to a summer's day.

I tend to get stuck in comparisons. At bad times, but even in rather good times, moodwise, I can wake up feeling thoroughly unhappy because I have not won a prize in my field of work, because I haven't saved lives, I don't live in Mexico and because I am not rescuing any orphans.

This is based on some very high standards I seem to have set for myself, and a nagging feeling that I am not living life to the fullest. That I could and should be more. I can't shake it off.

I have never been intimidated by famous people and their looks or wealth, but there is a select group of people who seem to do all these worthwhile things. Not just Bono and Angelina, some are friends of friends and I admire them when I see their progress on Facebook. Doctors, journalists, politicians who really do win prizes, write books, travel all the time, go to refugee camps, make things a little better there. Apart from admiration, they can make me feel angry too, when I'm vulnerable. I bet they had easier lives, brilliant upbringings, that they are not held back by periods of low mood, grrr, hmppff, etc.

It's a simple fact that I am not making life better for orphans or refugees. But it's important for me to realise that I am not making it worse either. Constantly comparing myself to the absolute top layer of society, feeling inadequate to have not risen to their level, doesn't help anyone. It doesn't push me into action, it just makes me feel bad and even worse because I can see how childish it is.

As far as comparisons go, I am in a better place than 90 percent of the world population. I am healthy. I am loved. I have a happy toddler and seem to be a good mum. I'm ok work wise. I feel safe. I never have to worry about feeding my child or keeping her warm. If I really want to compare myself, I should look at the whole range of lives and destinies and wake up feeling thoroughly grateful with my life. And then I should donate some money to people who help orphans in refugee camps. 

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Live and smile.

And so it's September. A beautiful month of colour and varying light. For those of us struggling through, I sometimes think this can be a kind month. If we look. It holds warmth in the colours that surround us...trees and bushes begin to take on amber glows or fire-like blazes and although temperatures begin to drop, there is comfort in that. No longer do we need to feel guilty that we are not feeling magazine-happy in the glowing days of summer (they are so overt they make me shy away) but we can layer on scarves and socks and wrap-in our mood to tell it that it is ok.

Now would be a good time to prepare ourselves. If you are like me, the entire year brings lows at various times, but the days of January and February are my lowest and so it's now that I must prepare for them. Harvest the energy I have and prepare some coping strategies in advance. For me, I am going to try having a survival kit this year...for the days when night-time seems impossible to reach. A real physical box of tricks that I can call upon.  Just by planning this has already shown me that I have had a shift in my attitude and therefore I am claiming a Willy Wonka gold medal for it. Amongst other things in my kit I will lay inside the following:

1. A copy of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (my favourite book of all time, so many layers within it, and something which will lift me on a dark day and also require little concentration.
2. Chocolate – Green & Blacks organic 80% (high quality dark chocolate helps serotonin, it's also so rich it's not something you can gorge on.
3. Pistachios and a note saying 'Eat Me'
4. Raisins and a note saying 'Eat Me'
5. A note of music I need...Ray Lamontagne maybe, Springsteen definitely.
6. A list of a meal I can shop for and make simply (when ill, we need instruction).
7. A list of instructions: get up on time, shower, make kids breakfast, eat what I make them eat, get them to school, have cuppa with fruit, prepare dinner and put on laundry, sit down for a bit, nap or read, maybe write, do not stare vacantly at hoover willing it to move, it will only move if you move it.
8. A written reminder that it is ok to have days with minimal output.
9. Some photographs of happy times to show me that I can, I have and I will.

September is also the month I lost a friend. I will think of him and remember his massive, infectious and silly smile and I will remember that I have the chance to live. Let's do it. What will be in your survival kit?

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A part of life that many don't see.

Not sure how he does it, but here's another excellent poem from Les.

The Moodscope Team.

I live among you well disguised,
I can appear from behind your eyes.
I enter in before you know,
As soon as I come, you want me to go.

You sometimes need me, to take a break,
You sometimes hate me, for pity's sake.
You try to avoid me, all the time,
I am often waiting, when your life don't rhyme.

I can take your soul, and spirit to,
I can empty your body, a vacant you.
I can create such pain, in body and mind,
I am pernicious to you and never kind.

You cannot see me, you never will,
I am that flag on that invisible hill.
I open thoughts that change your life,
I bring you darkness and hurt and strife.

Sometimes you fight me with chemical pills,
Sometimes you don't know what makes you ill.
Sometimes I take you way down and down,
Sometimes below the water you drown.

I am in every country and continent you see,
I am in your home, your work and overseas.
You cannot stop me with border controls,
I am ubiquitous, I create darkness patrols.

You often find me, when you lose your way,
I'll happily turn your world to grey.
I seep inside your every thought,
You cannot escape, I am your lot.

A lot of loss - a lot of pain,
A lot of hurt - that old refrain.
I might be new or I might be old,
One thing's for sure, your joy I've sold.

You never know how long I'll come,
I can make you look down the barrel of a gun.
I'll affect your family and parents too,
I'll affect everything to do with you.

I hate your friends they weaken me,
I avoid your partner and your family tree.
I loathe your doctor and your CPN,
I make you hide again and again.

But somehow always you find some light,
Even if it is, in the middle of the night.
To loosen my grip, my hold on you,
You find your heart and pull it through.

The rest of your body hears that song,
Of who you are and where you belong.
It gets stronger and as others help,
I start to shrink back as chemicals yelp.

And then you get a glimpse of you again,
Then that opens the door to a happy refrain.
The sun comes up the birds do sing,
You find there's more that life can bring.

