Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Head, heart, nature.

I came across Moodscope some years ago through listening to founder, Jon Cousins being interviewed on Radio 4's Midweek. I was interested so logged on and did some scores.

However, more than the scoring, I found Jon's daily blog inspiring and thoughtful and it  became my habit each day to read this and this deepened further with all the blogs from the Moodscope members.

I have never known or been sure – am I depressed? Sometimes I think I am an imposter – yes I get sad sometimes (quite a lot of the time), I struggle to be happy – but depressed – no, that is surely when one can hear someone is dead to the world, their tone of voice becomes dead pan.

I don't know if there is a definition for "depressed" – lately I have begun to say (at least to myself) "I am depressed" or to others "I have been very low lately". There are some happy days but they seem to be in the minority. I think it is as a result of personal work I am doing on myself and I hope I will soon come through to the other side.

I have made myself a list of "Things to make myself feel better" which I may share at a later time.

Today I just want to share one: go in to nature.

When I had some unexpected time today, I let my car drive me to a place where I know I can walk in the woods, hear no traffic and hopefully meet no-one. I parked and opened the door and my heart opened instantaneously – through hearing the sound of the high pine trees swaying in the strong winds today. Five minutes later as I walked, I realised all the depressive thoughts in my head had gone, replaced by a heart awareness of the sounds of the wind, the shapes of individual trees, the bright luminescent green of some moss, the colour and textures of the different barks, seeing many young shoots as a plant springs to life on the forest floor. For a while I feel connected, expanded and not at all depressed!

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Enemy of My Enemy.

The wise say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I would love to be a man of faith. I admire women and men of faith. But 'doubt' is far more often my companion. It's a dour campanion too! All doom and gloom - but it means well, I guess.

I've had an idea.

I think it is a revolutionary one.

If I learned to doubt my doubts, would they be overcome or even transformed into faith?

Would this be like fighting fire with fire?

For example, I'm not a natural administrator. I even fear doing my accounts because, for me, it is really unpleasant. I 'doubt' that I'll ever be any good at it.

But actually, I doubt that statement. I know I'm pretty intelligent. I know that maths is one of the few fair things in life - it just works. And if it doesn't work, that just means I've not learned the best pattern to use to get it to work. I have faith that it can work and that I can make it work. I therefore doubt my doubt.

There's an interesting concept called "Force Field Analysis". In it, you draw a huge arrow and in this arrow you write the change you'd like to move towards. Then you do a set of arrows, pointing in the same direction as the change, thus supporting this transformation.

Then the fun begins. You also draw a whole army of arrows against the flow. These are the 'doubts' - the factors that would stop the change.

What excited me about this technique is that it is equally as effective to disempower the factors against the miracle as it is to strengthen the forces that move towards the miracle. It's like knocking the legs out from under the table that resists you. It must fall.

What are your doubts? Many young people doubt that they'll ever own a home of their own. Many older people doubt they'll have enough to live on in retirement. Many of us doubt we'll ever meet our soul-mate, or even doubt that soul-mates exist. Some believe that happiness is for others, but doubt it is for them.

I doubt that.

All that.

I doubt that I'll never have a home of my own or enough to retire on or even that I'll never find my soul-mate. Hey, you might even be reading this!

So will you join me in my doubts?

What shall we doubt together today?

How shall we create happiness together?

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Thank you for helping me gain some balance.

I've been a "Moodscoper" for about three years now.

It took me a while to see the benefit but now it's one of the most valuable tools in my mental health first aid kit.

An individual daily score tells me something. Where I am in relation to my 'norm'. In particular it tells me where I am in relation to HEALTHY.

Over time I've been able to learn what a range of scores mean for me. As it's subjective, the numbers themselves mean little. But you know that for me, health lies between about 50 and 65.

Above that and I'm probably doing too much - getting a bit over busy, over excited and likely to tire myself out.

Below this range is cause for concern - I may be, or may be heading towards depression.

This has been fantastic because it means I spot a mood trend before I feel it myself. I notice a week of lower scores and can take steps to help myself.

Equally I can see progress as I start to improve - something that I usually find difficult to recognise.

Over time, I've learnt that daily plotting is best - I get a fuller picture... But I do what I can! When I'm well I'm organised and there's a great graph. As things slide downwards I'm a bit more erratic initially then start plotting like mad - I want to be well and this helps!

If I'm 'very' well I get too busy and eventually I realise I need to slow down... Much as I might be enjoying the buzz I know what I really need is stability.

I have one buddy. My husband didn't manage to read my reports so I felt uncared for. We agreed it was best to take him off.

Initially my other friend commented on my scores. I found this unhelpful... If he misinterpreted things I felt unheard. If he was too anxious I felt pressurised. If he didn't see the significance I felt invalidated.

Now I've asked him not to comment it's much better. He sees the score and I can use it to help me talk if I need to.

So thank you moodscope for helping me gain some balance and for helping me be real about what's going on.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

In the End, There Is Only Room for Love.

This is the title of a very beautiful, touching letter I read last night. It was a letter published online, written by Poorna Bell, Executive Editor of The Huffington Post to her husband who took his own life in May 2015.

Have a read. I think you might find it insightful, interesting and extremely touching: http://tinyurl.com/nca2lqw

Let's all help Poorna 'bang that big drum' to raise awareness around depression by passing this link on to everyone you know who may be feeling down or may have been affected by a similar situation - or, in fact, everyone you know as sometimes we don't know if people are affected or not.

Thank you.

Kind regards.

Caroline Ashcroft
The Moodscope team.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The three Marriages of Life.

"In the midst of a seemingly endless life, however, we can spend so much time attempting to put bread on the table or holding a relationship together that we often neglect the necessary internal skills which help us pursue, come to know, and then sustain a marriage with the person we find on the inside." David Whyte

I just love this quote.

The type of work I do takes me in to organisations and families who have asked me in (I don't do tenders – that places money before morals – I only work where invited).

