Saturday, 28 February 2015

Coming out.

On 31st December my beloved and I were married. While this of course has great meaning in our own personal histories, it just so happens it has wider historical significance. The reason being we are both women and one of the first same sex couples to be wed in Scotland. You'd be forgiven for thinking that given the historic nature of the event I was out and proud. But when the time came to share my marital status with the wider world, I realised I was scared.

Desiring minimal fuss we informed only a few close friends and family members of our plans to wed. On returning work I was hit with the dilemma of what to do when people asked how my Christmas holiday was. I didn't want to edit out the fact I was a newlywed, but every time I had a 'how was your holiday' chat I faltered. I am new to my job, and as awkward as the wedding news was for me to share, the news of my gayness is equally so. The end result being only a handful of people at work know, so in delivering the wedding news I was also coming out.

So out and proud or in and mortified? I used to think I was the former but over the past month I have been forced to reconsider. I now recognise the root of my fear is rejection. I don't have an issue with people knowing I'm gay, I am just uncomfortable being the one who tells. When I say 'my wife' I am looking for your reaction. I am studying your face for a change of expression, I am listening keenly to your tone when you respond. Because what I have done is peeled back a layer of my skin. I have said 'I am different, maybe not what you expect, please accept me'.

Of course being gay is just one brand of difference, a widely acknowledged one. Each of us are different in our own ways, and when sharing something that gestures towards that difference we seek acceptance. Whether that's of our sexuality, mental health problems, strange and startling hobbies or obscure tastes. I have realised that in editing out aspects of my life I have prevented the formation of real connections. I have masqueraded as someone else. A person I thought I had to be to gain acceptance. Slowly I am realising this has to stop.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Tale of Two Labels.(apologies to Dickens).

It was the best of labels, it was the worst of label, it was the label of compassion, it was the label of shame.

A few weeks ago I read an online article all about what it means to be a talkative introvert. I was so amazed at this information as I had often said that even though I talked a lot - well okay I sometimes talk very much indeed, I also saw myself as an introvert.

Whenever I would tell people this they would laugh and laugh and shake their heads in disbelief. This article seemed to be describing me and I felt comfortable with nearly all but 2 of the 28 descriptions. I embraced the term and shared it on Facebook and with my family and friends, now backed up by the online reference material!

A friend told me that she thought I would be the last person to willingly embrace another label when I had been in denial for over twenty years trying to disown a medical label. To me Talkative Introvert was not a soul crushing label but a freeing, friendly term that explained who I was.

At 16 when I was first given the manic/depressive label which turned into bipolar label many years later. I did not embrace the manic/depressive label at all as I found it suffocating, judgmental,restrictive,uncaring and when it morphed into bipolar I felt it was heavy, awkward and in no way described who I was.

Today while I don't fully embrace the label bipolar - whatever that means, I do acknowledge it and am no longer in denial.

Labels I have said are for Jam jars so why am I so ready to acquire another label - which I feel is a term and not really a label!!

Talkative Introvert is a quirky, welcoming, fun term. I can't imagine any parents to be saying, they hope their child isn't a talkative introvert. I think I would be comfortable in any social situation being proud to say I am a Talkative Introvert.

Many people are grateful after years of misdiagnosis and confusion they finally have an explanation for their behaviour. They are relieved to have a label and do not find it restricting. Maybe the willingness to embrace one term or another is more about the individual and the society in which they live than about the term itself.

When we start to define ourselves by a label we give our ourselves or others give us, it can start to affect how we behave and maybe limit our choices.

So what now - I will always be wary of labels but they can be fun - maybe I am a Talkative Moodswinger!!

As Oscar Wilde said 'Be yourself everyone else is taken.'

It was best of labels it was the worst of labels.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Loss of Ancient wisdom.

In ancient Rome, before 'busyness' took over, when there was a key question for the community, everyone who had an interest met in the 'agora' (the marketplace).

The reason for this is that they would then dialogue ('through words') offering all points of view until they would communally agree what action the city would take.

Everyone was equal – everyone could speak and everyone had to agree.

So decisions were powerful agreements – bonds - on these key issues.

This 'process' worked well for many decades, until businesses started to become too 'busy' to have time to both speak and listen and decide.

The 'busyness' (IQ, through power, influence, right/wrong world) then took over.

Rich business people then decided that they did not have the time to go and 'dialogue' as it interfered with their earnings and they would then hire a representative to go and state their side of the story! So, no matter what anyone else said, the representative's job was to achieve the outcome on this subject that their 'owner' wanted.

This is when dialogue became debate.

This meant people were pitted against, or opposed to, each other and also when the community lost its unified, strong and coherent voice.

Unfortunately today, in my view, we see the worst example of this when the two political leaders attempt to undermine each other at Prime Ministers question time - such behaviour would not be allowed in a primary school!

I raise this, following last week's blog by asking do you feel totally listened to and understood when you visit your GP, or psychiatrist, or psychologist, or therapist? Or do you find yourself in some form of debate?

If it is the former, your chance of 'healing' is much higher as what you will have done is to build the No 1 part of your 'healing' human trust. If you have trust between two people, it is their hearts that align first and then with authenticity 'we' can find an answer. Two become one and in ancient Rome, hundreds became one!

And sometimes for your own heart and head to act as one is difficult enough never mind two or more people! Trust is the one things that changes everything - even your health.

Who can you build a more trusting relationship with today (even yourself) to become more balanced and more healthy and who do you need to have a dialogue with and get back to building coherence not competition?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Is it time to change your lens?

When I'm in the depths of a low, I can't help focusing on elements of myself and my life which, through the lens of depression, appear terminally horrendous. If I am able to share my feelings with close ones, they often try to draw my attention to the good things in my life, but it's no use. My lens is fixed on the bad stuff, and it's not going away.

