Friday, 31 July 2015

I'm a slow learner.

I'm possibly going to state the obvious. Inside the fog of depression, I didn't really know this until years had gone by, and I wish someone had told me way, way back. This might not be applicable to all but it might be helpful to someone.

Depression has different times.

There is the 'I'm in it and I can't see anything else' time.

There is the 'I've seen where I've been and I have an idea how to trip it up' time.

And the 'I've boxed it, glued the lid shut and sometimes I even crack a smile' time.

Now, for me, I have the first two of these throughout the year. The first one has been my main unwelcome companion and I only rarely shed it. Using Moodscope has helped me see when in the year it is at its worst and that helps me to ride it, like surfing a wave. No. That's glamorising it...it's more like a bucking bronco. The second one is where I'm spending more time as the years pass and it's my aim to grow this time. The last one I have visited before, just the once (properly), and so I know I can get there again. But I also have each of these over a week, sometimes a day, sometimes it changes in the same hour. I might wake up in one, travel to another and head back before dusk.

Part of what I've learned over the years, and what is allowing me to have a little comfort, is to recognise which time I'm in at any one spell. This helps me adapt. I don't always know I'm falling but I certainly know when I've hit and then I can remind myself of where I am and what I can expect of myself.

Before I knew this (and you may all be rolling your eyes at my naivety!) I just felt like sludge all of the time and, without an end time, it really grinds. I never know how long my times will last but it does help to identify them. I may even name them. But I'm not sure they are polite, repeatable names for public posting. In fact I know they are not! :-) They all begin with the same letter.

Do you already look at your depression in this way? If not, then let this roll around your head for a while and see if it might alter any of your thinking. Keep travelling.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Who Are You?

"You won't find your soul mate until you find yourself."

I often say, the amount you love yourself is the direct equivalent of how much you can love anyone else!

Without doing the work on ourselves and making that commitment with no short cuts, (see July 2nd blog) how can we expect to find the right partner?

If we find the right partner when we are insecure, or lost or down then they will be the 'right' partner, who is attracted to that incomplete person which will also most likely lead to a co-dependent relationship i.e. one where both people 'need' each other from an insecure basis – not 'want' each other and can overcome challenges to achieve that.

Co-dependency is a learned behaviour that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioural condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

It is also known as "relationship addiction" because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

So, for me, I now believe that until I am very comfortable with myself – which I have not been – and feel I have done the work and committed to lessening my depressive bouts – which is now happening with relationship and work changes, I will at this ripe old age of 61 be unable to find that soul mate I have so longed for.

The lack of that work previously, has brought great hardship in many forms...divorce, infidelity, damaged children, large financial losses, suicidal depressions et al.

I can however leave the best legacy I can, by fully becoming me and showing my children, one close and one still unknown after 7.5 years of separation, that we can move past such things and find a more balanced and healthy life.

The 'gift' that now 24 years of depression and one suicide attempt has given me, is that it finally made me take that Road Les(s) Travelled and to go on the only journey in life that I believe is worth it – the inside one – the inscaping one so many of us have avoided by escaping in whatever way we hoped would make us happy (drink, drugs, sex, gambling, avoidance, deceit).

If someone asked you – 'Who are you?' instead of 'what do you do?' what would you say?
Are you a Human-doing or a Human-being?

Which way would you like to be moving, as it's not where you stand that counts – but which way you are moving?

Are we focusing on the externals and neglecting that inner work or moving inside to love and care for ourselves?

Les
A Moodscope member

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Quite Frankly Terrified!

We should have seen it coming I suppose, but it just didn't occur.

So, over the last three days, the scores on the nervous, anxious and scared cards have been sky high!

What was this terrifying thing?

My son wanted to bring his new girlfriend to visit. "And," he told me in an aside, "This one's special!"

My husband and I looked at each other in bewilderment. With our girls, we have had years of getting used to them bringing their friends home for tea, to sleepovers (with conspicuous confectionery consumption), to those friends joining us on holiday. By the time they start bringing home young men I hope we will have a good handle on things. But we've only had six months with Tom.

You remember Tom, don't you? I blogged on 18th February about how I came to adopt my son at 26.

Of course I've known that he has had a succession of young females in his life. He's an attractive, warm hearted lad; it's all perfectly natural.

But, when you take your girlfriend home to meet the parents it's a bit different.

Then there's the fact that Jenny has bright pink, blue and purple hair, tattoos and piercings while we are as conventional a family as you would find in a month of church going Sundays.

So, yes, we were all nervous.

At least I was nervous until I realised that Jenny must be feeling at least as scared as I. "Poor girl," I thought. At that point it stopped being about me and my family and about wanting to make this young woman feel comfortable and welcomed. My focus shifted and, oh boy, did I feel better!

And of course it's been fine. Jenny's lovely. I met them at the station and it took all of ten minutes for us to have the kind of honest conversation you need to have in order to create the basis for a real and authentic relationship.

Tom's sisters like her and are fascinated by her hair. "Mummy – can I have blue hair too?" (Not until you're at university, dear!)

Even my husband has come round, although he says it's the first time he's been greeted with the words "I know I've got the hair and tattoos and piercings, but I don't do drugs or anything like that, honest!"

Wind. Sails. Taken out!

We should have trusted Tom. He has excellent taste. In fact, he's chosen a girl rather like me!

Now – I wonder what I'd look like with blue and pink hair.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Procrastination and Depression.

Okay, so I admit I am a master procrastinator. Ever since my university days when I would wait till the night before to revise and rely on caffiene and adrenaline to get me through.

I am realising that for me procrastination and depression are strongly linked.

My very good friend Kate and two of her children were coming to stay. I knew about it for weeks but could not/would not force myself to get our home 'visitor ready' until 1pm on the day she was arriving. I was expecting the arrival time to be 6pm.

Thank the good Lord for my husband. He was doing things and getting the children to help.  Then he politely told me to put down my crossword and wait until I had finished my jobs before picking it up again.

When I have that overwhelming energy-zapping I've got lots of stuff that I don't want to do feeling, it's awful.

And then when I finally get around to doing it I feel a million bucks!

Sooo frustrating! I need to find a way to inspire myself to do the things that need to be done.

When I am out working this is not a problem due to my people pleasing habits (although I am a bit concerned that my people pleasing habits have gone down the proverbial gurgler!).

I really struggle to do stuff that I don't want to do. I am a rebel without a cause.

Oh well, now that I can see my problem, maybe I can fix it.

No advice required :-). It will most probably make me cranky!

I like figuring things out on my own. Please share what works for you though.

Theresa
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 27 July 2015

These three remain.

Many a wedding couple choose 1 Corinthians 13 for their reading. These are the familiar verses beginning, "Love is patient..." The passage has an even more poignant observation as the climax: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

That's a great recipe for enduring success, isn't it?

