Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Not What I Was Expecting.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Do you all remember that wonderful sketch from Monty Python? If you've forgotten it – here's the link http://bit.ly/1nzzyKO

Of course, the point is, as the sketch develops, everybody does expect the Spanish Inquisition, with its weaponry of fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. Oh, and not forgetting the soft cushions and comfy chair!

So, five years into my Bipolar 2 diagnosis, and having carefully analysed the previous thirty-eight years I thought I knew exactly what to expect this time round.

Apparently, the majority of people with bi-polar would not choose to be cured/healed if they had the option. This is because, although the depression bit is pretty grim, the mania or hypo mania or "up" part is just wonderful.

And I was really looking forward to mine.

It was due to kick in anywhere from April to June, last three to six months and I'd mentally scheduled my "shut down" period for September when all that lovely energy would abruptly drain out and the depression would swallow me whole. It had happened almost every time before. Surely the pattern would repeat again.

In the "up" period everything is easy. I would lose the 20lb I've put on this year comfort eating after the death of my uncle, I would put a whole load of work into business marketing; there were several personal development seminars and workshops I'd planned on taking...

Instead, the depression has showed up five months early without giving me the high first. Bummer!

Oh well; you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men* (or just mice, if you're a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan)?
 
So, shut down everything that can be shut down (emergency low level lighting only, please), call in the rescue and support teams, send out the distress signals, hunker down and concentrate on just surviving until the dirty black fog lifts again.

While I'd love to spend this time muttering about how it's just not fair and "Where is my "up"? ", it would be just as useless as the mice wailing "Who moved my cheese?"

So I'll just get on with the surviving bit. Don't mind me – I'll just be humming a little hum, like Pooh.
Ho Hum. (sigh)
Hum Ho. (sound of shuffling)
Tiddly om pom pom... Tiddly om pomp om...

Mary
A Moodscope member.

* Apparently they "gang aft agley".

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A More Abundant Life; part 1 of 7.

Moodscope offers us a way to track our moods as regularly as we choose. Part of the support structure includes the option to send our daily 'score' to selected 'buddies' who can join us on our journey. Of course a buddy can become a catalyst to help us live our life more abundantly.

As a recipe for this, I return to my biology classes at school. In these I learned that there are seven characteristics of a living organism, seven signs of 'Life':

1.       Movement
2.       Nutrition
3.       Reproduction
4.       Excretion
5.       Growth
6.       Respiration
7.       Sensitivity

I think these make a great checklist for a life to the full, so I'm going to do a series of seven blogs highlighting how each one might enrich our experience. First, it's the turn of 'Movement'.

Movement.

There are essentially two directions we can move in – towards something we want, or away-from something we don't want. Tulips grow towards the light, woodlice run away from the light! I'd rather be a tulip than a woodlouse!

One of the more proactive roles a buddy can take on is to help you to move towards the light! Of course, you need to agree what the 'light' is for you. I know my early approach to Moodscope was to move away from the darkness of those darker moods like being scared or afraid (of the dark!) However, it is far more motivating to move towards the 'something' that you would rather have.

My 'light' is 'creativity'. I would rather have more time in my life for creative expression. That's when I'm truly at my most content. My buddy's proactive role then becomes to challenge me to define three movements I could make towards having more time in my life for creativity. These steps could be set up within a certain time frame, and my buddy can then lovingly hold me to account.

(And, if you want to be my buddy, those three steps would be: 1) define a time each week that is my regular, guilt-free, creative time; 2) seek a friend to be creative with; 3) find a showcase for my creativity [e.g. Flickr/Facebook/Pinterest])

So, what would you like to move towards?

Next time...it will be the turn of 'Nutrition' – yummy!

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Big picture learning.

I've been thinking about submitting a blog since my one year Moodscope anniversary. Julia's invitation made me take the plunge. I find I'm a bit intimidated by the articulate, wise words of the regulars with all those superior British idioms. Across the pond here we don't dip digestives in a cuppa, we dip cookies in our coffee or milk, which just doesn't quite express the sweet comfort that a cuppa evokes. Ah well, here goes, in my American twang.

I do a lot of backwards, big picture learning with Moodscope. When I first started, it looked like my mood went up and down dramatically every day. After about 3 months, I saw my first low period clearly in the graph. By 6 months I had a view of several mood cycles and could start to answer some questions about warning signs. Now with 18 months to view, the shaky up/down strokes of the days recede and a single fuzzy line tells a story of ten major mood swings.

Because I've filled in the comment box almost every day, I can scan for the antecedents of my mood cycles. I've learned from my Moodscope graph that I'm very susceptible to the inevitable ups and downs of searching for a job. I've been unemployed for most of the past two years. Every time I had a good job prospect I saw a huge jump in mood. Hope held my mood high for weeks as I waited to hear, then gradually dropped when I didn't hear. Then my mood tanked while I processed the reality that the job hadn't panned out. Then another job looked promising and up I would go again.

I also scan entries to see if there was any effect on my mood due to changes in medications. Now I can tell my doctor that before I started taking a med for bipolar symptoms, I had 3 month mood cycles: high for about two months, then low for one month. After starting that med, my cycles have been smoother, with longer periods of hovering near my average score. I would never know this from remembering back or from my sense of how I was doing based only on a written record.

I'm very grateful for Moodscope as a tracking tool. The more I learn about myself from the graph, the more committed I am to recording my score and comments (nearly) daily.

I'm also deeply grateful for the community that has emerged through blogging. I especially appreciate those who have shared uncomfortable truths about themselves, allowing the rest of us to breath a sigh of relief that we're not the only ones. Maybe if I get up the courage, I'll write again and risk making myself vulnerable by sharing how I deal with some personal struggles. Meanwhile, I hope more of you will take up the call to contribute to the blog, and know that you don't have to be brilliant, you just have to be you.

