Monday, 31 October 2016

Crossing the Line (The Double Yellow one!)

There is was. Parked. Gorgeous. Luxurious. Ostentatious. Opulent. Sumptuous. Expensive.  Really Expensive...

Then a random stranger stopped and gave me the hind-lick manoeuvre and I spat out the thesaurus I'd clearly just swallowed and got on with the story...

It was a most beautiful Bentley. A car of such elegance. With a very witty personalised number plate. This was someone who had 'arrived'.

Not only had they arrived.

They had parked.

On a double yellow line!

On a bend!!

How do you feel about this guy – for a guy it was?

We shall call him 'Mason' – for that was what his number plate may have declared.

Me?  I felt angry.

I'd been ill all week.

Deprived of sleep.

I was a tad bitter.

I wanted to key his car.

And here was this rich parker plonked without a care – completely disregarding the rules as if they didn't apply to him.

So I took a picture and stuck it on Instagram and Facebook.

What a knob.

I am.

I mean.

I'm mean.

Why was the problem with me?

Well, firstly, he then came out of a shop and I recognised him – a chap I thought was pretty OK actually.

Secondly, it was me who was the felon.

I was bitter. Twisted. And then I found the root... I was jealous. I was a robber – robbing my heart of joy... and sending it's blood pressure up in the process.

I was jealous that he was 'free' and I wasn't.

If he got a parking ticket, he had a roll of high currency notes that he could pay it off with on the spot (yes, I've seen him and his uncle pull out a wedge of cash, just like in the movies.) It would mean nothing to him. It wasn't that he didn't care – it was that it simply didn't matter to him in the grand scheme of things.

Have you ever noticed the really nice cars parked in the front of the hotels? You know, the ones parked even closer than the disabled bays? Why is this? It's because they've elevated their game to such a level that it's really not the same game. They actually don't play by the same rules as you and me because it isn't the same game. Hey, he doesn't even pay tax... probably... just his tax advisor.

So here's my thought for today. I don't want to be the jealous guy (even if that is such a cool song). I want to play a new game. I want to raise the level of my game. I want to cross the line... I want to cross the lines that have been holding me back...

...even if they are the double yellow ones.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thoughts in a malestrom.

Faster and faster...

Looking around
everything blurs
laying in bed.

Faster and faster...

Lying in the middle of a maelstrom
trying to get hold of a friend
but I just pull them down.

Faster and faster...

Where does it go?
When will it stop?
Will it destroy me instead?

Faster and faster...

Hoping for some certainty
a fraction of security
a tiny bit of love.

Faster and faster...

Refusing drugs to slow it down
feeling alive while close to death
waiting for the crash.


This time I got out
panting, but alive
how long can this go on?


I have analysed myself
tried to prevent things like this
none of my dams have held.


Where has my discipline gone?
Should I embrace my mental chains again?
Can I ever feel emotion, intimacy, love?


Freedom may be too dangerous
though it is only freedom of mind
the feeling thrills but is threatening.


I patch up the wreck of my battered mind
setting sail again
seeking the next cliff to shatter on.

I shout out LOUD


A sound ship again
the HMS Me
I come out of the storm.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 29 October 2016


I was trawling through previous blogs over the years (yes it was a quiet day in my shop) just to remind myself what I and other people had written about so I would not repeat myself. I always have this desire to write about something fresh but in reality there is 'nothing original under the sun'.

Why do we have this desire to be original when what we can offer is a different perspective our own personal way of viewing things. Also at Moodscope where people come and go, the audience changes so messages need to be repeated. I am sure I repeat anecdotes, ideas, and opinions in my blogs and I am never sure why some people see this is a bad thing.

As I get older my family is often complaining I repeat myself at times because I forget to whom I have spoken about some family news. So I either tell one person twice or forget to tell someone.

Why are some of us afraid of repeating ourselves? I suppose it is seen as a sign of losing one's memory if one is always repeating oneself.

Repeating in poetry is a literary tool as it used for emphasis. Some of the most quoted lines of poetry involve repetition.

I am often defensive when my family or friends point out they have heard it all before.