You've beaten me again I have to go away,
Your happy now that joy holds sway.
You've taken control you won your fight,
You've found the switch for your internal light.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.

Today's blog, contributed by Mary, is just so full of good advice that I'd like to set you all a challenge today.

We're the lucky ones. We are reading this blog and benefitting from it. But what about those people you know that are suffering, but they either don't want to admit it or just don't know where to turn.

My challenge to you is to see how many people we can all help today by passing this on and pointing them in the direction of Moodscope.

Just copy and paste this blog in to an email from yourselves to as many people as you feel could benefit from it.

Thank you to you all, especially Mary.

The Moodscope Team

No, not many of us would count depression as an old "friend", but for many Moodscope users it is a familiar acquaintance which comes and goes or, too often, comes and stays far too long. And, however brief its stay, depression is always an unwelcome visitor.

I was speaking to a friend this week who has just met depression for the first time. Because this is the first (and hopefully the only) time she is experiencing it, she is feeling that she is in unfamiliar territory without a map; it's a scary place as well as a dark one.

So, for anyone going through this illness for the first time, or anyone who needs a reminder of the basic A, B, Cs of it, here's some basic advice:

Depression is an illness, not a moral failing or weakness. You cannot just "pull yourself together" or "snap out of it" any more than you can "snap out" of a broken leg.

Even if you feel you have contributed to it yourself, self-blame and beating yourself up about it does not help, it makes things worse, so don't do it! (And yes, I know that's easier said than done.)

Although depression is a mental illness, having it does not make you "mad" (except sometimes in the sense of being angry).

If you have been prescribed drugs, then take them: they do often help and will enable you to recover more quickly. There is more than one drug available; if the first one doesn't have an effect, another one might work.

Find out all you can about your illness and take responsibility for your own health. Moodscope can help enormously with this. Try to work in partnership with your GP.

Give yourself as much slack as you can. You may have to continue working, but cut down your commitments as much as possible and give yourself permission to let your standards slip – just for a time – while you recover.

You may want to hide yourself away and feel you cannot face people. That's fine, but ensure you have just a few people around who understand and can support you. Leave a comment on Moodscope's blogspot page and you will be surprised at the positive response you get. Be honest with as many people as you feel you can trust: many more have gone through this than you would think, and will empathise with you and offer support.

Try to eat healthily and to take moderate exercise if physically possible.

Try to avoid alcohol and sugar: it feels good in the short term, but the bill comes in later and it's usually more than we want to pay.

Hold onto Hope. Depression does usually lift and you will get better. While you are ill you may feel that there is no light and that you will be stuck in this place for ever, but hold fast to the belief that you will one day be well.

Let's hope that day will come soon – for all of us.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Even a chore can be uplifting!

I decided that this weekend it was now or never in completing a chore. The weather was good and if I didn't act I would lose the chance. So I set about painting the newly erected wooden playhouse that needed weather proofing. I say a chore because for me that's exactly what it was. However, I woke this morning and when I looked in the garden, I felt a sense of satisfaction and pride. This is what I took from the experience:

1. Choosing a colour, on my own, felt strangely liberating. I enjoyed, for the first time being in an aisle with painting paraphernalia and being let loose.

2. Children "helping" me paint was not so much helpful and increased my anxiety somewhat, yet their sense of pride in their achievement was heartwarming.

3. I am most definitely not a perfectionist in this department! It was a case of just get the job done.

4. Having said that, it felt good to be active, achieving something and being productive.

5. I realised afterwards that my mind did not wander into negative thought streams once (well only wishing the 2 year old would remove his hand from the paint tin). It was a good distraction and a reminder that keeping busy helps me keep my low mood at bay.

6. Now that it is done I'm feeling inspired to continue with completing tasks that I have had little motivation to do previously.

So I'm currently looking at the living room wall that now has several wall paper samples adorning it. My creative spirit has been awakened and I'm feeling excited to be making some changes. I'm not however, feeling brave enough to tackle wallpaper myself but I am pondering what room I can unleash some paint on this weekend! I'm glad this glimpse of good weather forced me into action, as although I approached the task with resistance and negativity I have been left with positivity and inspiration. Just need to find someone else with the skills to get that wallpaper on!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Bend and not break.

Does anyone remember Camberwick Green? It wasn't that long ago so I don't think I'm showing my inner dinosaurus but I will always be happy to be corrected. Anyway, for those who don't know it, due to being shiny and not craggy, or for those who grew up miles away from the isles, it was a British TV children's show that aired in the 70's. Looking back, the beginning and ending of each episode was perhaps slightly creepy in its slow, pronounced tone combined with scary clown puppet, but I found it utterly magical as a child. It began with a little music box which would turn and open and out would come the character whose story was to be told that day...

"Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play, but this box can hide a secret inside, can you guess what's in it today?"

It was this that came to my mind's eye when some very useful comments on the blogspot reminded us that our experiences of depression are not the same. This is a huge benefit to us all. If we were experiencing the same anxieties, confusions, lethargies, anger, energy extremes or rewinds, blackness or blinding lights, numbness or searingly sensitive feelings (to name just a few) then we might be herded up like Daleks and fired from the galaxy.

We are different in our depressions and this is a fantastic thing. I struggle with anxiety but I didn't have a clue...I only stumbled over it through Moodscope. I thought I was 'just' depressed and that it came in a singular lump of a package. My deep-seated, gnawing, clawing, grumble of anger only wore a badge once I heard others talking of their anxiety. Being a high-feeling kind of a person, I wanted to kiss these people on the cheek (whether they wished for my slobbering or not!) such was my relief at understanding myself a little more. Now I know, I have started to size it up, try loving it, try being disciplined with it, try killing it with kindness and batting my (twitching) eyelashes at it in the hope it might give me an afternoon off now and again.