Andra
A Moodscope user.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Ebb and Flow of the Moodscope Cards.

My mind is like an estuary – the tide comes in and the tide goes out – and somewhere in the middle am I.

The 20 Moodscope Cards are like the fresh, sweet, living water from the mountains pushing against the brackish, bitter waters of a sometimes vast ocean. Whilst they are not opposites, they do flow in opposite directions when it comes to my emotional 'state' each day:

>>Attentive>>...<<Afraid<<

>>Proud>>...<<Hostile<<

>>Interested>>...<<Jittery<<

>>Alert>>...<<Scared<<

>>Determined>>...<<Irritable<<

>>Enthusiastic>>...<<Distressed<<

>>Inspired>>...<<Guilty<<

>>Strong>>...<<Ashamed<<

>>Excited>>...<<Nervous<<

>>Active>>...<<Upset<<

Going down the page at random like this, it even looks like a wave in the middle where I bathe in these emotions. Sometimes I feel in danger of being swept this way and that by the current.

My idea today is that these two forces will always flow in opposite directions, so, for the good moods to conquer, I must either strengthen the red cards or weaken the negative, blue moods. Either strategy will work – or even a blend of the two: strengthen the red, weaken the blue.

<<Hostile<< is one of the more powerful blue cards for me. When I think the World is 'unfair' – I become more hostile. Can I weaken the feeling of hostility? Of course, I can. For me this means realising that the World is not supposed to be fair – it never has been – never will be. My sense of outrage is based on an unsustainable belief that the World should be fair hitting up against the immovable wall of reality and history. Either my belief or reality has to change. Challenging my unrealistic belief reduces the hostility – at least for me personally.

But can I make the World a fairer place? I believe I can. I chose the list above at random but interestingly, I've placed >>Proud>> upstream from <<Hostile<<. I like to make other people smile – that's something I'm proud of. Having weakened hostility by challenging my beliefs, I can then concentrate on making someone smile, and so strengthen my own good sense of pride.

In this way, the sweet-states of mind can prevail!

(Of course, if you're having a bad day, you'll point out that there is more salt-water than fresh-water but I'm using a metaphor to point to the Estuary where the exchange happens – hope it works for you.)

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Which 'one' inside us do we feed...friend or foe?

'Anonymous' commented on Thursday when I was talking in my blog about ideally being our own 'best friend'. Anonymous said:

"We have both inside us and it's for us to ignore the evil side and try and concentrate on the good the side that wants to love and accept"

This made me think of another 'rich' American Indian story - a culture where still rests so much sustainable wisdom and education (EQ) - compared to today's predominately short term cleverness and 'schooling' (IQ).

Let's see where this sits with you and your ability to 'feed' the friend and 'fillet' the foe.

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt.

He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one."

The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart grandad?"

The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

Back to the 'belief of my blog', we all have inside us the potential to become more self aware - for sure we will need help along the way - but it is our own job to 'inscape' - to go inside and 'find' our true self and not 'escape'.

For sure, as others commented, it is not easy, and workplaces may not help. We all have the crucial choice though - especially if we wish to leave a legacy (SQ) for our children or colleagues or friends.

What choice do you make - even at the cost of securing ongoing income?

Your behaviour and choices ARE the lessons you teach, to your children, colleagues or friends. Your actions not your words. May you have to sacrifice your own 'needs', to serve your children in a different values based way, while influencing your personal or professional community?

We all have the choice of which wolf we feed.

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."  Carl Jung

Les
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Give me a break...

Last week, travelling across London on the underground, somewhere along the way I managed to lose my photo ID and wallet. Not my actual train ticket but nevertheless a real pain to replace. As quick as a flash I reverted to (my) type and started ruminating and criticising myself for being so disorganised, how I wish I was different and how this doesn't seem to happen to anyone else but me.

This is always followed by focusing on other anecdotes and instances where I have let myself (and others down). We all know this is text book 'black and white thinking' that happens when we are feeling particularly low and it can be very difficult to brush aside and move on.

But in this particular instance, I wanted to put it into some sort of perspective so thought I would do a bit of digging.

There are some 35,000 bags, 12,000 umbrellas, 27,000 phones and 11,000 keys left on buses, tubes and trains in the UK every year as well as more unusual items like a marionette puppet and a relative's ashes!?

The moral of this story is that the everyday occurrences that can send the more vulnerable types into a tail spin happen to an awful lot of people who don't suffer from a mental health condition.

Black and white thinking is very destructive and needs to be kept in check and put in perspective as much as humanly possible. My token bit of research instantly normalised the incident and I was able to stay on a steady kilter. Stuff happens to everyone, very often and we should always keep that firmly in mind. It's all about giving ourselves a break and believing that we like everyone else deserve it...

Damian
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Can you be your own best friend?

Frankie in her blog last Sunday asked  'Who's Your Friend'?

So, who's your 'friend'? Can you be your own 'best friend' and reassure and encourage yourself? In my heart of hearts, I firmly believe that we are all doing the best we can – we just need to remind ourselves every day.

This reminded me of a wonderful story I often use in sessions to remind everyone I work with that we all have the ability, or is it 'power', should we choose, to search within to find the answer to our own unique questions.

"Old Sioux Story"

The Creator gathered all of creation and said, "I want to hide something
from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization
that they create their own reality."

The eagle said, "Give it to me, I will take it to the moon." The creator
said "No. One day they will go there and find it." The salmon said, "I
will hide it on the bottom of the ocean." "No. They will go there too."
The buffalo said, "I will bury it on the great plains." The creator
said, "They will cut into the skin of the earth and find it even there."

The Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who
has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said: "Put it inside
them."

And the Creator said, "It is done."

(Contributed to the Blue Star Four Directions Conference 2001 www.marythunder.com)

This is why I always say that the real and most challenging journey is all about 'inscaping' (going within) and never about that supposed quick fix of 'escaping' and seeking an external fix, all too often of a materialistic or short term nature.

We will all require assistance along the way, even a compassionate reassuring external voice. The 'real' sustainable answer to our own multitude of unique challenges will however, always come from a continually developing inner self awareness.

If we are really determined to do our best, to grow and to 'add' to life, to inspire our children and associates, our unique answers will come from our inner unique self.

So in answer to Frankie's question 'Can you be your own best friend'?

I believe that in the end you have to be - therefore absolutely yes - as challenging as that may seem - as that is the only person who will accompany you, to the end of your life journey.

 Les
 A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Running for the dungeon.

Back in February, an elderly friend of the family passed away suddenly. He had no next of kin and left no will. His house and all its contents were soon to be passed over, unceremoniously, to local government.

Mark, however, also had two cats, whom I know he adored. They were to meet certain doom unless homes could be found and quick. A kindly neighbour took in one and mum and I the other. Binky the elder. (Although, in all honesty, we needed another cat like we needed a hole in the head.)

Poor Binky had already endured a stressful couple of weeks and by the time he arrived here, without anything of everything he had ever known, he was wide eyed with fear.

As we have done with all waifs and strays we've helped in the past, we set up a comfy corner in the cellar (it's a nice cellar) allowing him to become accustomed to us, as well as all the scents and sounds of the house, before introducing him to our two other cats.  Alas, all did not go to plan. We had completely underestimated poor Binky's terror and he somehow squeezed through a tiny tunnel in the cellar ceiling. This was a new and worrying development.

We left out food and water, of he which he availed himself but never when we were around.  Two days later, I realised that I could get to Binky by crawling through 3 holes under the floorboards. (Fact: iphones have an excellent built in torch!) Now at the other end of the tunnel, it was still impossible to reach Binky but at least I could now talk to his face.  I took care to blink softly at him. (Also known as 'cat kissey's'. Never stare at a cat you are trying to befriend. Blink. Fake yawns also indicate friendliness.)

It was a funny thing sat there under the house, amidst dust and soil that hasn't seen the light of day for well over a century. Sounds from the four floors above became dulled and distorted and yet, in a strange way, noises felt louder and more intimidating. How similar to a depression, I thought. You know there is life going on around you, life you could be part of even, but choked in your own darkness, everything becomes muffled. Inaccessible.

And how too, we 'bite the hand that feeds us' so to speak. We may react to well meaning family/friends like an injured, frightened animal - with snarls, hisses, growls; It becomes impossible to distinguish between someone trying to help and someone trying to hurt us, so we feel its safer to withdraw completely.

Well, the saga went on. We had moments of panic. Should we rip up the bathroom floor or tear down the cellar ceiling? As the RSPCA wisely said though, while he has access to food and water and is in no immediate danger, there's not much to be done but show patience.

Like Binky, when we're depressed, we'll run for the dungeon, pull up the drawbridge and withdraw into the darkness. We all know there are things that can help, like eating properly and regularly, but there are some depressions that cling to us like a bad smell and it's all we can do to just sit tight and allow for it to pass.

After several weeks of frequently sitting in the bowels of the house, blinking and yawning like an idiot, hopes of ever gaining Binky's trust began to recede. At last, one day, he started to slowly stay, albeit momentarily, out of his hole. Then, all at once, he allowed his barriers to melt. Binky cautiously ate some ham from my hand and the rest was history.  Purring as loud as an engine, he seemed determined to make up for all the loneliness he must surely have felt in recent weeks. Jumping on my lap, greeting me enthusiastically.  What a beautiful, beautiful moment that was.

Often you know, we humans, demand things, life, feelings, situations, to be fixed.  Instantly. Sometimes though, a handful of acceptance and a sprinkling of patience are the requirement of the day. Binky ventured out of his dungeon. And so will we.

For pictures of Binky you can scoot across to www.sensitivesoulsrequiremorebeauty.com

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Therapeutic Bullying.

There are some problems with knowing your doctor or therapist socially. Generally I rather like the fact that they know me when I am well so they can tell when I'm not. They also know that they're not dealing with a hypochondriac or attention-seeker.

The downside is that, in the case of my eagle-eyed therapist, she is likely to fix me with an intense stare and say "You're not well; you need to come and see me. When would you like your appointment?"

Like many of us, I'm sure; I fight against acknowledging my illness. In fact, I refer to it as a "condition" which I "manage." And, yes, sometimes that management means giving in and admitting that I'm not well (again) and that I need to go back on the pills.

So there I am, in the small white room, with the peaceful pictures on the walls, arguing once more with the woman who knows me far too well to argue with.

"So, let us just go over your symptoms again, shall we? You are constantly fatigued, you are experiencing frequent feelings of nausea, and often have headaches; you burst into tears for no reason, you feel overwhelmed to the point where you have been having suicidal thoughts. You cannot even summon enthusiasm for your job which I know you adore? At what point exactly do you admit that you are ill and that you need to take steps to recover?"
Well, when you put it like that...

Then she starts the war of attrition. "So, what are you going to give up so that you have that time and space to recover?"

This bit is painful, because we all hate letting people down. It's also awkward, because other people in one's life very often have strong views on what should and should not help: e.g. lots of time "having fun" with the family: good; lots of time shut away by yourself writing or reading: bad. Sadly, those strong views are not always (or even often) helpful.