I recently heard Andy Haynes present on the need to stop making excuses and take action.  At the age of 6, he was listening to Radio 2 with his Dad. He boldly declared, "Dad, that's what I'm going to do!" His Dad said, "I know son, I know." True to his commitment, Andy became a Breakfast Show presenter and producer for BBC Hereford and Worcester. Andy then went on to explain that at the age of 6 he had the worst stammer he'd ever heard. A lad with a speech impediment became a celebrated presenter!

What struck me about this was the power of Andy's Dad's words to create faith. So, goal one for us today might be to speak encouragement into someone's life so that they might grow their faith in what is possible for them in the here and now. To help someone believe in themselves is a worthwhile achievement.

Hope is to do with the future and the unseen. Our words can bring hope too. We can capture someone's imagination with a vision of a better future, yet unseen. Sometimes our friends can be cast down by their circumstances. It can take our bolder vision to lift their eyes to see that better future in the distance.

Love is a funny word. I prefer kindness as this, for me, brings to my mind "acts of kindness". There's a wonderful old-fashioned word called "loving-kindness" - a phrase that fills my heart with 'warm-fuzzies'!

I would consider today a day well spent if my words and my deeds could bring hope, faith and a sense of being loved into the lives of others. And my creative self loves this challenge.

"Now these three remain..."

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Art of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness crops up a lot in Moodscope's blog posts, doesn't it. We all know the importance of it but if anxiety is our problem, perhaps frequently slamming into us like a freight train, we may find ourselves asking the question, how often am I actually, properly, mindful?

Er?

I can be quite mindful when applying my hand lotion.

Sometimes.

What's interesting is that I've realised I'm a collector of "mindful moments" from every book I read, carefully copying passages into whatever journal I'm keeping at the time.

I think I do this because I so much want to live in the moment more often and so these carefully crafted words inspire me to actually make it my own reality during the quotidian routine.

Here's a favourite:

'...they watched his mother make dinner. She spoke softly in Italian to the red sauce she simmered in the Dutch oven, the gigantic meatballs she rolled, the gold-coloured rosemary-scented focaccia she put on a tray out on the front porch to cool...'
An excerpt from The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg.

Was the mother's name Nigella, I wonder?

Hey, I'm not suggesting we start talking to the kid's fish finger butties here but it does inspire me to slow down when preparing food. To savour the chopping, the marinading, the stirring, the peeling, the testing and tasting.

Here's another:

'She took the fragrant lavender soap from her drawer...Rubbing it carefully between her palms she smoothed the lather over her face and neck, then rinsed it off with clear water from the bowl. Her skin felt wonderfully fresh. She repeated the process with each part of her body, taking her time, indulging herself, patting herself dry lightly. This was not washing; this was bathing,...'
An excerpt from Izette by Viv Packer.

Granted, the rush of life may dictate that this won't always be possible but mindfulness begets mindfulness. To simply be mindful of being mindful is half the battle won.

Maybe if we were to imagine ourselves as a Simon Armitage in any given moment; how would we describe the smell, sight, touch, sound, taste?

What mindful moments will you "write" today?

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

I woke like Lily Munster.

Can you be a touch bi-polar? Can you have a streak of it running through you like the white streak in Lily Munster's hair? I apologise in advance if this blog is flippant to those who are bi-polar, I really don't mean it to be. Humour is my default to coping. It's just that through reading Mary's blogs, so much of what she describes of her highs and lows, resonates with my own behaviours that it makes me curious.

I'm not bi-polar because I have a steady low that can go from bad to worse. But when I get very busy (stressed to the hilt) I can jump on the steam train on steroids and then the silly stuff happens. Normal thoughts float elegantly to the ground and instead my thoughts turn into something like cartoons with all of the outrageous sound effects, only not so fun and happy.

I'll be going on holiday soon. Naturally I am going to die on the plane. Like I did last year. And it will bring comfort to those mourning me to know I squeezed in an eye test before I left. As they sift through the 42 years of gathered stuff they will thank me for washing the kitchen floor and changing all the beds. Piling up donations to charity they will love that I frantically cleared out and glued all the broken toys. Why would I want to meander into holidays feeling calm and relaxed when I can create tension and anxiety that a film maker would pay top dollar for! I lose half of the holiday to recovering from this trip to the fair ground on fast forward.

I've been using meditation to grow my peace. It has helped. Only, at these times my brain is so strong in its quest to be a cartoon, that exhaustion takes over and I can't stay awake to meditate. Sleeping like a koala bear (up to 22 hours a day) would still not be enough.

So I ask you...can you be a touch bi-polar?

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Surfing the waves of life.

I find it really hard to articulate the feelings around my anxiety to my loved ones, which makes it even harder for them to support me as they have no idea how I feel.

I was recently trying to think of an analogy to describe my anxiety in the best way. It is just like surfing. The water is life. When you are on top of the surf board and surfing the waves of life you feel great and you can't ever imagine falling off the surf board. It is like you have never fallen off the surf board and never will; you are on top of the wave having the best time. This is how I feel when I am fine.

When the anxiety starts to approach is when perhaps the board hasn't been waxed well and it's slippery. I keep falling off but the ankle strap pulls me back up and I keep jumping back on the board. For me this is when I need to be conscious that the anxiety is becoming uncontrollable again – there is still time to pull it back in, or wax the board so you can surf the waves of life again.

Then there are those times when I fall completely off the surfboard, and I am deep beneath the waves. The ankle strap has broken and it feels like there is no coming back. It feels like I will never be on the board surfing the waves again.

Little do I know, there is a jet ski with a rescuer on its way – I will surf again, maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow or the next day, but I will.

I find this analogy an accurate way to describe my anxiety and how desolate I can feel on a bad day. The bad days are not eternal – they come and go, even if they feel like they are here forever. So if you have taken a tumble from your board, just remember the jet ski is on its way and tomorrow (or the next day, or the next) you will be surfing like a pro once again.

Dani
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Time – It's ALL Yours.

"If you don't have time, it's not important enough."

So many people say, when you ask them to do something or go somewhere – "I just don't have time."

I believe this is the modern PC, polite way of saying "No thanks" and does any relationship no favours, whether personal or professional.

It's like people saying 'I'll try' when they know they have no intention of doing whatever it is and we innately know they will not do it.

I'd far rather people said to me – "I'm sorry I can't come that night I have x or y to do". That tells me they take their responsibilities seriously and that they have prior commitments they need to fulfil that are actually more important than what I have asked. I would actually trust them more, for telling me the truth.

The best leader I know, unequivocally will say 'No' straight away and I used to get upset they didn't even consider it. It took me some time to know that when he did commit to do something – he never then, unless in an emergency, failed to deliver. He was teaching me by example, the only credible way to teach, especially our children.

How many of us will be drawn into agreeing to too many things and then not fully fulfilling many or even any of them properly?

How many of us rush from one thing to the next, cursing traffic or our commitments, as our blood pressure and stress builds?