I wish I was confident enough to say "Yes I may repeat myself, but I thought it was worth hearing again."

Do you comment on friends or family who repeat themselves?

How do you react when people say you are repeating yourself?

A Moodscope member

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Friday, 28 October 2016


Ever since I was a child I've been aware that creativity isn't my strong point.

I could never come up with wonderfully imaginative stories to write, all that came to mind was  "I went to the park and...." and nothing!

I couldn't visualise maths calculations, so mental maths was hard.

I could copy pictures quite accurately, and was not bad at still life, but never produced any truly creative artwork.

I rarely remember my dreams and if I do, it's a pretty straight forward  reflection of my life, albeit with a bit if a twist!

I often struggled to think of what to do with my kids in the holidays, the pressure and the guilt seemed to drain any pleasure and creativity out of me and I'd just not want to think about it.

It doesn't bother me. Maybe there's nothing in it, perhaps I'm simply a fairly literal person which had it's positives and I'm happy with the strengths that I do have. We can't all be Picasso! (Dare I say I'm not really a fan anyway!).

I would have thought that being an emotional person though, would enable me to express myself creatively.

Maybe there's more to it. Perhaps there's a correlation between anxiety and creativity? Or depression and creativity?

Maybe there's a block that can be released ?

I'm interested to hear any thoughts. Would you describe yourself as a creative person?

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Confronting avoidance.

I have issues with avoidance. If something upsets me, I won't think about it. If something causes me anxiety, I don't do it, or I will do it in a convoluted way, e.g. I will reach my destination by travelling further than I need to avoid the anxiety.

I've never had issues with this facet of my personality. Surely everyone avoids things that they don't like? Don't like coffee? Don't drink it. Frightened of spiders? Get someone else to remove them from the bath for you. It's only recently that I've started to realise that my avoidant tendencies are actually quite detrimental to my wellbeing. I believed that this avoidance was protecting me, which, in a way, it was. But the harsh reality is, that it was, and is, limiting my life and my ability to enjoy it.

Hand in hand with my avoidance is my sheer terror of confrontation. I need to turn all of this on its head and start confronting avoidance head on. In Ruby Wax's books 'Sane New World' and 'Mindfulness for the Frazzled' she writes about creating new neural pathways in the brain to reinforce new patterns of thinking and behaviours and breaking the pathways for thinking and behaviours which are not beneficial for your mental health.

I'm doing this by taking small steps and starting to confront the things which I have been avoiding. Some of these avoidances have been in my life for a significant number of years, and so those neural pathways are going to take a lot of effort to break down and replace with more productive ones. It's not going to be easy, and there are times where I really don't have the energy to make the effort to change, but I also know that each day I start afresh and I can try again. Each attempt to confront my avoidance is paving a new pathway. I've heard it likened to taking a walk in the woods; those well-trodden pathways are well maintained and easy to walk. The paths I need to take are over-grown and difficult to pass, but each time I take them, the path becomes easier to walk, and those other pathways start to become less used and overgrown.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Bi-polar Exploding Hedgehog!

In the words of the Carpenters' song,

I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation..."

But this isn't a happy place, it's scary.

It's like being possessed by a pack of rabid wolves. The wolves want to break free and run wild, but I can't let them. These wolves have sharp teeth, dripping with poisoned foam; they will bite and tear and rend. I can't let them out.

Oh, I used to. I used to ride those wolves. All I felt then was the wind in my hair; all I smelt then was the sharp scent of forest pine; all I heard was the crisp crunch of snow underfoot and the glorious music of my howling wolves as they sang love songs to the moon.

For these are Russian wolves, with all the muscled power and passion of Mussorgsky. They rage and rampage through the great gates of Kiev, and fly with the witches through the night on Bald Mountain.

Yes, these wolves leave a trail of destruction and I cannot let them out.

So, where does the hedgehog come in, then?

Well, the wolves are scary. And people will think I'm weird if I talk about the ravening wolves inside me. Nobody's scared of hedgehogs, so it's easier if I tell you about the hedgehog.

I feel like a very spiky hedgehog.

Let me introduce you to the spikes; from a safe distance.