They would like to reduce stress and become more coherent as a group of human beings ie. human-doings that many people feel in work – or more aligned as a family to reduce hurt and disturbance.

The challenge is, most of us will have what David Whyte would call 3 marriages in our lives and the most important one, with the person inside, we'll leave to last - if at all.

We all know the 'marriage' to work and most of us will know the 'marriage' to a partner.
The latter can suffer due to the 'marriage' to work and in the IQ world we'll talk (falsely) about 'work/life' balance – a very divisive phrase which pitches work against home, when in actual fact work is a part of life – not interfering with it!

I once refused to do a 'Work/Life' balance event in Spain (global Plc) – I did do it, after they changed it to 'Life Balance'.

Until we have become comfortable and have gone 'in' to explore and know and control ourselves, how can we possibly bring ourselves fully to either of the work or partner marriages?

I would offer that most human discomfort falls out of us not truly knowing, understanding and controlling ourselves!

This means being emotionally intelligent (EQ) far more than it does cognitively intelligent (IQ), as well as being physically intelligent (PQ) and spiritually intelligent (SQ).

To Live – PQ – Human Living
To Learn – IQ – Human Doing
To Love – EQ – Human Being
To Leave a Legacy – Being Human

Most of my own depressive illness was in the EQ & SQ area– drugs did not help me PQ and IQ were fine.

I had to 'inscape' to really find out who I was BEFORE I could have a sustainably happy personal relationship or find my true vocation.

Have you found your vocation?

Have you found that true marriage to self – where all happiness actually starts?

The amount you know and love yourself is the exact amount you can love anyone else.

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Cheer squad.

Have you noticed that when a baby is learning to walk everyone encourages, cheers, smiles and claps at every faltering step. Each time the baby falls there are so many smiling happy faces to motivate the baby to keep on going. The first step is met with huge cheers, big claps and many photos and videos and calls to the grandparents and aunts and uncles. This is a wonderfully supportive environment in which to learn and grow.

When we are adults and learning to cope with our low moods, our change in mood, where are the smiling encouraging faces? All we get at times are well meaning family and friends telling us "Stop feeling sorry for ourselves", 'Make more of an effort" and many more 'not so helpful' words of advice.

Where are the cheer squads the smiling faces the words of encouragement we had when we were learning to walk? When we are trying to negotiate our life while feeling depressed this is when we need lots of positive enthusiastic words and actions.

We don't need gushing and advice, just encouraging words like "That's great you managed to get to the letterbox today, well done."

"So you didn't leave the couch today but I am so pleased you showered and got out of bed."

"I know it is difficult for you to come to my party, so I really appreciate the effort you made."

I am going try to be my own cheer squad as well as offer support to others. Who can you cheer on?

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Meeting Men in the Sauna.

Yes – it happened again. You'd think by now I'd be used to it.

So I've finished my twenty minutes of ploughing up and down the pool and, feeling pleasantly relaxed, exercise endorphins swimming lazily through my bloodstream, I think it would be good to chill in the sauna for a while. Well, not chill, precisely, but you know what I mean.

So I enter the room, the heat embracing me like a lover and nod politely to the only other occupant, a chap sitting on one of the high benches. I sit down on the other side and prepare to spend five wonderful moments in warm meditation.

But no. Inevitably he will want to talk.

Maybe MI5 should employ me. It takes only ten minutes for this man to recount all about his two ex-wives, his current partner, what all his children are doing now, how he gets on with them, what's happening at work and his opinions on the Government, the local council and the people who run the Leisure Centre where we're sitting right now. If I could have borne the heat much longer I'm sure he would have told me his GCSE results and how he once stole a stapler from the office stationery supplies!

This happens to me nearly every time I sit in the sauna (not with the same man, I hasten to add). I think there must be something about the small enclosed room, the warm dry heat, the intimacy of our mutual near-nakedness, which encourages this sharing of self.

And it's good for everybody.

It's good for him to talk I'm sure and it's vital for me to listen.

I'm in the part of my bi-polar cycle where I hate everyone because they're all just SO stupid, and if they're not stupid then they're still stupid for not recognising how amazingly talented I am and worshipping me! (And, by the way, I do know that all this is nonsense. It's the chemicals in my brain; it's not real, it's not me.) But because I still have at least a rudimentary grasp of good manners, I'm not going to be rude to this stranger. I will listen politely, respond appropriately and yes, feel grateful that he has linked me, yet again, to the real world and real people.

Whether I'm up or down, interaction with my fellow humans is essential. It is our links with our fellow humans which anchor us to reality. Depression locks us inside our own dark dungeon, the mania of bi-polar rockets us high above the mortal world to a place where the air is too thin to support us and we can't hear or see anyone so far below.

So a link with a stranger is a gift. It is a much needed anchor for mania; a chink of light in that dungeon.

Wherever that stranger and we may meet.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

I'm really very cool!

I'm a bit of a Chill Bill. Whilst I'd love those words to represent a cool, sophisticated, confident, carefree being, I mean that I feel the cold.

Today I had on my t-shirt, my fleece and my little puffy jacket on the school run (as opposed to the big puffy which reaches well below bottom length). There were people wearing sandals with bare legs. I had to make myself leave my scarf at home whilst others were being right out there and brave and exposing skin to air! I put the experience into my file marked 'Moments of Awe'.

I drove to my first stop of the day and had the little lightbulb flash. I was wearing a jacket, on a warm day, inside a car with windows up and would bake myself purple through window-tanning if given half a chance. I was trapped in a bad habit. There is only one way to deal with bad habits.

See the habit.
See the new habit.
Do the new habit.

I took off the jacket. I walked to my destination...at least two hundred metres, maybe three...wearing only the fleece. Now I can file myself into 'Moments of Awe'.

