Thursday, 31 December 2015

Be the Change You Want to See...

I volunteered recently in London for three days with the homelessness charity Crisis, as a befriender.

This was at one of their non-overnight centres, where about 70% of those coming in for services (food, dentistry, clothes, optician, advice, I.T., massage etc.) were living alone and over and above these services, they came in for the company and conversation.

My main role was to be in the cafeteria area and, without any assumptions, connect with the guests and simply have a conversation, if they wished to do so.

I found again that as we create an environment or conversation where people feel safe – the 'spirit' becomes one of selflessness; connecting as one, equal and fair, whether it be at Crisis or in fact home, work, church or any organisation.

The phrase that I reflect on repeatedly – 'show weakness to gain strength' - was demonstrated time and again and I found that when those who have the power or control to lead the way by showing their humility, their imperfections and thus their desire to emphasise their humanity – that this is truly THE key to creating a safe space for people to show their own true self and their desire to share the fact that only together as one humanity, will we connect and achieve.

The opposite situation, where people seek power and control to cover their own personal or organisational insecurity creates a culture of fear and insecurity which results in a move towards selfishness. (often bankers, politicians, bosses, insecure bullies et al)

This is also reflected in the animal world as I noticed in the Gorillas & Me programme presently running, where the cameraman and others have had to show their weakness (look down and away) to enable a true bond to be created with the big 'boss' Silverback.

Crisis is there due to people being alienated by our society and its lack of compassion and our selfish ME and materialistic culture.

Oh... did I mention that our guests say they are so alone... because society in general abuses them and treats them like lepers? Probably due to their own insecurities and fears through not being able to show themselves.

Who can you show your own weaknesses to, this New Year to make it safe for them to reveal their true self and thus create a more fair and sustainable relationship?

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Year – Same Old You...

So everywhere we look we're bombarded by the idea that we should use the turning of the year to start a new life, to make new resolutions, to turn over a new leaf.

Well, you know what? I've had enough of it!

This flipping over a calendar's page – or in this case, the archiving of the old calendar to leave an almost exactly identical family diary in sole possession of the hall table means precisely nothing in terms of me suddenly becoming a different person.

In 2016 I will almost certainly lose a few pounds and gain a few pounds. I will have periods of healthy eating and periods where I slump into cooking easy convenience meals. There will be weeks at a time when I visit the gym regularly and then weeks or months when I don't.

And there will almost certainly be weeks or months when I have to cope with depression. It's probably the same for most of you.

I don't want to sound gloomy or defeatist about this. For me it's a fact of life.

And I'm already pretty proud of how I deal with it.

In fact, not wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I'm pretty proud of the way I deal with the majority of life. I'd like to carry on doing more of the same, please.

There are a few resolutions of course. Having Tom home for Christmas (his first Christmas with us as his family) has brought home a few improvements we can make. We have resolved to all be a bit kinder and more polite to each other. We hadn't realised how our robust manner within the family was distressing to our lovely Tom. He's right – we could all be a lot gentler.

I've set up in the diary some business planning meetings with a friend who operates a business similar to mine and whose goals, like mine, are not about money. We both find planning difficult, so we're helping each other.

Tom, being a teacher, has also made sure that we are viewing each tiny improvement as a win because it's progress. None of us can hope to lose twenty pounds overnight. None of us can become proficient ice-skaters in a week, or have achieved our financial goals in a fortnight (although we can dream). What we can do is make progress. We can make tiny steps.

We will still be the same old us. There is no magical new you at the end of the rainbow along with the unicorn and tickets to the Beatles Reunion Concert. But the same old you can look forward and make progress.

What there can be is one baby step forward after another baby step forward. We might slip back sometimes, but what matters is to keep an open mind to making new improvements and to keep going.

I'll let you know how I'm getting on. Why not comment and let me know how you're doing?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

There I am.

There I am. Smiling and laughing at family get-togethers. I'm the funny one, the arty one, the dramatic one, the unpredictable one. No one would guess there's a cement brick weighing down my tummy. No one would know I have just come from the bathroom where I allowed myself a two-minute cry.

There I am. Entertaining my girlfriends with hilarious stories of my crazy life. Self-deprecating anecdotes that has them all crying with laughter. Little do they know the mental effort it took to even arrive here. And how exhausted I will be when I arrive home.

There I am. At the school gate collecting my kids. Chatting to the mums about the maths homework, heavy bags and head lice! Chitter chatter, normal mummy pitter patter. Keep breathing. Keep calm. Minute at a time.

There I am. Shopping with my kids. Trolley, list and instructions: 'You get the weetabix and juice', 'You get the strawberries and crackers'. Ready steady, go. Inside, I'm counting down the seconds we can get out of this noisy people-populated bad dream.

There I am. In a work meeting. I'm speaking but I don't believe my own voice. Do they? Can I do this job? Is my work good enough? They seem to be nodding and responding. I must be okay. Am I?

There I am. Lost. On the way to a football match. My child worried, will we be late? Will I let my team down? My voice, high pitch with stress, assures him we'll get there. Inside, I feel lost, lost, lost.

I call it 'doing a Meryl'. My acting skills are sparkling. No one would know. No one would guess. My Meryl mask is secure.

Only a few friends know. They see the real me. Sad, vulnerable and raging with anxiety. Amazingly, they still like me! They have seen my Meryl mask slip and they've seen me emotionally naked without my armour. I thank them for not flinching. Or, if they do, for hiding it so well!

But I also thank my Meryl Mask because it gets me through each day. It makes me a stronger mother. A fighter. Meryl in her armour with her sword by her side.

Wounded but very much alive.

There I am.

Salt Water Mum
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site.

Monday, 28 December 2015

The A to Z Guide to Life - Letter 'D'

'D' is for 'Decision'. But it is for a special kind of Decision. There are two types of decisions we can make.

One is like drawing a line in the sand.
The other is like drawing a line in wet cement.
Both have the 'sand' of good intentions.
One works; the other doesn't.

So what does cement add to sand to produce concrete results?

Successful cement begins with moving from a continuum of shades of grey to the ruthless binary domain of 'yes' or 'no' – of 'black' and 'white' – of 'do it' or 'don't' – of 'on' or 'off'!

Powerful decisions begin with a switch. One moment you're on one path. The next you flick the switch and you're on a new path. It really is like flicking the switch 'on'.

Poor decisions flick the switch on and off, on and off, on an off – and that is as annoying as this sentence.

No, we begin with 'ON'!

Then there are the added ingredients of perseverance, patience and practice. This is because flicking the 'on' switch doesn't end the game, it begins it. It begins a process.

Want to lose those pounds? Flick the 'on' switch to say, "I am going to lose 'x' amount!"  Make it a declaration from which there is no turning back. Then recognise that the dance begins: two steps forward and usually one step back. This is the nature of the thing. Progress is rarely in a straight line.

I can touch type. I love it. It didn't happen overnight. But the decision did. I chose to enroll on a programme – boom! I flicked the switch. Then I went to class after class – I persevered – and I had the patience to endure, realising that the muscle-memory would take time, but it would happen. And it did. It took practice though – a lot of practice.

Finally, whether it is the gym or enrolling in that new class, it is far more powerful to begin the process onward from the decision point in the company of friends.

We are your friends.
Let's begin.
So, what shall we be decisive about today?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Train of Thoughts.

I am still struggling, as I indicated last week.

And having just completed my mindfulness session, I am very aware of some aspects of my life, which at present with the darker lens I view it through, that I blame myself for.

I have maybe said before, that I believe for many (including myself) self-hate is a real source of depression.

I find that there are so many things I could/should do each day to seek to lift the gloom and yet I seem to lack the energy or desire to do so, which draws from and also amplifies those negative thoughts about myself.

I can then hear a trusted friend say "Les, I wish you could be more kind to yourself."

Then the phrase 'Love what is' comes in to view as I return to the wisdom of the mindfulness track that I have been using – which offers the thought that of course our mind will 'see' certain things which take us away from the focus on our inner self and the body scan that I follow.

