Friday, 31 October 2014

Decluttering the mind.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about being inspired after painting the playhouse. It's half term this week so I thought it would be a fabulous time to sort out the kids rooms. So day 1 and off we set to Ikea to purchase storage furniture! Loaded at the till, 3 hours later, with me, two full trollies, a 7 year old, a 5 year old and a 2 year old, the lady in front looked at me sympathetically and said "you look like you have your hands full, you are very brave". That was the easy part!

Furniture put together, I looked around the rooms surrounded by chaos and clutter I realised that it was an accurate reflection of my journey at the moment. My mind has been rammed full of clutter for so long and right now I have uploaded it and am working through the mess bit by bit. I have got to that point where so much has been unpacked, that the task ahead looks too daunting and all I want to do is ram it all back in and shut the lid again and pretend I'd never started. Really, it's just too late for that, because no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn't all fit back in. So the only way forward is to continue sorting through the mess, one step at a time, discarding what is not required and putting the remainder back in a place where it deserves to be.

Hopefully, like the bedrooms that are transforming, I will emerge in a better state! Already I am seeing positives from clearing the mind. The trip to Ikea would previously have filled me with dread. Yet this time I was able to reply to the sympathetic lady that it had actually been a pleasure spending 3 hours shopping, with three beautifully behaved children. Such a small thing but looking at my children, in that moment, with everything they are going through, my heart filled with pride.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The window.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One was allowed to sit up in his bed each afternoon to help drain fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

They talked for hours. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by
describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The other man began to live, for those short periods, where his world would be broadened and enlivened by the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and the city skyline was seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described this in exquisite detail, the other man would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One afternoon the man by the window described a passing parade.
Although the other man couldn't hear the band - he could see it, in his mind's eye. Days and weeks passed.
One morning, the nurse arrived only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making him comfortable, she left.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the wonderful world outside.

Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man later asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."


There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

Today is a gift, that's why it is called 'the present'.

How accepting of today's gift are you?

Who can you help today?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Did your Mother Give You Depression?

Oh children, children; let me count the ways I embarrass thee...

I sing too loudly in church; I scuffle through the fallen leaves (when people can see); I dance in the kitchen to the radio; I kiss your father in front of you; I ride a 1957 Raleigh bike that should be in a museum; I turn up at the school gate in brightly coloured clothing and then talk to your teachers on equal terms because I am quite as well educated as they...

Oh yes, I know I am excruciatingly embarrassing for you and I fully intend to ask your future psychotherapists for commission.

Embarrassing our children is part of the job description of being a parent and, if you're like me, you enjoy every minute of it (evil chuckle)!

But what about depressing our children?

I'm not talking about when they've reached the age of reason (my kids now just accept that there are times when Mummy is "poorly" and can't do anything much and they now join Daddy in looking after me; and very salutary it is for me too!) but about when they were tiny babies?

Tim Lott in the Guardian postulates that his own depression may have been caused, in part, by the post natal depression experienced by his mother. I'm sure PND doesn't contribute positively to the development of baby; and in fact the friend who sent me the article now wonders if her own experiences in life were affected by the PND her mother experienced.

But, you know what: does a witch hunt or archaeological investigation really help matters now?

In my case I'm pretty sure my father was bipolar and schizophrenic (he committed suicide when I was four, so I can't know for sure), but knowing that doesn't get me much further with my own health.

What does contribute to my life is manning up (or womanning up in my case), accepting responsibility for my own well-being and 1) learning all I can about the condition 2) doing all I can to mitigate and manage that condition and 3) educate and help others in my position if I can.

Yes, PND is a dreadful thing (and if you're going through it now you have my complete sympathy) but please don't worry about passing it onto your child – and don't waste time wondering if the PND suffered by your own mother is a contributing factor in your own depression.

We are who and what we are right now and we need to go forward; looking back can cause even more anxiety and guilt. Do you really want more of that stuff in your life?
I certainly don't. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some piles of leaves to scuffle through and a kitchen dance routine to choreograph.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

It is well with my soul.

I stumble. I stumble really well. As a trained classical ballet dancer/teacher I tell friends I can dance - I just cannot walk well. I continue to stumble.

Estrangements within families are particularly troubling and seem to carry the message that we are somehow lacking in our own spirits. When this involves our children, we can be devastated.

For me, it is as though I have failed my higher spirit, my self, and my desires to be the good mother. I am not good enough for dog food. I am trash. I am helpless in my obsessions, the thoughts that go around and around in a spiral, always downward.

Death no longer feels like a cold stranger. Depression inexorably slides into place like an unexpected eclipse.

When this happens I try to find deep inside - a "Grandmother Place" of love, warmth, and enduring hope for myself and all others. Not having had a grandmother, my concept is easy to imagine filled with sparkling good-faerie love and peace.

I meditate and pray for the hard feelings to be removed. Realizing my love for myself must come first, in my own mind I am able to transfer that love to my children and others, no matter the estrangement.

In truth, as long as they are healthy and well, my being a part of their lives is secondary. It is okay. They are growing and finding their way. Perhaps it is well that I step aside for awhile.

Once I truly incorporate this acceptance into my being, the estrangement is over, somehow. The depression lightens and there is hope that we can return ever so gently to our loving nest.

We have no control over other people and, I believe, limited control over ourselves. It is well with my soul.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Burnt out.

Last July, I burnt out. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I could not think. I went to the doctor. He signed me off work for two weeks, then one week, then another two weeks. It was not getting better. Migraines had started. My hands were shaking. Medication was making my mind blurry. At the beginning of August, I met with a counsellor who advised taking at least six months off. I resisted a lot: how could I the high achiever, the perfectionist, resign from a job that so many of my colleagues wanted? I handed in my resignation, which I could barely write. I thought that I was a failure.

In August, I found myself at a sunny place, surrounded by loved ones. They took me to the beach almost every day. They fed me good food. I stopped taking sleeping medication. I went completely off caffeine. I minimised sugar as much as I could. I started writing a gratitude list every day. Then I started writing a list of beautiful things every day. I barely had the energy even to compose a list. At one point, I remembered my counsellor's advice about reading a book entitled Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Dr Mark Williams.

At the start of September, the book arrived. It was an eight week mindfulness programme. I promised myself that I would follow it through. Around that time, I discovered Moodscope and I started recording my mood. I read your posts silently and kept recording each day. I started practicing yoga again. And I followed some of your advice: eating dark chocolate and putting together a treasure box. My concentration levels improved as much as I could watch films again. I started watching children's films: the Wizard of Oz, the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins.