The most important thing in our lives is to decide what is important - and STICK to it.
That way, we can be less stressed, more effective and can actually, through our actions rather than words, become a leader to the next generation, whether family or not!

Then we have time to be mindful - go to the gym, go for a walk – or whatever it is for you to stay healthy. To sharpen the saw as Covey would say.

More importantly we will be trustworthy – worthy of trust – the one thing that changes everything.

Then interpersonal and managerial trust will follow, but it starts with self-trust.

Are you today, going to do what you have decided, is important to you? Can you say 'no' to enable you to be strong enough, to be then be able to truly support and lift others? Can you clearly identify the most important things in your life, from which you will not be blown off course, including your values?

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Confined By, Defined By, or Refined By?

When life hands you lemons then make lemonade.

Well, personally, I have always preferred the more sophisticated version, "When life hands you limes, make Margaritas!" or, "When life hands you lemons, use the juice to squirt in people's eyes!"

So – hands up – honestly – which of us would have actively chosen to live with depression or bi-polar?

Right... I can count... I can count... Well, not very many of you at all.

Yes, given the choice, we'd rather not have depression, thank you. There were a few bi-polar hands went up – but they're probably part of the sadist/masochism set as well (and I saw you sniggering at the back there!)

Because it does rather put a downer on things, doesn't it?

Looking back, I can't see how I ever managed to hold onto an ordinary job. It certainly makes sense of all the times I was moved on, promoted sideways, made redundant and (twice) asked to resign. Okay, so I am a much, much better image consultant than I was an accountant (a different skill set entirely, my dears), but few employers can put up with a person who needs frequent and extended sick leave with depression and possibly has periods of unreliable judgement and behaviour when on a high.

So, that's an area of confinement. Certain work is not available to me. Besides which, I much prefer working for myself.

What about being defined by our condition?

Well, although I am absolutely open about having bi-polar, I'm not Mary who has bi-polar; I'm just Mary. Asked to define myself this is what I say. "I am a writer and image consultant. I blog for my business and for a mental health website which helps people with depression. I also write romantic fiction. Ah, when I remember, I'm also a wife and mother and one hell of a good friend."

Now, if anyone picks up on the writing for a mental health website then yes, we'll have that conversation. Not unless or until somebody falls over something I've done which means I have to come clean (see Managing Friends 101).

Have I been refined by having this condition?

Well, absolutely; to the point where I cannot imagine the person I would be without it. A lot less compassionate, probably. A lot less tolerant. A lot less humorous because laughing at it and myself has certainly got me through some very bad times. My poor family has been refined by it too – whether they wanted it or not!

So my choice is to make Margaritas, and to write for Moodscope. Writing this blog brings such joy; being a part of this community gives a sense of purpose to having the condition.

I didn't ask for it, but I have totally accepted it and am at peace with it. I (mostly) like the person it has made me into.

If I could wave a magic wand and be "normal" would I?

You know what? I have no idea.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My cat Tilly - the messed up one.

Blink gently at a cat and they'll sense you're being a friend. Yawn to a cat (preferably whilst blinking gently), and they'll just know you're no foe.

I first met Tilly whilst engaging in volunteer work in what is, shall we say, one of Liverpool's less salubrious parts. I got chatting to Lin, a Cat Saviour. Lin directed my attention to a kitten, not much bigger than my hand, who didn't so much move, as dance about, grabbing the scraps of ham that Lin had thrown to the Grizabellas of L4. Despite her size and youth - she wasn't more than a few months old - it was notable that Tilly held her own amongst the big bruisers; life had necessitated that she learn quickly - her mother was missing and her siblings had met only with tragedy.

We got it totally wrong with Tilly, mum and I.

We were used to taking in strays (huh, yeah, remember Binky?); local cats that had been left behind with yesterday's rubbish as tenants moved on. We were even used to cats that had suffered mistreatment or neglect but what we hadn't handled before was a 9 week old kitten who had never received human contact.

Whereas past experience had proven that allowing a cat to explore and come out of his safe haven, in his own time, was the best way forward, we simply didn't realise that with a cat so young, we ought to have handled her and picked her up, despite her plaintive cries to leave her be - head buried like an ostrich in her fleecy blanket.

So she's a very well cared for but a very messed up kitty, Tilly (something for which I feel no little amount of guilt). She lost her gung-ho, her confident street attitude - even if it was just an act - but we realised our mistake too late to instill in her security enough to ask us for love and affection, so she's a mish-mash of "stuff"; a hodgepodge of feline melodrama. Neither soft nor strong. Neither affectionate nor feral.

I often catch Tilly staring at Sam (her protective older 'brother'), who loves a knee to knead or a hand to stroke and scratch him, and I hope that she becomes a true "copy-cat".

Tills appreciates any time I lavish upon her in playtime with her wicker mouse but sometimes I lie opposite her, sprawled out on the bed or floor and I blink softly at her (cat kisses). Then I yawn and blink. She blinks back. We have this silent conversation for several minutes until, finally, Tilly succumbs and melts, stretches out her paw to me, rolls onto her back and, with a squeak, invites me to tickle her tum.

It's at that moment, as I'm whispering my adoration to this small, sensitive and shy soul, that I realise Tilly is as desperate for love as any human who doesn't always know how to ask for it.

The magic of this tale is that Tilly, as damaged and as hyper-sensitive as she is, can and does receive love and affection. All she requires is a little bit of patience, a little bit of time and a whole lot of gentleness.

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 20 July 2015

You can't make an omelette without breaking an egg.

"If I ever do fall off this wall" said Humpty Dumpty "the king has promised to send all his horses and all his men...." Said with the absolute confidence that they would "......pick me up in a minute". The absolute confidence of an egg sitting on a wall!! Not a lot of those to the dozen...

What a wonderful backdrop to life; to think that whatever you did you it would be alright; that your back is covered; that you are invincible; immune. I'm not sure it's true or achievable unless you are a Buddhist monk or sage or a hard boiled egg. But if it is, the answer lies internally - not with the king's horses and king's men but your own strengths.

I don't have those yet. Those strengths. I did have some strengths but they seem to have left me a while ago. I often feel nowadays that I am sitting on that wall. I try very hard not to sway or move too much to upset the equilibrium. But yesterday I was sitting on that wall when suddenly I wanted to throw myself off it. I was doing fine, but a thought called up in the midst of life and I was sunk. All I wanted to do was crash into oblivion. And I could not recover from that thought for the rest of the day.

It was not a good day. My Moodscope score hit the floor. But all days are not all the same. Some days are good. I'm here today and I am writing this and live to survive another day and make another omelette. My Moodscope score will rise! What was black yesterday is grey today and may be white tomorrow.

Please be assured my fellow Moodscopers - I am not seeking your support in a black moment. I am moving past that low, low day. I know I am not alone and wanted to share that thought with anyone else feeling low - there is hope. It may come tomorrow or it could be through meditation, medication or learning. We each of us need our own strategies for working our way out of those downs, back into the sunshine. I'm not sure what mine is but I keep coming back up for air!!