Looking through a lens and focusing on elements of other people's lives is in fact, what I do for a living. I've just spent the entire winter inside a maximum security women's prison, getting to know six women there, filming their day to day lives and listening to their stories. Some of those stories are truly horrific, often involving abandonment, abuse and mental illness.

One might imagine that immersing myself in their worlds would be the worst thing for depression, but instead, it actually lifted me out of a low.

Some of these women have lost everything, and have nothing. Many of them have watched their lives out there disintegrate while they languish helplessly inside: their husbands moving on, their children being removed.

But never in my life have I seen such a capacity for hope, love, laughter and determination in the face of such damning circumstances. They support each other, they grow and they find ways to enjoy their days in prison. Ultimately they attempt to focus on the good things and deal with the bad things as best they can.

These women made me realise that it was time to change my lens.

What kind of lens are you looking through today?

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

To Keep a Stiff Upper Lip - or To Throw it Away?

"F**k, F**k, F**k!
Life is S**t!
Everything's getting worse. Nothing's getting better.
Nobody's getting richer;
Least of all me!"

Well, charming! I thought as the young man who had shouted these words at the top of his voice, to nothing and nobody as far as I could see, strode off into the distance.

I had kept my distance from him, of course, and now continued my journey through the school gates to collect daughter number two.

Then I started thinking, rather than just reacting with distaste.

Possibly the young man has Tourette syndrome, or challenging behaviour issues. When I examine the rhythm of the words above I could almost think they are part of a poem intended to be read out loud in some Avant-Garde night club full of other Angry Young Men.

Whatever the background of this outburst, I hope he felt better for the catharsis.

A therapist friend compares her own rather dysfunctional family, who seem to have short life-spans, with that of her husband. In his family they shout; they stamp their feet; they kick things (not people or animals, I promise). In her family they repress emotion; they are terribly British and stiff upper lipped about everything.

She is convinced that the prevalence of depression, cancer and strokes in her family is directly attributable to this bottling up of emotion. Her husband's family seem to live healthily into their nineties and beyond.

We do need to express emotion. We need to howl with rage, to stomp around with frustration, to cry when we're upset. Even if we are British and male. We also need to laugh, to hug and to kiss. It works both ways.

But can you imagine expressing your frustration like this in the office? Many of we women with overactive tear-ducts know only too well the humiliation of welling up in tears in public and the derision with which we are viewed (by some male colleagues) when that happens. In our culture, it is not appropriate to express strong emotion in front of others. In many families even, a child shouting at a parent in frustration will be told to control their temper.

So it's a fine line to walk.

My therapist friend recommends EFT (tapping) to safely and discreetly release the emotion. Because I have (to the embarrassment of my family) very few inhibitions, I have been known to say "Please excuse me for a moment while I go outside and scream". Usually that gets a laugh, but my husband has learned to hide away when I am fighting with technology: it's really not pretty and if computers could bleed, then the forensic team would have a field day later on!

I don't have any easy answers, but I still think that shouting profanity outside a primary school is inappropriate.

I mean, you'd never do that, would you?

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 23 February 2015

O Dear.

Acronyms aside, there is a groan attached to this blogpost. A comedian once shared a joke with me that both offended my sensibilities (it is sexist) but also made me smile because of its deeper truth. So I'm going to share the joke here on the understanding that I think it refers equally to both genders...

He said, "I now know exactly why so many marriages get off to the wrong start... it's all to do with the Church wedding service."  We all leaned forward to hear more, many of us, I suspect, having less than perfect marriages.

He then asked us to interact.

"What is the part of the Church you walk up to get married?" he said.
"The Aisle," we said, with one voice, like a herd of sheep.
"What part of the Church do you stand before when you've finished your journey up the aisle?" says he.
"The Altar," says we.
"And, finally, what do you sing when you get to the Altar?" he asked?
"A Hymn," we declared, pleased that we'd clearly got the answer right.
"And there's the problem," he revealed, "Aisle, Altar, Hymn – this is how most marriages start."
[Like me, you might need to hear the words rather than read them to get the punchline.]

"I'll alter him" or "I'll alter her" are both ridiculous foundations upon which to seek to build any relationship. We can change no-one but ourselves. This means that it is wise to set goals with an "O" – standing for goals that are under our "Own Control".

I know that I went through my childhood always wanting more friends (I make few but intimate friendships). I was envious of the more outward-going youths who seemed to make friends so easily – even drawing others to them. What I needed to learn was to just deal with the part of the chemistry that was under my "Own Control" – to be more friendly myself.

Love is the same. A goal set with a frustrating future will be, "I want more people to love me." A goal set with a more certain future is, "Today, I shall be more loving."

That way we can move from, "Oh Dear!" to "Oh Yes!"

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


Sometimes I wake up and wonder
Why is life so hard,
What ? Really? No of course not,
That's not it, be positive, content,
Think of others, yes, that bit's easy.

Well, what is up with you then?
Nothing, nothing's up. I know I am strong,
I am coping, I always have.
I have so many skills, I can shine!

Everyone wants something,
I have to be so good,
mostly I enjoy it!
But now and again I feel the need.

So why the long face? I don't know!
Sometimes, I need someone to lean on,
someone who cares, someone who puts me first!
Is that so wrong?

That's a human trait,
maybe it's a good thing.
Maybe you are healing.Feeling!
That's it, feeling alive again.

So tomorrow, I suggest you wake up and wonder!
Yes just that. Wonder.
Wonder at the beauty of life.
That there is someone who cares.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Feeling watchy!

I have two beautiful sons and a lovely husband. Life was galloping along nicely. So I was shocked to get pregnancy-related psychosis recently (apparently affecting around 1 in 1,000 mums). When I asked for professional help my symptoms had passed, but I have access to great support should I need it. I believe other mums aren't so lucky given the postcode lottery for such services.