October. My Moodscope scores have been improving. Mindfulness has brought me peace of mind. My migraines are gone. My hands are no longer shaking. I can now read and write with ease. My attention span is good enough. I can now sleep. This is the final week of the mindfulness programme. On Sunday, I am moving countries. A new job, a new house, new people. The other day I watched a TED video of someone giving advice how to come out of a closet. Well, this is me coming out of mine, with tears and a smile while writing this.

May you all be healthy, safe and happy.

With all my love

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Running saved this man's life...

As we know from Mary's blog last week, exercise isn't for everyone, and if you're going through a depressive episode, is not only probably the last thing on your mind, but may feel like a physical impossibility.

For Simon Lamb though, a bipolar sufferer, running saved his life. Hear what he has to say.

Kind regards.

The Moodscope Team.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Changing your mind.

As part of the therapies I have been involved in, the counsellor wanted me to practise mindfulness/meditation to try and calm some of the galloping negative thoughts that get going through my head.

Now I am not good at sitting still doing "nothing" except focussing my thoughts. I think this is because my mother drummed in to me her mantra, "Don't waste time, work it to death" and so even when I'm watching TV I have to be doing something else as well. So between myself and the therapist, we came up with a few mindfulness techniques that I find I can do and I thought it might be helpful to share four of these with you over a few Moodscope blogs, this being the first.

Object mindfulness.

First, as its name suggests, you need to find an object! This can be something in your home, from your garden or from the street, park or fields. It can be animal, vegetable or mineral. It can be something you can hold, or something much bigger.

Start by just looking at the object. Don't touch, just look. Look really closely and stand back and look. Walk round the object and see it from all sides. Look at the colours, shapes, look at the variations of shadow, think about why it looks that way? Is it man made or natural? What forces have acted on it to make it the way it is?

Then touch it. If it is small enough, pick it up. Feel the weight of it. Run your fingers over it. Is it warm or cold? Does it have a rough or smooth surface? can you feel tool marks?

Smell it. Does it have a smell? What does it smell like?

Think about it. Does it have a purpose? How did it become the shape it is, does it fulfil its purpose? If it's organic why is it the shape it is?

Try to totally immerse yourself in the object. If you find your mind starting to wander then draw your thoughts gently back to the object. You may want to set a timer for doing this task or just let yourself come to a natural ending. Up to you.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Connecting with the soul.

Recently I have felt a great need to heal my soul. I have felt as though my soul has been wounded and hurt and that this has caused me sadness and pain. I have never really before considered what my soul actually is. I have previously struggled to fully comprehend it. I am in the process of learning self healing through meditation and I have learnt some fundamental aspects.

I am most definitely an over thinker of life. I'm pretty certain I over think overthinking!! But I have recently learnt something that I have found liberating; I am actually not my thoughts and I am not my mind. I was amazed at this concept. I struggle to not think, I didn't think it was possible to be in a mind state with out any thought. So if I'm not my thoughts, and I'm not my mind, who am I?

Meditation is slowly helping me to connect with who I am. When I close my eyes I shut out the light and this helps me to focus. Concentrating on my breathing enables me to slow down my brain and my mind. My attention begins to focus on my body. I focus on each part of my body, and as I follow the process, my thoughts begin to become fewer. Feeling relaxed and centred I become aware of the sensations in the body, of the energy flowing through me. My body begins to feel lighter until all I'm left with is an awareness of energy.

That energy, I now realise is the essence of my being, that is my soul. And it is a totally freeing awareness because I now realise that, no matter what my struggles, no matter what my thoughts are or what each day brings, I have the ability to close my eyes and connect with myself and to feel the energy within, and I emerge with a renewed gratitude for having the gift to experience life.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

What Will Make Your Heart Sing...?

Sitting alone,
With thoughts on my mind.
Listening to music,
What do I find?

Images and thoughts,
from my past life.
Faces and places,
That can cut like a knife.

Emotions and feelings,
Threaded through all.
Names and faces,
That continuous toll.

We live such rich lives,
As we seek our way,
So many tunes,
That for a time hold sway.

Different songs,
Take our mind back.
Different lyrics,
To write our own track.

The years roll by,
And hearts can cry.
Important decisions,
Do we live or die?

Did you love or leave,
Too early in life?
Have you lost, to grieve,
A boy or a wife?

Or have you grown,
As life opens up?
With courage to shift,
The past to usurp.

Where are you now,
In this thing called life?
It's the direction you're moving,
That brings joy or strife.

What's in your heart,
That needs to be clear.
That's all that'll keep,
Joy from austere.

Open that feeling,
To what's right for you.
Look into your heart,
For what is true.

Then decide to follow,
To the depth of your soul.
Whatever you find,
As you seek your goal.

Forget all else,
In this busyness of life.
Please inscape in you,
Use that emotional knife.

To cut through the crap,
That escaping brings.
You have only one life,
What will make your heart sing?

What thoughts arose when you read the above?

What feelings emerged?

Which line caught your spirit?

Because that was your heart (your intuition) speaking to you.

The question now is - what direction can you move in, to make your heart sing?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's Not You; It's Me (Or Maybe Them)!

I remember writing this time last year about Apple Day, when a group of six local families, with children aged 5 to 15, got together with more apples than you could shake a stick at - or indeed, a whole tree - and chopped, milled and pressed for a whole day to produce an incredible amount of apple juice. Most of this apple juice would, naturally, become cider (and incredibly delicious it was too!)

This year we did it all again, with even more apples, but this blog isn't about the day, or the fun and comradeship or the immense glow of satisfaction we felt (together with blistered hands, aching shoulders and sore feet from standing all day) at our accomplishment. No, this is about something less pleasant.

You see, those among us who do Facebook, had, naturally, posted photos of the day and shared our plans for the apple juice. One of the team (I'll call her Susan) received some negative comments from a so called friend. This friend posted some remarks about the general undesirability of "normalising alcohol" for children.

Well, Ouch!

Now, everyone has their own views on this, ranging from the "They're not touching a drop until they're eighteen!" to the "The French have got it right; it's a part of the meal; just water it down for the youngsters." And nobody likes to be criticised. My friend was, naturally, rather hurt.

