Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Warm Patches, Strong currents and Constant Vigilance.

Oh, it's been a glorious summer!

We've had day after day of warm sunshine and day after day the children have swum out to the surfboard moored fifty meters out in the bay. They sit on that surfboard for hours at a time; talking, laughing, pushing each other off, swimming round to climb back on again...

Sometimes there are only two of them, discussing the topic of the hour with eager intensity. Sometimes there are as many as eight. I think the record is thirteen, but I can't imagine how they all squashed on.

"What do they talk about for all that time?" the parents wonder, staring out at the figures that sway with the movement of the waves. The younger adults, who can remember, just laugh.

Sometimes we swim out there too. Swimming in the sea is different from swimming in a pool. There is so much more of it. It tastes different and feels different. There is seaweed and the occasional jelly fish. The temperature is different. If high tide is late afternoon, then the water rushes over the mudflats which have been warmed all day by the sun picking up heat on the way. There are warm patches in the sea and then cold ones. Sometimes your arms will be in warm water while your legs below feel freezing. You bring your legs up and float in that warm patch. It's blissful. You close your eyes and just drift away for a few moments; only to open them again and find that you have literally drifted away – the current had taken you further than you thought.

The currents are strong around here. By the time the tide is high enough to swim, the surfboard is tugged toward the harbour. You can't swim directly towards it, because you will be dragged away and washed up on the spit of sand that separates us from the port. We always swim when the tide is rising just for that reason. When the tide is going out then, if you don't make Second Beach, five hundred meters down, it's next stop Belgium! All children wear Buoyancy Aids.

And someone is always watching. None of us underestimate the sea, or trust her for an instant. People can drown. People do drown – two of them locally just last weekend. Here on the sea wall there is always an adult with a rowing boat or kayak, ready to effect a rescue or offer assistance if necessary.

Our troubled family life this summer has been just like the sea. We have been swimming in a strong current, hoping to land on safe ground. We have clung onto temporary refuges and we have talked and talked and talked. It's been pretty cold, but we have enjoyed the warm patches. And we have needed constant vigilance to keep holding onto what we know is good and right and true.

The Summer is drawing to a close, but we're still swimming.

It's fortunate that, mostly, we quite like swimming.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Breaking the Spell

It's late summer in upstate New York, with endless days of sunshine, temperatures in the afternoon of 85 to 90 degrees F (29 to 32 C for the rest of the world) and plenty of humidity.

My body tells me that I should walk every day, but air-conditioning feels so good, so I often delay my walk until early evening when the temperature drops. Of course, I may also be too tired, too hungry, or too lazy.

The logical alternative is to walk early in the morning, but I love getting up at six, making a pot of coffee, and reading a few of the big pile of books on the kitchen table. I feel so lucid, focused and expansive in my thinking. It's the most precious part of the day. I have thought many times of breaking off for a walk, but I would also be breaking the spell of a beloved habit.

Yesterday, I didn't walk at all, so I decided last night that I must walk this morning. I made coffee, ate a bowl of Weetabix, read a fascinating book and took off resolutely at nine. The grass was dewy, the air was soft and sweetly vegetal, and I didn't feel bored in the walk around our wooded neighborhood. But by ten, when I returned it was hot and I was sweaty. Tomorrow, I'll leave at seven. And I may even look at birds.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 29 August 2016

A new day. A new week...

Today I'm 8 years sober!

That's 8 years since I was admitted to an acute psychiatric hospital after my well made plan to end things was interrupted.

Having battled clinical depression since high school, and constantly self medicated since late teens (daily pouring alcohol on top of my meds), I was totally defeated and thought I had a solution to my life problem.

It wasn't until I managed to get intervention through therapy, CBT, meetings, AA did I really learn what I suffered from and came to understand that misery and chaos and a noisy head are all treatable one day at a time.

I know I can't drink in safety, and I don't miss it. Alcohol and me had some great times, but more often than not, we were chaos, messy and unhappy together.

Today, life is good. I've learned to be the best "ME".

Keep it simple. Be honest. Be kind. Do your best at all times and when you need help, ASK.

To anyone struggling today with depression, anxiety, alcohol, drugs or addiction of any sort - speak to someone - talking doesn't instantly fix it but getting it out of your head is the start to finding a solution.

It's a special thanks to tools like Moodscope and my fortnightly CBT support group for being a crucial part of my recovery tookit.

Whether you are friend, family, near, or far, a virtual friend thru moodscope or Facebook, a neighbour, parishioner or a colleague I'm sending you thankful positive energy for being in my life.

Have a great new week folks. Remember, stay connected.

Carol Anne
A Moodscope member

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

It's a "Pit Stop".

I have learnt to use visuals and images to express myself especially when I'm depressed. I sat with my spouse discussing my current episode of depression. As I reflected, I saw the state of my mood like a tyre puncture. Some punctures are slow; you can feel the weight of the car tipping to one side. This gives you time to pull over, investigate the damage, change the tyre and continue the journey. Others are sudden; you have to hold tight to the steering wheel to control the vehicle. All these you often have to fix with a little help. In the last six months I have had both slow punctures and sudden ones sending my mood in a tail spin.

My spouse, an ardent Formula 1 fan, had an interesting perspective. It's a Pit Stop, he said, or many pit stops. Like every car on the race track, a pit stop is inevitable. It's a given, you have to refuel and the tyres have to be changed. But sometimes you are going to need something fixed. Maybe you clipped your wings or nose. The engine might be faulty or some other driver was just mean and ran you off the track and in the process you damaged your car. Sometimes it is all the above at different times of the race.

The thing is, the Pit Stop is important, all the resources to "fix the car are in the Pit Stop" You just need to drive the car in there.

This is my Pit Stop. I will be back on the race track.

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Unfinished business.

A few weeks ago in the dusty cluttered far corner tucked under a bed, I found a small box that contained a half a woollen singlet I started knitting for my daughter who is now in her 30s when I was pregnant with her.