Despite experiencing terror during my psychotic episode there were enjoyable times. At one point, having lost my inhibitions, my usual reserved self was singing operatic-like at home, no longer caring about neighbours. Normal for Katherine Jenkins perhaps, not for me! I became the voice. I released sounds I never knew I could.

I now sing (never the right words!) and dance along to the radio each morning while my oldest finishes his cereal. He likes taking his time. We look at each other with, I like to think, a mutual adoration (or he's thinking 'She's embarrassing!?'). Either way, we smile and laugh. My littlest is possibly silently wondering what kind of family he's arrived into?! My current favourite song, 'Hey Brother!' (I only know this lyric!), is by Avicii. I challenge you not to sing along, mount your imaginary horse and bound across a pretend beach. My son even grabs some reigns for this!

My eldest is now 3. I learn so much from him. Like recently, watching TV with a drink of milk ready for his wash, stories and bed (not really liking milk - or 'mick' as he says - TV is a bribe!). I went to turn it off. He suddenly declared "I'm still feeling watchy!". He'd wanted more TV! I think how children develop is amazing. My son generally approaches life without inhibition. He just goes for it, even inventing words! He's in good company. Bill Bryson's Shakespeare biography says he was a prolific word inventor to.

Soon I see a psychiatrist (specialising in mums). I'm apprehensive. What will she say about my experience and how will I feel?

Anyway, feeling 'bathy' and 'chocolatey'. Off to get one and eat some!

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Handling change.

One of the hardest things to handle or accept for a person with a mental health condition is change, even if the change is good.

My husband will be retiring in a matter of days. How wonderful, you might say. Of course, in the logical part of my mind, I am looking forward to the event. My emotions, however, have me in a tizzy.

What on Earth might one be anxious about at retirement, you might ask.

I worry that we won't have enough money each month. Have we planned well enough? What if the market crashes again and our investments aren't worth as much? What if one of us gets sick and we have enormous health care bills?

I worry that he will get tired of being with me all day; I'm not exactly good company most days. I drag myself from bed whenever I am able; many days it's almost noon. I take forever to perform the most menial of tasks. I change my plans minute by minute according to what I think I can handle. Some afternoons consist of my moping on the coach, grateful at least that no one can see how horrible I look and act.

The biggest worry I have is trying to perform our daily rituals while sharing the same space. For almost all of our 33 years together, we have had different times to prepare for the day, for our morning routines. He likes music and TV in the background to keep him company. He is cheerful (but not sickly so, thank goodness), and enjoys chatting and whistling a tune.

I, on the other hand, am quiet. Not surly or grouchy, but silence definitely reigns my morning schedule. I do not talk, play the radio, or listen to TV. I avoid my cell phone. I need to ease into my day. In fact, this routine has governed my morning behavior since I was in junior high school having nothing to do with the rest of my mental state.

How ever will we cope?

I suspect the coping will come from our mutual commitment to one another. It's how we've stayed together for over 30 years. He is so gentle and understanding about my mental and emotional state. I bet he'll offer to make changes to his routines. And we do live in a house big enough for each of us to have our own space in the mornings. I might even learn to benefit from exchanging morning pleasantries with the one I love.

Somehow, this change doesn't seem so ominous as it first did when I sat down to write. Now, maybe I can work on my distress over my beloved son moving away with his wonderful little wife so that I can share in their joy and anticipation.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The power of 'offering' (not telling).

"If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way." This Chinese saying, unfortunately, only too true, stands in sharp contrast to our belief in the 'right' method irrespective of the man who applies it. In reality, everything depends upon the man and little or nothing on the method." Carl Yung

I have always loved this quote - for me it truly encapsulates and clarifies the competence (IQ) verses character (EQ) question.

There is no point in having an 'expertise' if you are not trustworthy, yet we find that much of mental health 'medicine' (and life) is about IQ facts and I would suggest, that if you do not trust the psychiatrist, psychologist or GP, the 'prescription' is most likely to fail. It is the trust between you - the relationship building and understanding that is crucial to start with - to understand the person first before prescribing the process.

A GP is the most trusted profession as 'they' have to listen first.

In Moodscope, we have so many positive people seeking to help others by offering their own story. I simply like to offer thoughts that may shift our perceptions or poems that connect an emotion, believing that all change is driven by emotion (positive or negative).
Some people are very clear about an action or activity they embraced, which helped or changed their life.

The important thing here is that it changed THEIR life - it may not however change anyone else's life.

Jung makes it clear, it is ALL about the person and little about the process and in my view this is especially relevant with mental health. This is not like having a broken leg where everyone 'mends' the same way, which the NHS is so good at.

For those with mental health challenges it is more about placebos and nocebos as perceived by every person, each as unique as their fingerprints!

Radio 4 this week had a programme on highlighting that nocebos are actually far more psychologically powerful than placebos:

In other words focus on the positive rather than the risk of not doing it, or even the possible side effects.

Bad is actually more psychologically powerful than good!

So – returning to Jung quote of wisdom, in a world almost totally now measuring people by their IQ, we will help more people in Moodscope by simply offering what helped us, than prescribing any specific 'method' of cure or reason and the dangers of not using it. Placebo and not nocebo.

What has been 'offered' to you recently which has made a difference, and what can we offer of ourselves to others?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

You Can't Choose Your Family. Or Can You?

Twenty-six years ago my son was born. I wasn't there at the time. In fact, I didn't even meet him until he was twenty one.

That would be sad, but not unusual, if I were his father. But I'm his mother.

When Tom came into our lives five years ago we didn't know he was our son. He turned up at our daughter's fifth birthday party (held in the local swimming pool) in the capacity of a lifeguard. He was a friend of a friend.

But, by the time he had given ten little girls dolphin rides all around the pool for an hour, organised ten lots of party plates, helped with presents, then come home with us and eaten vast quantities of spaghetti bolognaise, he was not only a friend but a member of the family.

He liked us as much as we liked him. His own family was chaotic and he loved the ordered structure and discipline of our home. He idolised my husband and adored the girls.