Unless you are a nun, please take a little look at your habits, good and bad, and keep only the good. Some habits are easy to drop (like the above) and some take years to change slowly, bit by bit. Even if you side-step now and then, just keep returning and walking towards your change. It will come.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 22 June 2015


It's a glorious day.
Warm with a refreshing breeze.
The Sun is smiling down on the Conservatory in which...
...I am doing my VAT Return.
I'm gazing longingly at the garden, hoping for a jailbreak.

I kid myself I am a free man, but I'm not. The consequences of not doing my VAT Return on time are serious, though not life-threatening. So I've done a deal: I'll act as an unpaid and unappreciated tax collector for the Government in return for looking like a serious business and getting a stunning 20% off my business expenses. I agreed to this. I put myself in this jail. This is one of my many jails.

Civilised life is like that, isn't it? We all agree to minor compromises of our 'freedom' in return for some kind of payoff. I was distressed talking to a friend the other day as she shared how she had to get so many permissions from her employer to do what she wanted to do with her time. People joke about "wage slaves" but it's not far from the truth.

I shake my head and sigh again in disbelief for possible the 10th time today. My Moodscope score is 20%.

But we can change. I can change.

A Zen Master once asked his keen and highly attentive students, "What keeps a tiger in its cage?" Not seeing the trap, a confident apprentice said, "The bars, Master!"

The Master bowed his head, then raised it beaming broadly at his pupils. With a twinkle in his eye, he declared, "You are nearly there. It is not the bars but the distance between the bars."

Does my VAT Return need to be done today? Almost. I've been putting it off because it scares me, but there's still time. Maybe I could move the bars? I could do some tomorrow and the next day. And this afternoon, I could catch some rays and lift my mood. I can renegotiation my commitment to the jailors.

I know you're in jail too. Tonight, today - whenever you are reading this, I propose a jailbreak. Slap on some "Thin Lizzy" and move those bars.

I'll see you on the outside.
Just let me know where and when...

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sometimes bad things happen for a reason.

In January 2012 I was driving my van home with my wife as a passenger. We went round a bend to see a car approaching on my side of the road. The car hit us head on, another vehicle behind slammed in to the rear.

We were both taken to hospital in an ambulance in a lot of pain, our injuries were broken bones and bruises.

The following few days were awful. Both in a lot of pain and terrible flashbacks. One night I woke up with terrible pain then I collapsed, my wife phoned 999.

After further tests it came to light that I have a rare heart condition called brugada syndrome. It's better known as sudden death syndrome. The pain had brought on an arythmia.  I was told there is no cure but they can fit an internal defibrillator which will stop me from leaving the planet early.

I have had my defibrillator over 2 years and have got used to it being there.

I had collapsed some years before when I was ill but the never found out why.

I was asked if any members of my family passed away young, there has been several including my sister at 34 niece 38 and many more.

I was told by one doctor I am a very lucky man to live to 58 with this condition.

I have 3 grown up children who had to be tested 2 are clear but my youngest daughter has it and she has just had a beautiful little boy and he also has inherited it.

This gets to me some days when I am feeling down. But I am well aware that diagnosed the condition is treatable but undiagnosed is life threatening.

So the moral of my story is little did I know that awful car collision ultimately saved my life and also my daughters and any future children in our family.

So I now believe that sometimes bad things happen for a reason.

A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Seven years bad luck...and counting.

I used to bemoan not having a full length mirror anywhere in my home, not that I am particularly vain, but that it did often mean I went out inappropriately dressed! A stain on my clothes unnoticed or shoes that did nothing for the outfit, etc. So I bought myself 4 square self-stick-on mirrors and applied them to the wall next to my wardrobe.

A few weeks later, not one but all four of my stick-on mirrors unstuck themselves and fell to the floor, breaking on the hard tiled surface below. Now is that seven or twenty eight years bad luck? When I am feeling good it's easy to pooh pooh superstition, but the way my life has been these past five years I really wonder!

It seems as though ever since those four broken mirrors I have had nothing but bad luck. Everything I touch seems to turn to dross. Even positive things turn in on themselves and bring me down. Perhaps take me even further down, once I have been 'up'.

I decided that I was making bad decisions, but it's really hard to be objective as opposed to emotional when feeling low. So the question I am now asking myself is "Was it all my fault?" Of course we always think it is, but surely not all of it?

It started when my husband and I split up after 30 years of marriage and I felt really low and worthless. I must have cried for a year. Friends and family were supportive but that support grew thinner the longer I wallowed in self-pity. It was during this period that the 'bad luck' started.

Thankfully time has blocked out memories of some of the smaller, frustrating, annoying and at the time downright depressing things that happened and I am counting on time to ultimately remove the bad memories of the bigger badder stuff. I do worry though that I have got into a downward spiral and will compound the misery I pile upon myself and hoping, beyond hope, that it's only two years to go and not twenty three more years of bad luck!

I wish I had an inspirational thought, idea or suggestion to share with all you kind people who so generously share of your own but I don't - yet! I just keep building on myself, using the ups to balance out the downs, looking for inspiration elsewhere, trying to be proactive and making sure I don't spend too much time alone.

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Wisdom of the Rose.

My father's roses are the best I've seen them.

He has trained them, these glorious climbing roses, up his rustic wooden fence. Father has provided a structure for them in the form of a supportive trellis, and they have flourished.

With the right structure, protection and nourishment, they can flow. Naturally.

I, too, am my father's rose...

I have been pruned severely in life, though not by my father. But I have survived.
Now I am responsible for my own garden, but I still need to grow myself. I need a structure. I need protection. I need nourishment. But often it feels like I am drowning in chaos, vulnerable and aching with hunger.

Today I would like to make a change in those three areas. Just a little bit.
How could I add a supportive structure to my life? I'm not after a major make-over, just a little help. How could I feel safer - a little less vulnerable? What could I feed on to help me grow?

I know these are all deeply metaphorical, but I also know that you'll find your own meaning under these three headings. I trust your creative self to volunteer some ideas to help you. You are wiser than you know. And sometimes, it's nice to have help from someone else in the Garden.