It is not the only project I have started and not finished but it may be the longest. I have books I have not completed, letters I have started but not ended or posted. I am not alone.

I have friends who between them have a laundry that has one half wall painted, a garden wall about half finished, a deep hole in the garden where a pond was going, a shed full of chairs waiting to be upholstered, and study courses started but never completed.

Not everyone is like this. A neighbour answered, when I asked her if she has something she hasn't finished, with "lunch?".

It was the only thing she could think of as her world is full of finished projects and she told me she would never start something she felt she could not complete.

Are we too ambitious rather than being procrastinators? Or are we both?

Another reason that prompted me to write on this topic is I have several incomplete blogs. I know that sounds silly how can you not write 300 words or less. I usually get stuck at around 150 words and feel the topic is of no interest to anyone, or it does not make sense.

So that is not a case of delaying the writing, or being overambitious as I have written blogs before. I am still unclear why I can't finish things. I am not a perfectionist but I suppose I do lose interest in things quickly. That maybe a clue.

Are you someone that has many unfinished projects? Why do you think you often don't complete jobs?

Are you someone who always finishes projects that you start? What makes you want to complete tasks?

A Moodscope Member

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Thursday, 25 August 2016

Great Expectations.

For some time now I've found myself becoming increasingly disappointed in people. Friends, family, the wider world. If I let it, it could really get me down. So I've chosen to examine this view instead. I asked myself what I'm really disappointed in.

It turns out that I expect people to behave the way I think they should; the way I would. And I expect them to do this consistently; no exceptions. And I feel disappointed when they don't do this. Which happens a lot.

I'm sure you'll agree, there's some glaringly obvious flaws with this thinking! Firstly, expecting, or assuming, is dangerous. My other half is forever informing me that "to assume is to make an ass out of u (you) and me". Thank you dear, very clever. However he's right. If we expect something, particularly something we have little, if any, control over, we are inviting disappointment. To hope would be healthier I think, but not to expect. We need to be aware and accept that things may not go according to our plan.

Ah yes, my plan – my standards of behaviour; my rules for living. It seems I forgot to issue this vast document to every single person I meet. So I'm expecting people to live up to a job description, when they haven't applied for the job, aren't aware of the person specification and have no idea of the criteria they're expected to meet. Slightly harsh?!
And us human's aren't predictable; we aren't consistent. We like our habits, yes, and many of us like routine, but with the best will in the world we cannot possibly be consistent all day, every day, given all the many variables we face in our lives.

No wonder then that I feel constantly disappointed – I've set myself up for it!

The most amusing revelation in my self-analysis however is that if I apply the same expectations to myself, I fall short. I don't meet my own standards of behaviour, all the time. I'm not consistent. I'm not always kind; actually I can be horrible when I'm tired. I'm not always reliable; in fact I'm often late, despite hating poor punctuality in others! Basically then I'm a living contradiction...

So I'm adopting acceptance. Despite my flaws and inconsistencies, people accept me for who I am; I need to do a bit more of that myself. That doesn't mean I should accept poor behaviour and not challenge discrimination or injustice; it just means accepting that I cannot control every aspect of every one's lives. Well, at least until I've got that rule book printed and sent out...

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Good Black Dog.

Findsay exudes calm.

He curls up, an enormous lump of black fur and patience, at the feet of the woman who looks after him.

Findsay is a guide dog in training.

He's the seventh dog the lady next door has trained in this way. She takes puppies at eight weeks old and passes them on to the guide dog specialist trainers at eighteen months. Finsay the black labrador is one year now and has six months left to go with her.

She looks at him with fondness. "He's such a calm dog," she says. "Nothing ever bothers him. And he's a big dog too. He will be brilliant for someone who has anxiety or depression."

Many guide dogs serve a joint purpose. Their primary purpose is to help their owners navigate a world that is primarily organised for the sighted, but they also act as therapy dogs. A dog has to be fed and walked every day. That routine gives a purpose, a pattern and gets the dog's owner out into the fresh air taking some exercise. We know that all these things are beneficial to people suffering from depression.

The routine of caring for any animal gives purpose. A friend tells me how helpful her hens are when she's going through her dark times. She has to get up to feed them and collect the eggs. Just performing that routine steadies her and at least gets her out of bed and relating to something in the world – even if she cannot, in those periods, cope with people.

My fellow bloggers have also written about the support they get from their cats. I am seeing it at the moment. A family member is not well and I am caring for her. One of our cats sleeps with her all day and all night. He leaves her side only at meal times and for toilet breaks. I know that he is doing her more good with his undemanding presence than I can imagine. He cannot cook for her, or talk to her when she needs to talk; for that she needs a human, but his furry presence is invaluable.

Mammals seem to be best at therapy; dogs and cats especially as they love you back. While my daughter's guinea pigs are very cute and cuddly, I'm not quite sure if they engage with me or her in the way our cats do. The stick insect (more of a log insect now it is eight inches long) is interesting and rather sweet, if you're into six legs, wavy antennae and the sting of sharply hooked feet as it walks over your skin; not everybody is. And my son keeps snakes…. No – I'm not going to talk about the snakes.

For those of us allergic to fur and unenthusiastic about insects or reptiles there's always fish. Beautiful and calming to watch; definitely therapeutic.

But not cuddly – the film Finding Dory notwithstanding.

I'll stick with my cats, thank you.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dog therapy.

Last year I shared that I had taken on a rescue dog, a lurcher.

It didn't work out. A lovely dog, but used to racing not walking, and too strong for me to handle he went back to the home, much to my children's horror.

In May we adopted a stray from the Dogs Home, Ruby Skittles (kids' choice of name). A Jack Russell cross, she went on holiday to Dorset with us and is now a firm part of the family.

I am writing about her for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have learnt resilience. The old me would have taken the need to return a dog as a complete personal failure, never to be repeated. The new me recognised I had chosen the wrong dog and that a different breed was required more suitable for my needs.