The real wisdom, for me, is the statement that we should simply notice these thoughts (good or bad) and then return to focus on becoming more self-aware of our body and to a place where we focus on our inner selves and 'love what is'.

When I am in this difficult place, the tendency is to move away from this inner journey as I can start comparing myself with others and constantly seeing them as somehow better or happier. This makes me more uncomfortable as I judge myself harshly.

Although we all make judgements, (it's what we as humans do) I know that we should simply let go... especially those self judgements when we are low.

So once again I focus inward and become more self-aware of what my body is saying and to 'work' on quieting the mind which is so bombarded with images and inputs; learning that, at the end of the day, my world is inside my head (unique to me, as yours is to you).
Crucially I look for trusted friends to help me through my 'trough' once more.

The key is to find those trusted compassionate friends – where we can speak without judgement – truly authentically as we show our weakness, and it is in that place from which we can gain strength at last.

To go anywhere worthwhile – we will always go together.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Remembering What You're Made Of.

Have you ever noticed that one of the elements of depression is a sickening obsession with your own inner world? It's like you can't bear to be inside your head but you're equally too terrified to leave it and look outward.

Well maybe looking at yourself like this today might just help to shift that balance somewhat:

Have you ever considered that every single particle inside your body has been in existence for billions of years? Look at your skin. It was once part of a star, far, far from here, in another place and time. Those particles are taking a momentary rest in a you-shaped part of the universe before moving on to become soil, daisies and in the future, perhaps even more stars.

The gift you have now is the life-long lease of your own special part of the universe. It's one little bit of it that's all yours, and when you're gone, the stuff that was previously you will slowly scatter throughout the galaxies. Particles don't die. They just mutate and migrate.

With this so called ownership of our particles the human condition brings us both shame and pride alike. We are tenants bearing a great responsibility for our homestead. We understand that what we do with it affects not only our own plot, but everything around it. Sometimes the responsibility can get too much.

What if you were to make it your purpose, with this gift, to tread a life long journey along the Learning-To-Live-Better road? Arriving at Destination Perfection is not the aim. Continually moving forwards along that road is. Always remember that you are an everlasting work in progress. Just like the universe you are a part of.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope website:

Friday, 25 December 2015

A Meditation on Light.

I'm looking at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree. And the Angel who sits atop. One of my friends calls me his Angel.

No – not in any romantic way; that would be entirely inappropriate. He calls me his Angel of Light because he's going through a tough time at the moment and my daily Facebook posts and light-hearted messages bring light and joy into his day.

Myself – I think I'm more of a glow worm than an angel. As the little poem by Taylor Russel goes:

Oh I wish I was a glow worm,
for a glow worm's never glum,
'cause how can you be grumpy,
when the sun shines out your bum!

But regardless of the differences between angels and glow worms we all know the importance of light. Just ask anyone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Four days ago was the shortest day for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. And the longest night. It is not a co-incidence that the feast of Christmas falls three days after the planet starts tipping towards the sun again. That's counting it as starting Christmas Eve, naturally.

Even before the early Christians adopted this date for their own it was already an important pagan festival marking the rebirth of the sun after the darkest part of the year. All mankind recognises how essential is light; and with light, warmth. I think we who suffer with depression understand this more profoundly than most.

Today is Christmas – or most accurately, the day of Christ's Mass. One of the many names for Jesus is The Light of the World and Isaiah speaks of this in a passage often read at Christmas:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has shone.

What powerful imagery is this for those of us who, if not permanent residents, are all too familiar with that land of darkness?

One of my favourite prayers is said in the Anglican service of Evening Prayer. It too is about light.

"Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers and dangers of this night, for the love of your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ."

The imagery of light is not limited to religion. We speak of the light of knowledge. Amnesty International use the phrase, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." And I know that when I was going through my dark time recently, those lovely people who said they would come and sit with me in my emotional dungeon, just holding a candle, gave me a huge lift.

We say "You're a star!" when we want to thank someone. A star gives light and warmth. Wise men followed the star and – we're back to Christmas. It's a bit difficult to escape it right now!

So, regardless of whether you share my Christian faith, or how or indeed whether you celebrate Christmas, I wish you peace, joy and light for this feast held in the darkest portion of the year.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope website:

Thursday, 24 December 2015

How will I respond today – as a child or an adult?

I have been reflecting on how we often revert to childhood roles when dealing with our childhood families; take my sister (no, please, take her... as far away from me as possible – and she is not even living in the same country as me!) Even as I typed that last sentence, my heart started pounding...

You see, my sister, Nicky, is an alcoholic, but we were never allowed to talk about this reality. When she is out of action after overindulging, typically at Christmas, we are told that she is 'ill'. If we challenge this, Mum becomes (understandably) very protective and so the myth persists. What I have been struggling with most recently has been the continuation of this myth that Nicky is 'ill'. Also the apparent injustice of being 'told off' by Mum for not being "supportive"...

I know in my head that alcoholism is a dreadful illness. But in my heart I am grieving for my beautiful, talented, caring, witty sister whom I rarely see; and I am raging against the manipulative, scheming, lying, devious, drunk woman who has taken her place and who insists on doing her 'poor me' act, and I am not allowed to say all that. It's not fair!  See, I have reverted to being a child...

I have successfully avoided facing up to my feelings for so long that they are buried very deep, which has been fine...sort of... well, it was fine... until earlier this year when they started surfacing. On one notable occasion I completely lost it, shouting and screaming, and throwing (yes, throwing) chairs around the room and a few weeks later I had another melt-down. I have never, ever behaved like that before, so it came as a considerable shock to us all.

For almost 30 years Christmas has been dominated by Nicky, whether present or absent... will she be there? Will she be sober? what crisis will we have to deal with if she is drunk? Our family myth about Christmas is that we have a fantastic time together; the reality for over twenty years has been picking Nicky up off the floor at 9am completely drunk, and sitting round waiting for her to sober up as Mum won't "do" Christmas without her...

We can place too great an importance on maintaining family roles and traditions. We can fall into the trap of clinging onto such traditions. And of course, no-one wants to hurt anyone's feelings, so people (often the mums) pay the price for keeping the show on the road, when that show has passed its sell-by date and no longer brings the joy it once did.

I know rationally that I cannot change the situation, all I can change is my response... so how on earth do I respond as an adult, when my heart is reacting like that of a child?

Any tips very gratefully received!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment on our blog on the Moodscope website:

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Merry Moodmas.

Hello. I just thought I'd mention that I think you're doing OK. And that is good enough!

This time of year is in a league of its own. The good parts of life feel lit by fairy-light glow and we might beam. This year my children didn't bicker about whose turn it was to go first opening the advent calendar. They didn't even bicker about being the one to fill the drawers (and cram runaway sweets into the mouth pocket in the process).  It is going OK! Good enough for me! But the bad parts of life can feel enlarged by a magnifying glass because we have to suffer these parts whilst feeling that the rest of the world is living inside a sentimental advert.

Christmas has brought me some crises over the years both serious and funny. It has become easier for me as my years with depression have grown. I've grown inside. In a Christmas past, I held the hand of my gravely ill daughter, making deals in my heart, and praying for her hand to stay warm. Another Christmas I held the soft and floppy hand of an old beauty knowing it would not.

Key to tip-toeing through the days of this season and all that it brings us, is to find some element of beauty in every challenge. For me, the horror of hosting is balanced out by the poignant sight of three little wooden, painted ornaments that my daughter sprinkled glitter onto the first day she made it out of the hospital bed. The craft room will never know the ongoing importance of that ten minute visit. Ten years have passed but those ornaments are as precious to me as having her well. They hold a silent nod that strikes fear within me to remember that time, but also tell me that, wherever I am in my personal journey, it is good enough. Being better than that doesn't matter. Neither does perfection. Neither do gifts. Neither does being right, being wrong, being late or being the bearer of an empty gravy jug. It's good enough that I nearly ordered a turkey in time...