Who would help me today, I wonder?

Perhaps I should ask?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Ouch the sun hurts!

Does anyone else find sunny days hard? I do. I do adore a sunny day, the heat of a holiday abroad...my healthiest times. Skin out, vitamin D pouring in, mood lifting. A cold sunny day at home, yes. A hot sunny day at home, no.

The pressure to unfurl my 11 month a year winter body (including feet) is daunting. The pressure to squint through the sun, to smile, to join long queues for ice cream, or to barbeque, jeez I hate barbeques! Paddling pools? Ours is always pulled out covered in dust and with a hole or two. Inadequate feelings abound for not have the advert perfect lawn and the water slide picture-perfect between the barbeque and the lush borders.

So I am prepared. I have called upon my childhood. I have saved a few washing up liquid bottles and washed them out. I make good egg mayo. When the day comes, I will make egg mayo sandwiches and wrap them in foil. Tomatoes. Any packet of biscuits. And water fights with cleaned out washing up liquid bottles filled with water...warm water if we feel like being kind to ourselves! Being a grump I will watch from a cushion on the step. If I can stretch to it, maybe a little smile or even a little spray.

Our job in life is not to have it all and be TV perfection. It is to find some sort of balance and be content with the middle road. I'm going to be a middle road! See you there?

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Who Are You and What Have You Done With ME?

"We're doing a  5K fun run in September."

"A What?"

"You heard me. A Fun Run."

I shake my head in disbelief. "That's what I thought you said. But you've always considered the words "Fun Run" to be an oxymoron."

"Well – we're going to the gym. We're going to the slimming class. We need a goal. A Fun Run in September is a good goal. It's realistic and achievable. It meets all the SMART criteria for goals."

"But Emma!" My voice tails off. I can tell when it's useless to argue.

You remember Emma, don't you? You met her last week. She runs my brain. She's the management. And, like many management professionals I've worked with (and indeed, have been myself) she comes up with some really challenging ideas.

So, a fun run it is. Me – who can barely run for thirty seconds without my heart rate becoming alarmingly high. Me – who will never run for a bus on the principle that, if there's one bus already, then there's bound to be two more closely following.

I really don't recognise myself.

Of course Trevor (who believes in polar bears) doesn't like it – but this is not about him.

This is about Emma – who's terribly sweet and well-meaning but who gets carried away. I've had to take her on one side and just ask her a few questions. Well, one question really.

"Um - Emma?"

"Yes?" She looks up from the gym schedule she's studying.

"Am I on a "high" here with the bi-polar thing?"

There's a long pause. The pause gets longer and starts to feel uncomfortable.

"Ah, that's all the answer I need then, isn't it?"

Emma puts down the gym schedule. She doesn't put it away, but she puts it down. She reaches for the "Managing Mary's Highs" document. Good job we created this last time it happened, eh?

I hate to admit it – but the best way to avoid the downs becoming totally incapacitating is to manage the highs.

I need a lot more sleep than I've been giving myself. I need to cut the alcohol completely. I need to cut down on the number of commitments and goals I've set myself. I'll let you know more about this next week.

The fun run is still, tentatively, in the calendar. But Emma's a bit more controlled about it now.

It feels mean, reining her in like this. But it's for the best. We both know it's for the best.


A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Depressive's Guide to the Wedding Season.

Despite being a hopeless romantic, I confess, I don't "do" weddings terribly well. No, it's not because I'm 37, still single, and the prospect that every face will read: 'Ah bless, you must wish this was you dear?' (Arrrrrrgh!) No, I just don't enjoy large gatherings of people; I never have. (Nor do I care much for all the tradition of weddings: the first dance, the wedding cake, the photographs, bridesmaids,...and I'm afraid this bride would so be giving a speech!)

So, how to cope?

Do what works for you.

I used to feel it was only right and proper to be on form for every last part of the day. Not anymore. Take the evening, for example. I don't dance (at least not in public) but if I don't dance, I can't converse (on account of the music's volume) and if I can't converse, well, I must sit there with an affected smile or else folk will think me a miserable singleton sucking sour grapes. It's tedious, no?

No, I'm not letting the side down by slipping away before the evening party in preference of a quiet evening. The same goes for feeling you must hang around for the interminable "Photo Shoot" (you'll find me snoozing in a quiet corner).

Do what works for you.
Don't fret about expensive gift giving.

If you have oodles of cash then by all means make the newly wed's day. If money is tight just now, remember this: it won't be the most expensive gifts that the couple will cherish the most. Be creative with your giving ideas (Pinterest is great for this). Your friends will know when a gift has come from a place of genuine thought, love and affection.

Put your phone away and keep it away.

In all probability the happy couple have spent no little amount of time and energy, to say nothing of expense, in order to give their friends and family a beautiful day. The least I can do in return then - even if feeling unsociable - is to try and put myself out there a bit. Seek out those looking a bit lost or alone (the bride and groom can't look after everybody, all day, all of the time) or take some quirky, impromptu photographs. Who knows, I may even meet my Martin Shaw slash Tom Hughes slash Stanley Tucci (I know. Told you I was a mass of contradictions!).

Easy on the liquor.

Alas, for me, the anxiety after a big event can be acute. If I've remained sober-minded I'll surely have less to overthink.

I'm also aware that when I'm nervous or overtired (or just downright happy, actually) I can give off hyperactive vibes. This can be misunderstood as "drunk" (I hate that!). A lemonade for me please.

What helps you to keep smiling through a large scale celebration?

A Moodscope member.

Monday, 15 June 2015

L'exercise regime per annum.

Joined a Gym in January;

Fought the Flab in February;

Managed more Mindfulness in March;

Attitude Adjustment in April;

More Mindfulness in May as My Memory… erm;

Jogged dutifully  in June;

Jumped Joyously all July;

Added Additional Attitudinal Adjustments in August… from the Beach;

Sought Solace in Sacred Silence in September;

Ought to do more in October, but didn't;

Not much in November neither;

Decided in December to do more...in January!