But, just hold on for a moment. I polled my own children (12 and 10) about this. Were we "normalising alcohol for them"? I asked - and was met with blank stares. "Where was the alcohol?" asked the youngest, baffled; "It was apple juice!"

"Huh. You grownups all had beer and wine afterwards." sneered my 12 year old. "But then, you always do!" (She declares she is going to become teetotal just as soon as she's old enough.) "I know you're going to make cider with it. I only hope fermentation comes up for a science project because then I can study the process and get top marks." (Hmmm – unlikely school topic, Sunshine!).

So, discussing it with Susan, we came to the conclusion that this criticism was not about Susan and her choices; it was about the sensitivities of her friend. The best thing to do was to take a deep breath, consider the different cultural values and life experiences this person might have for them to hold those views and, if she posted anything back at all, just to say that they could agree to differ on the subject.

Because sometimes criticism isn't valid: it's not you, it really is just them.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It felt like my life had ended.

Five years ago my life ended… Or at least that was how it felt. I had held down high powered and pressured jobs, travelled all over the UK and a lot of the world, raised two kids, looked after my ageing parents and coped with my hubby being away all week and drunk when he was home. I had handled my mother in laws death and dealt with her will, dealt with my daughter trying to kill herself and been through two redundancies in the space of two years.

Then it all fell apart (strange that!)

For a long time I grieved the loss of my previous life and status, I felt useless, that there was no place for me, but, gradually I have grown.

I went back to college and studied art, something I had always wanted to do as I felt that I had to be "doing" something. It has been a hard 4 years and at times my family and support workers have thrown up their hands and said "just why are you doing this??"

I have started to see the world in a different way. I have become nicer to people, the spell I had in a mental hospital taught me to be more understanding of people. I have time to watch the caterpillars grow on the stinging nettles and rejoice when I see the peacock butterflies around the village knowing I saw them as babies. I can watch the dragonflies in the meadow and find them more interesting than watching the plane flying over head and wishing I was on it.

I still have spells when I hate the world, everyone in it, especially me and despair of where I am going and how I will cope in the future but I am learning that I cannot know where the future will take me and that the best I can hope for is to have today, even if maybe I do have to take each hour at a time as thinking of anything more is exhausting.

I have one more year of college left to finish what has become a BA degree, my life has changed beyond recognition but in many ways I feel that after all these years that maybe I finally do "have a life". Something I could not have seen five years ago.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A welcome pep talk.

Colleague (brightly): "Hi AJ!! What a great day!"
Me (mumbling): "Umm no, I had..."
Her (Cutting in): "what's the matter with your miserable face today?"
Me: "Umm you don't want to know. Its just ..."
Her (brightly cutting in again): "Too right I don't!! but you'll be turning the milk with that sour face. So chin up and smile!"
(AJ manages a weak smile - just about makes the corners of mouth rise - goes nowhere near the eyes)
Her: "Yeah, that's the ticket! Now, cup of tea?"

Woah there missy! Do you think this depression is something that's just going to go away just because you've told it to? Who do you think you are? My mood isn't just a toy! I told you last week that it was going to be a hard weekend and here we are - Monday morning (yuk!) And you're slapping me on the shoulder and telling me to cheer up - and my prize for that fake smile? A cup of tea?! Is that it? Is that the sum total of your support? When you can see how upset and sad I am?

Well actually: yes, it turned out that this was all the pep talk I needed that day.

This was a conversation I had with a colleague as I arrived at work the other week. It sounds like she's harsh but the reality is that she has put me back together more than once over the past year when this current bout of depression really kicked in.

It turned out that she was right, it  was just the "mental slap" I needed at that time. I had arrived at work in a pit. I didn't feel like smiling, I felt like crying and having another wallow in the self pity swamp or at least being allowed to stare at the middle distance and mope.

But instead I got the "I know, life sucks at times - yes, I know that this is one of those times. But today staying down isn't an option - so change up and change your mood" pep talk. I thanked her for it when we met at lunchtime, and made her a cup of her favourite peppermint tea (which by the by is possibly the most yucky drink in the history of thirst!!)

So the next time, when my depression is giving me another self pity swamp wallow moment, I remember the pep talk and it brings a smile, and it helps: just enough.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Breaking Family Patterns.

My body crying out for help, I found a chiropractor who treated my physical symptoms and pointed me in the direction of a personal development course. I was not happy I realised. I was sad, angry. I felt trapped. I always knew suicide wasn't an option for me. I had seen what effects it could have on a family and I didn't want to cause that.

I soon saw that I didn't love myself. But somewhere deep inside I must do because I had found this 6-month course and I was taking it on.

When doing a kind of meditation exercise I discovered that each time I crossed a street I did so fearing for my life and the effects on my family, should I have an accident. I gave myself the task to look carefully before crossing, thinking that I do this because I love myself and want to look after myself.

My focus shifted. Having done mostly the same things, driven by fear, I now chose to do it out of love for myself. Everything felt different.

I saw patterns of fear in my family and saw it as my task to break them - for me, in my life, and also somehow for them. Our relationships were about to change for the better.

Working hard, it took years before I started actively focusing on the beautiful patterns my family also hold and the life-force they contain.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Creativity saves the sanity.

I had a love affair with mosaic making this summer.

There's just something so dashed cathartic about smashing up (oh especially the smashing up bit!) and cutting broken crockery and finding the best juxtaposition for whatever pattern/picture I'm making. It seems to mend broken bits in my head too. It's so absorbing.

Sat in the summer sun mosaic making was a real treat but what of the long winter nights ahead?

Well, I've set myself a challenge to make and create more.

In need of a bit of inspiration (and respite from life) mum and I toddled across the Mersey on Friday to a hidden gem in Birkenhead - the Williamson Art Gallery.

Celebrating World Mental Health Day the gallery threw an Arts and Minds Festival: "Exploring the role that creativity can play in maintaining our health and well-being". (It's incredible you know the free events that take place in our own locality. We just have to be sleuth-like in seeking them out.)

Ignoring mum's plea of, "I'm just not creative like that" (such flapdoodle this - mum is a prolific knitter, crocheter and is learning how to up-cycle old furniture), I cajoled her into The Making Room for a Calm and Create workshop.

Creating is an innate need in all of us. If you don't believe that, I'd wager that you haven't yet experienced the power of, or the catharsis of, dabbling in a bit of creativity. Already, we all of us, create more in life than we realise. Yes, even you! We put outfits together, we personalise our work spaces, we choose decor, we doodle whilst on the phone; everyday we create.