So I just keep concentrating on learning about myself and life, and the learning is proving fascinating. Life is full of ingredients which together add up to something else. I think my recipe for today might concentrate on the key ingredients of appreciation, compassion and forgiveness. Three wonderful eggs of opportunity. But I also need an emotional sauce that will not overpower, a bit of spice, some seasoning and a few 'erbs of wisdom. Could be a great omelette!

If you know your recipe for coping, it would be good to share.

Alice (Through the Looking Glass)
A Moodscope Member.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Living in the moment...

"You only live happily ever after, on a day to day basis."

Look at any religion, any peace-developing meditation or mindfulness, numerous self-help books and DVDs and one of the key 'lessons', is the ability to live in the moment and make decisions based on your inner values, without any need to be attached to the outcome.

As soon as we are attached to the outcome (more power, money, 'things', influence or control) we leave the 'we' (selfless) behind and only focus on the 'me' (selfish)!

When we are attached in this way, we have moved from the society-building and moral foundations of creating a better society. In this move, 'debate' happens - where the one with the best IQ mind can easily win over the best wise heart, rather than 'dialogue' where a common agreed purpose is reached through words.

The best big examples for me of this is the plight of the American Indians or Australian Aborigines or the supposed Christian crusades!

I'm sure you could identify many, many examples from your own life of attachment to outcomes, both concerning others and hopefully yourself if you are still developing and growing, as you awaken to a greater self-awareness of the fact that we are all connected.

If we wish to reduce our own internal stresses, which lead mostly to external stresses in families, relationships, teams and organisations, we are reminded in mindfulness and meditative practices – that the only time is now – here – this moment.

Eckhart Tolle's wonderful book 'The Power of Now' can be an entry into this world - moving away from short term, often ego-driven Newtonian, IQ thinking and pressures.

How can we actually be ourselves and emit our true values and spirit, if we are attached to a certain outcome – rather than being an open and authentic human being who is more than happy to give up their own 'beliefs' for something that sounds or more importantly feels better?

The level of attachment will be aligned and entirely equal to the height of the wall that we build to defend our own position. A 'war' of words can ensue with statements and phrases 'shot' from either side of the wall or more than likely, from the different sides of the table.

First rule of any tough meeting - only round tables. The American Indians and Aborigines of course sat in a circle around camp fires. Try getting that into most Bored rooms...oops I mean Board rooms...or even the CEOs office!!!

A 'them and us' position is sometimes created before we even open our mouths.

So, What are you attached to today? What can you let go of? How can you 'round' off any debate into a dialogue today for a win/win to improve society?

Les
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Eleanor Rigby was surely a Ninja.

I woke a little less heavy than normal and looked out at the sunshine smothering every part of life outside in her kiss. I looked at the garden. So well cared for and bursting with life. I looked at the mountains on 3 sides and at the sea on the 4th. I looked at the elegant parade that is my home for the holiday and admired it. I had left behind a thousand demands and woke for the 6th morning into this embrace. But...

I paced. I felt tormented by the ramble of voices when everyone woke. But I couldn't settle without them. I laundered things that could wait. I read a single page of my book. Then I read it again. I tried twice more then changed to the other book. The one I alternate with when I'm trying very hard to try hard.

Depression and it's cousins are visiting me on holiday and it's just bad manners. I have a face like a wet weekend and I wish to apologise and explain but in doing so it destroys the bricks of resilience I have managed to lay. Just two so far.

And so I made myself eat a banana. And drank two small cups of coffee. Looked at the mountains and realised they hold more secrets than just mine. And I wrote this. And now I have a starting point once again. I pulled on my Eleanor Rigby face that I keep in the jar by the door. And it will be ok. Ok is ok.

And I resisted the urge to edit all the 'ands'. I like them. They're better than 'buts'.

Try to find your starting point, everyday. Find a way to break through. You may not outrun it for long but you can for a bit. And everyday you know more. Go ninjas!

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 17 July 2015

HumanKindness.

This world can seem full of horrible people. Yet everywhere, everyday there are many acts of kindness if you look. Sometimes you don't even have to leave home. From the smallest of gestures, to the much larger. Kindness often features in the Moodscope daily thought and is defined as the 'quality of being friendly, generous and considerate'.

I recently asked my 3 year old some questions from a survey. "What does Mummy say to you most?" he replied "Be nice". In essence, I mean 'Be kind'. Treat others as you'd like to be. I felt a little sad though. Should he have replied "Love you" or "Great, you tried really hard". I do say those things.

To "How do you know Mummy loves you?" he replied "She gives me lots of hugs". I felt all warm inside. Especially being from a Christmas/Birthday hugs only family! I also asked "What does Mummy like most about Daddy?" to which he replied "Bossing him". Perhaps I could/should be kinder. Although to "What does Daddy like most about Mummy?" he also said "Bossing him". Cue confusion and let's just eat breakfast!

During my recovery people showed (and are still showing) great kindness. My husband brought me a satisfyingly strong cuppa in bed (most!) mornings. A stranger offered my sons and I a lift when my car broke down. The man reassured me by saying "I'm a grandad and not weird you know". I wanted to reply "I'm a mum and a bit psychotic you know". When my baby suddenly screamed for food at the checkout another customer helped pack my bags. I cried once I got to the car. But I felt warm inside then as well.

What or who will restore your faith in humankind today? Look out for those small or big gestures of kindness. They're there. Maybe even animating from within.

Jen
A Moodscope member. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Bi-polar for Dummies 2.

So – yesterday I described what Bi-polar is and the symptoms.

What causes it? We have no idea. It's the old "genetics and life experiences" bromide. In my case I am absolutely sure that I inherited the predisposition from my bi-polar and possibly schizophrenic father and that witnessing his suicide at age four was the kind of life event that could very well trigger it. But it might have happened anyway. It really doesn't matter where it came from.

How is it treated? In a number of ways. Medics recognise that both the highs and the lows need to be controlled, and that, if you bring people down from the highs (people often resist this – we're having a lovely time up there) then the duration and severity of the lows is reduced. So there are mood stabilisers which are taken regularly and long term. Some people with bi-polar say that taking these mood stabilisers make them feel as if they are looking at life though a letter box. Well – hello – welcome to the world of normality.

I refused to accept that recommended prescription on the grounds that I didn't think it was necessary and that I would manage myself thank you. But then, I have hypo mania, a long cycle and a brilliant therapist. I wouldn't necessarily encourage others to take this route.

Other people take medication as and when needed. I resisted for many, many years, taking anti-depressants. Now I recognise them as a useful resource. This time the high has been so extreme I have realised the potential cost in ruined friendships and family tension and would have had no hesitation in seeking medication had my first line of defence not worked.

There are talking and cognitive therapies, hypnotherapy, EFT, TAT and other therapies which can be really effective. They are not effective for everyone; they are effective for some. Mindfulness works really well too. My hypnotherapist has saved at least two friendships for me this time round. Oh – and in the interests of absolute honesty – wine. Probably too much of it; not recommended, but effective for bringing you down.