Know that you are doing and being all that you can in this moment. Free yourself from guilt and from wishing. Just be. Night will follow day, day will follow night, Christmas and its good and bad parts will pass. You will remain. Hold onto yourself, applaud who you are, your facets are unique and you are good enough. I wish you a Merry Moodmas.

Love from 
The room above the garage. 

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My tool box for recovery.

So sometimes just when I think life is running smoothly I get hit by a curve ball. This curve ball came in the shape of a wonderful rescue Lurcher called Rosco, whom we adopted and after five days realised was too much for me to handle, much to my children's distress. I didn't tell them that I also cried my eyes out when I actually took him back.

And this with the prospect of Christmas looming and a couple of tricky cases at work has meant my mental health is not as good as I would like it to be... the constant feeling of panic, the autopilot switch has definitely been flipped and I am now taking medication I only resort to on difficult days.

So how am I going to manage and how much resilience can I muster?

In a few days' time I am cooking for the immediate family on Christmas Day including the ex husband and the rest of my wider family on Boxing Day! How did that happen? I mean I don't even really like Christmas...

So now's the time to really pull out my tool box for recovery:

1. Years of experience mean that I know this tricky time will pass and I need to be patient and trust that eventually some sort of equilibrium will return.

2. At the moment, I am making a conscious effort to still keep up with social engagements. So I know I don't really want to go to my Mum's for coffee tomorrow and see several relatives but I also know that doing so will be a good distraction from the rather weird place my head is in.

3. I am going to just try to take each day as it comes. Yes Christmas takes organisation but I have done all I need to do do now and I don't need to plan every minute detail but just pace myself.

4. I am going to sometimes be a little bit selfish. If I cook dinner I will be demanding that someone else washes up while I put my feet up.

5. I'm going to grab any brief moment of joy where I can. Whether it's the look on my son's face as he opens his Christmas present or going carol singing with some friends or just spotting a robin, I know these little pleasures can go a long way in lifting my mood.

So this is my action plan for the next few days.

What's in your tool box to keep you going through the most stressful time of the year?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Monday, 21 December 2015

The A to Z Guide to Life - Letter "C"

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here.]

"C" is for "Control". According to Time Manager International, humans need a sense of overview, structure and control to feel OK about life. {So you can guess what letters 'O' and 'S' will be!}

"Control" is a funny concept. Most of us hate to be controlled, yet we also hate to lose control. We call control of others, 'manipulation', yet regard control of our temper or our circumstances as 'mastery'!

Can we agree that self-control, and control of the circumstances we can influence is a good thing, and that seeking to control others is a bad thing? Even the words 'good' and 'bad' are challenging, but let's let them stand today.

Can we also agree that having a sense that your life is under control (rather than out of control) is desirable and feels good? Good!

So, we need a strategy. Stephen Covey shared the concept of circles. We have a circle of control, a circle of influence and a circle of concern in his model. Seems we move in circles!

The circle of concern embraces the things in life we cannot control. Marketing people call these "PESTS" - for Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors that affect us but are difficult (though not impossible) for us to affect. In short, we should be aware of them but not overly bothered – our time would be better spent elsewhere.

The circles that need our time and attention are those where we can influence the outcome, or control it directly. And these circles are far larger than we might think. In fact, the more we work on them, the more they ripple out. After all, one thought, articulated well, can eventually change any of the PESTS I mentioned. Ideas change the World. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

For today though, I'm recommending a focus on the most powerful person in your Universe: You. If you have a faith, I am not negating that God is ultimate power in your life, however, I would strongly suggest that it is you who needs to take action corresponding to your beliefs.

My goal is single-minded today: for you to feel good about yourself.

To do this, would you focus on control and influence? Would you take a few minutes to list up to 10 aspects of your life today where you can control or influence the outcome? Make these things you'd enjoy controlling, changing, transforming, adapting... then take action, enthusiastic action.

Kindly share the sense of euphoria that may well arise!

Have an inspirational day!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Virtual Christmas lunch.

I would like to invite all Moodscopers to my 'virtual' Christmas lunch, date and time to be arranged.


'Granny's' Home Made Soup.

Traditional Turkey with all the trimmings (vegetarian option available).

Cheese and crackers

For starter, I will be 'serving' homemade soup using granny's old recipe which is so comforting and heartwarming on these cold days. While enjoying the soup I would like to ask you to think of people you know for whom this time of year is difficult. Their first Christmas without a loved one. Their first Christmas on their own following a relationship breakdown.

We all know someone who finds this time of year difficult for whatever reason. So for starters why don't you pick up the phone or text them and let them know that you are thinking of them with some comforting, warm, kind words.

Main Course will be traditional Turkey with all the trimmings or vegetarian option. While tucking into this course please remember that for some, a traditional Christmas dinner will be a dream and instead they will be eating whatever they can afford.

So when you are next in the Supermarket why don't you buy a couple of extras and donate them to a local food bank. Just think if we all donated a couple of items then many people could potentially enjoy a meal without worrying of the cost and all thanks to the generosity of the wonderful Moodscope members.

For dessert I thought cheese and crackers. Once again, as you munch your way through the array of different cheeses and crackers I will be serving I would ask you to spare a thought this time for the people who find this time of year difficult due to disability or mental health issues.

For those suffering mental health issues this is a time of year they dread. They are expected to be happy and excited as everyone else but inside they want to scream out that they can't just turn on their 'happy mode' and so many will walk about with a big 'cheesy' smiles but underneath it all they would rather hide in a darkened room until the New Year.

Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moonscape web site:

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Small steps work best.

Today's blog is by Rachel Kelly, author of '52 Small Steps to Happiness' and a member of Moodscope.  If you are interested in getting hold of a copy of Rachel's new book, details are at the end of the blog.

December can be a wobbly month for me. It's not just the ever lengthening to-do list: it's also the memory of experiencing a major depressive episode, which happened at this time of year.

It was brought on by being overwhelmed, anxious, and trying to do too much, most notably throwing a neighbourhood Christmas party. I ended up leaving my own get-together and creeping home to my mother's house where I collapsed.

Now, nearly a decade later, I am blessed to feel calm and well. Of course life isn't always smooth, and some times of year need careful handling, but I do feel I've now got my Black Dog on a tight leash. While I don't wish depression on anyone, suffering from mental illness has made me who I am and has forced upon me some hard-won lessons about how to care for my own mental health.

I now rely on an eclectic mix of strategies, a salad bowl of approaches that keep me steady. I use diet, breathing techniques, prayer, poetry, exercise, and a sprinkling of mindfulness, which, taken together may not lead directly to happiness, but it often follows as a by-product.

Such is the paradoxical nature of happiness: you cannot simply become happy, like flicking a switch in your head. Rather happiness is often an indirect consequence of the way we think and our actions, whether it's tending a garden on helping others.

The other thing I've learnt is that small steps work best. They are not only achievable but add up and have been the easiest way for me to make sustainable changes. I've found that every time I try a more dramatic approach, I set the bar too high and end up feeling a failure.

It's proved helpful to be aware of the particular pressure of different times of year. So this year we did throw a party, but it was a small one. What small step could you take to make 2016 a year when you walk on sunshine?

Rachel Kelly
A Moodscope member.

Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness is published by Short Books and is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information please follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelKellyNet or visit

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moonscape web site:

Friday, 18 December 2015

Did Starsky and Hutch wear Christmas cardigans?

And as we knew it might, the ceiling fell apart again. And as is the way, I damaged a disc and couldn't stand up straight. And because it's December, the boiler stopped working so life became chilly on the outside of our bodies as well as the chill that runs within mine.

And of course the pipes burst in the ceiling again and I found myself up a ladder, on the phone, holding a bucket to the ceiling, wearing nothing on my bottom half (don't ask... save yourself and don't even imagine!!), chatting casually to Selene in the call-out centre and confessing that I was shining my own private moon, praying nobody would look up at the lit window but hoping that as it was almost midnight I should be fairly safe.