My point is this. Moodscope is, for me, my beautiful, magical, musical box. Each time I receive my email is like an opening sequence on Camberwick Green. Who will I meet today?  What will I learn from them? Who can I stick out my hand for and help cross the stream? We are not Daleks and neither is life as simple as Camberwick Green, but we can learn to bend and not break when we share.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

An adjustment technique for sceptical bodies.

I love the Affirmations A-Z post by Lex. It is great to see and express the reality of who we really are." I am..." is a very powerful statement.

At first I cringed away from the mirror and could not keep eye-contact with myself while stating that "I am beautiful... ". Gradually it got better and after a month I could do it with just a little bit of irony shining out from the depths of my eyes.

But it was a painful process to my body saying all those lovely things. It protested loudly. So I was very relieved when I recently learnt that there is another way of tackling affirmations.

Say/write your affirmation. Ask your body if it agrees with the statement and sense the response. If it agrees, fine - carry on to strengthen your body's awareness of how wonderful you are. If it does not totally agree - ask what ever higher power you believe in (your higher self, angels...) to adjust that bit in your body that doesn't agree so that the conflict will disappear (immediately or over time).

For me this technique removes a lot of the stress of making affirmations. I really enjoy it when my body totally agrees. I celebrate my progress. And when it doesn't agree I appeal to my angels to remove the obstacle from my spine and as they do this I feel a sense of calm and satisfaction pour over me. I believe this is called healing.

So here I am sharing this soothing ritual with you all. An extra tip is to say the affirmations while focusing on your body chakra by chakra and that way learn where the blockages are. It is funny when some chakras agree that I love myself completely and some not. My aim is to reach a state when all my chakras agree that I love myself, always.

Actually using this affirmation-adjustment-technique I can get there every day!

Love to us all,

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Evil of Emails.

Oh, there has been a sad falling out my family; a deep and painful rift between two people who have loved each other and been very close for more than forty years.

Now, I'm not going to give details because it wouldn't be fair; and thank goodness that rift is on a fair way to being mended, but there is a very definite culprit here: the email.

There is a formality to writing a letter which leads to a more measured expression of our sentiments. With a telephone call, there is the tone of voice to add expression to our words. In face to face communication we have body language and eye contact as well; all of which help the communication process.

But we tend to just dash off that email and push the send button without properly thinking through how it might be taken by the recipient.

So when there is a lack of sensitivity on one side and an excess of sensibility on the other, it's a recipe for misunderstanding, hurt feelings and a decision never to talk to the other person ever again (or at least until next Thursday week, anyway!)

I'm sure we have all heard (and possibly used) the expression "Sticks and Stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me!" And most of us would admit that it's not true, because words can hurt far more deeply than physical wounds.

The email can be a pretty blunt instrument.

So my encouragement is to pick up that phone whenever possible and actually make voice contact. If you work in an office with someone, why not walk over to their desk? If you want to send a thank you note, then write a card and expend some pennies on an actual stamp, so that the card will be delivered by a uniformed servant of the Queen: it will mean so much more.

And seeing an actual smile on someone's face is worth a thousand smilies. ☺

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How Can You Prove You Are Not a Robot?

When posting comments to blogs, I am often challenged (by a robot) thus, "Prove You Are Not A Robot!"

Recognising numbers in a photo and then typing them in doesn't convince me that this is 'proof' I'm not a robot. I bet there are robots that can do that.

The deeper question is, "What does it take to prove you're 'Human'?" As a student of biology, I know there are seven signs of life: movement, nutrition, reproduction, excretion, growth, respiration and sensitivity... but, once again, I think a robot could engage in a form of all seven. Being human is something way beyond being 'alive'.

I think it is spirit or emotion that causes us to be truly 'human'. And not just any old emotion. 'Man's inhumanity to Man' seems based around emotion - pride, envy, jealousy, malice, bitterness...so perhaps they are not the characteristics of being fully human.

I'm going to place my vote on the good emotions:


The Apostle, Paul, called these 'the Fruit of the Spirit' - something I find fascinating since they are very much emotions with corresponding actions. We say, "That's the spirit!" when someone has the right attitude, so perhaps emotions are spiritual? All fruit begins with a flower and pollination - perhaps stretching the metaphor too far - but this fruit doesn't just happen - it is nurtured to fruition by our thinking. As you think in your heart, so you are! And out of your heart flows whatever is fulminating in your heart!

Whatever we think, the nine segments in Paul's list make a wonderful 'Handbook for Being Human' don't they? I can sense-check my progress each day and the quality of every decision by asking, "Is this the loving thing to do or say?" "Does this bring joy?" "Is this the way of peace?" – and you can fill in the rest.

Staying 'spiritual' it is said that in the Divine Presence is fullness of Joy. So a step out of joy is a step away and out of the divine. So is a step out of love. I don't think you need a spiritual mindset to benefit from this – you can just stay with emotions.

However, for me, being spiritual is always a bit nebulous. These emotional actions are not nebulous – they can be recognised in a yes/no state or as in an on/off condition. Am I being gentle? The answer is 'yes' or 'no'... not often 'maybe'. But even 'maybe' gives me something to work with.

A Moodscope member.

Want to work on your humanity today? Measure your day by the nine!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Taking care to care.