It became automatic to invite him to everything and our neighbours and friends have become used to him as a fixture, but it was still a shock when one of the neighbours asked, in all innocence, "So, is Tom your son from a previous marriage then?"

Well, yes, the colouring's right, the nose is bang on. So yes, he could easily be my son. We began to joke about it a bit. When I take him shopping or we're out as a family, it's just easier to introduce him that way.

Sadly, at Christmas, his own family, always dysfunctional, stopped functioning at all as far as he was concerned and if home is the place you can always go back to and they can't throw you out, then although he'd moved out to go to university and then to a job, he was essentially homeless.

But not anymore. He's asked me if I can be his real mum (I think the job involves doing his washing  and mending when he comes home, baking him cakes and allowing him to empty the fridge and probably slipping him the odd fifty quid when he runs short) and of course I've said yes. The first thing my husband said on hearing the news was "I'd better clear out the spare room for him then, so he's always got a place to stay," and my daughters want to sign a bit of paper so they have an official and legal big brother.

I don't know if you can adopt someone when they're twenty six, especially when they have biological parents still living, and we've probably got some stuff to sort through to make sure it works for the long term. But he's chosen us as his family and we've chosen him as our son. We'll make it work between us.

Proof that you can choose your friends and sometimes you can choose your family too.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The love that is inside.

I've not been on here for awhile due to being in love and feeling so high it was truly an amazing experience, something that I've not felt for a long time. I savoured every moment knowing that the high wouldn't last forever and that reality would kick in. So for nearly 2 weeks I felt more alive then I had done in years. It was so nice to have those loving feelings inside, knowing that someone loved me.

I was then listening to a programme and, according to the speaker, the feelings I had experienced came from inside me, the person who I had fallen in love with hadn't made those feelings I felt, it was me. He also said that I could recreate those feelings every day if I wanted to. That got me thinking.

Anyone suffering with depression knows how low you can get and how isolated you feel, when that light you held on to faded to a tiny spot and dimmed.

I have learnt that regardless of who is around you or what pills you are popping the only person that can really help you is yourself. Since discovering Louise Hay and a few other inspiring speakers, more recently Ajahn Brahm, I have started to look inside and started being kind and loving to myself and have stopped being so critical.

When the love I had experienced with falling in love ended, initially I was devasted and upset, but rather going down that familar self critical path that I had obviously done something wrong, instead I got my mirror out and spoke loving words to myself.

Even though I know I still have tears to shed over the broken relationship I know I will grow stronger and move on.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 16 February 2015

A POWERFUL Question.

I have recently joined two special interest groups on Facebook. Both are to do with a rare Myers-Briggs psychological profile I share: INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving). We make up just 4% of the population, so we can easily feel like outsiders.

With a sense of isolation, it is tempting to stray too often into negative territory - being clear on what we don't want rather than thinking of what we do want. A post on one of the sites got me thinking about how to structure my goals in a way that would help.

I use a mnemonic called P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. to set powerful outcomes! For this blog, I just wanted to share the first letter's meaning: P for Positive.

It seems our minds work better when we focus on a positive goal rather than a negative goal. This is because a negative goal pulls our attention towards the very thing we don't want.

If I ask you, just for a few seconds, not to think about Santa Claus wearing ballet shoes... hope is that you couldn't help but think about this very thing!

So, if my goal (either formally or informally) is NOT to do something, my brain will focus on what it will be like to do that thing. For example, if I wish to NOT be so irritable – my brain will be actively scanning for times when I am irritable. If I wish I didn't feel so anxious all the time – my brain scans for signs of me being anxious.

One question can turn this natural psychological tendency around so that your brain may be a better servant. The question is: what would you rather have?

I can answer these in a heartbeat: I want to be calm and relaxed; I want to be at peace and have hope.

If you find yourself drawn to thinking about what you don't want, flip this instantly with the question: what would I rather have? Then you can invest your energy wisely, moving towards more of what you prefer.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Untangling the myth.

Depressed people...

Maybe overthink.
Maybe over love.
Are scared of getting it wrong.
Need to feel that they are loved for getting it wrong.
Can see sunny days.
Can't always touch sunny days.
Can describe their hurt.
But can't describe what would fix it.
Can move other people's mountains.
But the weight of the palm-sized stone in front of them is heavier.
Understand your pain.
And can't show theirs.
Have a sense of humour.
And hide behind it.
Can cope in your crisis.
Need to see your eyes when it's their crisis.
Make black and white decisions.
Then agonise over grey.
Are complicated.
And find comfort in the uncomplicated.
Breathe in and out.
But not always in that order.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Welcoming the inner child.

When I look back upon my childhood I realise that I have few memories. I have an over-riding sense and knowledge about what it was like but ultimately there is a huge part of my life that I am unable to remember anything of. Despite this, I have come to realise that my inner child is still very much in the present and in certain situations is in the driving seat. My adult brain can use logic and reason to interpret situations but when when it comes to emotions my inner child is right there demanding to be satisfied. My inner child appears to have many unmet needs and this is causing me some difficulties in letting go of a situation. My adult brain knows what I need to do and I am following that but it feels like a daily struggle to keep the inner child at bay.

Eckhart Tolle wrote that "attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them". This helps me see that I was drawn to a situation because it provided me with an opportunity to try and meet the unmet needs. My inner child guided me there and now I have taken myself out of the situation it is trying to pull me back, because it is a situation where the inner child in me feels comfortable, it knows how to operate. The needs are not met there but the inner child had learned to adapt to that situation so feels more at home, unhappy but at home.