And it came to pass that it was silly season. The first Carol concert came. And it was whipping a storm. And the traffic lights at the second set of roadworks within a month on the same part of the road had failed. My daughter had been chosen to sing the solo in front of hundreds of people. I screeched up like Starsky and Hutch, dropped children at the door, drove to the next available space two continents away, and ran through wind and rain as I like the look 'storm damage' gives my cheeks. And I ran for my life into the concert.

And then the change began.

A seat had been saved for me so I could see my child's face as well as hear her voice. The predictable concert brought enormous stability and reassurance in a time of tumultuous challenge. I sat with my family... including my daughter's dad and we revelled in the utter joy and pride of the moment.

And so I was reminded that another Christmas was coming and that again it could be a rocky ride. But this time is different. I am not resisting the ride. I am accepting it. And by doing so it has become more pantomime and less horror story.

The things that matter are never the things we fret over, the things that matter can't be bought and paid for, can't be cooked, wrapped, worn or consumed. The things that matter can only be felt and so I encourage you to ask yourself "What do I need to feel?". And then find a way to feel it.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moonscape web site:

Thursday, 17 December 2015

One Step/Day at a time.

How do I move away,
Away from the pain?
This constant ache,
This emotional rain.

Drop after drop,
Filling my mind.
Thoughts and feelings,
That are so unkind.

I keep on wondering,
If it’s just me?
Can I change,
When I feel all at sea?

Is it really,
That I’m so lazy?
Or does my mind cover,
What’s really me?

In fact, which is me,
In this life of mine?
The one that’s lost,
Or the one that rhymes?

I get so down,
When I lose my way.
My thoughts defeated,
Dark visions hold sway.

And yet I know,
That it eventually goes.
For 25 years now,
History does show.

That, if I keep stepping,
Into the void.
Then something shifts,
I become more buoyed.

When I’m down,
I can’t see out.
When I’m well,
I never doubt;
The certainty that,
Life will change.
That somehow life,
Will become deranged.

So if you are down,
And feeling low.
A day at a time,
Is the next step you know.
Keep stepping out,
It’s the seeds you sow.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Things We Learn From Our Children.

I have a thirteen year old daughter.

Correction. I actually have a thousand year old daughter in a thirteen year old body.

Yes, she's frighteningly responsible, awe-inspiringly hard-working and quite terrifyingly driven. Oh, and before anyone thinks she's perfect; no – she has a tongue like a viper and her stress levels are worrying to all who love her. (We're working on this – so don't you worry too.)

So when she kept putting off her RE project homework, there was obviously a problem – because this is the child who normally comes in from school and starts her homework straight away. The homework she has not already been able to do on the bus that is.

But I hadn't really picked up on the issue until Thursday night when she had an emotional meltdown – the kind actually appropriate to a thirteen year old - with weeping, wailing - but not actual gnashing of teeth because of her braces.

The problem was that she had been asked to research a different religion from her own (no problem there. She's good at that) and then to show that research not in an essay, not in a power-point presentation but in a colourful poster. She could write a 2000 word essay, she's a born speaker and presenter, but a poster? Art and Design? Panic!

Because my daughter believes firmly that she is not creative. So she was totally stuck and paralysed by this challenge.

"Silly girl!" I said fondly (inwardly rejoicing that for once I could actually be the adult around her because normally it's the other way round). Who in this family is really creative?

(Sniff) "You?"

"And who could you ask for help?"

(Snuffle) "You?" in a very small voice.

"Exactly. So if you dry your tears and wash your face, you can choose a religion, research it tomorrow night and on Saturday I'll help you design and create your poster."

So we did. I knew she was fine when she chose the Aztecs because of the human sacrifices, which meant that her slightly macabre sense of humour had reasserted itself.

It actually took the whole of the weekend, because she does things thoroughly and it meant the Christmas decorations are still not up. But we did create a colourful and informative poster – complete with blood splattered ritual human sacrifice images.

It was only after she'd gone off to catch the school bus clutching it firmly in her hand that I had my revelation. I too get paralysed by tasks I think are beyond my capabilities. Tasks I have no idea how to set about accomplishing. And then I get all stressed and worried by them.

When all I need to do is ask for some help.

In my experience, most people are flattered if you ask them for help. And they're more than willing to assist.

So let's get over ourselves. Let's admit we don't know everything and can't do everything and actually ask for help.

We'll be glad we did.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Are you a hibernator?

I'm one of the many who have never written for Moodscope, but use the service. I've been on for years and wanted to write something, so here I am!

The holidays can be a really tough time of year for people. For me, I love this time of year, as long as I pay attention and become slower - when people are pushing their buggy into the back of me at the till, I just let them go ahead, rather than get annoyed, it isn't worth it.

I've always seen this time of year as a chance to become more like a bear and hibernate, but I learnt something interesting about bears just recently. When they hibernate, they don't sleep the whole time; they get up, move around and do all sorts of things. Just like me, I may go into my cave, but I'm still active in it. I'm either planning things for when the weather gets better, sitting by my goLite which helps my sad disorder or just relaxing because that's what this time of year is for me. I'd rather go with the seasons and stay inside a bit more, knowing that when the days start to get longer and brighter, I'll be well rested and have come up with some great ideas to do new things or continue some old things with new ideas.

Dec 21st is the shortest day of the year for us in the Northern hemisphere, well, it's only a few weeks away, so after that, the days get longer. My days of hibernating are not long... so best make the most of them while I can.

2 up, 2 down and a little detached
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 14 December 2015

The A to Z Guide to Life - Letter 'B'.

'B' is for 'Biography'. One of the most influential poems I have ever read, is by Portia Nelson. Slightly adapted here for the UK!

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the pavement.
I walk around it.

 Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Without doubt, one of the most important lessons we must learn is that we have a larger role to play in writing our life story, our life script, our own drama that we have ever been credited for. This is why Portia Nelson's poem is called, "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters" and not "Biography..."

I realise that, technically, I'm cheating here. Today's blog should be under the letter "A" but my belief is that we all start at the letter "B" as if other people are responsible for writing our biography.

This is understandable given that we have to grow up largely dependent upon others. But maturity is a coming of age rite of passage where we take responsibility for our role in what happens next.

It's a great moment in everyone's life when we each realise that we can go from B to A and take responsibility for the roles we play, the cast we surround ourselves with, the plot we follow, and the happy ending we can work towards. Perhaps this is Life's greatest work.

Is it time to switch roles?

Is it time to change the cast?

Is it time to write in a change of plot?

And what do you really want in the end?  What's really most important to you?

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Law of Attraction.

Ok. So its nearly christmas... and I'm pretty much skint. I've had a lot of expense recently and was just in a total spin as to how I was going to buy any presents for Xmas.

Someone told me years ago about the Law of Attraction. A way of asking the Universe to provide for you by putting out a resquest to the powers above and maybe you will get what you need.

So I put it out there - I needed some money please. I need to buy special presents for special people. I was getting very low thinking I'd only be able to give small tokens and not be able to feed all the people I'd invited for Xmas lunch - my friends and neighbours.

But although I'd put my faith out there, I could not see how any money could possibly come. I mean I wasn't due to get anything from anyone or anywhere.

Today... WOW... well, today the post came. Two innocuous envelopes containing just the right amount of money to put my life back on track arrived!

I received £500 from an electrial provider as I'd been over paying the amount due and £300.00 as a winter fuel allowance. So I sit here amazed and blessed. I don't think it has really sunk in!

So... sometimes in life you just have to be patient... just as night follows day, every day could potentially change how you view the world. Today I can order a large turkey, buy presents for the special people in my life and put some savings back for a rainy day.

Happy Christmas to you all.


A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Run for home...

As Lindisfarne put it: "Run for home, run as fast as I can...I have travelled the land, made mistakes out of hand."

I have travelled around quite a bit, five UK cities and two foreign countries. Mainly it has been for work reasons, but sometimes I wonder.