I go through "Cycles of Good Intent" – and the cycles continue because I inevitably run out of enthusiasm...or time!

No deep message today save that of, "be gentle with yourself" and "honour the Seasons."

You see, your body is one amazing set of clocks and cycles. Sometimes we attach our commitment to the wrong cycle. For example, we might set a goal for the year ahead whereas we would be kinder and more sensible to think a month ahead. This is the kindness of the Gentle Moon in contrast with the intensity of the Sun.

Even the Sun has Seasons in the Temperate Climates – 90 days is enough. Set a goal for Spring; Another for Summer...it is here! Like a Fashion House, work on your Autumn/Fall Collection; And remember Winter has it's unique charms.

If you have s-t-r-e-t---c-------h----------e---------------d too far, come back a bit and think, "Is this a goal for a Season? No? How about a Month? No? How about the Week Ahead? No? How about Just For Today?"

And sometimes, just sometimes, the next 90 minutes is enough to cope with.

Loving thoughts from Lex!
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

What goes up must come down!

I've been using MoodScope for over 5 years but in all honesty, I've never plotted my results – in fact, and this may mean that I don't have my blog published, but I don't calculate my scores on a daily basis...

What I do like, however, are the heartfelt stories and the quote at the end which always sets me up for a good start to the day. So, I keep up the subscription for those daily ditties which make me feel connected.

This may, in part, be because I'm no longer high. I was diagnosed with bipolar at 27 and as I move ever closer to my 40th at the end of this month, I realise that it is only in the past couple of months that I've been well enough to gain perspective again. There's been a lot talked about the pain of depression on the individual and those close to them in recent posts, but I find the highs even more devastating.

What helps.

The drugs do work for me, thank goodness (the times I've got high I've decided not to take my tablets any longer) so I now stick to the regime like a squaddie and have fully embraced swimming – as it does wonders for your 'headspace'. I'm very lucky that I have a job that I could return to and very understanding employers (although I explained my illness prior to getting the role).
I get depression as a natural counterbalance to the highs (Newton was right – what goes up must come down!) but have stopped drinking so out with the 'natural' realignment which happened after I was 'high', I don't tend to get depressive episodes. I still think far too much but mindfulness is a wonderful tool – and not convoluted. Just stop, close your eyes, breathe and be in that moment. Remembering to do that every day at different junctures has helped me enormously.

Finally, the best thing, other than the drugs, is laughter. Comedy rocks. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt is my current favourite..what's yours?

The wee one fae Glasgow
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Just relax.

Two words people say to me that are guaranteed to make me feel tense and stressed are 'just relax' or the more modern version 'just chill!'

Now I admit I may overthink, worry a bit, like planning ahead and I do like asking questions but I think I am relaxed in my own way. When people tell me to relax, I feel my jaw tensing, my teeth clenching and my smile disappearing.

Believe me I have taken advice on how to relax. Over the years I have tried lots of different strategies including hypnosis(I just fell asleep) meditation (I laughed too much) mindfulness (I thought too much), but none have had any effect besides making me feel more stressed because I could not even learn to be less stressed!

I had tried yoga years ago and enjoyed the non competitive nature so when I found a book that was about Yoga for oldies I decided to try the exercises. What I liked about the book was there was no Lycra in sight and that the people in the photos were in their 50s to 80s. For a few days I followed warm-ups and gentle exercises and felt the calming effect. The only problem was trying to follow the book doing the routines then back to the book so it was suggest I buy a DVD, Yoga for beginners.

It started well, a soothing voice with an instructor in loose flowing clothes(no Lycra!). I was feeling calm and in tune with my breath. The routines progressed very quickly and soon my right leg was being asked to be a put in a place that was impossible for my aging body and asked for me to smile at the same time! I felt the tears coming, all the emotions of being no good at anything physical surfacing but I took a deep breath an did some stretching exercises waiting to catch up (which did not happen until end of the DVD!)

When I was on my daily walk in the bush (how lucky am I) I realised I already did something that calmed me and made me smile. Walking needs no equipment can be done inside or out and every level of fitness can do it.

Relaxation is not a one size fits all. If trying to relax is stressful you need to try something else.

The next time someone tells me to just relax, I will smile because I already know how to chill. Do you?

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Walking Streets at Midnight.

Today I left me all alone,
Today I walked away from home,
Today I walked, I'm on my own,
Today my life – call it a loan?

Today my heart beats once again,
Today I notice I have some friends,
Today I don't worry about my loose ends,
To my heart it sorts and daily sends,
Messages to my head to keep me alive,
Messages of love that help me thrive,
Messages that confuse me now and again,
Messages that feel like an old refrain.

Who am I as I walk the streets,
Who was I when I heard the beats?
With hearts of love and pain and hope,
How many times did I want to elope?
With the person I found inside of me,
The person I found who 'he' wanted to be,
The person who saw and helped me see,
Through the spirits that brought me to my knees.

But I had to get up and move on through,
I had to stand and be so true.
To my values through my hopes and dreams,
That nearly killed me off as I turned so blue.

Time to inscape now - go the other way,
Go deeply in - turn night to day,
Let my soul - finally have its say,
Stop the life - where I pay and pay.

This escaping life that grows so thin,
This material life where you never win,
That money'd life where people sin,
That short fat life where the reaper grins.

Can you cope with the pain when you follow your heart?
Can you go through the tunnel when all else goes dark?
Can you hope through all that's stark?
Can you look in and find that vital spark?

So here's to you and all your dreams,
Life is never all that it seems.
You have to go in and find the means,
This f'ing world is coming apart at the seams.
This world can live through you and your dreams.

So believe now, you can find a way,
To make the change where courage holds sway
To step out of comfort and have your say
Things can change day after day.

Go do it now and feel the shift,
Go do it now and bring your gift,
Go do it now it can be swift,
Don't go with the societal drift.