So, in order to reduce the attachment and being drawn back into the situation I have try to nurture the inner child. I am using a guided meditation for healing the inner child; where in your mind you meet yourself as a child and talk to the child, offer love and comfort etc. I am trying to spend time nurturing myself with self care and focusing upon my strengths and positive attributes. My worry is that my inner child feels so strong that I will be drawn back into the same situation or similar situations in the future. So I'm making a pledge to myself today. I am going to befriend my inner child and embrace her. I am going to love her for all that she is. I am going to draw upon her strength and guide her so that we can walk through our journey in life in harmony rather than against each other. I am going to be patient and give her the time she needs. I just hope she wants to join me!

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Something better change.

So says the title from the hit song by The Stranglers. A catchy tune, an unhappy song, but there's truth in that line. Change is one of the certainties of life! Much is written about how to cope with change but today I would like to concentrate on purposefully provoking change.

Sometimes we need help from outside. My tropical fish can't change their water for themselves – that's my job. But there is so much we can change ourselves.

I woke up this morning wanting change. To go on thinking "Something Better Change" without taking action ourselves will strangle all manner of opportunities that we otherwise could be creating. To go on doing what we've always been doing and expect a profound change is a form of forgivable madness. Why do I say "forgivable"? Simply because we all do this. We want someone or something else to provoke the change.

It's time for a change.

You can choose big changes or you can choose little changes – they will all affect your life. If you want massive results, take massive action.

Here are some ideas to get you off to a gentle start.

Change something domestically, perhaps something in your daily routine. I've begun with simply buying a new mug I liked the look of - this is now "my mug"! I used to change my hair when I wanted a fresh start but those days are long gone! I'm not sure of the reasons why Feng Shui often works for people but I know moving furniture around and decluttering can have a dramatic effect.

Change someone in your social life. I don't mean seek to change a friend - they'll resist you and are unlikely to appreciate your efforts! I mean connect with new friends. Through a special interest group on Facebook, I've been engaging at a distance with new "friends" from Finland and Sweden. It's fascinating and enriching. I'm learning... and therefore changing.

Change something emotionally or spiritually. Most of us are too busy to keep track of our good intentions. Sometimes it pays to just focus on one. "Kindness" has been my top value for years - though I'm often not as kind as I would prefer to be. So now I wear a Starfish brooch to remind me that I can be kind to one person a day as a gentle goal (like rescuing a stranded starfish). Of course that's enough to get me going and then I find I can be kind to lots more! Its role is simply to focus my intention - keeping it in sight, in mind rather that out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

Three simple changes are good. Five are better. Seven small changes have magic in them.

Something Better Change.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Gift of Darkness.

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift." Mary Oliver

I initially had difficulty with this quote – yet it resonated strongly with me. I asked myself why that was.

Then it slowly dawned on me that it was because my greatest gift is my intuition and the reason I have that (almost off the scale in Myers Briggs) is because my father, at times a violent alcoholic, ensured that I had to develop what I believe is my strongest 'muscle', my intuition, to avoid harm.

The way he walked up the 'close' in our Scottish tenement block, or put the key in the door told me whether I needed to be around or not.

That 'gift of darkness' enabled me to rise to the position of local government Chief Executive without any university degree, as I could read and understand people and not only see possibilities but also achieve them in unchartered situations.

I could also deal better with personal emotion and anger and see possibilities for the future. Then of course I suffered depression for the last 24 years...

So what has that 'gift of darkness' done for me?

It has, due to my feeling how bad life can really be, made me far more comfortably leave work that 'steals my soul', where politics, power or money are placed before people, principles or morals. It has also moved me to read a more varied selection of materials about values, trust, leadership, emotion and mental health.

So I am now I trust a far more rounded and 'wise' (EQ) human being, with much of my time chairing a youth befriending charity and working with organisations on values, trust and leadership. (This as opposed to being 'clever' (IQ)).

I still suffer depression, haven't been able to close that door yet but am far more understanding of others and able to deal with any situation which presents itself, especially human emotional ones. I constantly offer the thought that character (EQ) is far more important than competence (IQ).

None of us wish to be mentally 'ill', yet I believe that what it offers is an opportunity through insight, which makes us re-evaluate what is important in life.

As was said on Moodscope BlogSpot recently "welcome to this wonderful community of lovely people who share very personal experiences of tough times in order to help others going through similar bleak periods. We none of us claim to be experts but operate very much as a "self-help" support community. Those of us who post and blog often do so from a place of darkness."  Thanks to Frankie for that.

"There is in the worst of fortune the best chance for a happy change." Euripides

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Supermarket Acceptance.

Ok, Ok,  I admit it. I talk to people.

I talk to - everyone. I will strike up conversations with people in the street, waiting for a train, in the supermarket. It drives my family crazy but I like to be friendly and – you find out so much! Which is just great for a nosy-parker and writer like me.

The other day I complimented a young man stacking shelves in my local supermarket on his perfect diction. It's rare to hear such precise BBC tones these days. Apparently though, according to this chap, it is quite normal within the autistic community to have this attention to pronunciation. He has to be precise because it compensates for the fact he has little emotional expression he told me. And of course, as one of the other features of some forms of autism, he told me in great detail and at great length. Fortunately I had all morning, and his supervisor was around to gently but firmly request that he return to his job.

Our local supermarket employs a wide variety of people. I met Tanya there. At least, when I first met Tanya she was Jack, a delightful young man on the tills. It was Halloween and we chatted about our favourite Halloween practices as he scanned my ghoulish party purchases – until the grumpy man behind me told Jack that he could chat on his own time and not in the store! I liked Jack. He always had a smile and we would always talk. One day I noticed that Jack was wearing makeup (and not in a Captain Jack Sparrow way). I quietly asked Janet, another till person I was friendly with.

"Oh yes," she said, smiling brightly. "Jack's now Tanya."

Yes, I realised. That made sense.

And when I had a chance to speak to Tanya later she explained about how she had been nervous about coming out as a woman and how she had expected to lose her job or be bullied and how supportive every member of staff had been. The store supported her all through her treatments and operations as she changed from a boy to a girl.