The interesting thing about moving is that there are two sides to it. On the one hand you are moving towards something new: new opportunities, new friends, new relationships. Conversely you are also moving away from the old: old events, old friends, old relationships.

Sometimes it is difficult to disentangle the conflicting emotions of moving towards a new life or running away from the old one. Plus the nagging suspicion that perhaps you are searching for something and not finding it. Over time too comes the feeling that you are losing more than you are gaining, especially as old friends lose touch and new ones seem to be harder to find.

As I was growing up, all the traditional industries locally were closing down, and the mantra was to get an education and leave town. Health, wealth and happiness were elsewhere. (This has given me a great insight into Irish thinking and culture living in Dublin.)

One aspect of feeling that leaving home was not a choice is that you can over-romanticise your birthplace, something the Irish have always done, although Newcastle people are not far behind. Many supporters at Newcastle away games will be ex-pats reconnecting with their upbringing. Sometimes though there is a backlash when you are eulogising your hometown and someone snaps "well why don't you *** off back there then!"

So that is the plan. I am applying for jobs back in the North-East of England and planning to move back there while I still have family and friends. And perhaps eventually retire to a coastal village where it rains horizontally.

Whatever I have been looking for will not be found outside, it will be found inside, so going back to where it all began to achieve closure seems a good move.

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Where am I now?

Like my namesake "Alice in Wonderland", I suddenly find myself in a strange place. I feel disconcerted. I am not sure what to do or alternatively what I am waiting for. There is a definite feel of waiting for destiny to land. This is not comfortable.

I have sat and waited a while, and the coast seems clear. I can put my head up above the parapet again and hope it will not be shot off. But would that be bad? Of course it would. I shake myself up. Where am I? Does it matter? Yes it does, I need to know where I am.

And of course I am where I was a minute ago, it's just that I drifted off for a while and lost 'consciousness' and so lost myself. I have worked hard to find my consciousness, to be in touch with my inner self and life beyond or in myself. I can't lose myself now.

It's a hard battle to fight against the voice - telling me how rubbish I am - and reality... which is what? Stop listening! It is a hard walk and a very hard journey. One I so need to make and so often feel that I am doing well on. Till the silliest things bring me down. And that's where I am.

Audit: Body, ok (little bowel dysfunction)
           Head, light or missing
           Emotions, through the roof

Once I get back in touch with myself I have a chance of regaining control. Breath in, breath out, keep breathing. Keep moving. Don't listen to that inner voice. Listen to life!

Soooo very hard. I will return to normality. It is a passing depressant, so hard, why does she visit me? I chose this journey and I would recommend it to anyone...

I wrote this a while back, when I was clearly very anxious, and it have just found it. And I don't understand it, that I could say "I chose this journey and would recommend it to anyone". I have no idea what I meant... it seems a very strange comment. I can only think that I was thinking about my journey out of depression, not choosing depression itself. Because the learning from coming out of depression has reframed my whole life. But what if... depression itself became something to glory, not in being depressed, but in learning from the depression. What if, really positive here, the depression has made me a better person? I don't think that is really so crazy. What do you think?

A Moodscope Member

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Taking a break.

How often have you thought or have had someone suggest to you, to take a break; a holiday short or just time out. This would be a chance to unwind, to relax, to chill out, to de-stress, to forget our worries. This seems like a great idea but the reality is for people who have an illness or disorder, they never get a real break from their illness.

Preparing for an overseas holiday is frustrating for me as I know I won't be able to get health insurance for my bipolar, unless I am less than honest. Making sure I take enough tablets for the trip and a note from my doctor explaining the reason for the medications to show at customs in case I am questioned by customs.

While I am away from home I worry that I may become sick and not to be able to afford medical care. I worry that I am not relaxing and enjoying my break.

What I have realised at long last is that I am not going to get the benefits of a holiday unless I learn to relax before the vacation. Most importantly I need to take a break from my worries and my constant thinking about my illness. This does not mean I forget about taking medication, or caring for myself but it means I need to be not so self-absorbed.

When people are very depressed there seems no break at all, but sometimes even for a few minutes when they watch a child laughing, smell a beautiful flower, or laugh at a silly joke. In those few minutes there is a chance to breathe and glimpse a possibility that life may get better.

So how do we take a break from our illnesses, our health concerns?

I am trying to take little moments from my concerns and to gain confidence in my ability to remain healthy and learn the reassurance that if I become sick I will be able to cope.

The key word is trying. It is a journey.

How do you take a break either physically or mentally?

Any advice on how to enjoy a real holiday??

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Let It Be Enough.

Just sometimes you find a quote that seems to say everything.

I found one the other day.

"If you're struggling, you deserve to make self-care a priority. Whether that means lying in bed all day, eating comfort food, putting off homework, crying, sleeping, rescheduling plans, finding an escape through a good book, watching your favourite TV show, or doing nothing at all – give yourself permission to put your healing first. Quiet the voice telling you to do more and be more, and today, whatever you do, let it be enough. Feel your feelings, breathe and be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge that you're doing the best you can to cope and survive. And trust that during this time of struggle, it's enough."

These wise words were written by a young woman Daniell Koepke, who has set up the Internal Acceptance Movement. She is a recovering Anorexia sufferer and set up the movement initially to support those people in recovery like herself. Very quickly though, she found that she wanted to reach out to and support people with all sorts of issues and struggles, including depression.

The Internal Acceptance Movement is an online space that advocates self-acceptance, healthy body image, recovery from self-destructive behaviors and addictions... (it) is a space that offers support to those battling their inner demons and strength to continue fighting when all hope seems to be gone.

I think most of us recognise those inner demons.

I'm a little better now than I was for a while. I hope that soon I will be better still. But it's been a long hard struggle for me to learn that, when I'm ill, I need to rest and get better.

I won't get better if I stress about jobs undone, contracts unfulfilled, friends neglected and family unfed. The jobs will still be there to do when I am better. The contract delivery dates can be rescheduled. My real friends understand and the family have got pretty good at feeding themselves.

That wasn't always the case of course. When my husband was working in London and the children were small then I had to somehow get them fed, bathed and in bed. But I remember sleeping by the fire all day while my eldest one played by herself (having first put down the blanket and pillow for me; "Mummy lie down now. Mummy sleep."). Maybe her overdeveloped sense of independence and responsibility comes from that. Maybe not. It doesn't do any good to blame myself or my illness for its inevitable effect on family life.

We talk about it. We accept it. We do the best we can with it – and we move on.

I'm just grateful for the times I'm well. I'm grateful for what I can do when I can do it.

And I've learned to rest and get better when I can't do anything.

It's enough. It has to be enough.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Celebrate success.

As my own biggest critic in life I find it heart warming to watch my niece congratulate herself on every single one of her small triumphs.

Every time she achieves anything, big or small, she claps herself. She understands from the encouragement she receives that she has achieved something worth celebrating.

I take two things from this...

1. We must remember how important it is to acknowledge the success of others and remind them to celebrate it. Also we should celebrate with them.

2. We must all remember to celebrate our own successes and congratulate ourselves for all our triumphs, big or small.

My niece's resolve is unstoppable, she never berates herself. She just keeps going until she succeeds. My 18 month old inspiration! She hasn't learned the man made concept of failure yet, I hope it stays that way for as long as possible!

Try celebrating some success :)

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

The A to Z Guide to Life - Letter "A"

To listen to an audio version of this blog:

"A" reminds me of a new friend, Karen. Karen is known as "The Energiser Bunny".She's dynamic, electric and fun to be around. Of course, she runs on batteries! In her case AAA batteries.

These three 'A's can energise us too.

For me, they stand for "Awareness" and "Association" and "Action". There is a logical flow to this for me.

Firstly, we become aware. Aware of an opportunity. Aware of a new way of thinking. Aware of something that needs to change. And there, on many occasions, we can stop.

Of course, if you need three As for the battery to energise your bunny, and you've only got awareness, it's all going to go a bit flat, isn't it?