So I come away from her office having promised to have some awkward conversations and to write some emails resigning from various activities. And I know I need to have those conversations and write those emails because she will be checking up.

I tell her she's a bully and she laughs. "You are paying me to throw my weight around on your behalf."

She's right. She most often is.

So, yes, she's a bully. I need her to be.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Bubble.

What do we mean by being part of the outside world?

Some days I don't see or experience it at all. It's not that I don't leave the house, usually I manage that if only briefly. It's just that I don't feel part of it. I move around as if floating, feeling unreal and invisible.

I exist in my own bubble as we all do sometimes, thinking our own thoughts, carrying out our own tasks and getting through the day. On a bad day that's all there is to it; get through the day, get my head down at the end of it and hope that tomorrow will be better, especially when it feels like today will never end.

A good day on the other hand is like a wonderful, illustrated manuscript. Full of colour, surprise, adventure and most of all promise. Promise of what might be, what might happen, where my life and my imagination might take me.

Often a good day starts with the weather. If it's bright and the sun is peeping through the curtains then it's much more likely to be a positive day. Conversely if the sky is grey and the day is dark and damp I suspect like many I'm loath to drag myself from my bed.

As often happens though, once forging ahead with the day, the routine tasks and actions take over and the day gets going. Getting out of your safe, controlled environment and into the real world often bursts your bubble. I know that means things can go either way but give it a chance on a bad day and the world might just surprise you. If not, at least the weather might have cleared up by tomorrow and the chance of a good day is higher from the outset.

Eleanor
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Who's your 'friend'?

Debbie in her wonderful blog 'Is your dustbin overflowing' (Saturday 15th March) used a phrase which has really resonated with me ...'Perpetual rumination'.

My hubby often accuses me of having conversations with 'Harvey' – and he is right; I will have a full-blown conversation about, say, the weekend's arrangements and draw up a complete timetable. A couple of days later I will refer to this conversation to hubby, and then accuse hubby of never listening to me when he looks at me blankly. You see, in my mind these arrangements have been fully discussed (and agreed to of course!) but hubby is completely in the dark – hence his observation "You've been talking to Harvey again".

How often do we have conversations that never happen? How often do we rehearse and re-rehearse what we are going to say, what the other person is going to say, and how we will respond? How often are we guilty of 'perpetual rumination'?

This is unhealthy and unhelpful – for me and for everyone else (especially when they don't respond as I have scripted!) I used to drive to work, rehearsing such conversations, which never or rarely happened.
 
These days, I now recognise that whenever Harvey reappears (as has happened this week) I am in danger of falling into old negative thinking patterns.
 
Nowadays, thanks to Louise Hay, I drive to work saying my affirmations out loud; "I am safe; all is well; I am my own authority; there is plenty of time, space and energy to do everything that I want".

So, who's your 'friend'?  Can you be your own 'best friend' and reassure and encourage yourself?  In my heart of hearts, I firmly believe that we are all doing the best we can – we just need to remind ourselves every day.

Frankie
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

10 tips for a healthy life.

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E's - Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy...
5. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, and prayer.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2013.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk every day. And while you walk, smile.

Hilda
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 18 April 2014

More action, less thought!

One morning recently, I awoke to a beautiful sunny day and was struck by a sudden sense of unease. It took me a while to identify it, and the unease persisted, and became uncomfortable; a coil of barbed wire in my soul, gradually shifting and starting to uncoil, prickling and scratching as it did so.

Negative thoughts and feelings of failure began to spiral, and with what I thought was admirable determination (!) I tackled them head on, trying to analyse and rationalise them. Predictably, I became more and more enmeshed in that coil of barbed wire until I found myself immobilised; trying to move in any direction hurt. I was stuck, staring aimlessly at my computer, idling from one website to another, and acutely aware of bored children, piles of washing and dogs that needed exercise!

Then I remembered 'acting opposite' - accepting how we feel, but doing the opposite action our emotions suggest. My negative thought patterns had led me in to lethargy, so I needed more action, and less thought. (A word of warning - acting opposite can be a good strategy for a number of emotions, as it can lift us out of unhelpful thought patterns. However, it's important to take notice of our instincts, if we feel unsafe, it may well be right to leave the situation.)

So more action, less thought! I turned up 'Wham' on the Ipod - forgive me, I'm a child of the 80's! - made a loaf of raisin bread and cleaned the bathroom. Small, achievable tasks that distracted my thinking. The thoughts were still there, if I poked and prodded they hurt, but focusing on the action lifted my spirits enough to be able to get on with my day. As a result, that coil of barbed wire has settled again, and I am peaceful once more.

Vanessa
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

To listen is to heal...

Last week I offered a story on why people shout and do not truly listen to each others hearts.

The best poem I know about listening is below, see what you think or should I say 'feel'.

Listen.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people – because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn – and I will listen to you.

Anonymous

How much do you listen? Are you mixing with people who do not listen to you? What do you display and accept into your life?

"Hearing is one of the body's five senses, but listening is an art and with it comes the gift of healing"

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Driving you crazy.

I did a lot of driving last weekend; down to the coast, back home to meet a couple of Sunday commitments, back down to the coast and then home again.

Normally my husband is in the driving seat; not because I am a bad driver, but because he is a terrible passenger. Last Wednesday however, he made the painful discovery that, whereas washing detergent is great at cleaning clothes, it is not recommended as an eye bath. We spent an amusing three hours in A&E where he adequately demonstrated his command of basic Anglo Saxon to the pretty nurses, and he emerged with a raffish eye-patch and instructions not to drive for a week.

Before I agreed to drive the hundred miles to the coast with him beside me a full and frank discussion was required and the results were illuminating.