You wouldn't necessarily expect to find, in your local supermarket, such acceptance and support of and for people who are a bit different, would you?

They have helped and supported me in my bad times too; detailing staff members to push my trolley for me when I've been too weak and wobbly to do it for myself. They have provided chairs and glasses of water when I needed to a have a little rest. There are quite a few staff members who have seen me through several bouts of depression and watch out for me.

Your local supermarket may be a faceless and inhuman entity to which you pay your weekly dues and where you try to get round without actually killing anyone, but – just give it a chance. You may just find it has a kind and compassionate soul within.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Sad memories can have a silver lining.

My all girls high school is having a 40 year reunion later this year which is a shock to me as it can't be that long since I left school! One woman is organising a reunion and has a facebook page, so there a many photos posted and fun memories discussed.

To put it mildly, high school, especially my senior years, were not happy ones for me. All I remember is being either so sad I couldn't get out of bed, so tired I couldn't be bothered to wash my hair, or so high that I was rude to everyone and didn't bother going to school at all. When I was depressed my dad would drive me to school and wait and hope I would get out of the car but most of the time after waiting for an hour he would drive me home. I recall a few times when I spent lunch time in the bathroom as the library was closed and I felt I had no friends and no one to sit with.

I was discussing my memories with another former student telling her I felt I was a loner and drifter. I never felt I fitted in at all as I wasn't clever enough for the bright group and wasn't different enough for the quirky group. I definitely was not liked enough for the popular group.

She had different memories and said I was a close friend with her and another girl and she had fond memories of times we spent together at school and on holidays.

It made me think. Do I only recall the bad times and filter out any good times? Have I forgotten to look for the silver lining? I don't see myself as a victim rather as a survivor who has lived over 40 years with a diagnosis of bipolar. Maybe I have overlooked the good parts in my past and in my schooldays in particular.

So instead of thinking of the cringe worthy moments, the awful times from school I am thinking about the friends I made, the special moments I shared and that despite my chaotic moods I managed to graduate from high school to university!

The silver lining may be hard to remember at first but it is there and maybe like me you need another person to help you find it. This doesn't mean we forget the pain we have been through but after 40 years I think it is time for me to see the positives of that time and see how far I have journeyed since then.

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 9 February 2015

To Exercise or to Exorcise?

I basically only have one form of exercise in my regime: jumping... conclusions!

Yes, it’s the truth that the more disappointed I become with life, the more irritable and hyper-sensitive I seem to become too! And the hyper-sensitivity brings along its unwelcome best mate: Mr Hyper-Critical.

Suffice to say, jumping to conclusions is hazardous for your health, it’s hazardous for your state-of-mind, and it is hazardous for your relationships. It disturbs your sleep too.

Last week I misread a friend’s comment – and jumped to a conclusion – the wrong one. In fact it was so wrong, it was 180 degrees opposite to their intention. I was very embarrassed and I’m sure they weren’t too thrilled either when I discovered my error of judgment. It might take a while to heal that relationship.

Just in case what I am saying is resonating with you, is there a defence that could moderate this tendency to jump to the (wrong) conclusion when we are feeling low?

I’d like to share with you my ABC Rescue Remedy.

“A” stands for “Assume the best”. This is a great position to default to. After all, if it turns out that the negative conclusion we would have jumped to was actually the right conclusion, we can still strike them off our Christmas list! Looking at the issue, what is the best possible intention the other party could have had? Think the best of them.

“B” is for “Breathe...”  Breathe for a l-o-n-g time.  My Grandma encouraged me to count to ten.  In fact, a second is a long time. In music, we might count 1-e-and-a for just one beat of a bar representing a second. So ten seconds can be long enough for you or me to press pause and take a breather. If there’s an email or a phone call to be made to respond to the imagined offence, I’d suggest a long breather! Insert a gap between stimulus and response! Overnight works well... if you can sleep.

And finally, “C” is for “Check!” In 90% of situations, it’s been possible for me to check out my understanding before throwing my toys out of the pram!

So, perhaps it’s time to exorcise Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms Hyper-Critical – and to cease getting all my exercise by jumping to conclusions.

There is a better way.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Being ‘okay’.

It’s a funny thing, this recovery business. It makes me question every emotion.

I have a bad night’s sleep. Am I getting depressed again? I wake up feeling tearful. Am I getting depressed again? I start to stress out about work. Am I getting depressed again? I shout at the kids. Am I getting depressed again?

But that question – am I getting depressed again? – makes me realise a very important truth. I am not depressed any more. I have come through it. Not totally. Not unscathed. Maybe I will never be exactly how I was before. But I am not depressed.

If I think about it too much, I can start to believe that I am. Because I’m not completely fine. I still have black dog days. Sleepless nights. Days when I’m anxious or ratty or tearful or withdrawn. But I’m not depressed.

Depressed was when I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, let alone laugh. Depressed was when I barely ate for six weeks. Depressed was when I had to extend work deadlines because I just couldn’t put the words onto paper. Depressed was when my children lived on freezer dinners because I didn’t have the energy to cook. Depressed was when my baby girl asked, ‘Why is Mummy sad?’

I am not like that now. Now I can take pleasure from cooking a nice meal again and from eating it. I can defuse an overtired toddler tantrum with love and understanding, rather than panic and rage. I can put myself out there at work, feeling confident that I can do the task justice. I can play-fight with my children and make them laugh. I can feel happy and relaxed with my friends, sitting and chatting in the park. I can do favours for people because I love them and I want to, not because I feel it’s the only way they will like me back.

I am a work in progress, I know that. I don’t think there will ever be a straightforward answer to the question, ‘Why was I depressed?’ I know it is likely to bite me again, which is why I need to safeguard myself against that by seeing my counselling through, seeing my course of medication through. I know I will always have black days that make me fear that I’m sliding backwards again. But I am accepting myself more.