So what stops us?  Well, a distant awareness, like watching something on a TV documentary or reading a self-help book, can remain dissociated - disconnected.  It's like a thick glass screen between us and the change we want to be. We need to move through the glass and become deeply emotionally associated with the change we desire.

Like a modern-day "Alice Through The Looking Glass", the magic of an emotional attachment needs to give us motion - motion towards what we've become aware of.

We need positive associations with what the change would mean to us. And that meaning needs to mean more than staying in the state we are in at the moment. Let's not resist emotion - as the right emotional association can become energy in motion or energy for motion.

Let's imagine that we've become aware of a new way of thinking or behaving. We've added the energy of an emotional association to this. We're still in danger of fizzling out. We need the third A to make up our AAA.

The third and final A is Action. It is purposeful action, action directed by new awareness and positive associations with the desired result.

Nothing happens, no power flows, until we take action. Belief without corresponding action is ineffective.

Fancy powering up your energiser bunny today? Shift your awareness. Wrap it in positive associations with a better result - how your life will be better if you act on this new awareness. And take action.

I believe there is some awareness, some opportunity, that you've been meaning to act on.  I think you even know what action you could take. What may be missing is a strong enough associated emotion to get your voltage flowing. Focus on the "Why" - the benefit of the change - and let's see what miracles can happen today.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Count your blessings one by one.

The conversation on the way had not been good. I was walking with my fifteen year old daughter to keep an appointment. And we couldn't seem to find any topic that interested us both.

But on the way back my daughter asked me a question which really got the conversation going. It wasn't hard to talk about this question for the next ten to fifteen minutes. It was like breaching a dam, we couldn't stop talking.

The question was 'What are your favourite simple pleasures?' In other words, of the pleasures which do not cost a lot of time or money or planning, which are your favourites?

Our answers included things like the first cup of tea of the morning; reading in bed at night; looking at a map to plan a walk; sitting around chatting in the kitchen; marshmallows melting in hot chocolate; a hot bath after getting soaked; watching beech leaves flutter to the ground in Autumn.

What surprised me was how many of these pleasures there were, and how easy it was to bring them to mind. So many small things every day, costing no money or very little money, which give us pleasure. At the same time I realised how I often overlook these things, don't really notice them and don't give thanks for them.

Perhaps if I could notice and appreciate and relish and be more thankful for these simple pleasures, I would be less anxious and fretting and discontent with what I have now.

It's an old lesson I know and perhaps a bit corny, but perhaps there is something in that old instruction to 'Count your blessings one by one.'

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Song of faith.

"Based on the inspiring comments from Susan and Lex on Lex's blog called "Sow
before bedtime", conjuring an image of a child kneeling to pray before
bed but written to compliment the thread of the posts".

Song of Faith

I give thanks for deep breaths I take.
For light of day and gift of food,
For water and a place to be
The universe so vast and me!

For those who are just there for us,
If even just to listen.
For those with whom we share the gift
Of being who we are.
For gifts of learning from all of our
Unlikliest of teachers
For knowing that each day will bring
Another understanding.

I plant the seed of hope/strength/peace/rest/action/choice/health/being tonight
And hold dear my strong faith
This seed will grow
not even try, before I know, just wait...
And if it were to fade, not flourish
There'll be no need to worry.
I'll look and pamper where it sits
Then plant another seed.

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Steady on Debs, that's a bit full-on for this time in the morning (afternoon, evening)!!

But really, what's the meaning of life? Or should I say, what's the meaning of your life?  Because everyone is different. There is no one meaning. Life is essentially meaning-less. The only meaning is the one we give it. The story we write and the role we give ourselves.

I am going on a date tomorrow (small round of applause please; it's been a while ;-)) and when I was talking to the lucky boy in question he asked me what I'd like to do. The process of deciding took me through a whole realm of options until I realised that the date would be whatever we created it to be. Whatever story we wrote and whatever characters we created for ourselves.

I heard a true story recently of a guy whose teenage daughter was going off the rails, mixing with the wrong crowd and going down a dark path. The guy had tried everything: talked to her, grounded her, shouted at her and nothing worked. So... he decided to write a new story. And in that moment he created the possibility of building an orphanage in Uganda. And his excitement and drive to make it happen slowly got under his daughter's skin. He didn't force her to take part, he just quietly got on with it... but little by little she got involved and started to play a role in this new story. And her old story lost its meaning. She eventually moved from lead role in the play about herself and took up a supporting role in the tale of the orphanage.

I was so inspired by this it got me thinking about my own story and where I could write a new one. What story would I create for my son to play a role in? For my friends to star in? For my (often dysfunctional) family to rehearse together, and in doing so bring us all closer together?

What about you, what story will you write today? And what character will you play to take you nearer to a life of meaning?

With much love

Debs xxx
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Restoring Normality.

"We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem."

British folk from my own generation and geeks from every generation will probably recognise that quotation from Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

I wrote those words to a Moodscope buddy on Friday 13th November about my "normal" score in the seventies. Maybe I should have taken better notice of the date. Because on Tuesday 17th I was back down to 25%. Oops!

Just when I think I have a handle on this condition it throws me for another loop. My experience for the last four years that I've been with Moodscope has been that depression arrives with Easter Bunny and varies in length and depth from mild and three weeks (no medication required) to deep and three to four months of spaced out zombie-hood only slightly alleviated by medication. When it leaves, it leaves instantly, completely and in the space of twenty-four hours and that's the last I see of it until the next spring.

This year I have had two depressive episodes, not one. This one, which started on September 8th lifted in late October – for a week only and then slammed down again. Friday 13th was "normal" and then – whoops, bang, wallop...!

...Big sigh...

This unusual pattern makes me doubt myself. It takes away the certainty I was beginning to develop about my condition and puts question marks over my coping and management strategies.

But the only thing to do is keep plugging away at the Moodscope test, plotting those results on the graph and adding further data into the equation.

I can't come up with a new and improved management formula without more data. Probably a lot more data.

The graph (fully annotated) shows when I started or changed medication, it shows when I had a cold or a tummy bug, when I was on holiday or under stress with work or family. The data is invaluable for analysis.

But the trick is to be regular with inputting the data and then actually analyse the results.

So my new quotation is from slightly earlier in that same Hitchhikers' scene is, "We are now cruising at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway."

Happy space cruising everybody - and keep collecting the data.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Notes to a Nearly Depressed Me.

(from a still existing glimmer of a happy me).

I've been noticing the signs. Then this morning you had a little crash. Shed a few tears. I've been trying my best to hold you up and keep you smiling. Right now we both know that this might just be a bump in the road. It might come to nothing. On the other hand I'm aware of my limitations. I know that no matter how hard I try I may not be able to stop you falling further. So, just in case you do, promise me you'll read this when you're down there. When I'm too far away to help.

Remember in the Spring, when you emerged from your last low? How you looked back on all your thoughts and ideas through clear eyes and saw how distorted they were when clouded by depression? Yet while you were having those thoughts you were almost righteous in your certainty that they were all categorical fact.

You were sure that if you tried to articulate those "facts" to anyone, they wouldn't understand. They are conditioned to think that there is always hope, that things will change, not realising that this really is the end of the road for you. They just wont see it. Or, they'll simply tell you that you're better than you really are because they're scared and they don't know what else to say. You generally know it would be a really bad idea to share what's in your head. So you keep quite. You plan your exit.

That's probably where you are right now, isn't it?

So here I am to tell you something real. This is you speaking to you. Try to believe me when I say that the way you are seeing your life and the world right now may not be as balanced as it could be. You might not see it now, but there is always another way to view these things. Remember that moment in the Spring when you walked down the stone steps in Nice and you thought, "I was so wrong! My life is wonderful! So is the world!".

Life isn't always wonderful. We both know that. But remember that it always changes. I want you to reach out and talk to someone you trust. Please be brave and share what you are thinking right now to see if they can shed any light on it, or help you in some way. It only needs to be one special person.

In the meantime just hang on in there. Do small, kind things for yourself. Eat. Wash. Write. Walk. Light candles. Drink tea instead of wine.