In Moodscope, while we are a very caring and compassionate community, we sometimes see the 'result' of someone feeling stressed or simply uncomfortable by something someone said in their blog or even in a comment.

And with so many people on Moodscope who can be challenged by our own lives, on a daily basis, how do we attempt to reduce such occurrences? Especially when many of those who write or even comment, already feel they are taking a risk by writing!

So I offer the following...

We all know how to care. To care for and about others is part of our nature. Yet how we express our care can add more stress to our lives when we confuse care with empathy or sympathy. This becomes clearer when we look at the meaning behind these two words.

Empathy, as defined in one dictionary, is the 'intellectual (IQ) identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another'. And, sympathy (EQ) is defined as 'sharing the feelings of another especially in sorrow or trouble'. Emotional over-identity with another or lack of our own emotional management or even awareness, can turn our care into someone else's stressful feelings of anxiety, anger or worry and eventually drain our energy.

The more physiological balanced state would probably be compassionate care.

What we mean here, comes from the origins of the word compassion: To 'be present' or with or together with another with feeling and not to simply mirror or 'wear' the other's pain or trouble or negative attitude or feeling.

Compassion slows down the drain on our energy stores and releases some of the stress that can come from over-attachment and over-identity. The positive effect of compassion creates more inner balance and is accompanied by peaceful feelings of care, benevolence, tenderness and kindness.

Next time you want to express your care on Moodscope or in life, do an internal check first: Is your care, stress reducing or stress producing?

Whether or not you know why you're feeling stressed or disturbed, take a few slow heart-focused breaths (breathe from your heart) to disengage from any discomfort or stressful feeling. Thus become settled and balanced. Then, and only then, recall and activate a sincere feeling or attitude of compassion or care.

Watch what emerges now and note any differences for future exploration.

Take care of your care.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow.

They say that one of the definitions of middle age is that you still think that you will feel better tomorrow.

While watching the film Annie this afternoon with my husband and children this struck me with particular force, both in the short term and long term.

The sun'll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there'll be sun
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow till' there's none

When I'm stuck in the day that's grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say oh

The sun'll come out tomorrow
So you got to hang on
till' tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You're always a day away!

It rings bells for me in the short term as I have had for the past four days now some 'flu like virus that makes me ache all over, and feel utterly exhausted. Each night, downing my painkillers and lemon tea, I am convinced I will feel better tomorrow. Each morning, waking up to more pain, I resolve to give it another twenty four hours (and yes, folks, the GP will now get a call tomorrow even if I'm convinced her counsel will be "Take aspirin and fluids and ride it out").

For the long term, my advice to myself and to others going through depression is "hold on" it does get better – eventually – honest.

But, being strictly honest, it's not always, or often, tomorrow; or even next week. The sun will come out again maybe next month, or next season, or next year.

So until it does come out again, hold on; subject yourself to feel-good films like Annie (for me personally, anything with the toothily charming, but always ne'er-do-well, Tim Curry is wonderful) and if it feels more like a "Hard Knock Life" than "Easy Street", you can probably still raise a rueful grin at the idea that "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile."

And, you never know, the sun may indeed come out tomorrow. Let's hope it does.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

There's a hole in my sidewalk.

In a counselling session I had, I was given "There's a hole in my sidewalk", by Portia Nelson, and was asked to consider where I was on the journey. If you are not familiar with this work the basic outline is that there is a hole in the road. At first you don't see it so fall in, then you fall in because you pretend you can't see it, followed by falling in because it's a habit. The next step is to walk around it and finally, the last stage is taking a new road.

The hole in the road, to me, represents a particular problem in my life. It's been there for many years so I know this hole very well indeed. I have been down in that hole for a very long time. Occasionally getting out, but ultimately making it my home.

After finally finding the courage to walk away from the hole I am taking steps to leave it behind for good. It's not easy, and often find myself turning back to have a little look at it...sometimes I go close enough to take a look down it. That's usually when I am forgetting what it was really like down there and wondering if perhaps it might be a comfy place after all. I tell myself, maybe it will look and feel a bit different this time. Maybe it could be what I want it to be. So I admit, it can be tempting to put a foot in there...just to see. But then I remember, I can't just put a foot in as I would fall and be back in the hole. I have done this step many times before, and each time reality hits that the hole will never change, it is what it is. And I don't like it.

So now when I go to look at the hole I pour a bit of cement in, to close it up. It's not quite full yet, and what's in hasn't set but I'm working on it. Maybe when it is fully filled I might build a skyscraper on top, just to ensure I don't start trying to dig away at it! But I am certain, it will be filled in, I will not allow myself to go there again. So the journey I am on right now is hard work, it's challenging, it's bumpy...but I'm determined to make it. If I don't, I know that ultimately I will have made a choice to be unhappy. I know there's no guarantees what the different road will bring but at least I will have given myself the opportunity to find out. And after writing this, I have just added another layer of cement and taken a step closer to achieving my goal.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Affirmations A-Z.

If "I love you" are the three most important words in the Universe, "I Am..." are the two most important words for getting my attention.

What happens next will often define a person and dictate their future.
"Surely not!" you declare!
"Surely so!" I declare back at yah!!

You see, our brains just can't cope with everything that matters 'out there' so they have to make editorial decisions about what to leave out.

Psychologists call it 'deletion', 'distortion' and 'generalisation' – the ways we simplify our reality.

Well, your inner editor needs a style-guide, and that, my dear friends, is what comes after your 'I Am...' statements.