At the beginning of the class were reminded that creativity is about the process - not the end result. You can see why such a reminder is needed. It's quite amusing how stiff, uptight and terrified a bunch of adults can be when instructed to go forth with pastels and "play, have fun, make a mess!"

My first thoughts were:-

a) I don't want to get pastel dust on my black velvet jacket (at what point in life do we stop wanting to make mess? As kids it was our life's vocation to get messy).

b) I don't know what I'm doing (as adults we do so struggle to "just be" in art).

c) I can't do this. Can't do what? Er, have fun?!

Ten minutes in and the pastel dust seemed to distribute a sprinkling of magic. The inner critic started to pipe down and we rejoiced at the colourful smudges and patterns our hands created. As we limbered up a bit we made pretty, bold or bright art.

Hang on a minute! Was I having fun?!

One hour later and, as our gentle tutor, Ruth, commented, there were now 11 pieces of art work that hadn't existed 60 minutes earlier. Most importantly, however, was that we were indeed now feeling calm.

Create, make and muck about with art this winter and you may save the ole sanity.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 17 October 2014

'I dwell in possibility' – Emily Dickinson.

I have been in bed for the last few days nursing a particularly nasty virus. My partner, myself and my 9 year old step-son, moved house 3 weeks ago. It is safe to say I am currently adrift on a sea of chaos; there is lot to be done.

Today I felt fit to venture out of bed. My plan initially looked like this:

1) Have shower
2) Do dishes

Then my Internal Tyrant kicked in and the list grew:

3) Unpack all clothes
4) Find places for adults clothes in absence of adults wardrobe
5) Hang clothes in child's wardrobe

Thought - will need to fix child's wardrobe before hanging clothes.

6) Fix child's wardrobe
7) Put bed linen away under bed

Thought - drawer has not been cleaned since bed was delivered.

8) Clean drawer
9) Put shoes in hall cupboard

Thought - hall cupboard is a mess therefore must clean it.

10) Clean hall cupboard
11) Reallocate rubbish from hall cupboard to other places
12) Identify the other places...

I can laugh at how ludicrous this list is, but it shines a light on my thinking. This thinking is destructive, because instead of dwelling in possibilities I am overwhelmed by them. Ever determined I seek out undertakings/achievements/tasks which once complete will allow me to accept myself. Then I constantly adjust my own finish line, so a gentle jog becomes a 5k becomes a 10k becomes a half marathon...

Only it doesn't. I surrender to my tyrant because I conclude that nothing I do will ever be good enough therefore why try.

I have realised what I am seeking is a sense of fulfilment, where I can relax and give myself a break. What becomes increasingly obvious is that this is a mission that will not be accomplished by an exceedingly long to do list. I am acutely aware that I need to learn to let go of this desire for perfection and recognise that which is imperfect is wonderful just as it is. I suspect this will be an ongoing challenge, but one I gladly face. Because I am sick of being scared and limiting myself.

As the infinitely wise Leonard Cohen sings 'There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Wisdom of Geese. A Story of Hope for Humans.

As you hear the geese flying overhead at this time of year, on their way south for the winter, I hope the following story of their wise ways, may help you along your journey.

Firstly, you hear them as they are honking, but for what, just that continual noise? It is because the one flying in the front of their V shape formation is the one doing the most work (just like the cyclists at the front of the peloton); the rest are 'honking' to show support for them for that work.

Flying in the V shape is by far the most effective way (like riding a wave while surfing) and reduces the amount of work by everyone behind by about 70% - so the front runners need ongoing encouragement, to keep their speed up.

Secondly, by working as a team and all taking their turn at the head of the V, as well as honking when behind, they, as a team, can fly 70% further, simply by working together.

Thirdly, if one goose becomes ill or is damaged by humans and goes down to land to hopefully rest and recuperate, two others follow it down and stay with them until they die, or can fly again. Always providing company until the end.

Fourthly, when the two or three fly again, they do not have to fly harder and faster to re-join their own 'team' again, they simply join another V formation and fit straight into the new team where they are readily accepted. (How easy would it be to do that between departments or families?)

Now, just imagine if we clever (IQ) humans, could be as wise (EQ) as the geese... supporting the 'one at the front', taking our turn at the front, staying with anyone who is ill or needs our support regardless of 'losing' the team you were working with and joining another identically values-based team to be able to go 70% further. In the words of Sam Cooke...'What a wonderful world this would be.'

How much 'further and faster' could you or I go in an effective, mutually supportive team/ family/community? Think of one person you could encourage or join with in a greater way this week to enable us all to 'fly further'.

A Moodscope member.

Geese story -
Sam Cooke -

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Insane Accuracy.

What were Games lessons like for you?

Now, I'm sure there must be some of you out there who promptly reply "Oh, they were great! I loved games; I was captain of the hockey team, I won all the track events, and I still love to play tennis whenever I can."

Yeah, well: I was the pudgy, pale faced one in thick National Health spectacles; the last to be picked for any team, lurking at the back of the hockey field and being shouted at by the games mistress for running away from the ball.

Nothing much has changed in forty years, except that I no longer get shouted at by the games mistress.

But today I discovered a sport I can do! Furthermore, it's a sport I can actually enjoy!
Looking around me today there were people from seven to seventy, male and female, able and disabled, all competing under the same rules. Not at the same level: as for some of us it was our first time and some of them had been doing it for more than sixty years.

This sport does not involve getting hot and sweaty or out of breath (although breath control is important); it does not involve contorting your body into awkward positions. It needs steady hands, a steady eye and absolute focus.

What is this sport? Target Rifle Shooting.

It was a glorious morning. The autumn sun shone down into the quarry where the shooting club is based, the birds sang and rabbits hopped about, totally unperturbed by the constant snap of small-bore rifles firing overhead. You see, with target rifle shooting, no small furry or feathered creature is harmed; although some innocent bits of cardboard have a really bad time!

The targets are 50 or 100 metres away and are 20cm across; but, what you're really aiming at is the centre which is 3cm in diameter. Hey, you think that's ridiculous? In Full Bore Shooting (done without telescopic sights, mind) you can be shooting at a distance of over a mile at something the size of a tea-tray!