Secondly, I learned to face the fear. My friends over 30 years expressed delight and surprise that their dog phobic friend now owned a dog. After all, my friend reminded me of the days I walked round the edge of the park rather than come across anything vaguely canine.

Thirdly, dog ownership is therapeutic. Whether I will be saying this midwinter but owning Ruby Skittles gets me out of bed, makes me exercise (currently doing over 10,000 steps a day) and has introduced me to a new social life, chatting with other dog owners.

Dog ownership is a huge responsibility and not a magic placebo. I have not been ill lately, apart from a nasty bout of whooping cough which has lasted all summer. What can you do to face a fear, build resilience or just be therapy? Knitting or windsurfing... there's something out there for you.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 22 August 2016

I haven't written a blog for a while, I've wanted to, but just haven't had one in me! Nothing that would give anyone a lift anyway.

Then the title came to me.

There have been times that I felt that I couldn't enjoy anything, that there was no such thing as " finding happiness" or how to "be happy". Surely it's just a momentary state, an emotion due to something specific?

Euphoria and good old belly laughs are great, but rare for me. I'd like to think that laughter therapy is really funny, but I'm not convinced. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me?

So focussing on just being well, with no high expectations seemed to be the way to go.

Recently though, I've dared to think that I more often feel happy. More of the time, I do what I want to do. For myself and for others. I don't do what I don't want to do. I say what I want to say. I feel guilty less. People may not like that I'm not up for being controlled by them, but I'm basically a good person and entitled to make my own choices thank you very muchly! :)

So in doing pretty much exactly as I please, (ok so maybe not exactly...) I feel more free.

This is my life. I want to enjoy as much of it as I can and feel that I have suffered enough for anyone to get in the way of that.

I'm not saying it's easy and goodness knows it takes a long time, but it can happen. Moments of happiness really are more frequent and now I even find that sometimes I sing...

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Did I mention I work in a Hospital?

Every day I see almost every emotion that exists!

Happiness: Sadness: Frustration: Anger: Elation: and more...

I hear laughter, babies crying as they enter the world, snatches of conversation that you can never make sense of.

There is the busy hustle and bustle on and on, clock ticking, lives being lived sometimes lost.

It is so very easy to complain and feel sorry for yourself because your phone never stops ringing or your tea has gone cold.

It's easy to forget that outside of this big place of care there are people and souls alone, leaving life without a kind hold of their hand or a tear wiped quickly away as goodbyes are made.

It is this realisation that sometimes overwhelms me and I see how we take everything for granted.

Every person animal, insect and yes even every snail! deserves a moment to be thought of and cared about.

This is why I wrote my poem, sat here one busy afternoon when it all stood there before me.

The Snail.

I walked through woods of Brown and Green and saw a Silver snail.
I asked him just how far he'd been he looked so weak and frail,
At first I thought his ears were deaf or that he was not listening,
But then I saw he lay alone in death his last journeys trail still glistening...
The tears rose but did not shed for what means this to me? Just because one snail is dead my heart need not grieve!
So on I walked upon my way when a thought struck at my mind, who will care when, comes my time to leave this world behind?
So back I went to find that snail and say for him a prayer, and when I'm gone I hope that somewhere somebody will care.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

I will not let my condition define me.

Four years ago I was hospitalised with severe depression. Several months and appointments later I was diagnosed with Moderate to severe recurrent depressive disorder.

Numerous appointments, no improvement at best, and at worse, relapses later, seeing yet a different psychiatrist, the diagnosis has been recently changed to – Less likely recurrent depressive disorder, more likely, Unstable emotions personality disorder.

This new diagnosis has thrown me off course a little, and led me to a discussion with my GP last week about how I am struggling to deal with the new diagnosis.

The GP asked me why this would make a difference, why I would want to be labelled.

The truth is, I don't. I don't want to be labelled, I don't want to be stereotyped, but I DO want to know what I am facing, and I want to be able to tell other people what my condition is.

I think this is because I don't feel that it is who I am, it is something that I have. By not having a clear diagnosis it feels much harder to separate my condition from my personality, something that is essential when it comes to the less likeable traits of a condition.

It is more empowering to be able to say "I self harm because of my condition", rather than "I self harm because I don't like myself". They may sound like subtle differences, but when you are grabbing on to every tactic to keep hold of your sanity, it can make a huge difference.

I don't want to be pigeon holed, I want to be treated as an individual, but I also want to be assured that I am not the only one out there feeling this way, and the only way to do this is to put this nasty little creature of a condition in a box, clearly marked. I may have to carry it around with me, it may be heavier at times than others, but this way, it WILL NOT define me!

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 19 August 2016

The simple words of the wise Dr.

When some people are in a reflective or spiritual mood they go to the bible, classical philosophers, the modern philosophers or they Google quotations. For me I go to that wonderful wise doctor, Dr Seuss. His words and rhyme always make me smile and think. The simplicity of the words and the wisdom implied just makes me feel better.

The following is one quote that I can really relate to and try to live up to every day.

"Today you are You, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You" Dr Seuss

The amazing, real, unique, individuality of you should be admired every second!

Loving who we are is a key lesson from Dr. Seuss. There is no one else like you, anywhere in the galaxy. That means you are a very special person.

I love those words youer than you, so simple yet so forceful. How often do we read about ways to change ourselves to make us fitter, cleverer, kinder, more assertive, calmer, more organized etc. Of course it is important to be the best while being true to our real selves.

Being youer than you when we are constantly bombarded with advice can be hard and at times  I know I doubt myself and get so confused I lose being youer than you.

Dr. Seuss shows us we must be our true selves. We must recognize our imperfections and accept our real selves.

"Those who mind don't matter, those who matter don't mind" Dr Seuss

In the above quote Dr Seuss shows us we should not worry what other people think of us because if they matter they will accept our imperfections, they don't mind and if they mind and want to complain and criticize us they don't matter.