Rage. Lots of that. No, there's no reason. As my daughter said this morning. "Mummy, just don't be cross: there's nothing to be cross about." She's right. There is no reason for this rage; it is entirely chemical in its origin. I managed to hold it in today; I didn't strangle her. I think I deserve points for that.

Irritation. No – don't try to do anything right; you can't. Everything you do will get on my nerves. And – it isn't you: it's me. Honestly, it is and I can't do anything about it.

Hostility. I don't like you much. I don't like anyone much just now.

Intolerance. There's black and there's white. There are no shades of grey. None. There's my way and there's the highway. What do you mean, compromise? Forget it!

Jealousy. A seething, coiling, venomous serpent hissing and ready to strike out at any moment. I want your time and I want your attention now. Nothing and no one is going to be more important than me. Get used to it – because if you want to be my friend, that's the way it's got to be.

Sleep Deprivation. Ah yes; I am so tired, yet wired tight as a dozen expresso shots. The chemicals in my brain won't allow me to sleep for more than five hours.

Which means this hedgehog is volatile, stuffed with nitroglycerine. Handle with extreme care.

There is no "light blue touch-paper and retire," because half the world away is not far enough.

I'd just better hibernate. Alone.

Safer that way.

For everyone.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

See, Feel, Doubt.

I want to sleep but I haven't stopped doing and I can't settle. It's been the same every night this week. And it's crazy, I know that when my sleep starts going off track it drags the rest of my life in its wake. Yet here I am propping my eyes open, because I'm scared.

I'm scared because the images are back, the movies looped on repeat. I've called them flashbacks, but is that the right word? Do these scenes which play out again and again in waking nightmare truly refer to my past, or do they convince me simply because they're familiar? Does my mind latch onto make-believe as a way to understand a set of difficulties that I happen to share with people who've experienced trauma? Did I make up stories years ago then retell them to myself so many times that remembering them feels like memories? If so, why? Why would I do that, really?

Amid these shifting sands I need to find solid ground. I sift out slices of the movies that seem definitely to belong to me. Some snapshots fit with other memories which seem easier to own. As the films run and rerun and I question myself and my motives, I gather these snapshots and begin a small scrapbook in my mind. As I tentatively paste them in, I begin to form a montage.

Occasionally I drop a seemingly innocent question into family conversations. I check for the validity of a safe memory that resonates with one of these mental snapshots. Shared memories seem more trustworthy. Yet still I question myself. Don't all myths have a foundation in truth?

I don't know which side I'm on: to establish that these things really happened, or that they didn't?

I guess I just want to stop seeing, physically re-experiencing, these films of my potential past. They're replaying just out of sight, until I try to sleep and they pull me in.

Because wherever the truth lies, these rememberings are insistent. They clamour for attention, acknowledgment, validation, if only from myself.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 24 October 2016

You're Just My (Arche)Type.

I had a very strange experience a couple of weeks ago. I popped into one of our favourite Wool shops with Lady Penelope, and settled down on the comforting sofa to review the excellent photography in the Rowan catalogues. Their photos are my gold standard – the look and feel that I'd aspire to on a model shoot.

The owner of the business is one of the loveliest people on the Planet. Gentle, caring, feminine – soft – in the strongest possible way. Does that make any sense?

Around her I feel safe, I feel cherished, I feel wanted, I always feel welcome.

And so I started to cry.

This was very embarrassing.

I wept – the tears flowed.

They are flowing now just remembering that precious 'moment'.

I couldn't explain myself.

We left.

But I'm a reflector.

On reflection, I think I know now what was happening.

I was experiencing grief – an overwhelming sense of 'loss' – for a life I longed for but had never achieved.

She was the 'Mother' who I never had – caring, protective, demonstrative, appreciative.

She was the 'Lover' I'd always wanted: feminine, graceful, gentle, and more than a little 'out there'.

She was the 'Life Partner' I desired above all others: in tune with my values and allowing me to be me as I celebrated the 'She' that she was in all her glorious fullness and freedom.

And here she was, at last, after waiting oh so l-o-n-----------g.