It's all about split-hair accuracy; about utter concentration; of losing yourself to that moment when the sights of the rifle line up with that pin-point centre of the target; when you breathe out slowly and, oh so gently, squeeze that trigger.

The satisfaction when the neat hole appears just where you intended, the mild frustration when it goes wide, the determination to do better next time; they all take you out of negative thoughts into this mystical "zone" people talk about.

It doesn't hurt that everyone I met this morning seemed really friendly and welcoming, and that there was cake (yum)...

And yes, there were very stringent and practical safety practices. That was a given!
I've finally found my sport, and it doesn't involve getting sweaty!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cold feet syndrome.

Les wrote a great post on embracing change recently. He pipped me to the post (and his was infinitely wiser) but still, here is my offering...

Age 8. I'm invited for tea (dinner) after school at a friend's home. As her dad ascends the stairs, pretending to be a monster, I burst into tears and ask if my daddy can come and pick me up now (I'd only just arrived). I wanted to go home.

Age 11. A friend is having a sleep over. Driving up there, my dad knows well what's coming next (oh we'd been here many times before): (tearful) "Dad, can you pick me up later? I don't mind staying for the afternoon but tonight I just want to come home."

Age 13. Friends of the family invite me on a trip to Ireland. I'm excited! 4am, mum wakes me up for the Liverpool to Dublin boat. "Mum (again tearful), I don't think I can go. I just want to stay at home."

Age 21. 48hrs before a month of traveling in Central America: I pick up a dastardly virus. My body is saying, "You want to stay at home."

You wouldn't think that I love challenge and change would you? Nor would you think all I ever really wanted was to live in far flung deepest darkest Africa!

Ah, but we are all a "tale of two cities" are we not? I'm brave and strong; I'm fragile and fretful. I'm all gung-ho and gregarious yet I'm quiet and pensive.

Some of those moments of fear as I was growing up worked out well, others I backed out of, but all I ever really needed to do was to accept and to nurture the feelings.

Acceptance of feelings is something I've written about often. Whenever I actually manage to do it however (like when facing Cold Feet Syndrome), it never ceases to amaze me the magic that occurs within.

Accept the terror (or sadness, or insert whatever the feeling you're feeling here), and accept that it's probably very normal to be feeling whatever we do, and then the "city" within us can set about putting its positive residents to work.

Age 36. First few nights of living alone. Will I be OK? Do I want to go home? Ah, but I am home!

As Jon Kabat-Zinn's book is entitled (I can't say I've read it but love the title): Wherever You Go, There You Are.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rite of Passage #1 "The Bath".

Sometimes we just need to change.

To achieve this well, it helps to have a "Rite of Passage".

Many tribes do this with their children when they come of age.

We do it when we have a Wedding Service or a big birthday celebration.

But I can't afford to wait for a birthday or a wedding.

I need to change on a daily basis.

That's why I'm a fan of small rites of passage.
One of my favourite is bath-time.

I go into the waters one person, and come out another.
I go in (relatively) smelly, and come out smelling of roses!
I plunge beneath the waters (relatively) dirty, and rise up cleansed.
I sink in exhausted, I spring forth regenerated...ish.
No wonder some of the World's Religions like the idea of ritual washing.

But I wonder, could I go into my bath low in spirit, and emerge refreshed, ready to face the World and myself renewed?

Well... I just tried worked.

Kindest Regards.

A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

I am definitely so much more than my depression.

Owing to quite an extended period of general "wellbeing", and reduced and increasingly distant episodes of utter despair, I have recently decided to attempt looking at a career change. It's something I've known I have to do for a while, but not had the energy or enthusiasm to embrace.

So I found myself at the start of this month, coming back from an information day about a possible new career, and feeling so excited.

And yet over the following weeks, whilst I have been waiting for application forms to be released, I have let my inner chimp (see the Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters for more info – I cannot recommend it enough!) poke and prod away at my self esteem, my confidence, and my faith in myself and my abilities.

"What if I can't do it? What if I become unwell? What if I can't cope? What if they don't understand?" To the point where I questioned if I should even bother applying.

I started to ask close friends whether they thought I could, or should, do it. The answers were unanimous – of course you can; but it's not about if we believe you can, it's about whether you believe it...

A particularly tough talking friend had a stern word with me. "Fiona; you are more than your "depression". You can't let it define you, and you can't let it dictate what you do, or don't do, for the rest of your life. What if you can do it? What if you don't become unwell? What if you do cope? What if they do understand? What if, imagine this, you love it, and go on to have a successful and exciting career there? What if, what if, what if...?! "

She was, as always, right. And it wasn't anything I didn't know; it was perhaps just something my chimp had hidden away in an empty corner of my mind.

I can not possibly predict the future. And I absolutely can not let the fact that I suffer sporadic depressive episodes put my life, and how I live it, on hold. I am definitely much more than my depression.

I am a strong and determined individual.
I am a loving and loyal girlfriend, and friend.
I am a daughter, sister, cousin, and aunt.
I am a Mental Health Advocate, and a trainer in Suicide Prevention.
I am a cat owner.
I am a yoga lover.
I am brilliant at making cards; I am thinking of starting to sell them.
I am an adult who loves colouring in!
I am a blogger for Moodscope.
I am a live music, and festival, fan.
I am annoyingly adept at spotting spelling and grammar mistakes.
I'm Fiona.

And I am definitely so much more than my depression.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Dancing with our thoughts.

I recently read something that got me thinking about the critical thoughts that permeate my mind and how I deal with them. The focus was on what we do when we feel attacked by critical or difficult thoughts.

The text asked the reader to imagine the thoughts as being someone running towards you trying to attack you, and then to visualise responding in three separate ways. Firstly, reacting to the thought by freezing and allowing the thought to push you over. This reaction allows the attacker to keep attacking. The second response is to try to run away from the attacker but the attacker just keeps chasing. The final response portrayed is to fight back.

This highlighted that the three ways often employed are "fight, flight or freeze". All of which require energy to be centred around the negative attacking thought.

An alternative approach suggested was to be more welcoming of the thought, acknowledging it and inviting the thought to dance with you, thereby offering compassionate curiosity. This can allow for light to be shone upon the dark thoughts, thereby reducing their attacking power. So, rather than being afraid of the thought, become enquiring as to where it has come from, whose belief is it or whose rule does it belong to? Question yourself as to if it is a rule or a belief that you truly share, or is it something that you have adopted from elsewhere.