This quote below fills me with childish enthusiasm.

"I've heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind.

But I've brought a big bat.

I'm already, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!" Dr. Seuss

I like the vision of getting a big bat - mine would be bright purple and have a very large  surface area to shoo those troubles away. It is a childish thought but it is full of bravery and confidence which is why it appeals to me.

So how do you try to be Youer than you?

Do you agree that 'Those who mind don't matter, those who matter don't mind"?

What sort of bat would you use to take on your troubles?

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Me, my funk and I.

We are due to move house in 6 days. You'd think I'd be busy packing and sorting. I'm very aware this needs doing and that the panic about the imminent date can only be contained by actually doing something to be ready for it. But, as per the ever helpful manner of an addled mind, I instead seem to be in a state of temporary suspension. I feel like I'm just floating around in the air, drifting aimlessly, looking on at the chaos below but unable to be part of it.

In truth I feel quite overwhelmed. You know that feeling when you know you have so much to do, that it paralyses you into doing absolutely nothing? (Again, thank you brain, for your ironic paradoxes). My motivation, energy and ability to take any sort of productive action are out of my reach.

What's also joyful in this already frustrating situation is that I then feel guilty about not doing all the very many things I should be doing. Frau Should was introduced by a kind Moodscoper recently, and I realised I knew her well. She pops in frequently to feed the negative voices that I'd successfully locked up in a cage for being too loud; she helps them escape, and then they all pick up the sticks I'd forgotten to tidy away, and start beating me for doing nothing; for being such a failure.

It's no wonder all I actually want to do is pack myself into the nearest box and just wait for it all to be over...

What I am managing to do, quite successfully I might add, is mope and flop around, sighing dramatically, crying over every little thing, and claiming, to absolutely no one listening, that I can't do this.

Even as I write I know how absurd this all is. My behaviour is neither helpful, nor does it actually serve any purpose. My claims are simply untrue.

My other half describes this as my "funk" that I get into now and again and I quite like this description. It makes me feel less ridiculous. Perhaps my funk has a bass guitar and hangs out with James Brown, which in fact would make it rather cool.

Whatever it is or does, we just have to wait for it to pass. We both know it will; that I will wake up tomorrow, or the day after, or lets at least hope before we actually move, with a renewed sense of productivity and positivity. We both know that of course everything will get done, and we will move into our new home, and start the next chapter of our lives together. In our inevitably funky house!

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Frayed Around the Edges.

If you have to throw a book at somebody (literally, not figuratively), then I suppose it shows rather more class if the book is "The Collected Essays of Francis Bacon" rather than say, "50 Shades"...

Yes, that was me. I threw a book at Tom. And not in a funning way either. It didn't hit him of course – that wasn't the point – and he has quite forgiven me (we were laughing about it just last night), but I was deeply, deeply ashamed of myself at the time; Francis Bacon or not.

The last occasion I threw something at anybody it was in 1995, so you can see I don't exactly make a habit of it.

I once saw a wall hanging. It said, "I've got one nerve left; and you're getting on it!" Tom just said the wrong thing at the wrong time and I snapped.

What do you do when you are at the end of your tether? What is your recourse when things just become too much? Some people shout, some people storm out and slam doors, some retreat into stony silence. Some people throw things.

It's been a tough old time for my family and loved ones over the last couple of months and all too often I have felt that I am the one at the eye of the storm, keeping everyone together; calming people down, smoothing over hurt feelings, explaining people to other people, bolstering confidence and keeping confidences.

It's taken its toll and I have nowhere and no one to run to because my normal harbours are now part of the storm.

Many of us, when that happens, wish to retreat into solitude; into a blissful calm and an order over which we are in entire charge.

Yesterday was like that for me.

My husband and young children have gone to Snowdonia and for a whole day I was alone. A whole day in which the house was tidy. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted. I could take a nap or read a book without someone shouting "Mummy – have you seen…?" It was wonderful.

Then Tom and Jenny and our young German friend Jan arrived, bringing chaos in their wake.

Oh, it's a lovely kind of chaos and I would rather have their messiness with them, than my own order without.

But it was nice to have that order and calm – just for one day.

I know it's not possible to arrange this for many of us. All too many of us have responsibilities we cannot lay down, where even the prospect of an hour's respite is something tantalisingly out of reach.

But, if you can ask for help, to create some space for yourself, just for one day, it does all the good in the world.

Today I am refreshed and ready for the chaos again, ready to hold the centre together.

And Francis Bacon is safely back on his shelf.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

My Cornish Pixies.

Like many a child and adult I have enjoyed JK Rowlings books about Harry Potter and his wizarding friends. Although to me it is not all fantasy; you see I really do have some Cornish Pixies.

For those who managed to avoid the whole Potter Craze or just cant remember, Cornish Pixies are little demon type creatures that create havoc when they get loose.

I have pixies that live in a cage in my head. Most of the time I am able to keep them controlled. As long as I rest, eat properly and sleep I can find time to check the locks are secure and that they are content.


If I get so tied up in work, plans and ideas that I forget my own needs then the little critters find ways to break out and pandemonium takes over in my head. They whisper nasty things in my ear about me, that there is nobody who can help me, that I am no good and they will never ever go away until I kill myself. They find the switches in my brain that trigger anxiety and switch them on so I start getting anxious over nothing. They play with the sleep switch so I keep falling asleep in the day but cant sleep at night (They like having me awake at night, I find it harder to catch them!), they dig through my memories and find dark, nasty thoughts, then spread them across my brain so I cant ignore them and they hide the nice memories where I cant see them.

When they get loose like this catching them again can be difficult. So I have to try and catch them using various techniques and squash them back into their cage.

If I read a good book some of them may get bored and go back in the cage for a nap (Slam – got some!) If I can get some medication to bypass the sleep switch they are playing with and get a proper nights sleep I can sneak up on them and grab them whilst they are dozing. (in they go...)