All my longings came to the surface in that moment, and I was lost to the emotions.

Except she wasn't.

I don't know her that well.

What I do know is that I know the Archetype that she mirrored for me in that instant.
And I know that I am in love with those Archetypes – the ideal Mother and the ideal Lover, and the Life Partner that affirms and empowers.

I know that I am actually 'in love' with 'Love' itself.

And so, having made a fool of myself, I have recovered... I think.

There's no key message today.

I don't know what to say.

I just wanted to share.

But I do know, that in that moment, that brief moment, I touched something that was right at the core of my being. A longing. A passion. A grief. And a hope.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 23 October 2016

I took my Mind for a walk.

I took my Mind for a walk
Then sat it down and had a talk
Mind, I said, stop bothering me
With all your negativity,
Look around there is so much
To do and see and feel and touch,
Sometimes Mind you can be wrong
Please try to sing a happier song,
And remember Mind you're strong and true
You're clever and smart and I love you,
So help me to stay focused today
On all the good things coming my way
And tell my heart how awesome I can be
And love and cherish all of me.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 22 October 2016

My best friend the tree.

My best friend the tree sits with me day after day. Some days he looks as though he is struggling and I will him on as I sip my tea. Some days he looks radiant and powerful and I look up to him as my mentor. He is, you may remember, half a tree. Some years ago, he lost his friend who had stood so close to him that he was only able to develop on one side. He is gnarly but elegant in his dancer's pose.
This week he has been helping me. The familiar cloak of nothingness was placed around my shoulders and I have been walking at a stoop trying to hold it up from crushing me. So I sat and looked at my friend to see if I could garner strength from him.
His Spring and Summer vibrance has faded and, although his leaves have turned into crisp and bright yellow flames, singing loudly when the sun winks her wink at them, he is losing cover and he is being stripped to the branch, exposed.
He taught me to hold fast. It will not last. It will pass. Just keep on. Hold the day and the night will follow. Surrender to the night but make it wait when light appears. Wipe your face, dry the tears. All will be ok. Ok is enough. Just when the caterpillar thought it was all over, it turned into a butterfly. Hold fast. Make tea. Eat nourishing things. Sleep with intention. Light a candle to soothe the dark. Walk outside when there is light.  Every, single, day. Keep to a routine.
He knows his stuff. And soon enough, he will dress and we will grow some more together. What would I do without him.
Love from 

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

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Friday, 21 October 2016

I am my husband's prime carer and I now have a week of respite, a time to lick wounds, sleep, and take stock.

Caring encompasses parents with children with birth defects, life threatening illness, like leukaemia, handicapped, physically or mentally. Then there are teenagers who have had horrific accidents, often with motor-bikes. Move on to strokes and heart attacks affecting those still of working age and the devil of old age, dementia/Alzheimer. And, always, as we see here on Moodscope, the long-term effects of recurrent depression. We all have common problems:

1. Finance. News today was of crisis in the UK National Health financing. It is, of course, the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever, the twin towers. How many people are still physically or psychologically suffering from it? Carers need help – cost in time and money – often, one's 'right', but no resources, no help. Currently the Paralympics focus on what CAN be done, but so much input, sacrifices by the 'carers' and huge cost of specialist equipment and transport. Carers in all categories above will have their own potential reduced, earnings and pensions. Ditto sufferers from all those categories.

2. Your own 'space'. I hate the expression, but we all need it. A brisk walk – half hour lying down with a book – even browsing in shops instead of a hurried 'raid'.

3. Spiritual – this translates to the French 'esprit', not necessarily religious. My husband now finds comfort in church, so it will be top priority. It may be singing in a choir, support groups, yoga, meditation, therapy – they all need that rare commodity – free time.

4. Motivation – my big challenge at the moment. For all the above categories it does not matter how good the carer is, or medical and nursing facilities, if the 'sufferer' will not make their own effort, there is no point in nagging them until you are in a frazzle.

Anybody out there got a 'recipe'?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Can you always accentuate the positive?