But the best way I have found of managing my condition is to become an expert on it and take responsibility for it. I am (reasonably) diligent in completing my Moodscope test every day (and have created a buddy system where friends call me on it if I haven't posted for a couple of days). I notice when I am more creative and when the sleep patterns become disrupted; when I have more energy and less desire for food. Oh, and when I end up injuring my friends through my thoughtlessness and arrogance.

In the depressions I don't notice anything. When I'm spending all day shaking on the sofa, when just getting out of bed, showered and dressed is a major achievement; noticing and analysing is impossible. But I still do Moodscope every day. And I rely on my buddies to watch over me – to send me back to the doctor if the meds don't seem to be working. But afterwards, the analysis of the chart is invaluable.

So, whatever your form of depression/bi-polar, start noticing. Take responsibility. No – it's not your fault, but that's not the point. Start helping yourself. And we'll help you too.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Bi-Polar For Dummies.

This post is in response to some of the comments I receive when I post about bi-polar specifically rather than just about the depressive phase. It is intended to give a very general overview and can only reflect my own reading and research, which is not extensive. And my own experience, which is.

People with bi-polar disorder suffer episodes or periods of depression (well – duh, that's why we're all here on Moodscope; we know what that feels like!) and episodes or periods of mania where they feel energetic, "high", creative, but they may also be irritable and become easily annoyed.

In between these times they may have periods of perfect stability and be utterly normal, with just the mood swings that most people experience in response to life–events or tiredness etc. Or they may never experience "normality".

Bi-polar is much more common than most people imagine. 1 in 100 people will be diagnosed with it at some point in their life and it affects both men and women from all backgrounds. It usually starts in the late teens/early twenties (I was an early developer at seven) but can appear in middle or old age. It is an equal opportunity condition.

Bi-polar type 1 is what most people imagine bi-polar to be. This is where you get the full blown mania; the type where you put thousands of pounds on the credit card buying gold plated golf-clubs when you don't even play golf, plan to start a Moodscope community in Antarctica (it would work I tell you!) and snap the heads off everyone around you who just can't see what a wonderful idea it is! You might even hear a choir of Angel voices giving you instructions for that depressed Penguin community. And – yes – then you get the bloody depression too.

Bi-polar type 2 (imaginative chaps, these medics), has a rather less theatrical form of high, called hypo-mania. If you know your Latin then you know that hypo means sub, under or less. So you will still be able to make sensible decisions about those golf-clubs (although you might book golf-lessons), and know that Penguins don't use the internet. But you will still have all the creativity, the lack of desire for sleep or food (funnily enough, one's desire for alcohol and sex are exacerbated) and the short temper and irritability.

And then – yes, damn and blast it – the depression. More people with type 2 commit suicide because the downs are longer and more severe than the highs. Uh huh. Been there. Several times...

The frequency of the cycle varies too. Rapid cycling bi-polar can do the up/down thing several times a day. Or it can go day by day or week by week. A friend showed me his Moodscope graph which looks like a never-ending rollercoaster. I have an annual cycle with a four year pattern on top of that cycle; my highs last about six weeks to three months, my lows three to nine months. Some people have only one cycle in seven years.

Tomorrow I will write about the management and treatment (and causes) of bi-polar.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A cry for help.

If we are not born genetically with them, or if they are not caused by an internal disfunction, we get depressions from the hardships that hit us from the outside world...This is what depressions do: they tend to find one way or another to get to us. I don't believe a person doesn't go through at least one depression in his life (recognized or not). We may as well admit that we need a survival kit for these times, just as for an earthquake, tsunami or avalanche. Because this is how a depression feels like for the person it hits.

So, as I was going through my first real depression in my life (as I like to call it), I was sent by I don't know which Higher Power, an understanding of my situation and the desperate means I should take to get out of it alive. This worked for me, maybe everyone needs to listen carefully to his own intuition and do whatever they feel it will get them on the other side safely.

My depression was caused by a combination of heartbreak, feeling of betrayal, loss of an entire group of friends, of loneliness and of material hardship. I fell into a deep hole and I was alone on the entire world. Or I thought/felt I was. It brings me to tears even remembering the feelings and thoughts I had. And I went into this state a proud, arrogant woman.

I realized though that I needed help. So I started asking for it. Emotional help...from my parents, from a Facebook group, from Moodscope, even from some strangers who saw my condition. I started opening my mouth and saying what I thought and what I felt, one word at a time, one feeling at a time, taking my time. This showed to some the real me, the real person behind the make-up face. They got to know me and they liked what they saw.

I realized being open and honest and not hiding will not alienate people, on the contrary. I got the courage to say I don't feel well, I don't like some things, I am not happy and I asked for advice. I cried for help and it came at the right time through all the unexpected people and situations. I let pride aside and this attitude brought new friends in my life and the experiences and happiness I couldn't even dream of.

I know I am a completely different person now; I wouldn't want to go through that horrific time again, but I am thankful for it. It made stronger and I am proud of what I accomplished. I wish you all the same.

Kindest regards

Camelia
A Moodscope member.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Do or Don't?

Sometimes life can be simpler.

Most of us run a balance sheet that details what we do have and what we don't have. One of the great things we usually have is 'choice'. On any specific day, we can choose which accounts to present to our conscious awareness. Then, whatever we pay attention to tends to expand in our awareness. And, along with that awareness come all the emotions associated with those thoughts.

So, today, I can choose to concentrate on what I don't have... (and I'm not even going to drag the tone down with the long list of what my moany-mind can generate when I compare what I don't have with what I suppose others do have. It's an energy sucking exercise!)

Of course, today, I'm suggesting we concentrate on what we do have. And I'm going to go further and suggest we write it down. For reasons that are becoming clearer to psychologists (such as the areas of the brain that light up when we write), it seems writing stuff down is much more effective than thinking about matters or even talking through things.

What DO I have (as an example to get us started)?

1) New friends through Moodscope - friends that understand me and whom I understand and appreciate;
2) A way of measuring my shifts in mindset - as many times as I choose to take the test - enabling me to spot trends and helping buddies support me (and vice versa);
3) A track record of surviving every challenge I've faced over the years;
4) A comfortable place to sleep each night;
5) A love of learning that has enabled me to continue to grow throughout life;
6) A love of Nature that has kept me delighted with the shift of the Seasons;
7) The ability to touch-type (a learned ability!) that enables me to think quickly on my finger-tips;
8) A passion for making a difference that has kept me motivated and engaged for the vast majority of my life;
9) The ability to read and a love of books;
10) Access to whole new worlds of experience through the Internet.

Feeling better already!

So what's on your list?

How quickly can you generate a list of 10 things you DO have?

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

What's your poison?