Medication can also help with the anxiety and so eventually they get bored of trying to mess with switches that no longer work. (Swoop... got you!!)

My friends help to reassure me that the pixies are lying about me and so provide hoods that I can put over their heads to shut them up and get them back in the cage.

If I rest I can concentrate on rediscovering the nicer memories and start clearing away the bad ones again.

Sometimes getting them under control may take just a day. Sometimes longer and sometimes I may need some outside help but seeing the dark thoughts and feelings I have as coming from the Pixies helps me to recognise that underneath I am still there, that these are just passing thoughts that can be tackled.

Its not me it's the Pixies.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 15 August 2016

A Joy Ride in a Paint Box.

"We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket." Winston Churchill.

My Dad and I visited Chartwell - home of Sir Winston Churchill. Unsurprisingly, it is a beautiful house, surrounded by well planned and maintained gorgeous gardens. It seems this statesman, this politician who served for 62 years, was also a budding botanist and a most enthusiastic painter.

It was not his paintings, however, that captured my imagination, but his attitude to his art. He began painting in his 40s - some may say, quite late. But his passion was filled with child-like joy and, 'audacity'. His style is bold and colourful - resisting the attempt of 'professionals' to have him use more muted and pastel shades.

"-on trying to paint a pale blue sky... I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns." Winston Churchill.

'Brilliant' is a word rich in ambiguity. I know you're brilliant - you may not have found your passion yet, where your natural brilliance can shine, but this blog is a nudge to encourage you to keep looking - it's there. Sir Winston Churchill didn't discover this particular strand of his brilliance until later on in life, but the important point is that he found it. And then he had a bash! He found joy in a paint box!

The guys and girls in grey will encourage you to 'tone it down' - and you'll get catalogues from 'World of Beige' as you get older. But resist. Be brilliant, be audacious, be creative! Your country, your continent, your civilisation expects you to be the best you that you can be.

A Moodscope member.

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

Sunday, 14 August 2016

I can't stop hoping and dreaming.

These days I tell myself life doesn't get any better than this. Five years ago I met a really perfect man and my life has been like a fairy tale.... Oh yeah I am 47! So an old bride was I.

So, now, the other side of little ole me. I have suffered from depression all my life even as a child , however I do believe my sadness as a child was because my father was killed when I was only 3, leaving a bitter mother and five other siblings. As for me, I was the second youngest, a withdrawin child. I can remember being sad at that age, but I cannot remember anything else about that time, especially my father.

Anyhow, moving swiftly on - I was born with many talents - anything I try I am normally quite good at, (big head eh!!) however, I was born with a few particular talents - acting, singing and dancing, also drawing. So, tell me why at this stage in my life, do I still believe that some day I will be on a big stage receiving the applause I feel belongs to me.

I can't stop hoping and dreaming. As Kylie Minogue says "I just can't get you out of my head". But I cannot seem to do it! I will fill my time with anything - work, cleaning, drawing, any little projects other than what is in my heart.

What am I so afraid of? What's the problem?

A Moodscope member

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

Saturday, 13 August 2016

I wish I had known...

One of the great benefits of Moodscope is the collective wisdom of many years of people with  lived experience with mood disorders. In the blogs and comments there are so many ideas, different types of advice, plans thoughts and practical tips that may be helpful.

I have wondered how may life may have been different if Moodscope had been around 40 years ago when I was first diagnosed.

Is there some advice some bit of wisdom some quotation that you rely on now that you wished you had known back in the early days of your experience with mood  disorders?

Of course we don't know how we would have reacted then to the advice we now find so useful. I sometimes think if only someone had told me that my much loved highs were as destructive as my lows.  I think I would have seen the person as interfering and ignorant and just continued having fun until the next crash.

If you could give just one piece of advice to someone who was struggling with living with depression or another mood disorder, what would it be?

Why did you choose that advice? How has it helped you?

A Moodscope member

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

Friday, 12 August 2016


I went to a BBQ last weekend and consciously left my phone at home. My aim was to be less distracted, more present, and to engage wholly in interacting with my friends. That's exactly what happened. I didn't need to take 17 selfies at varying angles to find the perfect shot to post on social media to confirm to everyone what a great time I was having. I just had a great time.

When I got home, over six hours later and quite under the influence of a marvellously mixed Snowball (in summer, how very controversial!) the world had not imploded; I had not missed numerous urgent calls. In fact I'd missed none. I had one message, which was nice, but not immediately requiring attention.

So why do we feel the need to check our phones every 5 minutes? Why can't we wholeheartedly engage with whatever we're doing without this constant distraction? What do we think we are actually missing out on?

Do we really need to know what Sharon had for lunch today, or what Kevin thinks of his best friends mum (we really don't Kevin). Why are we so desperate to know if someone has liked our heavily filtered photo, or commented on our witty status? What are we craving here?

I'm not going to give an answer to any of those questions by the way, but I do welcome discussion. I think its an interesting observation of interaction and responses in a time where we are quite literally bombarded with information.

My concern, and why I decided to do something about it, is that we are spending so much of our lives focussed entirely on a screen in the palm of our hands, that we are oblivious to what is actually going on around us. I don't mean the wider world and the atrocities currently raging within it – it's sadly very hard to avoid this. I mean the day to day things. Other people, face to face exchanges, real conversations. Music, books, art. Nature, beauty, colours, smells. Walking, running, breathing in fresh air. Peace and tranquillity. All the things in fact that our Moodscope community knows all too well are inherent to our overall wellbeing.

My request to you all today then is this. Please put down your phones for an hour today. Do something that you love. Be there in the moment without distraction. Enjoy it. Switch off. Download.

A Moodscope member.

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

Thursday, 11 August 2016

It's the tone of your voice!