I have noticed that I often have thoughts that commence with "I should", "I must", "I must never"...I have started to try and take note when I have such thoughts and then at the end of the day reflect back and work out why I have thought in that way, where have I picked that rule up from?

It's not easy recognising these thought patterns, they happen quite frequently and so quickly it can be hard to notice them. It's hard work having to be so mindful but by looking into the thoughts more closely, rather than trying to flee or fight them, it's providing an opportunity to take a bit of their power away and reduce the ability to be attacked by them so strongly.

So next time you want to fight, flight or freeze, try dancing instead, and offering compassion to your thoughts so you can shine some light on them and bring them out of the dark and make them a little less scary.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Willful Blindness.

We looked recently how difficult it is for humans to come to terms with change - even though we intellectually know that it is the only constant in life.

The seven stages set out were; 1) Shock 2) Resistance 3) Worry 4) Loss of control 5) Depression 6) Exploration 7) Discovery 8) Adjustment (loosely based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's work on grief and loss.)

Looking at the Moodscope blogs, many talk about or refer to something which we either took time to come to terms with or when we ignored something - until the 'pain' got too great. This is why many of us fall into depression; we are not prepared to 'see' what we need to see - some of us are 'stuck' in what is called 'Willful Blindness'.

This is when we are neither willing (or at times able) to 'see' what is really before us and is now a legal principle, which states that you are still responsible if 'you could have known, and should have known, something which instead, you strove not to see'.

This made me think of how many personal 'crimes' are committed, not in dark secretive criminal places, but in broad daylight, in full view of hundreds of thousands of people, especially our children.

Those I immediately thought of may be uncomfortable for some - sun tanning and obesity.

Everyone knows that sun tanning and over eating are dangerous and yet society, unlike smoking now and seat belts before, still accept such potentially disabling or even deadly behaviour. For example presently in Britain someone dies of skin cancer every four hours, yet sunbeds still increase in number - 30% since 1998!

Now why do I offer these uncomfortable thoughts?

Many of us, including myself, stay with something far longer than we need to do. The unhealthy familiar often makes us feel secure and comfortable.

Yet often that 'comfort' leads to a drip, drip, drip of discomfort, until we fall into that depression or angst.

As you can see from the eight stages above, we could be stuck at any of the earlier stages from shock to depression and the effort to move may have to be built up over a period of time to move into exploration and discovery and the desired adjustment.

This is why good friends and Moodscope buddies are often absolutely essential to recovery. On occasions we need such people to be our 'eyes' and tell us what they see that we do not and also provide energy to support (even push) us through each stage of recovery.

What are you 'willfully blind' to right now - and is it causing some of your mental challenges?

"Lie to me just a little bit longer.
Lie to me until I'm stronger...
I'm not ready yet,
To accept
The truth.
So lie to me."
(from Heartless - Ridley/Bicat)

A Moodscope user.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A few pretty things.

The only thing I ever really wanted to be when I was all "growed" up was a missionary. I remember vividly during one science lesson (whilst trying to ignore the throng of boys on the bench behind me who were trying to see how far they could spit - my back was "The Winner"), thinking that I didn't just want out of Bootle (according to Channel 4's Secret Millionaire, one of the most deprived areas in the UK), I wanted out of this Continent! I felt destined for a remote African village or an unknown Peruvian town way up in the mountains.

Alas, alack, health problems and circumstances pushed my dream away from me.

In 2007/8, however, I was fortunate enough to be able to "live like a missionary", even if only for a few short months, whilst living in Nicaragua. Ah, the happiest days of my life.

Often, and sometimes for days at time, there would be no running water or electricity, and whilst there were no food shortages, there certainly wasn't the choice of ingredients to which we are accustomed here in the Western world. (Finding a tub of peanut butter was a cause for great celebration and woe betide the villain who stole my precious stash of English tea!)

Living amidst poverty, I learned quickly that possessing just a few pretty things can go a long way in making a house, or living space, a home and makes life rather more bearable. A few brightly coloured scarfs draped on the wall, colourful scraps of fabric sewn together to make a table covering; a single hand picked flower or a cheery piece of crockery could make all the difference when deprived of the luxuries, or indeed, "essentials" of what I was used to back home. Even my mosquito net became a thing of romantic beauty.

Sometimes we learn lessons without realising. Memories of those precious months have come flooding back to me this week as I move out from my life long family home to my own humble flat. (That it's taken me 36 years to be able to do so is surely worthy of another post altogether!)

For the foreseeable future I'm not going to be able to afford some of the luxuries that we may all too often see as Essentials: a TV license, WIFI, a sofa and, for the first time ever, I'll become acquainted with the inside of a laundrette (laundromat for our American friends). But I'm Ticketyboo Su don't you know, and I know that all I ever really need are a few pretty things.

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stationary Rollercoaster.

Do you love fairground rides? I don't. I most emphatically don't!

When I asked a friend of mine recently how she was doing she said "Well, I've been up and down a lot, but I don't seem to be going anywhere. I haven't moved on. I feel as if I'm on a rollercoaster which is standing still."

I guess the statement resonates with a lot of us. Having been definitely up then down over the spring and summer, I've come up again to find that the world has moved on while I've been – otherwise engaged. My best friend has become a grandmother (how did that happen to the girl I've known since we were both eleven?), another friend has come out of the closet, left his wife and moved in with his new partner (he'd been so far in the closet he paid his taxes in Narnia! Shocked didn't begin to describe it!), and someone else died. I couldn't even go to her funeral because nobody told me; having made the (kindly meant) decision that I was far too ill to cope with it at that time.

So there's this lurching sensation as one adjusts to the new and starts delicately picking one's way through the social minefield where, I feel, everybody else knows where the explosives are, but I don't. Not only is there a new curate at Church, but a new widow (I'd missed the announcement of her husband's sudden death). The "I didn't know: I'm so sorry." sounds so inadequate. Somehow, I feel, I should have known.

But, while you're on that rollercoaster, you are conscious only of the ride, and you are absolutely incapable of relating to events on the ground. Friends have commented (kindly) that on both parts of the ride; the ups and the downs, I'm self-absorbed. "Not that!" I want to say "But clinging on for dear life; grasping the rail, gritting my teeth and praying for it all to stop; to just stop!"