No matter how bad things look right now, you need to believe that this will change. I don't know how long I'll be away for but please wait for me. I'll be coming back for you. I promise.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 30 November 2015

The A to Z Guide to Life - an introduction.

At the age of 18, I was in a good place. I'd had a profound spiritual experience, and, as a result, I knew who I was, what I was here for, and that everybody else needed fixing.

Within less than two years I realised that I was the one that needed fixing first! My purpose has remained constant though, even though the focus of that purpose has shifted.

So what am I here for? The verse that 'spoke' to me, that 'called' to me, talks of transformation through new patterns of thinking. Change your thinking, change your World.  A free translation would be: "Be being transformed by the renewing of your mind." It's from Paul's letter to the Roman Church, a community of believers who were in danger of staying stuck in the ways of thinking of those around them. They were taking their lead from the wrong sources.

I figure that's a message that's relevant for people stuck in any culture at any age. The culture in which we live can squeeze us all too easily into its own mould. We all need new patterns of thinking to make that metamorphic transformation from caterpillar to butterfly or that leap from tadpole to frog.

Knowing now that I continue to need fixing first, and that I have more to learn than I ever realised as an arrogant 18 year old, I nevertheless have to acknowledge that I've learned some useful patterns of thinking over the years. And so, I'd love to share some of those useful patterns with you. It'll be an A to Z of patterns that bring hope.

I say 'share' because you are very likely to have some better patterns too that would do me the World of good. So let's trade.

We keep these blogs short, so I'll close this one with a pattern of thought that will serve us all well: always keep learning! The moment you think you know enough, it's "Game Over!"

And in that spirit, I'd like to ask you, "What's the most important change you've made in the last year?" And, "What was the thinking that led to this change?"

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 29 November 2015

No ink to leave a mark.

Didn't want to get up.
Got up anyway.

Didn't want to cook.
Cooked anyway.

Didn't want to eat.
Ate anyway. Tasted like cardboard.

Didn't want to go out.
Went out anyway.

Didn't speak to anyone but children.
That was good.

No passion.
No spark.
No ink to leave a mark.

Did it anyway.
Do it anyway.
Any way you can.

Saw the glory of once vibrant leaves
elegantly bidding a vibrant farewell.
They will return.

I will return.
We will return.
Again and again.

We will do it anyway.
Any way we can.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Your best friend wouldn't tell you.

If somebody has body odour or bad breath do you tell them? Or subtly move away, change your desk or open a window?

If someone you know well becomes miserable for no apparent reason, is anyone going to move in and say 'Why not see the doctor, you may be depressed'. Mostly, because the 'cafard', black dog, grey cloud can be explained by something as simple as a bad hair day or a partnership break-down.

I spend too much time in hospitals with people in a desperate state, and too much time on my own, but reading the blogs with great care (particularly Mary's a few days' ago) I don't see depression everywhere, but look at close acquaintances in a new light.

When my husband's sight problems a few years ago caused him to stop driving and reading, he settled to a deep anger against the world. As he was happy (unlike most men) to be driven around by me – to outsiders our life seemed to go on without a hitch. But he would not avail himself of outside help, it was me or nothing.

He now has Alzheimers. I may be jumping to conclusions, but could he have gone in to a deep depression, which, if recognised, might have put the Alzheimers off for a while?

Another example, is a friend I have 'finished' with. His meanness and sponging had gone too far. For years he behaved oddly - he hated being 70 and was horrible to his wife. He was one of these real 'macho' guys - rally driving, shooting, always very competitive.

A few years ago he suddenly insisted on separate rooms, blamed his back. We believe he became impotent, but his pride would not let him seek help, and certainly not admit to depression.

So, who tells?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Adult Orphans.

When my father died about 8 years ago I realised I was an orphan as my mother had died 6 years earlier. I know most people think of an orphan as a young child like Oliver Twist, who has no parents and lives a wretched life.

We are all our parents' children no matter how old we are.

I was grieving so much but people just said my parents, especially my dad had a good innings, (I can't recall the number of times people said that to me,) I was adult and I should really be over the grieving by now.

People would say you look well and I would smile and say yes but I was not ok and I felt life would never be the same. I felt alone, rudderless and looking for direction. I felt no-one understood me.

My brothers said they were coping so I felt there was something wrong with me, until I found an interesting article about adult orphans.

The article acknowldeges that the adult orphans are the forgotten grievers and are supposed to grieve a little then get back to their lives as they are adults and their parents lived a long life.

I found myself nodding with every word.

The death of your parents is one of adult life's most significant rites of passage. Our community acknowldeges the loss and grief that young children experience when their parents die, however adults are expected to be very different, coping with the grief of the death of the people that raised them from birth and whom they have known for many decades.

No matter what our age humans have a need for unconditional love to be guided, and a soft place to land, that parents offer.

Once I felt my grief had been acknowledged, it didn't take my feeling of loss away, but I felt I could understand my feelings and stop feeling I had to apologise.

I realised that because my parents had been in my life for nearly 50 years, it would take me more than a few weeks to work out how to live with out them and plan a new way of defining myself. I was no longer some one's daughter. In my family I was now the older generation and was reminded of my mortality when my son, a few months, after his grandfather's funeral, wanted to know about my own funeral plans!

Some days I felt I was warpped tightly in a sadness shawl and at my daughter's suggestion, I started writing to my dad on the computer. In the first few months was writing every few days, sometimes daily.

This helped me because I was thinking about him all the time it helped me to express my thoughts.

If you know someone whose elderly parents have died, try to acknowledge the grief he/she is feeling, offer understanding and be willing to listen.

If you are an adult orphan be kind to yourself, allow yourself time to grieve, tell people you trust how you feel and start to navigate your way in a different world.

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Twenty-One today...

In my youth this used to mean getting the key of the door to come and go as you pleased. Nowadays as parents we say "You're twenty-one now, give me back that key and sod off."

What I am referring to is that today I complete 21 alcohol-free days. Four weeks ago I would have given long odds on this possibility. However the consultant has convinced me that I need a long stretch to allow the anti-depressants to do some serious work, instead of merely patching me up. My first target was payday. Now I hope to get to Xmas and see how I feel. I went to a support group meeting yesterday but didn't really feel it was for me. Fortunately I am feeling strong at the moment.

I went back to work last week. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased to see me back so I took a few of my staff into my confidence. Everyone has been really supportive. Interestingly enough the Management Committee with which I had so many issues seems to have imploded in my absence and has gone from being dysfunctional to totally non-functional. This ironically means that I am able to get on managing the business without interference.

I still go to the pub occasionally but I find non-alcoholic beer is not as satisfying and easier to say "enough" to, so I don't feel the need to visit as often or stay as long.

I had expected a smooth recovery. However it seems to go two steps forward one step back. I had a very productive day yesterday getting some key tasks done but I am working from home today as I woke up feeling rough. (I used to blame the beer for this but it now has an alibi!) I have also found the local library to be a quiet place to get on with work. (Libraries: quiet! Who knew?) It also means I don't go to the pub afterwards.

Twenty-one steps into the thousand-mile journey: So far so good...

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Best Laid Plans...

We had my son Tom and his Jenny home for the weekend.

(Long pause.)

Yes – we never realised how calm and ordered our life was until Tom joined our family. He arrives and chaos rushes in right on his heels! My moderately tidy house suddenly has clothes and sporting equipment scattered everywhere. My fridge is raided. His sisters acquire new pets. Fortunately this time he did actually ask first, so it was stick insects only and not the snake he had contemplated bringing.

So yes, we had plans for the weekend. But – as my lovely son says, with a huge grin on his face. "Mum – you make plans, but then I happen!"

And of course, he had ideas of his own. And as the chaos that follows him has the force of a hurricane, those ideas happen – somehow - and we all get swept along for the ride.