So, if you decree, "I am crap at maths!" Your brain, your faithful servant, will diligently edit all your experience to verify that it is indeed true that you are crap at maths!

I'm not a fan of my inner critic but this is one area where it can help – to put a watch on my mouth to make sure I release only positive 'I Am...' declarations on my own record label!

Of course, it is much better for you to choose your own declarations and affirmations, but if you're strapped for time, here are some of my favourite A to Z of Affirmations.
Use them as a catalyst but remember, "You can go your own way..."

I am artistic and articulate
I am bold and I am beautiful
I am creative and courageous
I am dynamic and diligent
I am enthusiastic and engaging
I am fun to be around and I am faithful
I am good and I am gentle
I am happy and I am hopeful
I am imaginative and intuitive
I am joyful and non-judgmental
I am kind, and I am Kami waza (dare you to look that one up!)
I am loving and I am loyal
I am me… that's all I need to be to be free
I am natural – always true to myself, I am noble
I am open-minded and I am open-hearted
I am peaceful & a peacemaker, I am patient
I am quiet, I am quick to forgive
I am reflective, I am radiant
I am sensitive to the needs of others, I am sexy
I am trusting and I am trustworthy
I am unique and I am unusual
I am vivacious, I am vibrant
I am worthy, I am wealthy, I am welcoming
I am X-marks-the-spot – a treasure sometimes hidden
I am youthful and young-at-heart
I am zealous and I am zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... asleep!

To say my partner laughed when I shared these with her, would be an understatement.
I had to explain that these were predictions of my future, not scientific descriptions of my present!

Honestly, some people!

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cubism and sensitivity.

Yes, I know, I'm all about the "highly sensitive souls" but please, indulge me here for a few posts about very sensitive people. I need to purge these from my own sensitive soul and then, I promise, I'll not harp on about the personality trait, HSP, again.

Despite having known for quite some years that I'm very sensitive and despite the fact that I keep a blog site with the words "sensitive souls" in the title, I've only just these past few months read properly Elaine Aron's book entitled, Highly Sensitive People.

It has validated a lot that I've always 'felt' (for starters, it's no wonder my posts are often all about the feelings), but it has enlightened me on a whole lot more besides.

For now though: What exactly is it to be a highly sensitive person? Here's what it is to me:

I recently read an incredible article explaining why the camera could never, nor will ever, be a match for the wondrous design of the eye. In brief, Danny Gregory expresses with clarity that, "a camera sees only from a one-point, locked perspective that creates a single image of a specific vantage point...," as opposed to the human eyes which "constantly move about...Our impression of what we're looking at is actually lots of different perspectives all blending into one undulating picture".

In articulating all of this Danny explained what the Cubism movement was all about and it was this that gripped me. I've re-read it again and again:

"Amazingly our brains take all this information and instantaneously create a sense of what we 'see'. It's not a single picture but lots of different impressions that are all blended together. (That's what the Cubists were getting at, trying to record all those different angles and perspectives into a single painting to simulate the way that we see. They were trying to show the distinction between how humans see and what the camera was introducing. People think of Cubism as abstract art but it actually was an attempt to be even more accurate about literally how we see the world.)"

It hit me in the night why I found this cerebration so poignant. For me, it explains perfectly how it is to feel highly sensitive. In the same way that the Cubists were trying emulate how the eye sees in comparison with the camera, so too the very sensitive soul feels/sees everything as if in 3D; the length, width, height, depth.

I leave the house and I see, feel, hear, absorb everything. The cornices, design, era of every building I pass; the character of people by observing their gardens, wheelie bins or recycling boxes; I see pigeons swooping down invisible hills in the sky; aircraft flying overhead; I hear a police siren getting closer; I feel the moods of people that pass me by; the skinny cat from down the road - 'is it cared for?'; I smell freshly mowed grass; I could go on and on and on here.

I've always seen this as a positive trait: observant. For the first time in my life, however, I grasp why walking into a room full of people, people I may know well and love, can be totally overwhelming. It's a stimulus too much. It's overpowering and often something has to give: I'll turn on my heels and head back for the door, or, hide in the loo until I feel I can make another attempt at joining the throng.

It puts me in mind of watching a film in which someone is losing consciousness. As he or she is fading, things become exaggerated to him/her. The music seems distorted, the person talking to him/her become a kind of grotesque, wide-mouthed creature, talking too much and standing too close.

This personality trait makes no one any better, or indeed, any weaker than anybody else. And, as with any trait, there will be varying shades of it. Once again though, doesn't it go to show how learning about ourselves can be helpful, comforting (I'm not 'a mess', my senses are just more quickly aroused), and can assist us to become more successful in handling daily life?

Sensitive and successful? A post from me soonly.

A Moodscope member. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Life is a road trip.

I came across the road analogy on Facebook.

The different roads we take may lead us to a busy highway, a lovely beautiful country lane, a frightening dark alleyway, or even a foreign land where we need a map.

We may encounter multi-lane roundabouts, one-way streets, pot holes or even breakdowns.

Are we driving or is there someone else at the wheel?

Are we navigating?

Are we in our car by ourself or with our partner? Is our car filled with kids?

Is it well-maintained?

Have we run out of petrol?

Do we need to invest in an upgraded car which is more reliable and easier to maintain?

Do we need to take out a loan? Do we need to wait, plan and save for our dream car?

Do we rush out and get the flashiest car in the lot and take out a costly, high-interest financial plan?