We have been married for fifteen years but I had never before realised that his annoying habit of informing me that the road is clear or that two cars are coming or "watch out for that pothole", all of which I have seen clearly for myself thank you very much; stem from his upbringing. Apparently, in his family, it is required for the passenger to provide extra eyes and to be on the lookout for hazards. In my family, it is the height of bad manners to comment or offer advice unless specifically asked.

But you give a little to get a little, and in return for his promise to keep quiet and not keep putting his foot on an imaginary brake, I agreed to slow down and drive at a sedate 65 mph.

It proved to be a much more pleasant way of travelling; just tootling along, allowing all the Ford Mondeos to whizz past doing eighty and more, occasionally pulling out to pass a lorry doing fifty-five.

Surprisingly, it didn't seem to take any longer to get there. Maybe five minutes or so and the whole thing was much more relaxing. In fact, my passenger even leaned back and closed his good eye a couple of times.

Given that I'm at the scratchy, irritable stage of my bi-polar cycle at the moment, anything that reduces stress is good. What's more, it saves on petrol too. So if you were on the A14 over the weekend, cursing the elderly Volvo in front of you resolutely doing five miles per hour less than the limit: I can only apologise. But, hey, relax; chill: your stress levels will thank you.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bottling a positive mood.

Today I was chatting with my colleagues about Easter Eggs. So far I have 2 Easter Eggs, one of which I bought myself along with my 3 daughter's eggs. I told them that when my daughters were little I made Easter Eggs for them and all their cousins and that I was looking forward to doing the same with my grandchildren when they arrive. I also told them about a book that I have written (not published yet) about a cat flea who ski's and skates around the kitchen and garden and generally has lots of adventurous fun.

I felt really hyper after our few minute chat.

That got me thinking...

Wouldn't it be great if we could 'bottle' our hyper mood/happy mood/calm mood/loving mood?

I have started to make a list of the things which make me feel hyper when I talk about them:

1 My book.
2 Easter Eggs and making them (new hyper subject).
3 The thought of having lots of fun with grandchildren.
4 The craft projects and greetings cards that I make.

I will add to this list when I think of more things.

When I am needing a 'boost' of mood, I can telephone one of my friends or family and talk about one of the things on my list! Or even just peruse the list.

Yey! It has also resulted in my writing this blog for you and I hope it has inspired you or just made you feel happy about maybe having an Easter Egg soon.

Warmest wishes,
Dawn
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Temporarily stranded but never stuck. (2)

To be rendered stuck, hindered or stationary, by circumstances can be a painful thing. We can find ourselves stuck, or at a standstill, with feelings too. It may feel impossible to move forward from either.

However, no matter how stuck we may feel there is always movement, imperceptible it maybe but there is movement, nonetheless. Arthur Hugh Clough's poem, Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth, expresses it well.

"For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
    Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
    Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

Yes, sometimes, the tide doesn't look as though it is coming in, does it? It happens slowly but it is coming in.

Shift and change can happen suddenly. In the meantime, we can actively plant flowers in the mind and soul; read, learn, show kindness, be patient, hold out our unique gifts, or 'colours', to the world and those around us.

"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance." H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Temporarily stranded but never stuck. (1)

Shaking up thoughts, like raffle tickets in a top hat and choosing a positive over a negative is something that has been written about in many different ways on this blog.  When it actually happens though, when you manage it, well, it's a glorious thing indeed.  It's like sunshine stretching out from behind a grey cloud. This happened to me on Saturday morning.

The weather was fine, I anticipated a lovely day ahead with my friend at a one day poetry class (theme: 10 poems to save your life) and the setting was in the delightful Calderstones Park, Liverpool.

My friend's husband was ferrying us there and having not seen them for a while, I gave a brief account of where I'm up to in life. (It is brief too, for it can be summed up in one word: Stuck!)

My friend's husband, ever wise, quick as a flash said, "You're going to study poetry for the day Su. How can you be stuck?" This was an epiphany moment for me. It's like grappling in the dark for something and then someone flicks on a light. My day started afresh from that moment on and what a beauteous day it was too.

It's been said that in every situation there are at least 30 ways to change your point of view. Granted, I'm not sure it's possible when in the thick of a depression. If it was that easy, the whole "Snap out of it!" theory wouldn't be so abhorrent to us. However, on the days when it is possible to flick to a more positive pathway, oh, then by all means, shall we try?

(The next post from me will express why exactly the words from my friend pulled me up short)

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Decisions.

One thing I know well about being in a depression is how it can suddenly take you ages to make a decision and even postpone making those important decisions until the very last possible moment, or until we might feel better, even though we know that could be some time.

Structure and organisation by someone else helps guide us in what we do in work situations, but in our private life we have to balance, organise and choose everything ourselves.

We decide whether to go to the shops or not, to pay our bills or not, to eat a healthy meal or not, to get out of bed or not.

The funny thing is, by not making a decision we DO make a decision.

If you don't, want or can't decide whether to cook today, you will end up simply not doing it. Which is a result of decisiveness. You postpone making a decision and you end up simply, not consciously, making a choice which leads to not doing certain things.

Not being able to decide about something can be an indication that you have too many (hard) decisions to make and don't know where to start. These are probably things that make you fearful or unsure.

Make one decision today. Write down everything that you know you need to decide on doing or arranging. Consciously choose every day to review one of those subjects. If you have trouble making any decisions and need some structure, use something I've been using for years now. It's called the Eisenhower model. It helps you to decide to do something, to plan, to delegate and eliminate.

For me, the decision I will make today will be about reviewing my financial situation and what measures I need to take to make sure we make it to the end of the year.