In the last decade there has been a trend to find the positive in everything no matter how distressing the situation. People who have a life threatening illness, people with disabilities, people with debilitating illnesses, people who have suffered a tragedy, people grieving, are all encouraged to remain hopeful, and see the positive.

I am interested in why there is such pressure to find the positive in one's suffering. A generation ago, when people became very ill, they received sympathy and best wishes.

Now people are bombarded with diets they should try, meditation and exercise regimes, positive ways of thinking to the extent they feel they are letting people down if they are not trying hard to be as optimistic as they can.

I recently read an article online about finding the positive things one has learned from depression.

Comments fell into three distinct categories: those who listed the things they had learnt from having depression, those who were angry that anyone would be fool enough to think there was anything the least bit positive about having depression and those who while acknowledging they may have a learnt one or two things from having depression they also felt that there was very little positive about having depression.

Probably among Moodscopers there are people who fall into three categories and maybe there are more groups.

What I would like to discuss is why it seems to me there is such pressure to be upbeat about everything. If one feels sorry because one has serious illness, one is made to feel they are being selfish.

Some people seem to be naturally optimistic but making everyone feel positive about everything to me seems a bit unnatural.

I would like  to hear what other people think.

Do you think finding the positive in everything is very helpful?

Do you think there is too much pressure on people to be optimistic?

Or are you somewhere between the two thoughts.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Drastic Action!

Oh, I loved Lex's Monday blog! I loved the multi-coloured dots and I adored his challenge to think outside the box.

I'm not very good at that. I'm very creative inside the box, but I always need that structure and security around me.

Except when I'm high. As I am right now.

So when Lex said "the length of the lines, the size of the dots, the width of the line, the 'size' of the frame - all these are negotiable," I was seized with the irresistible urge to grab an extra thick Sharpie and just draw one line through the whole lot!

There! Job done with one stroke, not four.

The trouble with this kind of drastic action is that, while the objective is certainly achieved (oh - those dots are certainly joined up now), the cost is inevitably high. In this case, no dots are visible at all. Oops.

I have suffered in the past from taking drastic action. My favourite activity seems to be decluttering. I am good at decluttering when I'm in this state. Too good, it turns out.

I threw out my children's Red Books in one such clear out. For those of you without children brought up in the UK, the Red Book contains the record of your child's weight and growth from birth and, most importantly, their official proof of inoculations. This is vital when they start school and the proofs are needed. Me? I have no idea when jabs happened: I know that they did, but I can't prove it.

Oh, I have thrown out so many things I later needed.

I have thrown out things I later realised I loved.

I have come so close to throwing out people I loved and needed.

I'm close to that now.

It has been a hard summer. The falling of the leaves and my kite-high mental state only strip the problems of their emotion and throw them into stark relief against a clear sky.

Like the kite, I long to cut loose the strings that hold me here and fly - just fly...

Have lap-top, have credit card, have spare pair of knickers and I can go anywhere; anywhere at all...

I can write anywhere, after all.

So I have to hold on to my common sense. Grab it tight and hold on hard!

This feeling is temporary. There is a crash at the other end. And, at the other end of that dark time, reality and proper emotions will be restored. Once again I will know I love and value my husband and family.

My friends in far flung places would be delighted to see me, but they would not wish me to abandon home and hearth to be with them. Buying a one-way ticket to Manila, to Munich, to Tomsk, to Phoenix, might go on the (credit) card, but is not on the cards...

So I'll write it all down here, and keep the credit card in safely in my pocket.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

What get's you through?

It's a while since I wrote. That's good - it means I've been ok! I've been living my life much as it should be - no unexpected 'Wonderlands' or unwanted 'Mirrors...'

So far I have recently had six and a half days of real contentment.

I have organised my time - targets for everyday - and rewards for achievement. It has been the best time I have had for a long time. Then I had a hiccup. I got maudlin. Ah huh - what a lovely word but what a sad sentiment. MAUDLIN.

MAUD - I imagine her in a garden. Full of glorious English country garden flowers - names long forgotten - but I can see them still, in my minds eye. Full of fragile colour, sun beating down on them, defying the heat to show their colour and form. Serried ranks of flower soldiers doing their duty in our borders. How did she feel, our Maud? Had she lost a lover or husband in a long past war, or was she a modern day miss with friends she was missing from Uni days. I feel that she was sorrowful though... sad.