It occurred to me today that I have taken therapy for my lows in a thousand ways. Good ways and definitely not good ways. One good way...talking to a counsellor. One bad way...regularly drinking enough to let my shoulders come down from my ears and enter the world of squint decisions. Both of these were cathartic in that both left me with a line drawn in the sand from which I felt I could move forward. Both involved crying. Both involved feeling shameful. Both made me embarrassed.

After trying assorted avenues, I took my bag of rainy day money (everyday was raining, you can't spend it if you're dead) and gave it to a trainer. I don't trust easily and I don't make friends easily. He was easy to trust and he has become a friend. He made me do stuff I'd never do, 3 times a week. He believed I could do it and wouldn't accept less than full commitment. He threw me up wall bars and exercised with me when he could see I was ready to quit. He was like an iron man and gave me his discipline when I had none. He could see when I had little to give and did yoga with me instead of weights. He sat down and gave me his full attention when I cried. And yes I did cry and I stopped feeling ashamed of it. I stopped feeling ashamed of my depression. I can now use the word, in writing if not in voice.

It has been the best therapy I have ever given myself. He's leaving the country and I am not sure if I will move on to someone new. My granny would say "they broke the mould when they made him". I will miss him. (I will never miss chin ups!) He gave me self-belief and for that I will be forever grateful. Thank you my friend.

Is it time you looked at your therapies? Are you applying the right balm? And are you putting it on the right place?

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

What is a normal mood?

I am writing a blog for Moodscope because I feel good today.

I am not bipolar or at least I don't think I am and I have never sought any diagnosis for my depression apart from visiting the doctor every now and again when it gets really bad. I have been on anti depressants and sleeping tablets over the years for varying periods.

I have always assumed my low moods and are directly related to lack of deep sleep and when I have a good night and wake up feeling refreshed, then I know I'll have a good day like this one.

However, after reading the blogs and comments here on this page, I am slowly thinking that maybe the personality I was born with and which was shaped further by my upbringing and experiences, has a lot to do with my depressed state.

Maybe I am not depressed but just normal for me!

I have often said I don't know what normal is for me anymore.

It's like one doesn't know what a normal weight is in this body obsessed era. We know what obese looks like and we know what anorexia looks like but with so many pictures of celebs around, and so much advice on diets, how do we really know if our weight and appearance is normal?

In the same way I feel that our day to day feelings and moods may be actually a part of us, rather than something we should fight against and try to cure. We don't know anymore what a normal personality is. Well speaking for myself, I don't!

I don't know where my highs came from but I do know when they started. I also know that my lows or that's how I have perceived them for years, have always been with me. When I was younger, I was just the same as now (without the highs) but didn't consider myself depressed. Neither did anyone else who knew me

Today's society is very much in your face where if your face fits, you will succeed and be popular. But there are millions out there who live life not succumbing to pressure from society and are just themselves. I tried to make my face fit but sadly or perhaps happily, it never has. I don't like to conform and found it impossible to do so.

I am trying now just to be myself and not fight my depression. It's not a battle but an acceptance. I am not sure if this is going to work. But nothing has worked so far so I am hoping this new approach might be the answer. I am hoping the occasional high will disappear even though I love them. But they are not normal for me. Complicated eh?

Do you think you could be more accepting of your lovely kind selves too?

Julia
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Be yourself.

Be yourself, they say
just relax and
be yourself.

Which self?
The quiet, patient, timid one,
the sleepy,lethargic, procrastinating one,
the confident, bold, talkative one,
the impatient, creative, irritable one,
the sad, tearful, indecisive one,
the quick thinking, fast talking one,
the noisy, argumentative one.

But friends, family, blogs, media, books

all say
I need to be more
patient,
kind,
understanding,
positive,
energetic.

They say
read more, watch tv less,
exercise more, eat less,
tidy more, clutter less,
listen more, talk less,
praise more, complain less,
act more, procrastinate less.

How can I be myself
if I have to change.

A lifetime of trying to find
my real self,
my authentic self,
but she is lost in a fog
of labels and bad memories.

Just be yourself,
stop worrying.

Stop worrying,
where do I begin?

Leah
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Life's Real Facts - Feelings.

"People don't remember what you say – but they always remember how you made them feel."

I have used this phrase many times, to offer an insight for people who may get lost in the detail of what they are presenting or writing.

In such a data driven world, most will focus on giving the facts, believing that this is what is important. For me however and I'm sure for many others, it is the spirit with which anything is delivered...the underlying 'intent' that counts...and thus how it makes us feel.

For the listener, if we do not feel comfortable with the speaker, we will find ways to either ignore, or even to ensure in our own 'heads' that these facts are actually false.

We will find ways to convince ourselves that they are not credible, or from the wrong 'tribe', or were wrong last time, even that the person delivering these facts is wearing the wrong clothes or even tie, speaking too quickly, saying politically incorrect things, of the wrong gender, has unprofessional hair, anything in fact that will be a disowning statement.

If the spirit of what we are hearing is 'false', even although the 'facts' are correct, we will not believe them. We WILL believe the only thing that is factually true to us - our feelings.

Our feelings are our REAL facts, and emotions ARE our human reality, as our first reaction as a person, is not rational – it is emotional.

I also believe subliminally, that feelings are why we have mostly turned away from the second least trusted profession in UK life – politics! Politicians are so bad at what they do, few trust them and yet they still carry on from the wrong spirit, rarely telling us what THEY are going to do, simply, almost constantly, talk destructively about anyone else.

In other situations we are all too often told to leave our feelings aside, for example, that work is simply about being an unemotional 'robot'! So we've also often demoted the importance of being aware of our feelings in school, in work and often at home...yet for me and many others, that is ALL that matters...how we feel.

How can you be more aware of how you make people feel, when communicating, face to face, by text or email?

Can you make someone aware of how they make you feel? You are not criticising them, they have the choice then of being aware of the most crucial aspect – the real communication, that of the heart and how they make you feel.

What can you do today to become more authentic about your feelings and make your world more real?

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Managing Friends 101 – The Basics.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm really sorry."

"I'm just so desperately, grovelingly sorry. I was wrong. I hurt you. You have a right to be angry. And I apologise humbly for what I said or did."

I seem to spend a lot of time saying that sort of thing. And, either it works, or I have the sort of friends who will be glorified, beatified and eventually canonised into sainthood upon their passing from this world. Because, so far, I haven't lost any of them.

One of my friends recently confessed to me that he has a tongue like a viper. That didn't precisely come as a surprise; I had felt its sting more than once. But, oh, I can wield an email like a sledgehammer; I can annihilate with a few well-chosen words.

Okay – so badly chosen words. Because I don't actually want to leave people pulverised on the floor wondering what happened.

And yes – the blunt instrument emails normally happen when I'm in my arrogant and spiky phase.

I won't share with you this original email, but part of one I wrote when I came down a little and realised how hurt the recipient was.

It was made more challenging by the fact that I had to choose whether to share my mental health condition with this (fairly new) friend or whether just to apologise and leave it.