My perfect vehicle would be a brand new, customised VW Van/Bus! It would be painted with my (and my husband and kid's) favourite artists designs, and their colourful art. It would have state-of-the-art fuel economy, sustainability and be environmentally friendly. Leather seats. A sound and entertainment system. GPS. Internet. A cosy 'snug' for reading and writing. Comfy beds. The ability to fly! Space for all. Picnic sets. Outdoor furniture. Cashmere throws. Cushions. Funky furniture. Bikes or a small car to pop in to town with. Maybe even a driver! :-)

I love dreaming. It is so much fun.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Try and connect with someone every day.

Some people are and some are not, I am NOT a morning person. However back at the end of July my 19 year old son got himself a job in our nearest big city, which because of the logistics of living in a rural community in the UK meant I had to get up at 6.15am and drive the 5 miles for him to catch a bus.

Every morning when I do this I swear to myself that I will take him down then come straight home and go back to bed. Every morning my little personal trainer, who is black and tan, answers to the name of Ember and is a bitza (a mongrel) persuades me to put her in the car and take her as well. On the way home we stop off in the park in the town and she has her morning run. The park is a gift from a Victorian altruist and whilst half of it is laid out to formal gardens, half of it is a massive open green space surrounded by a path and a belt of trees around the edge.

Ember and I walk round the edge, Ember chasing her ball most of the time, occasionally being distracted by the glimpse of a squirrel in the trees which she is convinced she can catch.

As we have been doing this for a while now we have started to recognise some of the other early park users. There is the builder with his springer spaniels who always has a little chat. There is the lady with the puppy cocker spaniel who Ember loves to play with and there is the woman with her three Labradors who we have to give a wide berth to as they play rough and knock Ember off her feet.

Then there is the old chap who sits on the bench and does the crossword in his paper. He never speaks, even though I always say hello, but he smiles when he sees Ember trying to figure out how to climb a tree after a squirrel and I like to think that in some small way I have made his day just a little bit less lonely and maybe given him his first smile of the day.

My walk is more of an amble, sometimes the other park users lap me as we go around, but it gets me out of the house for a while and in contact with other people. This lifts me just a little bit to be able to face the world for another day and maybe Ember and I have touched the other park users as well and given their day a little boost.

Now, I would not advise that you start your day at 6.15 with a walk in the park, but I would recommend that you try and get out and connect with someone everyday, even if its just to say hello to someone you pass by. It may give you a lift and you never know what it will do to that other person, as the old poem goes:-.

Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu, 

When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too. 

I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled I realized I'd passed it on to him. 

I thought about that smile, then I realized its worth.
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected.
Let's start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Power of Emotion.

Building on Mary's blog on Wednesday - I hope the following serves you further.

An emotion can be viewed as energy in motion; a neutral energy that adds power to our thoughts. For example, add emotional energy to a frustrating thought and we can quickly feel anger. On the other hand, add emotional energy to a kind thought of someone and we can experience a feeling of compassion.

It's often difficult to get a grip on our emotions because they happen so fast. Scientists have repeatedly confirmed that our emotional reactions show up in brain activity before we even have time to think. We evaluate everything emotionally as we perceive it. We think about it afterward.

What Mary showed on Wednesday, was that in depression our mind has really shut down to almost all emotions and yet they still register and we can actually almost belatedly release them as our mind begins to clear. A bit like opening the sluice on a dam - so keep giving to those who at present can't 'receive' - it may shorten their darkness.

Scientists used to believe that emotions are produced only in the brain. However, sophisticated instruments now show that emotions are the product of an ongoing dialogue between the brain and the body; a combination of feeling sensations, associated mental thoughts and biochemical reactions that shape our emotional experience, in gradations from very pleasant to very painful.

Crucially, emotions trigger many changes in our bodies. For instance every time we shift an emotion, approximately 1400 biochemical changes take place.

Psychologists categorize some emotions like love, compassion, appreciation, care and joy as "positive" and others like anger, anxiety, hate, jealousy and sadness as "negative". We can easily tell the difference between positive and negative emotions in our body. Worry may cause muscle tension; anxiety may agitate the stomach. By contrast, love, appreciation, compassion and kindness may calm us, allowing the body’s communication systems to flow with greater harmony and efficiency.

This is not to say that some emotions are bad. And we are not suggesting we should repress our emotions and not ever feel sad or frustrated. All of our emotions play an important part in how we experience life. They are like the colours on an artist’s palette that we use to paint our picture of life. And, while emotions are often reactions to life’s events, it is important to understand that they are mostly choices as well.

When we become more aware of which emotions diminish the quality of our lives and which ones enhance our lives we can take greater control and effectively utilise their amazing power.

Self awareness - leading to self control, is often the true key to the door to happiness.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Moments of Joy (Bring Me Flowers).

None of us can be happy all the time. In fact, we would probably drive everyone else crazy if we were – and it would be wrong, because the correct response to some life events is grief, or sadness or anger or frustration.

The thing about depression is that it supresses all feelings and emotion. When suffering from a bout of depression very often we can't feel joy or grief, anger, sadness, happiness. Well, at least I can't; everything retreats behind a six foot thick wall of dirty grey glass. I can know I should be feeling something, but at the most there is just a vague despair.

But even in that place (literally sitting on the sofa, shaking, all day) it might be possible to take some sensible decisions, based on the intellectual analysis of what makes us happy.

Turns out (unsurprisingly) that it's not the big things that make us happy. It's not a new car or a big cheque, although I'm sure we would all like to try those out,  just for purely scientific experimental purposes, you understand; it's the little things.