Find your path of your own way,
Find the courage you need today,
Step out and lead where values hold sway,
Life does not have to be so grey.

Where is your path and walk taking you?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I get it now dad. I get it.

My dad's book collection consists almost entirely of all things wartime. Fiction, non-fiction, documentary-he devoured it all.

On the rare occasions my dad would find himself home alone for an evening, an Indian takeaway, a couple of beers and Schindler's List (the movie), accompanied by a few clean, cotton handkerchiefs, was not far from a perfectly spent night for him.

I never really understood. Why seek out such sad and tragic reading/viewing matter? Is life not stressful and sad enough without reading the diaries of someone who lived through a holocaust?

So, any fatherly invites to imbibe in a few beers and to join him in watching all the human despair and misery of say, The Killing Fields, was met with a gruff, "Huh, I don't think so dad!"

Almost 7 years on from his death, however, I think I understand now why he was drawn to all that suffering and sadness. He wasn't revelling in the melancholic. I see now that he found inspiration from the stories of those who had endured the unendurable; who had borne the unbearable, and yet survived to tell the tale with dignity and grace.

(I'd wager too that dad was drawn to humans who had suffered much because he knew that there was often an inner richness to souls touched by sadness.)

We can't pigeon-hole human distress or pain. Indeed, one of my (many) pet-peeves (and disbeliefs) surrounding depression or anxiety is that someone could actually say, 'There is always someone worse off.' Or, 'Look on the bright side!' when, in all likelihood, the depressed/anxious person would do (and probably has done) anything and everything in their power to just feel halfway normal. So yes, suffering is all relative, I know.

But working my way through (I have to pick my moments, mind) dad's collection of books on the World Wars, the Cambodian Holocaust and other dark times, I do begin to find the inspiration that my dad did. If people can survive such harrowing times then I can survive whatever life may throw at me - including the very real isolation and horror of depression and anxiety.

Maybe this is what he was trying to impress upon me.

I wish I could tell him. I wish I could say to him, "Ah, I get it now dad. I get it."

A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Trevor Believes in Polar Bears.

There's no shame in admitting defeat.

Admitting defeat does not mean giving up. It means you need to get clever. It means admitting you can't do it on your own and that you need help.

With my weight sitting comfortably in the "clinically obese" zone and with a blood pressure that was giving my GP a heart attack – ah, that is, giving me an imminent heart attack – it was time to do something.

So I joined a slimming club.

The problem with trying to lose weight is not learning about healthy eating. We all know about healthy eating. It's the actually eating healthily bit which was the issue.

I managed to lose ten pounds in five months. Not exactly a stellar performance.

So I admitted defeat. But I wasn't giving up. I engaged a hypnotherapist.

I discovered a few things about my brain and met Trevor.

Our brain is made up of three parts. There's the primitive Lizard part (that's Larry, who doesn't come into this), in charge of the boring but essential stuff like making sure I remember to breathe. There's Trevor, the more evolved cave-man brain, responsible for keeping me safe and there's Emma. You'll recognise Emma, she's the bit which can conceptualise the brain and then write a blog about it. Emma is my "Manager".

Now I would like to be a healthy weight, lead an active lifestyle and have a normal blood pressure. Emma is absolutely on board with this and quite frankly confused about why, when she's told me what to do, I end up raiding the biscuit barrel at midnight and drinking an entire bottle of wine in one sitting (embarrassing to admit – but true).

Emma and I had not realised that Trevor, downstairs in the security office, has been conducting a subtle sabotage.

You see Trevor is a caveman and he's refused to move with the times. Trevor believes there are polar bears and sabre tooth tigers out there and he really wants to keep me safe. Anything new is dangerous. He's also not great on delayed gratification because, for cavemen, food was scarce. And Trevor prefers me fat because he also believes in famine. The next ice age is just round the corner, and I will need all my fat reserves when it hits.

So when Emma implements a new management policy regarding salads, Trevor sends round an email (he's adopted some new things  - cat memes on the internet for instance) about doughnuts. And, as he's got access to all the feel-good chemicals in my brain, he puts more emotion into the doughnuts than Emma could possibly put into her salad communication.

But I'm onto him now. I'm recognising his style. I have a big red delete key just for his emails.

So far, Emma and I are winning. The feeling of finally being in control is wonderful. Watch this space get smaller!

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


I was trundling along, slowly, quietly making progress and keeping myself straight when I hit a bump. It's where I find myself today. Everyone in the house caught a bug and it has slowly crept around each of us in turn...this is week four of playing patient and/or nurse. Then my ceiling fell apart in two places due to a leak. Currently my house is being carved up in different ways, in different places, to make a fix. Why is it that a fix can only occur with some mild devastation?

I have been keeping on keeping on, acting like all is well and wearing the 'I'm coping' badge. Then yesterday I burst. Anger, shouting, tears, the full monty. Today I'm a burst mattress, all sags, wonky springs and stuffing hanging out. (Are you making the 'boing' sound in your head? Bet you are now!)

I have mumped through the day. Then late into this afternoon I realised what my mistake has been. Once again, I've beat myself up for finding it hard. Of course it's hard! One hundred per cent of this family unit has been pulled down with illness, normal busy life has had to go on around it, I have depression and that makes you feel like an ant burning under a magnifying glass in the sun, my lovely home is damaged in many places and my need for routine has been sorely challenged. Of course it's hard!

Now that I have seen it written down in black and white I feel better. And now I get it.  Resilience isn't about being Clark Kent strong, it's about recognising that it's hard.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Jedi Nights Yes, I know that's spelt wrong.

It's the "Jedi" bit that got me going. I was just about to spend out more money on yet another internet-based offer of information on how to sell effectively...when the 'still, small voice' inside said, "You've got plenty of knowledge already; you need to take action!"

This then reminded me of JDI - the Nike trademarked campaign (how can you trademark a phrase like that? Incredible.) So I can't use that. Then I wondered what "JEDI" could stand for. The answer came quickly, "Just Enthusiastically Do It!"