In the end I shared it.

"It's probably the second hardest thing to tell a brand new friend that you have a mental health condition and that they've just suffered some of the fallout from it."

"There are harder things to say of course – like, "get yourself down to the clinic - I think I might have given you something…." But I think we can safely cross that one off the list of things I'm ever likely to say to you (or to anyone)!"

 "So – yup. I'm really, Really, REALLY sorry for the email the other night. But my apology doesn't mean a lot unless I put it into context."

 "So – I have bi-polar disorder. Sometimes known as manic depression. I go up – and come down."

 "The downs are bad, but the ups are worse."
  
 "Because while I'm full of energy and wildly creative (whole new story conceived, created, plotted and started in one night – that was Friday – you saw that!), I'm also argumentative, intolerant, judgemental, impatient, humourless and arrogant. Ah, I see you've met that person. Dammit. I really wish you hadn't."

 "So – for what it's worth – you have my sincere and profound apologies."

 "I'm back in control now. Humour restored. Compassion modules fully engaged."

 "I hope you'll accept the apology and continue the friendship (which I value). But I certainly won't blame you if you walk away."

 "You have my best wishes, always."

So – this friend is obviously another saint in the making. My apology was graciously received. Forgiveness was freely given.

Good friends are worth an awful lot of apologies, explanations and swallowed pride.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

From here to somewhere.

Alice in Wonderland asked "...where I should go from here?" The answer was the question "Where do you want to get to?" Like Alice I must answer "I don't much care where!!!"

I am on a journey that currently has no clear direction, no maps and no known destination. All I know, like Alice, is that I don't want to be where I am right now. Am I the person I thought I was? Again, like Alice, I would have to say "I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then."

But to start somewhere, I am trawling through memories of my childhood, my family and upbringing - nature versus nurture. I am inventorising my values and the principles I hold dear, searching for the real me. Seeking my mission in life.

I am learning about the pressures put on me as a child to be the person my parents wanted me to be; teenage anxieties; misplaced and misunderstood behaviour; and actually, big surprise, to learn that I might even be quite a special person!! Well, in comparison with what I thought!

I did an Authentic Happiness characteristics questionnaire - all 240 questions and was not surprised that my top three characteristics were honesty, authenticity and genuineness. What I was surprised at was the rest of the positive feedback I received.

The biggest problem I have after having stopped work, moved in retirement and then divorce, is acknowledging that I don't seem to have a 'meaningful' purpose in life anymore. I am just not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life. As Alice said "I'm never sure what I'm going to be from one minute to the another".

I used to be happy just to be happy. In the moment, in the bar, in the party. Now I think I might need a greater purpose than social pleasure if I am to find true happiness and contentment within myself. What - I have no idea! But maybe if I work out what I can give/do/be I will find that missing direction.

How nice it would be to say "Why sometimes, I've believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

I do know that I can't be the only fairly newly divorced retiree whose life suddenly lacks direction and purpose going through lost and debilitating sadness. I know we all have different things to offer and different challenges to meet and therefore end up looking for different directions to take - I would love to hear yours.

Alice (in Wonderland)
A Moodscope member

Monday, 6 July 2015

Making Friends with the Lizard.

I'm pretty amazing.

Well the way I'm made is.

I've got a Lizard brain, a mammalian brain and a higher-thinking brain that thinks it's in charge.

Sometimes these three don't play nicely together.

My lizard brain loves me.

She wants to keep me safe.

She likes the letter "F" too.

How so?

Well, when she thinks I'm in danger she reminds me that over millions of years, those animals with lizard brains have survived by reacting to threats in three ways - all beginning with 'F'.

Some have used 'flight' in the sense of running away.

Some have used 'freeze' as a strategy, and danger has passed them by.

Some have reared up and chosen 'fight' - taking on the aggressor head-to-head, tooth-and-claw, face-to-face... and won.

My lizard is beautiful but she is driven by fear.

My higher thinking brain has discovered love.

Love casts out fear - perfectly.

And the Universe has given me a gift to go with love.

The gift is that I cannot think of two things at the same time.

This is a deep and profound kindness.

So I can choose fear or I can choose love - but not both.

Today, I've invited my higher brain and my lizard brain to have tea together in my mammalian brain. My mammalian brain is really good at emotion and memory - so I'm hoping we'll have a memorable and fun time together.

Of course, I've got a hidden agenda. I just want them all to get along together. I want my higher brain to fall in love with my Lizard. I also want my higher brain to respect my lizard because sometimes she's right and the wisest thing to do is to freeze quietly for a while, or run away, or even fight.

But I never want her to do this in fear again.

I want her to choose these options from a position of strength - from love.

My lizard is strong.

Strong enough to ask, "What would love do?"

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

I am kind. I am smart. I am important.

I gave myself a fairly basic password to get into my Moodscope account because I wanted something easy and quick to type so that I wouldn't be frustrated by forgetting, misspelling and locking myself out. Now when I come to type in my password a thought pops into my head 'keep it simple, log in easily'. This thought happens every time.

It is an accidental mantra which came about because I log into Moodscope a lot so I repeat the same thought process a lot.

I think I could apply this in other ways.

Perhaps I could write on the bathroom mirror "I am kind. I am smart. I am important." (yes that's from The Help, I love it!), so when I look in the mirror each morning I am reminded of it. Maybe I will even start saying it when I look in other mirrors, that's got to be a good habit, hasn't it?

So tell me, what thought would you like to have over and again?

And where would you put your note/sign/scribble so that you can see it and think it every day?

Wishing you all a good day,


Claire
A Moodscope member.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A sufferer's night.

I don't really know if this will help anyone, it's just a poem I wrote. Sometimes I find writing poetry to be very rewarding, even in the strangest of ways. It helps me rationalise my thoughts, and in some way bring me back to reality a bit. It's all too easy to get locked up in your own head, so maybe writing some dark poetry will lift you out. It did me once I'd read back what I'd written. It's a little incoherent, but hey... it's rhyming poetry :).

Thanks everyone, and many thanks to Moodscope.

A sufferer's night.

As time shifts and exposes rifts
As the hour's shower of minutes lifts
As the emotion, feeling and anxiety collapse
There is nothing but an empty, breaking expanse.

As the numbness sets in and quick
As paralysis breaks you in to it
As you become catatonic and your eyes roll back
Embrace the silence, lay back, relax

As the moments last forever and ever
As you experience the realm of an endless nether
As it engulfs you, your thoughts and your dreams
It's a marvel, a wonderful, place to be.

But...

As reality shatters and the clock laughs back
As the seconds drift and ticks elapse
As you wake from this beauty, breathless and black
The world awaits you, plotting it's next attack

As the numbness fades and pain sets in
As tears well with the teeth gritting
As the emotion, feeling and anxiety return
There is one thing I want, this pain must burn

As my only escape, my leaving gift
As my last encore and bow to lift
As if I must die I indeed must live
Oh, please forgive me, I have nothing left to give...