When my marriage of some 22 years started to disintegrate and crumble, for reasons I simply could not understand, I made one attempt at marriage guidance. The killer blow during that short meeting was when my wife was asked what it was that made life with me so hard, and her answer was that it was 'my tone of voice.'

Some seven or eight years on, I think I have at last understood what she meant. I was a loving compassionate husband and by all accounts a likeable man – and a good father too. How on earth could my voice be at fault? At the time, I was angry. (There's a clue!) 'How can you possibly want to divorce me because of the tone of my voice, for heaven's sake?' A harsh, critical edge to my thoughts, my emotions, and clearly, my voice... and there was the answer, right there.

Sly nasty sarcasm starts to seep into every comment. I feel justified, because I am annoyed. Others feel hurt, because my comments are barbed. When challenged, I feign ignorance….'of course I wasn't trying to hurt you, why would I want to do that?' I say... and there's yet more annoyance in my voice as I now feel completely misunderstood... My inner voice is telling me that no one else understands, and that it's perfectly OK to be annoyed...

But it isn't.

And so it goes.

Until now. Now finally, I realise that that inner voice in my head is my voice. It belongs to me. It is not a disjointed third party, a monkey on the shoulder. It is me. And because it is mine, I can decide whether to listen to it or not; whether to accept it or not; Or whether simply to ignore it.

So when I hear criticism from another (when no criticism is meant,) instead of reacting angrily and defensively, I can hear what was meant, and process it kindly. And when I am overly self-critical, for taking a wrong turn, or being late for an appointment, or forgetting to pay a bill, and I start to feel the edginess rise, amidst the screams of self-criticism, instead of lashing out at the nearest person/driver/waiter/whomsoever (and so often the poor recipient has been that person who is physically as well as emotionally closest to me), instead of transferring that harsh tone into my next utterance, I simply drown it out with trust. Trust that I am that likeable, compassionate, loving person; trust that I am not being criticised; trust that I am better than a sarcastic put down, to someone who so doesn't deserve it.

Depression is the worst nightmare. But also an incredible teacher. It has taught me to be selective and to trust the truth behind the voice of my partner, not the lies being screamed from within.

A Moodscope member.

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

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

University Reunion.

Tell me, just why am I doing this again?

Why am I travelling 252 miles to see people I haven't seen for thirty years, who probably don't want to see me anyway? After all – there must be a good reason why we haven't seen each other in all those thirty years, they obviously didn't want to keep in touch with me.

And what will I say to all of them, who have no doubt made tremendous successes of their lives, when they ask me what I have done with my life? Abject Failures R Us. Well, me, anyway.

Wouldn't it be easier just to turn around and go back home?

But I didn't turn round and my little Mini chugged away steadily, reducing the miles between me and this reunion.

Thank goodness it was only a society reunion and not an official university one.
And, actually, it was wonderful.

Everyone was pleased to see me and I them. Yes, I was shaking like crazy to begin with, but by the end of the day, had relaxed totally – and with no alcohol involved!

Turned out, none of us there had made wonderful successes of our lives. Some of us had been lucky in our careers, many had been blessed in marriage and children, but most of us confessed to just lurching from one thing to another and dealing with whatever came up next. That's life, after all.

We laughed over old photos, partook in a quiz, told old jokes and spared a quiet moment for the friends who had been taken early from this world. Far too many of them, it turned out.

It was surprisingly easy to tell them all about my bi-polar and Moodscope. They all completely "got" it. Maybe partly because this was the reunion of the Christian Union, which meant for those of us who were there, we maybe have slightly different values in what constitutes success. Still hanging onto our faith, albeit for most of us a much changed and matured faith, is the number one criterion. Contributing to the world is right up there too. Making money, reaching the top of the career ladder – less so.

I came away having renewed some old friendships, with a list of snail- mail and email addresses, and a warm feeling of acceptance and solidarity.

We all said "let's not leave it another thirty years!", but I bet we will. Life's like that. But this time, I won't take it personally.

A Moodscope member. 

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

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Pretend Meaning.

Something I've noticed over the years is that questions like "what's the point?" and "what does it all mean?" are questions that belong to depression. When my mood is more stable I don't ask these questions because I'm living my meaning. I'm engaged in satisfying activities, enjoying my friendships, helping people, and working towards goals that give me a sense of purpose. My life isn't problem-free, but I'm walking the path I've chosen.

When depression overtakes me things change. Life is hard. Getting out of bed to fetch a drink might need an hour of self persuasion. All those satisfying activities are beyond me, I don't have the energy or self worth to see friends. My goals are at best on hold, probably they were always unattainable. I can't help myself, let alone anyone else.

It's at these times that the questions resurface. What's the point? Why am I even trying? And I am trying, even when from the outside my output must seem so minimal. I ask myself, where is the meaning in any of this? What is this suffering, and the whole world's suffering, for?

This is when I need to implement Pretend Meaning. Maybe there is some meaning to it all, maybe not. But I need to proceed on the assumption that meaning exists, even when this feels like a huge lie. Acting as if there's meaning, somewhere hidden just beyond view, helps me to commit to life, to put the energy I've been using to plan my death into picking up the threads of my life. While I'm pretending there's a point, there's a reason to keep going.

And as I keep making these steps towards life, tiny as they may be, they lead me to a place of more fulfillment. Once again the questions of meaning, of the point of it all, recede into the background as I live my life, and the need for Pretend Meaning quietly slips away.

A Moodscope member.

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

Monday, 8 August 2016

Invitation to Dance.

"Resistance is Futile" The Borg
"Yes, but resistance is a bit of a nuisance!"  Lex

How would you like to find yourself 'irresistible' to everyone?  It would probably be a bit embarrassing after a while, but it's an interesting thought.

Here's another interesting thought:

What if people's resistance to your ideas or offers were simply "an invitation to dance"?