You see, the moment you take action, everything changes.

Nothing can remain the same because you live in a dynamic system where everything connects to everything else. In fact, everyone connects to everyone else! The flap of a butterfly's wings in Ushuaia, Argentina can caused a cool breeze to blow in Swanage, England.

This isn't a Jedi Mind-Game. Physical action makes the difference. You've got to say something, touch something, type something, move something.

Peter Thomson says, "Action is the key."

There are many types of action, but by far my favourite is "enthusiastic action" - doing something as if you are really enjoying it. Sometimes the thought of the end result is enough to help you find the enthusiastic motivation you need to drive your actions forward.

Vanda North shared a story with me years ago. It was about the rich kid who wanted a pony for his birthday. The parents already had stables, and a stall ready for a new pony. On the dawn of his birthday, the lad leapt out of bed, and, still in his pyjamas, ran to the vacant stable. The stable was full of poo - horse poo. With a yelp of delight, he mucked in and started digging into the pile of poo with total enthusiasm. Bemused, his parents joined him and asked him what he was so excited about. He answered with a grin, "Mum, Dad, with all this huge amount of poo, there's got to be a pony in there!"

So why, "Jedi Nights"?

Well, I think it's a great idea to never let a day go by without taking enthusiastic action. Like the lad who desired a pony, set your ambition boldly for the day. At the end of the day, when night comes, you may discover you'd really only been sifting and shifting s**t all day, but you will have enjoyed the journey because you did it with all your heart! The poo might be the same, just in a different place, but you will be different.  Same s**t, different day? Not really, because you will have become stronger and more resilient in the process...and nothing will ever be the same again.

Just Enthusiastically Do It!

A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Putting the pieces together again.

If a treasured piece of ceramic ware gets broken in Japan they have a special way of fixing it. They mix the glue with powdered gold and make a feature out of the cracks in the repaired item.

This of course makes the piece unique and quite often the repaired pot is actually more valuable and beautiful than it was before it got broken. The Japanese call this repair process Kintsugi.

I am now a ceramic artist and have battled my way through mental illness to a better place. I think the journey has been hard, I have developed a lot of breaks and cracks along the way. However I also think that I have learnt a lot about myself and about others and it has made me more tolerant of others difficulties. I have become remade and I would like to think that I am like a Kintsugi pot - you can see the cracks and scars but that adds to my value and uniqueness.


A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A reason to hold on.

I try to write blogs that have a balance of negativity and positivity, it seems a must, so as to not bring you all down, or elevate you too much either.

But this one is just a big fat moan! No, I'm kidding. This blog is just to say to all the people out there that are holding on, I'm holding on too.

Some days I'm gripping hard to whatever I can and screaming inside that I can do it, keep going, get through just one more second of this loneliness, sadness and fear.

Today wasn't a great day. And I can find a million reasons why it was awful, but I found one reason to hold on. So if, like me, you need a good reason to hold on today, let it be because you read these four words...

"This too shall pass"

A Moodscope member.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Sitting on a sun dial.

"What are you doing sat on the floor?"
"Um, isn't it obvious? Sitting in the sunbeams!"

If I'm fortunate enough to be in my flat all day and the sun is shining, I follow it around my living room like a love lorn girl follows the 'be mean keep 'em keen' boy at school.

At 8am the first slice of sunshine peeks in. At this point its rays are too high for me to sit in, so I stand there for a moment, eyes closed, face lifted up to its light, and inhale its warmth.

I set about a few chores and the morning ritual of making breakfast: porridge, sliced pear, a few Brazil nuts, crystallised ginger, fresh coffee. By now, if I sit on an upright chair, I can sip my coffee bathed in the sun's beams. Delicious.

10am and several tasks later, Mr Sun is now beaming his bright smile on my recliner chair. This can mean only one thing-a short snooze! Dozing in the sunlight is one of my deepest pleasures.

11am equals elevenses and now that the sun envelops my rug, where better to sit to sup Twinings Gingerbread Green tea and snaffle a few ginger biscuits.

Arranging myself comfortably on the floor, if there's anything to read, study, sort through, catch-up on, now is the time to so whilst basking in the sun's light.

Very soon He will condescend to adorn his beauty upon my sofa. Oh-ho, do I feel another another nap coming?

Just time to make lunch and accomplish a few odd jobs in the shadows before chasing his final movements of the day.

By 2pm, the sun's glow has left my sofa in the cold and now warms the wall opposite to where it started this morning. It's an awkward spec to sit in but he's worth the fight; I grab a pouf, sit, raise my face to his charm and bask in the last of his attention before he moves off to another window; another sun starved soul.

But wait! I can chase him still further. He'll be hanging around the coastal path for a good while yet. I'll don my lipstick, sunglasses and scarf and adore him some more.

Are you seeking your dose of sunlight and Vitamin D where/whenever you can?

A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Comin Home...

I’m sitting down by the roadside,
Watching life just pass me by,
Everybody is going somewhere,
Riding just as fast as they can ‘fly’.

I guess they’ve got a lot do,
Before they can rest assured,
That they can have their own life,
And they can never be ‘insured’.

For what is real and meaningful in life,
That sits inside of ‘you’,
They simply run and ‘buy’ that life,
And turn a deeper shade of blue.

How long have we been drifting,
Past all that matters in us?
How long could we have been sifting,
The good out from the pus?

How long have we been leaving,
All the hard stuff out till later?
How long can we go on,
Frustrated or in anger?

When are we going to be happy,
When are we going to be content?
When are we going to go inside,
And recognise what has been misspent?

Was it our treatment of another,
Was it our lack of discipline,
Was it how we treated our parents,
Or was it a more basic sin?

Or are we doing OK,
As we mature and catch some thoughts.
It’s the questions that really matter,
Not the parental and societal ‘oughts’.

The questions are all our own,
As we look and feel inside.
They are not the IQ answers,
That enable us to hide.