I remember buying my very first car. When I went to pick it up what made me happy was not the car itself, but the big bunch of flowers the sales team had placed in the back seat. Well, to be honest, it's not that easy to get excited about a third hand Ford Fiesta in Beige now, is it?

A recent study by the Chicago Journal of Consumer Research of things that make us happy include sunshine, clean sheets, and conversation with family and friends. Like many studies before it concludes that happiness lies in experiences rather than possessions, but it also shows that, especially as we get older, it is ordinary experiences that contribute most to that happiness.

So, even when we are depressed and cannot feel anything, it makes sense to subject ourselves to "happy" experiences. Hopefully it's like putting money into the bank which we can draw on later.

What I remember most from my most recent bout of depression (apart from the days and days on the sofa), were moments when I dragged myself outside and sat in the sunshine, when a friend came round and brought me flowers (and put them in a vase for me too), when my twelve year old daughter would give me a gentle hug. I remember too the lovely comments from Moodscope readers as I wrote my way through that bad patch.

At the time those things happened I was numb and couldn't feel anything, but now I'm better, I'm incredibly grateful for them, they shine out in my memory like sunlit flowers (see, flowers again) in the midst of that marsh or swamp of despair.

Go on, ask a friend to bring you some flowers; you'll be glad you did. Well, unless you have an allergy to pollen, of course.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Vacant or engaged?

I've always been quite attracted to the old fashioned sign on the locks of toilet doors.  Vacant. Engaged. Straightforward. It seems nowadays they are few and far between. (Nowadays? Did I just say Nowadays? When did I grow up? Jeez, I've just insulted myself!)

Lately, it seems toilet door locks are plastic or metal and have a colour strip to show whether someone is in or not. Or, all too often, nothing at all. I like the old ones.  Even better if accompanied by a reassuring, turning handle and the smell of Jeyes fluid.  I digress...toilets are not the purpose of my nattering today you will be relieved to know.

I am generally vacant...I have hidden my low from almost everyone in my life. Mainly, that is what holds me together. Perhaps some suspect but they do not ask. The task of becoming engaged seems all too demanding, too big, too humiliating to voluntarily throw myself into the arena. To have to explain and then feel attitudes change, or feel bad refusing offers of help that are not helpful, or politely accept offers of help that are not helpful, feels like a wall I have no ladder for.

I trusted a friend a few years ago and she knows, she understands, but we talk little of it. She too has lows but hers can be defined, and improve with treatment and then she moves on. She was the first person to make me feel normal. She engaged with me, I engaged back. We share a similar sense of humour (the text that says "omg, just realised my trousers are on inside out and I'm in public, what will I do?" has us both doubled up). We talk of our lows little, nigh on never, and yet there is comfort in knowing that there is a shared understanding should it be needed.

When I have been very low recently, I thought I could not hold on to my secret any longer.  I thought I would burst with the effort of making myself appear me. I did not burst. The worst passed. And now I ponder a little longer whether to remain vacant or become engaged with those around me.

One thing I am sure of is that engaging here, with you all, is helpful. You are here, silently, standing in the same toilet queue as I am, and I know if my cubicle has no toilet paper left to soak up my tears, that one of you will chuck me your roll. As I will chuck you mine.

And that, my friends, concludes all the toilet chat for today. May your visits be little uncomplicated oases in otherwise complicated days.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 8 September 2014


I have been having regular counselling sessions for the past five months whilst I have been going through a separation from my husband after an 18 year relationship. My weekly counselling sessions normally see me leave with something to do at home. Whether it's a task, something to read or listen to. I have tried most things that I have been given and some have worked for me more than others. I know the ones that have worked because they are the ones that I am drawn back to time and again. My two favourites that keep me going are:

Journal keeping: I started to keep a journal a couple of months ago and find this useful for a number of reasons. It's an outlet where I can write down my thoughts and this seems to stop them going round and round in my head. I can look back over what I have written and this helps me to track my moods, recognise progress and patterns. Writing is also something I personally enjoy and I am finding that it has ignited a renewed enthusiasm for a passion, which in turn is helping me to feel happier about myself as I am experiencing excitement, for the first time in a long time.

Affirmations: I have developed a love of collecting positive affirmations that help keep me focused on my goals, keep me feeling positive, help to give me strength and hope. I enjoy searching for inspirational quotes that I can call upon when I am feeling low or anxious or questioning myself. They also provide clues as to where I am in my journey which is a good way for me to assess where I am at, how I am feeling etc. My current favourite is "you are confined only by the walls you build yourself". This reminds me that I am in control.

What strategies are working for you?

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Feral Pumpkins.

I'm not the gardener in our house. It is my husband who pores over plant catalogues, hijacks the kitchen table with his seed trays and compost, who tenderly pricks out, pots on and hardens off. He can prune a fruit tree with scientific exactitude and has an enviable success rate with cuttings. I limit my gardening activities to a little gentle weeding, some desultory dead-heading and much lazy reading in the hammock.

My husband has a perennial problem, however. We spend every August by the sea, a hundred miles away from his beloved garden and each year he agonises over just when to plant out the tomatoes, the sweetcorn, the courgettes and cucumbers so that they come into harvest at the beginning of September rather than the beginning of August.

Every year, when we return from the coast, he barely takes the time to put down the bags before he marches the whole family out on a tour of the garden so we can rejoice in his successes and sympathise with his failures.