I am not perfect. But I’m okay. I’m not a brilliant journalist. But I’m making a living out of it. I’m not a brilliant housewife. But neither am I a complete slob. I’m not a brilliant wife. But I’m better than I could be. I’m not a brilliant friend. But I have a few people who I know are friends for life. I’m not a brilliant mother. But my children know they are loved.

I’m never going to be everything I want to be, or everything that I feel is expected of me. I’m always going to be a bit shy, a bit introverted, a bit morose, a bit temperamental, a bit lazy, a bit fat, a bit slovenly. But I am okay.

I am going to be okay. And in saying that, I know I am no longer depressed. Not cured. Not fixed. But not depressed.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

OK.  Here we go.  Today I'd like to talk about the deep, dark murk of alcohol.

I was already depressed when I thought alcohol was my answer to lifting me out of the dungeon. It was neatly dressed as a sunny, summer garden, and danced into my 6pm winter-dark kitchen, disguising its real self... another dungeon.

I had moved house twice in the same year, was two weeks into the second house move, just before Christmas, juggling a toddler and two new babies. I was on my knees with tiredness and I felt so lonely with my other half travelling almost permanently. I was living on adrenalin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In answer to my desperation, my other half said "have a gin & tonic" and that was that. It may as well have been a punch in the face.

From that moment, and over the next decade, I went from someone who almost never drank to someone who once groggily roused, face down on the kitchen floor at 2am surrounded by a kitchen full of tea-time dishes and half made soup, tear-stuck tissues in my hands and music attacking my ears. Luckily, my cheer-me-up parties would wait until bedtime stories were complete and foreheads had been kissed. Luckily, that face down event was the result of a relatively small amount of alcohol compared with the sufferer who drinks from dawn. But the intention was the same. Block it all out, numb yourself, run, hide, put your fingers in your ears and sing 'lalalalala'.

I can now trust myself with alcohol again, but in a very, very controlled way. I worked at it very slowly over an eighteen month period. I changed my routine and all my life habits to ones which were clean. I am still extremely careful about where I will go and who I will be with, or not with. I recognise that getting to the heart of me is like peeling an onion. My layers come off with many tears and it can nip like hell, but if I don't then who am I?

I'm not here to admit all my sins. I haven't admitted them all to myself yet. But I am here to highlight that alcohol and depression are often inextricably linked. Chicken and egg. If you recognise yourself in here somewhere, accept that you will never conquer one without addressing the other.

Who are you?
Who do you want to be?
You are change.

Much love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 6 February 2015

I want to make mental health real and ok to talk about.

Today's blog is written by Fliss Baker who had a great experience training and learning with the MHFA (Mental Health First Aid England). Here's her story:

Receiving a diagnosis for a mental health illness is a life changing experience. You feel relieved to know 'you're not going mad' but at the same time confused, fearful and alone. After a lengthy period of stress due to relationship breakdowns, work and attempting to cope through an eating disorder and drug bingeing, I lost the ability to cope and was diagnosed with bipolar in 2008. After a lengthy hospital admission I felt lost. Where did I start? My confidence was shot but I wanted to help others. Volunteering with a mental health charity gave me the opportunity to share my story during some Mental Health First Aid courses.

I can't put into words what attending the first MHFA training course felt like. I was shaking with fear and my medication made me anxious. However, I received amazing feedback and felt a sense of achievement. I also learnt things I never expected to.

Statistics showed me I wasn't alone and the reinforcement of symptoms relieved my anxiety - I wasn't the instigator of my challenging struggles! Primarily, I learnt I could recover. I could access professional support and use cognitive behaviour techniques recognising how my thoughts impacted by feelings and actions. In addition I could call helpful numbers, talk to family and friends and try to rediscover things I enjoyed. Finding stability started to give me a purpose. I was spurred on to continue sharing my story and four years on I have assisted in changing the attitudes of thousands of people.

I now talk to undergraduate mental health nurses and I write about mental health issues. I owe much of my personal development to increased learning and understanding from MHFA England. Pre-diagnosis I lived in a world where mental health was hidden and only for the weak minded but I fight this stigma now. My life isn't easy and I have had a hospital admission since then but with acceptance, understanding, using coping strategies and accessing support I know however hard it gets, there is hope and MHFA helped me to understand that.

Fliss Baker 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

It's a crying Shame.

As someone who left a Chief Executive role in local government due to, for me, such a lack of public service, for political and self service – and now working with values and trust in organisations, plus many comments on Moodscope about the challenges of modern day work, I was reflecting on the rigidity of organisations and their effect on society and wrote the following…

So many people dealing in pain,
Looking for respite before going insane.
So many hurting inside their head,
Sticking to values - their organisation dead?

So where do we find comfort,
In such trying times?
Where do we find solace,
That makes the world rhyme?
Where do we find compassion,
For a real human sign?
Where do we find peace,
In this life of thine? (and mine)

Are we the victims of comfort,
Got no one else to blame.
We're just the victims of comfort,
Connoisseurs of pain.

It's easier to set the process,
Than trust the employed staff.
It's easier to neuter passion,
Than create joy and share a laugh.

Organisations that talk of values,
But they're simply on the wall.
Behaviours that never fit them,
They're not really there at all.

Human-beings within them,
That have a process to do.
Human-doings that seem to run them,
You just cannot be you!

You then have a choice,
To fit in or lose.
The income you 'value',
But which values do you choose?

Is it money or morals,
As you move through life?
Is it head or heart,
Before you find strife?
Are we the victims of comfort,
Got no one else to blame.
We're just the victims of comfort,
Connoisseurs of pain.

Comfort used to be the pride in ourselves,
Now do we 'value' what we possess.
So Organisations now measure,
More time and process.
What about our human coherence,
Or are we in a mess.

I'd like to see a change,
I know it can be done.
I've seen it so often,
When trust has begun.

Organisations are the victims of comfort,
Got no one else to blame.
They're just the victims of comfort,
Crying shame.