So, it's stopped now; for a while. I can get off, shore up the shaky legs and try walking along. I can actually go somewhere. A little way along the track will be another rollercoaster ride. I'll probably have to ride that one too, and the one after that. The point is to realise that they are not the same rollercoaster; they are at different points along life's track, and different lessons can be learned from each of them.

Well, that's the theory anyway. I still hate rollercoasters. Give me a gentle carousel ride any day. Or better still, let's ignore all those rides and head straight for the hotdogs and that candyfloss stand!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Laughter is the best medicine.

I am sure that all of us have those days when you just want to sit and cry or scream and be angry! And I am positive we all have those days where nothing can get us down because we are just so happy! When I asked my doctor about this she explained to me with a graph of the difference with the moods. So when I started doing research in to Bipolar, I learnt it was caused by a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain.

I then started looking up natural ways to increase the serotonin in my brain and I found that eating chillies and laughing are two of the best ways to increase it naturally. The chillies were not a problem as I really do enjoy the flavor and slight burn in one's mouth. The laughing part was a bit more difficult though as some days I found nothing to laugh about.

For the last couple of months I have been having especially bad mood swings mostly because I have to work so hard as my husband has not worked in over six months and it is putting a terrible strain on our marriage. But also because life is just tough for everyone at the moment.

SO my question is how does one laugh daily to help increase serotonin? Well, for me, a laser light and Smudge, our little wire haired terrier. For hours he will chase the light and he will go mad for it, and so the laughter entered our home.

There is a saying "Laughter is the best medicine", and since I have been trying to laugh daily I have found a big difference in myself!

So I challenge you all today to find something to make you laugh, not only is it good for your mind but also for your tummy!

Have a laughter filled Day.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Are you struggling?

Are you struggling today? I am, a little, and I hope I can catch me before I fall again.

I struggled for many, many months, in fact years, before I knew I was struggling.

Way, way back, rather than face what overwhelmed me, I took therapy in the form of skiving school. Going awol. And on these days, I would skulk through all the people heading to work and going about their daily chores and spend my paper-round money on a train ticket to the next town. I would walk around safely knowing nobody would recognise me, tap my shoulder and ask why I wasn't in school. I took my camera. I took snaps. I still have them. It was a very basic camera which had a lens with no power to capture what my eye had seen. But nevertheless I snapped away, kept the snaps and I look back and treasure them.  It is comforting to see that, although I was stuck in a dark place and didn't even know it, I had formed a self-therapy and it is to that that I have returned.

My passion for photographs has been life long and yet I have done nothing with it. I wish I had been at school learning and had had someone older and wiser pull me to realisation. But worrying over that will not fix anything. Instead, I am trying, slowly, to bring my passion into my life in a small way. Learn more. Photograph rather than snap.

I have an archive of snaps of my children that, when they look, they see things we do that are good. My LowLife will not have failed to have touched them - my stresses, my shouts, my frustrations and yet hopefully they also see how, through my camera, I saw them. How I saw their sticky faces when they ate ice cream on a windy beach. How I sneaked in at night when they were sleeping and took secret photographs of their slumbering faces over years and years.

Are you struggling today?

If you are struggling on a scale of 5-10 (with 10 being the hardest struggle) then I encourage you to look at some old photographs and see what it does to your mood. It may make you feel weepy, but is it a good weepy? It will, I am confident, make you laugh at least once. You may see the other you.

If you are struggling on a scale of 1-5 then I encourage you to take one photograph every day of something that you like. Look back after a week and see what your story has been.  If you are not able to be outside or with people then aim for snapping something around you but from a new angle. Try photographing the tomato sauce from the table height and watch it loom above you in your snap. It feels good to be small sometimes.

Sometimes it's good to try a new angle.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

When a blue moon rises.

Sometimes life has a way of hitting me over the head, and I never know where it'll lead me.

Sometimes it's a generous sun. Too high to function. I get lost in being in love, or on a rush of feelings and dreams. Everyday things fall between the cracks. My heart fills up too full for ordinary life and there's always another time to catch up with work, bills and the pile of dishes that is inevitable, and I don't even mind it then, working at it in a daze, happiness lingering in me.

Worse though when a blue moon rises. Giving up everyday things out of despair or just lost self-preservation. When just breathing in and out seems like such hard work to keep up. And when dishes piling up are not a fun thing to catch up on and I turn off the lights and leave the kitchen.

People seem to be more patient when we lose focus out of happiness, smiling sideways at us, but it's when we are low we really need their patience, tolerance, maybe even a helping hand. Also, at these times, we need to make a habit of asking. Yes, it's hard. Sometimes impossible. But saying to a friend "this is a bad time for me" is a chance for them to offer help. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and you offer people a chance to be that friend. Texting is a way for me to do just that when asking out loud is too difficult.

Sometimes it's hard for a friend to know. And we don't always help them. I get snappy and mean when I'm on my way down. And people shy away. This of course I see as signs proving how impossible I am. "Obviously no-one likes me".

Well, nobody enjoys being put down or belittled for no reason. But it's hard for me to be vulnerable, it makes me feel weak & small. So much easier to be mean and self-sufficient. So much safer.

But who are we when we've pushed everyone away? What do we have left when we've used up everyone's patience?

Going through a long rough patch now, I've decided to try something else. Crying, sometimes publicly (Yes, I am that embarassing woman with tears pouring down her face at the bus stop!) Blogging. Contacting friends and accepting offers to do things, whether I'm in the mood or not.
I know in my mind I will feel happier when I go out and listen to music, whether I initially feel up for it or not. My body feels better when I eat properly (surprise!) and I sleep better if I do some light exercise. So I just do it, put on some shoes and I walk.
All things add up and I'm hoping all this "pretending to be a person" will soon add up to feeling like a person again, the somewhat decent, grounded person I used to be, and guess what?

I'm doing it with a few new friends that showed up during these bad times, that I never knew I had until I asked.

A Moodscope user.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A feeling of calm.

My mind is calm right now. Like a gentle stream. This feeling is good.

I refuse negative thoughts, my stream finds the path of least resistance.

I was asked, if I was given the opportunity to be somewhere else right now, where would I like to be, I said right here.

I only want what I am able to have. I am grateful for what I have.

People who want more and more only ever want more and more.

These thoughts are not absolute. They are gently drifting through my mind.

I will allow free flow, not get stuck with repetitive harmful patterns of thought that build up and block my stream.

When blocked the stream builds up and there is a danger of flooding!

As with a flood, the mind will need a lot of clearing up.