It rarely works of course. Vegetables seem to be hardwired to fruit in August or else to produce small and wizened offerings destined never to ripen in the weak September sun.
This year was no different. In place of tender courgettes, three great marrows hulked under huge leaves, their hides like camouflage patterned Kevlar; the tomatoes bore many tiny yellow stars, but only a handful of hard green asteroids within a black hole in the centre of the plants. The sweetcorn had grown high and promising but the cobs themselves were sadly undersized. And the slugs had eaten the cucumbers.

But something else had grown. Where our homemade compost had been dug in to prepare a bed for a planned "architectural planting" (a bush), a couple of pumpkin plants had erupted with vigour, rampaging across the lawn and cascading voluptuous leaves and saffron flowers over the gravel drive. Within the leaves, several fat and swelling fruits lolled bumptiously at their ease.

We have no idea what kind of pumpkin or squash these are. We didn't plant them; they came by themselves, but we are enjoying them hugely and look forward to harvesting them come October.

My husband won't give up on the other veg, of course. The tomatoes and sweetcorn obviously need to go out earlier, courgettes later and the cucumbers defended from slugs. While he hasn't said as much, it must be galling for him to realise that his best harvest will be entirely unintentional. But then, a lot of life is like that; and it's best to just enjoy these serendipitous successes.

In the meantime, has anyone got any recipes for marrow?

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Slog on!

"Just Do It" (as in the Nike slogan) may not be the most sensitive of advice to receive, but I found it often worked for me.

Since changing life circumstances (new job after too many years, clutch of children now virtually adult) I haven't suffered depression since my fiftieth birthday. But the previous fifteen years were an unpleasant revelation of "the flip side" of what it feels like being human.

I sometimes now wonder if I had it particularly bad. Who will ever know. It felt awful.  And what's more real than a feeling? I've met others since who take steps to shut it all down. Lucky perhaps, I never did. I did learn loads about me during that hard time though, all of it bad, but I'm kinder in my interpretation with hindsight. My best friend had just suddenly died; we were swamped with three very active babies; I was in something of a rut at work; and I wasn't very good at sacrificing my time, my sleep, my health, my pursuits, when I couldn't discern the reward I'd expected most new parents to feel.

So, among other avenues, I just slogged on. A hundredweight of plums needed de-stoning, I slogged on. The garden soak away needed rebuilding I slogged on. Another twenty nappies needed shovelling out to the bin, I slogged on. I didn't feel smugness or achievement or 'having won', but it filled the day, was unequivocally needed, and could get crossed off that interminable domestic list! Sometimes it brought us together as a couple (which was good); sometimes it gave the essential space to keep us apart (also good!). It provided an air of normality, helped me feel less conspicuous, gave me something to talk of if ever I met someone: always a challenge. And the exertion, or the therapeutic undemanding repetition, was good for the 'head chemistry'.

Was there an alternative? Oh yes. Some days I sat inert, staring nowhere in particular. A few I cowered in bed. Very many I couldn't see the gap between my likes and hates.  And, for myself, I still can't tell if I do best with carrot or stick. So mix them up a bit.

Ours is not to (over) reason why. As the mother of the dead friend said, "the human spirit is remarkably elastic". So, sometimes, just slog on. You may come back to recognising the real you.

A Moodscope user.

Friday, 5 September 2014

It's all about balance.

It's all about balance. This is a phrase I hear myself saying often. Very often. But if I've learnt nothing else in my 33 years, I have learnt that life is a juggling act of which balance is key.

We don't like change, but we don't want to be stuck in a rut. We need to get out and meet people, socialise, but we also need to find time for our own thoughts, to meditate. We need a healthy diet but we all need a least a little treat every now and again! We definitely need good quality sleep but we like to get the most out of each day.

So how do we get the right balance? How do we look after ourselves and those we care for, without someone or something slipping through the cracks? And how do we make sure that the needs of our physical and mental health are both met?

Short answer, I don't know. I am still trying (desperately) to figure it out. I suspect most people are. But I suppose we have to keep trying to balance the scales, put a little on the "want" side and take a little off the "need" side. And vice versa of course.

And we need to accept that some days the scales will tilt more one way than the other. Sometimes in a good way but perhaps too often in a bad way. We won't always get those scales level. We just have to keep trying to get that equilibrium, to get on that even keel. Because after all, life is all about balance.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

How at Sea are We?

Just as I would like to be,
In a 'boat' and all at sea.
Free to move in any way,
On my own and free this day.

To flow with life,
Yet deal with strife,
To live in the now,
And laugh with life.
To love what is,
And freely go,
Through my trials,
And yet to know.
That it is me,
I have to find,
To love myself,
And be so kind.

As when we do,
Find that 'me',
We can still be, 
In a 'boat' at sea.
'Cause then we've found,
That peace inside,
That allows us to,
Turn the tide.

When I'm down,
And the skies are black,
I cannot see,
Across the sea.
I'm not in a boat,
Floating on top,
I'm swimming then,
I cannot stop.
Drifting and drowning,
With no support,
Going under,
No ship no port.

We find our harbour,
To take a rest,
We find some comfort,
A warm safe nest.
Where we learn some more,
Of who we are,
And sit and gaze,
Up to the stars,
To understand,
What makes us tick,
To move away,
From what makes us sick.

So when we leave our harbour again,
We've learned to change a part of 'me'.
To go much deeper into self,
And thus go further out to sea.

I can set the sails,
In my wee boat,
To go to where,
Is more remote.
To find new lands,
To live anew,
To live my life,
And join the few,
Who can withstand,
This troubled land,
And move towards,
Those shaking hands.
The sign of hope,
And honesty,
That will in life,
Then save the day.

A Moodscope member.