People say, "No!" or even, "No, thank you!" when they don't see enough possibilities in your proposition to make a change in their own story - not enough potential to stop what they are doing now and join the dance with you. If we see their 'resistance' as simply 'an invitation to dance' - we can change the style of the invitation. 'Dance' here refers to a metaphor for all human interactions. When they flow well, we join a dance with one another. When we don't connect, the other party simply sits the dance out, and misses the magic.

Let's play with an empowering assumption: people won't dance until you frame the invitation in the right way. So, if they say, "No!" to you today, think 'possibility' - and then add more possibilities to the invitation. Rewrite the dance card in a way that bigs up the possibilities in the dance for the other person.

Possibility thinking is far more powerful that positive thinking.

An enticing invitation to dance is the next step on your path to becoming 'simply irresistible'!

A Moodscope member.

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

Sunday, 7 August 2016

For a relaxing vacation, look to the data.

Moodscope was mentioned on 5th August in an article in the Wall Street Journal about how more people are using personalised data to help them unwind more efficiently while they are away.

Steve Jonas, a Senior Editor of the website Quantified Self Labs is a Moodscope user, here's what he has to say:

"When I'm on vacation and see that my mood is many points higher than normal, it reinforces how much I'm enjoying myself."

It's an interesting article, not just about measuring mood but self-tracking in general, here's the link:

I know many Moodscopers stop measuring their mood when they are on vacation.

What do you think? Good idea, or not for you?

The Moodscope Team

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

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Hey, how you doin'?

The character Joey Tribbiani famously uttered that phrase in 'Friends' to chat up any available lady. I would be delighted to have the delectable Mr LeBlanc utter those words to me, but finding the answer would be a different matter.

When I was very unwell, I would have been reduced to responding with 'Hmmm...' or 'Hneh...' Any noise really, so that I didn't have to vocalise the sheer terror I felt as I battled to remain in control of my emotions. I was also unable to vocalise that I wasn't well, because as soon as I admitted that out aloud to another human being, I would be admitting it to myself, and I really wasn't ready to do that.

As I began to accept that I wasn't well, my response would change to 'Up and down', which does nothing to describe the rollercoaster of emotions I was riding. Later it would be 'Better than I was', which was a truer representation of how things were, but open to misinterpretation by people with no interest in my wellbeing.

Finding Moodscope allowed me to put a number to that feeling. I score mainly 65 now, with an overall average of 57, significantly better than the days when 11 was an achievement. If I go above those averages, I know that I am going to crash. Too low and I know that I've already crashed. These scores are a better judge and description of how I am feeling, than I am of myself. I can also use the 20 emotions to describe exactly what is going on. 'Ooohhh, that's a bit hostile'; 'I'm proud of that' etc. and then do something to reduce the negative and increase the positive.

Now, as I find myself in recovery and trying each day to maintain my wellness, my answers to Joey's question would be: 'Taking each day as it comes'; 'On the mend', and my favourite, via Douglas Adams: 'Mostly OK'. Sometimes I am not, sometimes I have a bad day, but that is the thing about recovery, you have to take the good with the bad.

So, if Joey asked you, how would you respond?

A Moodscope member

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

Friday, 5 August 2016


Live music saves me more than any other thing. If the volume can be up so, so loud, my body relaxes and becomes pliable and just free and happy. Lost in the front of a bouncing crowd is my happy place but most times I cannot afford the time to queue for that and so I make do with the ticket, the seat and the volume.

I had the tickets.
I convinced myself it couldn't work.
The plug was almost pulled.
I didn't pull the plug.
Made myself do it, made myself.
I knew it had to happen.
And it did.

I wasn't at the front. But that mattered not. I was outside on a hot evening, with a hot ticket. It was bliss. The definition of bliss is "lost in a state of happiness, oblivious to everything else".

And that bliss has stayed with me for the last 11 days.

I am cloud walking.

I believe it is imperative to health to find your bliss. What brings it? Why do you not do more of it? It is a nectar worth more than a Midas touch and so why are we not chasing it? Can you chase it? What is your bliss?

I cannot get myself to a gig on a daily basis. Probably not even monthly. Sometimes, especially when ill, I watch the tickets and I watch the date come and pass. Sometimes I treat others to the tickets I won't use and enjoy it through their story. But I can keep trying. And I can play the sounds. And I can transport myself back to that evening, in the sun, ears filled and know it saved me... again. Seek your bliss.

Love from 
The room above the garage.

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

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Schools Out for Summer!

I've just completed my first year working in a secondary school. I can honestly say it's the most intense, relentless environment I have ever worked in - and I worked in mental health for nine years! I don't teach (I bow down in awe to those of you that do) but there's something about the pace and unpredictability of a school; the sheer size, the amount of students and staff, that makes it so, well, exhausting!

Oh yes, I know, I was one of those scoffing onlookers too. What on earth were these people, with their six week summer holiday and endless half term's moaning about? Yet here I am, having clawed my way to the end of term, half crazed and delirious. My goal most days has been to turn up and stay awake – anything else was a bonus.

And yes, the holidays do appear attractive (apart from the scandalous cost of actually having one!) There's some comfort knowing you're never more than 6 weeks away from a break.

But the demons in our mind don't book in their visits according to when we can accommodate them. They pay no attention to availability. They pounce, unannounced, without warning, at entirely inopportune moments. And always uninvited. Sounds remarkably similar to Ofsted actually.

In every other job I've had, where I (not the government) determine when I have my holidays, I've been able to take a day or two off if this happens. If I've felt my mood start to dip, I took a short break, applied some TLC; just took action before things deteriorated.

I can't do that now - and it's unsettling. If I'm struggling, other than ringing in sick, which isn't always necessary (or indeed helpful when you want to at least try to carry on) there's no options. These are the dates I work from and till, and basically "all mini meltdowns must be saved for the designated holiday time please"

I jest of course, and this isn't a pitch to feel sorry for staff working in schools (honestly!) We're each responsible for our own choices and currently I choose to stay. Just as if I feel it's not working for me, I can choose to leave. BUT... my experience has reminded me that what one person sees as a help, another could see as a hindrance. We shouldn't judge or begrudge. That old adage about walking in someone else's shoes is as relevant now as it's always been. Even school shoes.