All the very best to those who are out there feeling the brutality that is depression. It will fade, especially with the help of the Moodscope team.

Cheers,

Shaun
A Moodscope member.

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Perfectionist's Guide to Visiting an Art Gallery.

When visiting a museum, art gallery, or indeed, a whole city, do you find you can become a bit like a Sergeant Major embarking on a life-altering mission (hello off-the-scale-unrealistic 'To See' list)?

Even in leisure, The Perfectionist's (and many depressives are perfectionists in my experience) goals are rarely attainable.

So how does a perfectionistic culture vulture explore without becoming a cantankerous, fatigued, hunger stricken "failure", with sore feet?

1) Visit the shop first.

It was my American friend, Michelle, who first got me thinking I need to rethink the way I "attack" an art gallery. Michelle always hits the shop first. If some merchandise of a painting "grabs" her, she'll take note and go see it in the flesh.

This may sound fickle but believe me, if you're as short on energy as I am, this can save you from running out of steam before you've even reached the first gallery.

2) Forgive yourself for not stopping, staring, and reading about, every last exhibit.

The fear of missing something life-altering will not abate by adopting the perfectionistic approach - which can quickly come to feel perfunctory and chore-like. In fact, chances are, you'll only tire out quicker and thus lessen any likelihood of experiencing that inspirational, visceral, mouth agog moment.

3) Don't expect the "must see" or famous paintings to be the ones that will inspire/move you the most.

Professor James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests planning to spend about half of whatever time you have for your visit by first meandering from room to room. Make a note of what resonates with you (not what you feel should resonate with you). Then go back and spend the rest of your time with just the one or two paintings/sculptures etc you've noted (meet Mr Mindfulness. Again). That means really stopping and staring.

Professor Pawelski is conducting studies to try and uncover why the deliberate contemplating of art can increase our wellbeing.

4) Stop frequently for liquid refreshment.

A stop for a cuppa goes without saying really, doesn't it?

5) Answers on a postcard.

I love Danny Gregory's suggestion to purchase a postcard of the painting that touched/inspired/struck you the most and then post it to yourself with a few lines about why you love it so. Why did it "speak" to you? What did you feel?

We may feel a failure if we've not seen absolutely everything but what's the point of seeing everything but not really seeing anything? Sure, you can say, "Yup, been there, saw that," but did you? Did you really, see it; feel it?

As Professor Pawelski says, sometimes we get more for the price of admission by opting to see less.

What helps you to emerge from an art gallery/museum feeling inspired and sated instead of fagged and depleted?

Suzy
A Moodscope member.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Life!

"There are no short cuts to any place worth going" Beverley Sills

I often use this quote as people say things like, "Do I really have to do this?" or
"Can't I just skip this?"

All too often in this instant gratification, short-term world people seek a short cut to so many things they desire...a healthy body...a good career...good 'living'...a gold medal...a mindful state...a balanced life...maybe even a normal life!

Needless to say all the usual media adverts and papers/web sites that sell such awful 'instant' stories enhance this desire for short cuts.

I believe that if you truly want to be happy and gain some real sense of achievement you will have worked hard for something that you personally thought was worth it. A relationship, a healthy physical body, a healthy mind, a good job, a positive disposition, a happy home, good friends etc.

Now for sure some people, due to their parents or luck (of which there is very little) may 'have' something that most people desire - even winning the lottery - but the very name gives it away - the challenge is, will they actually be able to enjoy it or feel a real sense of achievement or even better sustain it?

The answer almost always will be no!

People who have not had a real desire to achieve their dream and then go out and work hard to achieve it, usually fall right back to where they were before they 'won' that lucky 'prize'.

I remember a story of one of the UK's most inspirational sportsmen Chris Hoy. Chris was asked that during all his focussed training that there must be one night that he goes out and has a good drink or eats something that is tasty but unhealthy. His answer was short and clear:

"If I did go out, even for one night and not adhere to what I know to help me in my dream and agreed plan and lost the final by 1,000th of a second, which can easily happen, I would never forgive myself. If you want something enough, you have to be prepared to totally commit to a plan that will achieve that."

There is no try in commitment, either you do it or you don't. (Even Yoda said that in Star Wars.)

In mental health we will often stray from what we know helps us, maybe even stopping doing Moodscope when we know our score gives us an indication. Maybe drinking, maybe eating the wrong foods, maybe drugs, maybe sex, maybe simply not practising being mindful each day?
Most of our problems are self-inflicted through a lack of self-control.

What can you do today to start to commit to what you know WILL provide a better life for you?

Who can you ask to support you – we rarely do it alone?

Les
A Moodscope member.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Managing the Highs.

What goes up must come down. Damn!

"What does it feel like?" asked one Moodscope user. "What does it feel like when you're on the upside of the bi-polar?"

Well, it feels "normal." It feels as if there is really no other way to feel. Because, it's when I'm "up" I feel most like myself. The Mary I identify with most closely is this buzzing, energetic bundle of fun. I'm creative, I'm efficient, I'm proactive, I'm in control of everything. (Oh, and I'm humble too. Had you noticed that?)

But of course, I'm not in control. In fact, the better I feel the more out of control I am.

So, I've learned to recognise the warning signs.

First of all there is Moodscope. Now, my buddies won't pick up on this because my actual score doesn't change. On the plateau of wellness I regularly and consistently check in with scores in the mid-seventies. The red cards score a 2 and blue cards score a 0. When "up" however, the red cards are almost all 3 – but some of the blue cards, especially the hostile, jittery and anxious cards get marked with a one, or even a 2. The score remains the same, but the makeup is different. When I notice this, then it's my responsibility to alert my Moodscope buddies. My buddies are great at picking up on the times I epically crash, but the ups? Not so much.

The next symptom is sleep. Don't want it, don't need it. I find that, without noticing it, my normal seven hours a night has slimmed down to five. Then to four and a half, then to... And it's when I go to bed at 3am and still get up at 6am with bounding energy the warning bells start to ring.

Oh, and the buzz of ideas! I can't keep up with them. This week Caroline (our wonderful administrator) asked me to come up with some slogans for depressives. Well, that's easy, isn't it? I could think of at least ten just off the top of my head. And another ten today. The creative energy is amazing.

But there is the other side of all this, and that's the side that's dangerous. There's risk-taking behaviour. Oh and the fact that everyone around seems SO slow and stupid! Which means I get irritable and impatient. Not nice.

So I get my buddies, both Moodscope buddies and Facebook friends who know and understand, to watch out for me. I have friends who tell me to go to bed if they see I'm still up and on the computer after midnight, my husband and I have an agreement that we consult over any purchase over a certain amount. He'll stop me dashing over to Phoenix on a whim to have coffee with my new friend in that city.

Because the secret to minimizing the downs is to control the ups.

They feel wonderful but they're scary and they need riding on a very, very tight rein.

Mary
A Moodscope member.