To hide from ourselves,
To hide from our peers,
To hide so much so often,
Until there are fearful tears.

So how can we look up now,
Far as our eyes can see.
To be all that we can,
And all we hope to be.

‘Cause, no matter how fast we run,
We can never seem to get away from ‘me’.
Don’t matter where we are, I can’t help feeling,
That we are just a day away, from where we wanna be.

So I’m comin home babe,
Like a river to the sea.
I’m now gonna go inside,
To find the real me.

I’m gonna drop this image,
And embrace vulnerability.
I’ll open up my heart,
To love and embrace me.

I’m comin home babe,
Like a river to the sea.
I’m now gonna go inside,
To find the real me.

Comin home,
River to sea
Go inside
To find me.


A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Unexpected side Benefit.

It's a marketing strategy, pure and simple. Like or not, we judge a book by its cover. So – if you're selling romantic fiction to women, it makes sense to put a handsome couple on that book cover.

Hang on – ninety percent of the people reading romantic fiction are women: so forget the couple, just put the man on. Make sure he's got muscles. Ah, and now lose that shirt...

When I started writing my first novel, about this time last year, I didn't know all this. I didn't know that there was a whole industry behind book covers or that male fitness models (the handsome, muscled young men without shirts), eagerly sought out authors, anxious to appear on the cover of their next book.

In discovering all this I have, somewhat to my bemusement and the consternation of my husband and daughters, become friendly with a number of these young men. It has been a chore: I freely admit it. I mean, we're talking shoulders like boulders, pectorals like slabs of concrete, abs that ripple like sand after the tide has retreated, inch by inch; reluctant to leave as from the bed of a lover...

... Ah, please, none of you need to worry about the state of either my morals or my marriage.

You see, these beautiful people are just ordinary people too. These beautiful people suffer from low self-esteem (often the reason they start working out in the first place), with their love-lives, with the sheer exhaustion of keeping up the gruelling routine it takes to keep their bodies in that photo-shoot readiness.

It takes four hours of gym time every day, come rain or shine, storm or snow. It takes a diet composed almost entirely of lean meat, fish, and green vegetables – oh and additional protein shakes. It takes travel, usually at their own expense, to the photographers who can get their image out to the people who can use that image. The people who pay peanuts to use that image. For some of them it takes keeping this side of their life a dark secret from the people they work with. For some, they juggle all this with a demanding professional job too.

So I've ended up with nothing but admiration for their dedication, respect for their determination, and near awe for the talents of the photographers who make the most of their beauty.

I've not yet dared ask one of them just why they bother. But I will, one day.

I'm really interested to know what he'll say.

A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Looking long.

I try not to look back. There's too much there that can be regretted and it is unhealthy for my mind. However, if we stumble along a coastal path only looking forward or clamber up a hill never looking down, we are undoubtedly depriving ourselves of our achievement.

After talking about the beach on Lex's post recently, half term made it an easy decision to make a dash to the beach. My go-to place of recovery. Its cold. Windy. Beautiful in any weather. Beautiful in any mood. Feeling small there has a comfort of its own. My children were grumpy. They each had a reason not to go. I was driven. I could not be me without it.

We went. They laughed, then they fell out. They played, then they fell out. My youngest daughter fell out with us all and stomped into the sunset as we headed back. I stomped after her trying to catch her shadow. I remembered that she is (like me!) unreasonable at all times and so I decided she needed to burn out her anger and stopped trying to catch her. As I turned and looked back to see where my other children were, I caught the most glorious sight. My (anxiety driven and argumentative) son caught in silhouette. His shape dark against a sun kissed sea. He looked free and he looked happy. My camera clicked and clicked and clicked. And I look forward to seeing if I caught the moment as I remember it in my head.

Don't forget to look back, just a little, and see from where you have come. If it does not bring you pleasure, it will bring you perspective.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 1 June 2015

A Box With Rules.

Bizarrely, as a penniless Cleric, I have spent the last 18 months helping people understand the unappreciated power of pensions. (Yes, you heard me right, and, relax, this is Moodscope, not a sales' pitch!)

Pensions will act as our metaphor for today - and they are a powerful metaphor. For the majority of us, pensions are not only boring, they are complex and they are 'dead' money. They are a far-off promise that feels like nevereverafter. And that's what the 'System' wants us to believe. Why? Simply because it leaves the control with the insurance companies and banks. And they know best. (Yeah, right!)

Reassuringly, each different pension is just a box-with-rules. You put money in the box. The rules say what the contents of the box can invest in and who makes the decisions. They even say when you can tap into your potential future. I'm sure you can guess where I am going with this. I am revolting! Why would I let anyone else decide what to do with my time or money? This is my life. I intend to live it to the full.

The good news is that you can become the trustee of your own pension. You can decide (within certain limits) what your money can be invested in - in a sense, you can make the rules. And you get back control.

That's a long introduction to my point: your life is a just box-with-rules. Similarly to the former types of pensions, many of us have handed control over to an external party to dictate just what we are allowed invest our time in and other resources too (i.e. a job where you are employed and the boss decides when you can have holiday). Many of us have allowed other people to become the Trustees of our lives and futures. Now I hope you're revolting too!

My challenge to you today is to take back control. Change the box you live in. Become the Trustee of Your Own Destiny. And make the rules up as you go along!

Of course there are some other key "Aha!" moments to consider. Firstly, you can have some rules in place all the time - we call those your values. Those are good rules - perhaps better labelled 'principles'. You've chosen them. Secondly, you can have a Board of Trustees. I didn't become a penniless Cleric overnight, I had to make lots of consistently poor decisions. I would have benefited from a Board of Trustees who could balance my creativity with common-sense. Now I've got a Board, on board!

But I'm the Chairperson and majority shareholder. I make the rules. I make the final decisions. I am in control (ish).

Is it time to break out of your current box and break some rules?

I hope so. (Happy to be on your Board too!)

A Moodscope member.