Let's stay with gentle free flow.

A moodscope member.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Walking Up The Down Escalator.

I've spent the evening trying to 'encourage' a friend. I wasn't trying to cheer them up so much as helping them to see themselves as other people see them - which is a lot more positively than they see themselves.

It... Was... Hard... Work...

Meditating on this in the bath, I remembered an important lesson I'd temporarily forgotten. This is that people have a bank ledger when it comes to the positives and the negatives in their lives. If they have far more deposits in the negative ledger, it takes a lot of positive inputs to balance the books. You can be positive with them, but it is totally unrealistic to expect a positive response for a long time - there's just too much of a deficit to clear.

It reminded me of how some people describe debt: like trying to walk up a down escalator.

Many of my Moodscope friends, like me, are in debt. We have had an abundance of negative investment in our lives. We're on the down escalator hoping to get back at least to the level.

So here's my word of encouragement. Be gentle with yourself. If someone is kind to you and you don't feel able to respond, realise that it is at least a step up the down escalator.  Lock onto that positivity and look out for more. The rest is pure maths. Get sufficient positives in and you will get to the top of that down escalator back onto the level.

Then, you might just find the up escalator...and that's a lot of fun.

Kindest Regards.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Was it post-traumatic stress?

Post-traumatic stress is recognized as a form of mental illness, as a result of things like serving in a war zone, observing some terrible event and so on - I wonder why that has never transferred itself to the stress that any of us might experience as a result of losing a relationship.

That loss can be a sudden death, an unexpected marriage or partnership breakdown or even a serious illness like Alzheimers that may remove a person from sharing the same kind of relationship as we may have had with them before.

In my case it was my ex husband suddenly walking out with no warning. I came home from a meeting, there were many things missing from the house and the briefest scribbled note on the TV saying 'sorry, I've left'. From that day to this, he has never explained in detail what his reasons were or why.

I was already in depression following other problems outside of the marriage - loss of my Mum two years before, unemployment, conflicts with my in-laws, and a physical condition I hadn't even realised had got worse.

What I went through after my ex's sudden departure was very definitely post traumatic shock and stress, but it was never really treated that way or named. The physical symptoms of shock were with me for months afterwards and I only have to think about that night to have them return. I have learned to deal with it by 'reaching for the better feeling thought'.

This form of mindfulness extends into a daily meditation and I can use it whenever I need, to deal with situations that would previously have brought on tears and desperate feelings of hopelessness, at worst suicidal ideation.

The transition has been slow but it is now showing results in all areas of my life and I am so grateful to those who helped me to find my positivity again.

A Moodscope Member.

At what point do you embrace the only thing that is constant in your life - Change?

Let's face it. Just about the only people who like a change are wet babies! For the rest of us, a change is rarely welcomed. Change of any kind, personal or professional, is one of the most common sources of stress.

Change evokes a series of emotional responses that, left unmanaged, can eventually take a toll on health, happiness and performance.*

The question is not will you adjust to change, you eventually have no option. The real issue is how long will it take to shift and embrace it? Your relationships and your performance and success may depend on your ability to quickly move through the change cycle.

A strategy for coping with change.

Acknowledge where you are on the change curve. Observing your normal reaction to change adds objectivity and enables you to neutralise the damaging effects change can otherwise have.

Identify your core values. Remembering what matters most during stressful times is a help to shift your internal experience. It will reduce stress in the moment and creates the opportunity for a shift in how you are viewing things at that time.

If you manage a team, are part of a team or family, knowing where each person falls on the change curve lets you provide what is needed to help them move to the next stage: Information on the down slope; support during the trough; recognition on the up slope.

Take time each day to appreciate everyone's talents and contributions, including your own. Doing so is energising and helps minimise emotional drains and dramas.

Revisit organisational values. Starting staff or team meetings with a discussion of the group's shared mission or vision will help create an emotional shift that then positively impacts the meeting and facilitates adjustment to changes. The same will work over the dinner table or on a walk.

And if you do not have family values maybe you should create them. The fun of identifying your own and sharing them with someone else will take you deeper in a relationship and yet most don't even know what their own are, never mind their partners! Values are the core of every decision we make and when aligned what comes from this is an emerging joy...

"Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasure for long-term values" Joshua L Liebman.

A Moodscope member.

*Model is loosely based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's work on grief and loss.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

It's OK Not To Be OK.

Just imagine for a moment that you have the perfect life. No, go on, close your eyes and just imagine. You have a strong and attractive body; you have enough money to do anything you like; you live in a beautiful home in any part(s) of the world you choose. Your handsome/beautiful partner is warm, generous, loving and kind and adores the ground you walk on. Your children (if you have children) are healthy, bright and doing well at school or careers and relationships. You have work which is worthwhile and satisfies you, and at which you are successful. (I know this may not be everyone's perfect life, but it's mine).

Given all that, do you think you might still get depressed from time to time?

Well, the evidence tends to suggest that the people who have (apparently) got it all, suffer depression in the exactly the same ratios as we (normal) people. Something to think on, isn't it.

Because we do seem to have this script in our heads that says "If I could just get these problems sorted out I'd feel better" and "I wouldn't feel this way if only..." oh, and don't forget the most insidious little voice of all; the one that says "I already do have the perfect life: I shouldn't be depressed".

That last one is a particularly nasty little beast. It specialises in post natal depression, but can turn up with anyone at any time. It hands you a spiked club and invites you to beat yourself up. It's amazing that a lot of us take on that invitation with alacrity!

A friend of mine calls this the "Shoudda, Wouldda, Coudda Butt-Stick; as in "I shouldn't feel this way, but"; "I would love to feel that way, but" and "I could have done the other, but" and she tells me to imagine myself hitting myself repeatedly on the bottom with this stick while at the same time trying to wriggle away from it.

Pretty silly, huh?

So yes, we might have done things/felt things differently. We didn't. Newsflash: we're not perfect! Even if we do have the perfect life, we are just ordinary fallible human beings. We need to be OK with that. We can be depressed in Paradise; we can be depressed in Milton Keynes (just the first town I thought of – don't take it personally, MK).

Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and stop the drama. So, we've got depression. No biggie. It's a bore; we'd love to be well, but we're not. For goodness' sake let's not beat ourselves up about it, because that's not amusing for anyone.

And anyone who does find it amusing has got far more problems than we have!

A Moodscope member.