Don't get me wrong – it's a great ride! I just didn't plan on spending my Saturday in the snowdome at Milton Keynes rushing down an icy slope on a toboggan about the size of a ten pence piece! I'd planned all our meals and shopped carefully but instead we all ended up grazing our way through the weekend, or having meals a lot later than scheduled and eating different things to those on the menu.

There are two ways of dealing with Tom. You can fight him and get incredibly stressed or you can relax and go with the flow.

The second way is usually best. Because while Tom is a hurricane, he is also incredibly centred and the calm eye of the storm.

He will listen – but you have to let him know clearly what you want to do, why you want to do it and why it's important. We all have to compromise. So Sunday lunch with my mother was ordered and civilized. (phew!)

We knew when we adopted Tom that there would be turbulent times ahead. He is an adult, and he has his own way of doing things. Because we didn't have any part in his upbringing, his ways are foreign to us, just as much as if he were a refugee from another country. Our ways are foreign to him.

So when he's not with us our life is moderately calm and placid – a smoothly running river. With Tom it's a thrilling, exhilarating, white water ride.

We love having him in the family. Everything is better with Tom around. He shakes us out of our rut and comfort zone. We give him the security and solidity of knowing he is totally loved and accepted. We're incredibly good for each other.

Even if he did leave his roller skates behind that I had to post back to him this morning!

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Knights in shining armour.

My best friends don't really know who they are. They have no idea that they play a bigger part in my life than the part they know about. They do not know that they can be my salvation.

I've known Eric for about 16 years. He had great concern for me a few years back when I went through my separation and made a point of coming down from his window cleaning ladder to see into my eyes when he enquired about how I was coping. He trusted me and shared wisdom from his breakdown following his divorce. Generally he's 'just' my window cleaner.

I've known Graham over 20 years. He doesn't just deliver packages, he rings the bell and has a chat. We discuss anything at all. Sometimes serious stuff. Sometimes not. Always a laugh to be had at the end. We pass each other driving sometimes and a hand always comes out the window.

Dave calls me "darlin" and sends me texts with "hello lovely, I'm in your area is it any good?". He sometimes hugs me to say hello and always parts with "look after". We've been friends for about 12 years. Mostly I pay him to wash my car.

My favourite of them all is Robert. He looked liked he might cry when he stumbled into learning my partner and I had called it quits and, as I welled up saying "It's ok", he gently enveloped me with one wall sized arm saying "It's clearly not ok".  He has the biggest, happiest face (and body) and we share a very stupid and daft sense of humour. He is the highlight of my week. We meet on Friday lunchtimes. He delivers our butcher meat. My relationship with his family business goes back 16 years and I've been good friends with him for 9.

They need nothing from me. And they take nothing. They are dependable, regular givers in my life and I thoroughly cherish them. Avoiding celebrations for my big birthday a couple of years ago, I realised being with these guys was the only type of event where I would feel truly comfortable. They don't know each other. They don't know they help keep me on the straight and narrow. Maybe one day I will tell them how magically important they are to me.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Are we the new normal?

Julia made a comment on a blog recently about depression being normal. And it got me thinking... How often have I thought myself weak for having depression? Felt shame? Like I'm less than other people; like it's an affliction I have to bear. But what if it isn't? What if depression is a condition of the strong? When you look back over time depression has visited so many of the greatest minds, creative thinkers and emotionally astute people that have ever lived. Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Abraham Lincoln, Halle Berry, Dolly Parton (I know, right?!) Stephen Fry, Mozart, Newton. The list goes on.

Everyone I know that suffers depression is sensitive. Diligent. Thoughtful. Caring. Too caring maybe? I can't speak for anyone else and I hate to lump all depressives together (back to the collective noun question again!) but for me I can honestly say that I am thin-skinned. Empathy rich. I think differently. Feel more. Question more. Don't agree with the world and spend my time searching. Pushing. Challenging the norm. And because of the sensitivity the 'challenging the norm' part often feels tough. It's like I'm going against the grain and that's not a very comfortable place to be.

I believe a big part of my depression is from trying to squeeze my round, alternative-thinking, self into a square hole. I've folded and twisted and contorted myself and then looked out with a fake smile. Pretending to agree with the way the world is. But everyone around me can see bits of the 'real me' are sticking out, they know I'm not speaking my truth and that my laughter is forced. Right now I am slowly unraveling into something new. And every time I squash myself down again I deny who I am. Depression. Repression. Same thing?

Where would we be if Mozart had fitted in? If Churchill had stopped his voice from being heard? If Amy Winehouse hadn't unleashed her creative genius on the world?

Isn't it time we stood up and were proud? Unveiled our real selves? We might just be the future of this crazy, mixed up world. We might be the new normal...

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Volcano Within.

If you insist! If you just dare! You will witness a rage like no other here! Do you want to see the volcano erupt?!

Sometimes dormant, sometimes bubbling, spitting away at the surface. Warning those who throw stones at it's glowing cracks, the open wounds, to keep away! No don't touch! Steer clear! Go! Evacuate!

It's intense heat and sparks that fly a dangerous place, created by history. How does one dismantle a volcano? The power of it's vast and deep furnace is simply far too great. The local people know it well, live close and read it's signs, keep away from it's firey surface. Travellers visit it's beautiful majesty, innocent to it's ugly fury. Created by history.

The history of the earth itself.
How do you dismantle a volcano?
The power of nature is way too great.

It is within, burning away at the very core, mysterious, all powerful, mighty and terrifying. Formed by terror upon terror, face to face. No fight, no flight. Survive. Survive. Survive and wait.

Wait for what? Wait for who? Wait for when?
So erupt. Go ahead. Then what?
Then what?
Then what? Forever?

Open your eyes. You can open them now. It's gone. The danger has gone. Peep. See! Gone! Look at where you are right now. Who you are right now. What you see right now. It's safe. It's ok, no need to hide. No need to fight no need.
No need to run no need.
There's nothing there. No ghosts, no monsters.
No need to build a fortress no need.
No need to reek havoc no need.
No need to explode, erupt, destroy, defend.
No need my love no need.

Take a deep breath of clean fresh air, it's safe, its clear.

No need to shield your eyes my love. Stand straight, stand tall. Look how you've grown! Look around! Walk to where you want to be. Wherever you want to be!

With those bright eyes wide open now, you are free!
Free as a bird to please yourself, to live in peace, to keep those eyes wide open.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Why you're afraid of me.

In my area it has taken 39 years for the promised new building for mental health sufferers to become a reality!

It's crazy, and the stigma attached to the old building was tremendous. Just the mere mention of the name conjured up all kinds of thoughts in peoples imagination. People think it's the building that scares people but the truth is people are more scared of what happens within! You don't even look at the building when you have to go there as I did.

Here's a poem I wrote about it after visiting:

I didn't see the tall iron gates
standing in front of me.
The building didn't scare me!
I didn't even notice it was there.
I was looking only down!

The thoughts of what lay within,
were more worrying to me.
What were they going to do,
would I ever be allowed out?
My head was in a spin!

What of the rumours I'd heard?
The stigma of the place!
What was I going to face?
Are they going to fry my brain?
The thought of such pain!

"The thoughts that race around my head,
are plain crazy, so I've been told!
My mind's gone off the beaten track,
not on course with the rest of you!
That makes the going tough on me."

I've been put in the nuthouse!
What of those on the outside,
when they hear I'm on the inside?
What will their thoughts be?
"Yeah, I knew that he was crazy man!"

"They will have put him in chains,
bolted to the walls!"
"Locked behind bars within locked rooms!"
"That crazy man won't ever escape!"
"I'll never be of a mind to be put in that place!"

When shown to a room,
what a relief!
I see no chains fixed to the wall,
not even a lock on the door.
Well only one, to keep you out!

Worried now that night-time is here,
everyone heading for their rooms
"lights out, sleep tight!"
Not chained – not even to the bed!
There's nothing to fear in here.

I've been on the inside looking out,
you've all got it wrong!
You listen too much to rumours of old,
you're too afraid to learn the truth.
Things have changed – no men in white coats!

A Moodscope member.

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