If you have big life decisions to make about changing your job, what to do with your relationship or perhaps moving house and need help, find someone you can talk to. It could be your best friend, a coach a therapist or even a random person on the train.

Suzanne
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Hunger Games.

Thanks to Les, we're all now well acquainted with the acronym HALT. Each letter standing for a symptom often synonymous with depression. How about we take a look at how we can fight the often, all consuming, H, which stands for hunger.

In one of the Moodscope blogs that Jon wrote, he said he wished someone would come up with a cook book for depressed souls (meaning, recipes extremely simple to create) with healthy fare (foods known to help the mind as well as the body). 

My craft is not in the kitchen. I'm no orthorexic [My word of the day: it means obsessed by healthy eating.] but I do so try to cook healthy fare from scratch. Alas, it can feel overwhelming to begin and all too often, I'm in a real tizzy by the end (and that's even when I'm supping the wine instead of cooking with it!). I'm no tidy cook either. Yes, eating healthily when low and tired can feel like an insurmountable task. What to do?  What helps you?

For me, it helps to have a ton of healthier snacks in stock: raisins, dried fruit and nuts, bananas, small apples... For those with sleep disorders, you will know the hunger and craving for sugar can feel permanent, as the body is continually trying to "wake up".  Having a supply of cakes, biscuits and sweets in my cupboards is dangerous. Best not buy them to begin with.

My favourite meal when weary is wholegrain rice (Uncle Ben's provide jolly easy cooking instructions), fish, perhaps baked and a colourful, crisp salad, with a simple dressing.  It's simple, tasty and not unhealthy.

Drinking lots of water helps to curb the hunger slightly.

Do you have simple, healthy recipes to share? Given that we live at a time when eating healthily has never been so important and yet never been so difficult, I think a pooling of tips, healthy snacks and recipes would be truly beneficial. Help! Please?

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Who needs to hear your heart again?

"Deep listening from the heart is one half of true communication. Speaking from the heart is the other half." Sara Paddison, Hidden Power of the Heart.

Ever wonder why we shout when we are angry?

This story is one of the best explanations I've come across. Enjoy!

A Hindu saint who was visiting the river Ganges to take a bath, found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other.

He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked, "Why do people shout in anger at each other?"

His disciples thought for a while and one of them said, "Because when we lose our calm we shout."

"But why should you shout when the other person is just next to you?" asked the saint. "Can't you just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner?"

When some of the answers did not satisfy the others, the saint finally explained, "When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance."

"What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small."

The saint continued, "When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other."

He looked at his disciples and said, "So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return."

Who did you last raise your voice to?

Who needs to 'hear' your heart again, not your voice?

As our hearts separate - our voices rise according to the exact distance we move apart!

"An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart." David Augsburger.

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Don’t Pet The Porcupine.

So, in no particular order: the people I hate.

Those who keep telling me, with saccharine voices that “Family comes first.” Actually, no: my health has to come first because if I don’t look after me then my family is shortly going to have a sectioned mother or no mother at all!
Those puzzled people who say “But you’re always so bright and bubbly and optimistic; surely you don’t get depressed.”
The people who want me to DO things. I hate them even more when I say “yes”.
People who come to the door selling things or asking for charity.
People who phone me.
People who email me.
My friends (even my Moodscope Buddies).
My husband (who is lovely).
My children (who are lovely for quite of lot of the time really).

Just at the moment I feel like a porcupine. I’m not just spiky, I’m offensively spiky. It takes a real effort of will not to snap at people. Even the delightful postman was nearly snarled at today. He was telling me about his recent holiday. Normally I’d be interested, but today my brain was screaming “GO AWAY” and my smile felt like congealed cheese on a cold beef burger.

I hate myself the most, because this is like being possessed by an alien. This growling rage is utterly foreign to the person I am for most of the time. I know it’s all chemical; it’s a part of the bi-polar thing, but it’s really not nice for anyone; not my family, not my friends, definitely not for me.

This is where the discipline comes in. It’s time for my EFT exercises (Tapping) it’s time for meditation. For me, doing this is as effective as drugs, but it takes longer and I hate it. Oh, and I hate my therapist too (wonderful woman that she is).

Deep breath.

Because, really, I love them all. I need to remember this and everyone else needs to remember this too. It will pass. It will get better. In the meantime – just don’t pet the porcupine, OK?

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hold the vision, trust the process.

It is time I admitted it, my name is Amy and I am an extremist. Yes I am your classic black and white thinking, it's perfect or its broken kind of gal. I've battled with a veritable feast of mind demons for over 10 years, a heady mix of OCD, depression and anxiety. And I've expended a great deal of energy searching for The Answer.

I have laboured under the belief there is one definite activity/choice/lifestyle that will free me from the dungeon, slay the dragons and all will be well forevermore. If only I could find it. This search has led me to try out (and swiftly abandon) paganism, vegetarianism, yoga, knitting, arranging my books in order of height, cleaning the house, refusing to clean the house, writing detailed plans, surrendering to chance, feeding squirrels, baking my own bread, watching films with subtitles etc. It has also led to some questionable decisions such as shaving my head and having an affair with my boss - just two shining examples.

While some of these activities are healthy and some mind expanding, the fatal error I have made time and time again is thinking that they should serve as an instant fix, rendering me OCD/depression/anxiety free. However (and partially thanks to Moodscope) I am slowly, and finally, learning that change happens incrementally, in tiny stages, but these stages are entirely valuable in themselves.

So at the start of the year in the spirit of resolutions, I compiled a list of things I wanted to achieve or change. Unlike the squillion other lists I have compiled in my lifetime I broke this down into each step I would take to achieve this change. And what struck me very clearly is that the big things wouldn't happen without the little stages. While previously I would dismiss each activity when it failed to be an instant fix, I can now see that they are a series of healthy and/or positive choices. Choices which will slowly but surely result in a healthier, happier life.