A Moodscope member.

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

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

I want to Be Alone (part sixty-seven).

Just as I wrote this title I thought, "I've done this one before." On checking, I find I have. That one was about Christmas parties; this one is about friends and family.

The thing I hate most about my bipolar condition is the way it makes me think I don't like my friends and family.

When I am in the mania phase I can't bear to be with anyone because everyone is so incredibly stupid! Even my friend Raz, with his genius level mathematical brain and eidetic memory, irritates me because even he is stupid. When I am down I can't even bear my own company, let alone the company of anyone else. I just exist, enduring one moment after another until eventually the great weight of the shackles and chains of depression lifts and I can feel again. Most of the time, I still prefer my own company. It's solitude, not loneliness. And, because I'm a writer, my brain is always occupied with stories and characters. So, in fact, I'm never alone.

My eldest daughter is a gift. She makes a point of hugging me every day and telling me she loves me. I tell her I love her too. I can't feel the love, but I know it is there. She views my brain with tolerant amusement: "Mummy, you do know that most people grow out of playing with their imaginary friends by the time they're - say – eight, don't you?" She regards my weeks (and occasionally months) confined to the sofa with resignation and my highs with pragmatism: "What do we have to do to make sure Mummy is safe from herself?"

But I still feel guilty. Surely it would be better if I had not married and had a family. If I had received my diagnosis earlier, would I have still married? Would I have chosen to have children; especially now I know that this condition has a considerable genetic component?

I can't answer that. It does no good to speculate anyway. I have the blessing of a loving husband and two lovely daughters. I am grateful.

And they have all learned to leave me alone for long periods of time. Yesterday, when I was rebuking my eleven-year-old for having disappeared for four hours without letting me know where she was (in a safe area, I hasten to add, and with two other friends, who were also similarly rebuked by their mothers), she said, "But Mummy – I was being nice to you: I was leaving you to be by yourself!"

Sadly, I can't argue with that. I could wish it were different, but it's not.

A Moodscope member.

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

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Self Portrait.

I recently attended the National prestigious portrait exhibition at the art gallery of New South Wales. The definition of what a portrait is very loosely defined now so there were traditional portraits, photo realism portraits, tiny portraits, huge one; full figure ones, collages, book covers, a tiny figure on a huge canvas.

The guide told us that portrait should convey something of the personality of the sitter, and it helps if the sitter and artist can bond.

There were 3 portraits that dealt with the subject of mental health in different ways:

1 The artist painted a well-known actor/comedian who has been public about his struggle with anxiety and depression. The portrait shows the aging actor in a serious troubled pose with his hand on his forehead.

2 An ex policeman who ended up with PTSD. The enormous portrait show his face in colours of red tone, looking downward and very sad.

3 Man lying on floor looking upwards, in dark colours.

There were also a number of self portraits using many different mediums.

How would you paint your own self portrait?

Would you include your depression as part of your picture? Would you make it big or small?
Would you make yourself the centre of the picture or would you be a small part among lots of other parts of your life? Would you use one colour, lots of colours , bright colours or somber colours. Would you paint in oils acrylic, pencil drawing? Would you use collage?

Remember the most important thing is to convey something of your personality through the portrait.

So tell me what your self-portrait would look like and what part of your personality will you be conveying.

Welcome the first Moodscope self portrait gallery.

I can't wait to hear about your portraits.

Let the gallery open and the exhibition begin.

My self portrait would be a collage of many books, toys, nicnacs, bags, shawls, with my head peaking through all the books etc. It would be bright and busy and convey my love of books and my shop contents.

A Moodscope member.

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

Monday, 1 August 2016

You can't change your past but you can change your path.

"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on." Led Zeppelin, " Stairway to Heaven"

It's Monday morning. I'm interviewing Inspirational Speaker, Ceri Evans on the penultimate episode of the first series of "The Really Useful Show Time" - and we're talking about finding your "Why".  Ceri asserts that it doesn't matter that people don't know the whole journey - he says, On Air, that it's like an Atlas of Maps - you just need to work on the page that's open. Then it hits me:

You can't change your past, but you can change the path you're on. It's your choice. You have the power to decide. You have the power to change.

Then, at Progressive Property Network Portsmouth, that evening, I'm sharing the platform with Mark Stokes and Angie Lacoste (Host). His message is about finding your "Why" - and how we can transform the next generation's future by teaching financial wisdom. Spooky.

One of Mark's slides emphasised the paths that people wished they had changed or had taken when asked on their deathbed.

"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
"I wish I didn't work so hard."
"I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings."
"I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."
"I wish that I had let myself be happier."

Seth Godin regularly likens entrepreneurs to Map Makers. For the exciting new paths we are finding, opening up, pioneering ourselves and exploring, there are no maps. We are the Map Makers. What can be helpful is choosing the destination. I would suggest these five are a great first step - almost 5 satellite fixes to discover where you are now and get you on your journey to where you'd rather be:

Be yourself today - starting now - that includes what you wear, what you do, how you spend your time, and with whom you choose to spend it!

Decelerate - maybe even press 'pause' - do you really need to work this hard? Check out where those squirrels hide their nuts in the grass!

Express your feelings openly, honestly, authentically, compassionately.

Reach out to your friends - make contact - get in touch, today.  It's not too late.

Look in the mirror and say to yourself, "I'm going to let myself be happier - right here, right now, I'm giving myself permission to have more fun."

Don't bounce this 'stuff' down some imagined time-line to a blissful retirement - what aren't you doing now that you'd like more of in our life?

I'm off to dust of my guitar so I can play some 'Stairway'!  Awesome!

Looks like it's going to be an amazing day for you - and me too!

A Moodscope member.

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