Maybe you are in a situation where you feel your values are at odds with what is around you. Where can you find inner solace and draw strength from those you trust?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

How to Become a Male Underwear Model in Five Easy Steps.

1. Join the US Marines; get posted to Afghanistan.

2. Drive your Humvee over a IED. Get your jaw broken in four places, your arm torn to shreds and your right leg blown off at the knee.

3. Spend 47 days in a coma, and seventeen months in hospital recovering.

4. Descend into alcoholism and deep depression. Get three DUIs in a month.

5. Sober up, join a gym, get noticed by a photographer… and find yourself famous!

That's what happened to Alex Minsky. Go on, Google him. The tag line on his web page is "When one door closes, another opens." He would like to use his story to give other people hope.

But it's not the fact that he is a good looking and photogenic young man, with the body art that seems to be essential fashion-wear these days that has allowed him to become famous. Oh, and if you haven't heard of him, it's probably because you're in the UK, or don't make a habit of watching male underwear ads. Apparently the reason why everyone wants to work with Alex Minsky is that he's fun, he's not a prima donna and he doesn't make a big thing about the leg.

He recently posted on his Facebook page, next to a photo of a sign saying "PLEASE – No acting!" "I love this. A sign posted up in a workshop I attend which reminds me that it's not about acting or pretending or being something I never was. It's about being MYSELF. Always. Using my own experiences to overcome obstacles"

So everyone in California loves Alex Minsky. It seems as if even Alex Minsky loves Alex Minsky, which is just as well.

Now, that is.

When he was drunk every day of the week and deeply depressed I guess his mother still loved him, but the world didn't and couldn't; he wasn't engaging with the world.
I have no idea how hard it is to come back from alcoholism. I know it's pretty tough coming back from depression, to choose every day to engage as much as you can – which some days is not at all.

But people like Alex show us that there is an alternative to despair. I don't think that I will ever become a famous underwear model (definitely just as well), but I like to think that a few of you enjoy these blogs, that a few more will enjoy my novel (and the future ones) when they're published. That's the result of my choice to engage with the world, even when it's the hardest thing in the world to get out of bed, come downstairs and apply fingers to keyboard.

Alex has a tattoo at the base of his abdomen. It says "DON'T LAUGH" and you can't help but giggle at that, can you?

And if you're giggling, it's hard to despair.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Blinded by the light!

Often it is in the darkest of pits that you will see a light like no other. It will be difficult to describe to others and so personal that you will lose the blessing of this special experience if you go into too much depth with it to others.

There are some colours in this life that we are to keep and protect their beauty for our own well being. If we give give give and keep on giving we will have nothing at all left to offer others.

But, and I quote here:

'HE THAT WATERETH WILL HIMSELF BE WATERED'....that is my firm belief.

Look out for those rainbows and those drops of dew that sit nestled in the deep petals of the rose. Watch how Jack Frost glistens in the moonlight making the scenery look like a foreign land where many exciting secret adventures grow.

Enjoy each moment to the full, lest tomorrow be a bit emptier for you; and then look back when down, at your brighter day memories to remind yourself that these days ARE possible to happen again and WILL probably happen again for nothing stays the same forever and 'This too shall pass.'

Press on fellow sufferers until you find a sparkling jewel for yourselves!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Do you need a routine?

For 6 years now I have been a functioning depressive. This means that despite feeling as low as you can go I have still managed to get up every day and do at least something with my day.

People have asked how I have managed to do this, to get up day after day feeling like I want my world to end, to just go to sleep and never wake up again. The answer has been routine.

I am not a slave to routine but I have found that by following one step after another, generally without thinking about them I can get up, dressed, animals fed, me fed, tablets taken, kids to work and get to college. If something happens to change the steps (maybe I sleep late at the weekend, or we run out of milk for my morning porridge) I find that things get missed. I forget to take my tablets or the dog does not get fed for example.

By sticking to my routine I have found that I can do the three most important things that are needed every day:-

Get up, Dress Up and Show up...

As a species I believe that each one of us only has a certain amount of physical and emotional energy that we can use each day. When we are mentally and physically fit and well we have quite a bit (but not limitless) and when we are unwell the amount we have decreases. I have heard this described as having a certain number of spoons each and we use the spoons up through the day. When we run out of spoons we are too exhausted to do anything else.

Having a routine means that you don't have to spend a spoon thinking about what you are going to do, what you are going to wear or what you are going to eat, those decisions have been already made, you can use your spoons for something else.

When you are really feeling low and in pain (either mentally or physically) you need to decide how to use your spoons carefully. If you go to the shops this morning will you have enough spoons left to manage coffee with a friend this afternoon? for example. By not using your spoons to decide how to manage the little things you may find that you can make them go further.

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Running the Stop Sign.

I meet so many talented people. Few of them are living the life they would choose to. In every case I remember, something is stopping them.

On the road to their dream life, there is a Stop sign... in fact there is usually Stop sign after Stop sign after Stop sign. All of these Stop signs are at a junction. Every junction demands that a choice be made.

If you want to change history, you have to challenge the Stop signs. The key question is, "What's stopping you?" The answer most of the time comes down to either of two important matters: resources or consequences.

People will mention resources like 'time' and 'money' and sometimes 'motivation'. Consequences are often connected, for example, you might say, "Well, I need to make a living/pay the rent/pay the mortgage."

So the second question is, "What would happen if...?"  Here, you can insert whatever the assumed consequence is. "What would happen if you didn't/couldn't pay the rent?" Sometimes, with a little thought, you'll realise that the consequences, even in the worst case scenario, may not outweigh the benefit of running the Stop sign!

This year, you're going to reach a series of junctions where you can make a new choice. My hope is that you'll have the confidence and courage to run some of those Stop signs once you really challenge the fear of consequences that would otherwise keep you on the road you're on.

A Moodscope member.