As an anonymous wise person said 'Hold the vision, trust the process'. Keep your focus on your vision and trust that by taking it a step at a time you can make it a reality. It made a difference to this hardened sceptic, so trust me anything's possible.

Amy
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A 'Play'ful approach to mood.

I've been using Moodscope for a couple of years, and one thing I have found very useful to keep scores high, and mood strong, is maintaining balance in my life. Just as the cards remind me each day to look at both positive and negative aspects of emotion in life, I aim to ensure I actively build things into my life that are positive and help me to increase my positive emotion scores.

One of the ways I do this is by building an 'Artist Date' into each week. This idea, from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (which I highly recommend whether you consider yourself an 'Artist' or not), is about creating a space each week to 'fill the well' of creativity.  This is done alone, and is a sort of 'play date with yourself'. The 'Date' can be anything – from colouring for an hour, to visiting a museum and creating a fantasy life for yourself. Or just listening to a loved album all the way through, doodling your thoughts as you do and letting the music fill your mind. For more ideas, see '99 ideas to bring play into your life'.

Creating some alone time for myself, to do something that I wouldn't normally take the time to do, is part of showing myself I am worth nurturing, worth taking time to look after, just as I do with others. And it also creates lots of wonderful memories to sift through when I'm having a 'bad day', to remind me not all days will be like that – it helps me to find joy in the everyday. Plus, there are good scientific reasons which show that play is joyful and energizing – and involved with human development and intelligence.

Take a look at this talk:
http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Uma
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Say Yes!

Contrary to many out there, I suspect I'm not alone in being a cautious person, often uttering "No" when faced with a closed question.

I'm not the person you ask if you want something done immediately. Most of my family know this only too well. I'm queen of procrastination and not just when it's things I don't really want to do. Even if I do want to do something or go somewhere, I still say No!

Inevitably this causes me considerable guilt and anxiety. As someone already riddled with guilt (I'm a working mum of small children need I say more?), it's difficult. I spend hours deliberating the pros and cons of whether I should have said "Yes" and agreed there and then, or whether I feel happy with myself for having said "No".

So I've decided to try and say "Yes" to as many things as I can at the moment in order to spend time actually doing something rather than worrying about having not done it.

It's proving good so far. An anticipated quiet night at home turned into an enjoyable evening at the local pub. The chance purchase of a new pen has encouraged my son to start writing. Accepting the offer of a stay in a fancy hotel has presented a whole load more opportunities for nodding enthusiastically and gratefully accepting or agreeing.

Go on, say "Yes", you never know where it might take you...

Eleanor
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

When in Happyland do as the Happy do.

In her room, at a nursing home in Wigan, there are a small pile of cheery books that may spark a happy l'il moment for my nan.  One of them is a Mr. Men book by Roger Hargreaves, namely Mr. Happy.  Perusing it made me want to purchase the entire collection - 46 books in total, I think.  Great books!  Plus, 33 Little Miss Books. Mr Hargreaves himself must surely have been a lovely character.

Mr Happy lives in Happyland where 'even the flowers seem to smile.' One day he discovers a small door in the trunk of a tree. To cut a short story even shorter, entrance to the door leads Mr Happy to the residence of Mr Miserable. I counted 3 things that Mr Happy does to help his new friend:

1) "They both set off through the wood and back to Mr Happy's cottage." Mr Happy encouraged Mr Miserable to go for a walk. Exercise, even gentle, creates new neurons in the brain, boosts blood flow to the brain and increases levels of key mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine.

Add to that the effect of sunshine. Our mood can be significantly boosted by feeling the sunshine on our face.

2) "Because he was living in Happyland Mr Miserable ever so slowly stopped being miserable and started to be happy." Notice it doesn't say Mr Miserable felt happy but that he 'started to be happy.' A study at the University of British Columbia found that even brief interactions with strangers tended to improve people's mood. Why? Well, researchers ruminate that we try to act more cheerful around strangers which has the corroborative effect of putting us in a better mood.

3) "Mr Miserable and Mr Happy laughed and laughed... And because they were laughing so much, everyone who saw them started laughing as well." Studies have suggested that moods are contagious.

So, to sum up, gentle exercise, especially when the sun is out, interaction with strangers, even if only brief and keeping away from The Miserable Ones, and who knows, we may find ourselves in Happyland today. :o)

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Get your life in order.

Is your life 'Out of Order'?

What fuels your life? What gives you energy? My list is well know to me:

• A good night's sleep with pleasant dreams
• A refreshing shower
• Breakfast at the appropriate time
• A cleansing shave
• Comfortable clothes
• Taking regular breaks (a micro-break every 45 minutes is essential)
• Light – especially Sunshine!
• Air!

And the more aesthetic energisers:

• Creative Photography
• Making Music
• Creative Writing such a poetry and blogging.

The trouble is, my life can get 'Out of Order' so easily.

I, like so many, believe in deferred gratification. It's a sign of maturity... or is it?

You see, I put off my 'rewards' to the end of the day – when I'm tired and often cranky. They are my treat for working hard. Sounds wise, doesn't it? It's OK when all goes well, but last night I ended up spending an hour sorting out technical issues before I could make any music. It got me thinking...

Deferred gratification is wise, of course, unless I was a car... or a human! It would be utter madness to put fuel in the car at the end of the journey – unless you already had a tank full. I don't – I often begin my day empty, tired, already exhausted. I need fuel first.

Many people have mentioned the metabolic power of having a good breakfast. I'm beginning to understand – it gives you fuel.

Some productivity gurus like Peter Thomson recommend getting up earlier to do some self-development. I get that, it gives them fuel. I disagree though. A good night's sleep is the prime energiser for the vehicle of the human body. We live in an age where Karl Marx would have to re-write his famous comment about religion being the opiate of the masses. Yesterday, Television was the opiate of the masses – a new religion that brought them to their seats, not their knees! Today, it's Facebook and other Social Media channels. Some young people I meet have already been Borganised – assimilated into the Collective – become a fusion of technology and flesh!

I would suggest it would be better to cut down on the TV and Internet rather than sacrifice needed sleep.

So what about getting your life in order? Well, I suggest, like me, you begin to put some of your energising activities first! Put fuel in the tank before you begin the day's journey. I don't need much – maybe 30 minutes of something creative like writing this blog – but it makes the world of difference to my day and to the results I get.

 Lex
 A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Touched by the Emotion.

I am touched by the emotion that was shown,
In response to my words in a personal poem.
We can see how hearts can be open,
The blog is not just a verbal token.

Moodscope is a diverse outlet,
Don't ever dam or doubt it.
To connect your heart and soul,
With a harmonious happy goal.

The writers always do their stuff,
Taking risks with the occasional 'rough'.
To open up their hearts to others,
To lift right off the IQ 'covers'.
To offer some mostly personal tale,
This isn't like a fire damage sale.
It's real and authentic heartfelt  stuff,
Not just written off the cuff.
Often  deep and meaningful,
To hope to  add emotional fuel.
Just a chance to connect and move,
To diminish some pain you can remove.

No ideas of who and where,
Just some words to take you there.
Geographically displaced around the world,
A daily blog to help you unfurl.

 We each take our risk,
Like the first love we just kissed.
To open up and truly show,
What's in our hearts for you, you know.

In the hope it'll touch you from inside,
Where too many stay and mostly hide.
We want to open up the door,
To help lift you off the floor.

To lift you up and hope to see,
There's others out there, other than 'me'.
We need to share our ongoing life,
To diminish and lessen the endless strife.
So to my Moodscope blogging friends,
Let's hope this never ever ends.
To serve this growing community,
To let them live and hopefully see.

They're not alone and all at sea,
They can swim to shore to return to 'be'.
The beautiful soul that was there before,
As they find dry land upon the shore.

I was touched by the emotion that was shown,
In response to my words in a personal poem.
Keep reading the blogs and you will see,
That we all can find, what's inside 'me'.

Les
A Mooodscope member.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Are the Voices talking to you?

A friend of mine, Jenny, has a friend whose name is Fag-ash Lil.

Now, Fag-ash Lil isn't the kind of friend you'd really want in your life, because she's really negative. Just last week she was in the kitchen, leaning against the table as Jenny prepared for a presentation she was due to make the following day.

"I don't know why you bother, you know. Nobody wants to listen to you." she said, lighting up, even though Jenny hates people smoking in her house. Lil inhaled, blew a stream of smoke straight into Jenny's face, examined her nails and ran a hand through her straw-like hair. "What you've got to say is just completely irrelevant, you know? If I were you I'd just give up right now." And she went on and on and on in the same vein, making it really difficult for Jenny to concentrate.

Now you'd think that Jenny would banish this obnoxious person from her house, wouldn't you? But that's a bit tricky, because Fag Ash Lil lives inside Jenny's head; she's one of the voices.

We all have voices. We make jokes about it, don't we? "The voices in my head told me to do it." "You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me!"

But when was the last time the voices said "Hey – great job there: really well done. No – I mean it; you were awesome! Oh, and by the way, you're looking pretty hot too!"
That would be never, right?

The reason I know about Fag-ash Lil is that Jenny has told me about her. By visualising Lil, creating a slightly ridiculous persona for her, Jenny has reduced her power. As soon as Lil starts, Jenny can look her straight in the eye, say "Thanks for sharing, Lil. I'm going to ignore you now, OK?"

Now, Lil doesn't shut up; she's very persistent, but she has a lot less power around Jenny's life. She doesn't stop that presentation being written and delivered; she doesn't get in the way much at all now. Oh she used to, but now she's not lurking in the shadows whispering her poison, Jenny can laugh at her.

Lil absolutely hates that.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Don't give up.

There's never a good time to talk about wanting to die. We don't like talking about it because it makes us feel uncomfortable and it is depressing and perhaps even pessimistic.  But not being able to talk about it is what makes it worse, and can make a person much more lonely.

Feeling so bad that you think about dying is truly awful and I can say that because it happens to me a lot. Sometimes it is just a fleeting thought and then nothing for months or even years and sometimes it is a reccurring thought that stays with me for days, weeks, even months. That's when it gets tough and harder to see as a temporary situation that I can ride out.

I have thought about dying a lot and I have acted on it several times and thankfully pulled through, often with the odds stacked against me. Im neither proud nor ashamed of that. I just think it is okay to talk about sucidal thoughts and feelings. I think it is okay because talking about it has helped me to survive and to overcome some very dark moments.

I have tried many times to write a blog about suicide and suicidal feelings and always decided it was too depressing but then I thought well hey, not all of life is sunshine and rainbows and maybe somebody needs to hear that wanting to die happens and that people do survive it every day.

I would like to share a few statements that help me to hold on when things get particularly bad, be warned, they are not sugar coated:

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

People never get over the suicide of a loved one, it leaves so much pain for the people you care about.

Having a rough morning? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? That's called purpose. Don't give up.

If you feel suicidal please talk to somebody about it. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed and don't think you are on your own. You will survive it. Don't give up.

Jules
A Moodscope member.