LIN - a bird? a butterfly? I don't know. A sense of something ephemeral, not quite captured, fluttering above us. Happiness hovering. Warm air on the breeze. A moment in time. Life as we want it - as opposed to life as dealt it.

Maud would like me to wander 'lonely as a cloud' but Lin seeks to touch my heart and gentles me to come to terms with what brought me here.

So what did bring me here? I put my heart out there - as we all have done and committed it well and truly! And found some really good friends but not the love I was looking for. Isn't that that the way!? This time my down was unexpected - my unattainable love and I called it a day under totally affably circumstances. I feel adrift. I know it's for the best and I was a party to that decision. So I am seeking to soar high on the thermal winds above the land and above my pain.

Question - how can I make six and a half days up more? Does it matter if it is just seven days or nine days? I think just a day makes a difference. And then if I can make it one more day - why not two?

I think I need to just keep remembering what got me through those six and a half days and what will keep me going is larger than I am:

A regular routine
Daily challenges
A sense of achievement Companionship Purpose

Give me those and I think I can keep going. Take them away and I would be lost. What is it that helps you stay on the straight and narrow or lifts you out of the mire?

Alice (in Wonderland) 
A Moodscope Member

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Monday, 17 October 2016

Jack Out-of-the-Box.

Image result for nine dot puzzle

Monday is the day I focus on creativity - or 'cre8ivity' as I like to call it!

Many of us creatives believe that the metaphor of "thinking outside the box" actually comes from the famous Nine Dots exercise. In this exercise, all nine dots - equidistant on the page - can be joined with four, straight, consecutive lines.

!!!Spoiler Alert!!!

If you've never done the exercise, have a look at the top of the page and see if you can solve the 'problem' without the clues that follow.

Jack in the Box?

I think it's time for many of us to Jack in the Box we've been living in.

This might be a job.
It might be a relationship.
It might be a limiting belief.
But before we jump, let's think about 'Jack Out-of-the-Box'!

Solving the Nine Dots Puzzle requires you to extend the straight lines beyond the boundaries of the 'invisible' grid or box that the nine dots appear to represent. They are an artificial constraint for most people. The 'box' is imagined, not real. The rules and restrictions are invented. I'm sure you can see where this is going!

The key to the solution is to challenge the variables - the negotiables.

Non-negotiables are that the lines have to be straight, consecutive (i.e. pen or pencil remains in contact with the paper and there are no breaks in the lines), and there have to be four of them that join all nine dots. Just about everything else is negotiable!

This means the length of the lines, the size of the dots, the width of the line, the 'size' of the frame - all these are negotiable.

Now is the time for the deep bit...

There are very few non-negotiables in your life.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Why I'm comfortable with 0%.

When I began using Moodscope, back in 2012, I used it daily and diligently; I read the Post every day and, every day, I carefully and as honestly as I could, completed the Test. I annotated my results too. It created a sort of diary for me; a way of expressing for me my most troubled thoughts and my most vicious feelings. Reading them back, I am slightly shocked with how violent I felt then. There is no doubt in my mind, that Moodscope allowed me to a safe place to process my thoughts and off-load my terrors.

I cannot imagine I would even be here, had I not had that safety valve.

That particular crisis passed; as I have learned in my long enough life (I am 62) that most things do pass; if you can wait that long.

My need to off-load my agony reduced and I stopped taking the Test so regularly. Why did it tail off? The reasons are surprising, I think. I was shocked when my score showed anything above 50%. The highest score I achieved – 71% - was over 3 years ago. And I stopped taking the Test on that day. So high a score could not be "me". To be "me" I had to score consistently under 20%.

In these recent months, perhaps the last 18 months or so, I have occasionally done the Test. And have been approving of the result; a consistent 0%. I approve of this result; 0% is how I feel I am most of the time, inside.

To the outside world, I present a very different face; I am told I "glow with happiness"; that I have an "aura of joy"; my smile "lights up the world". People tell me I am a most nurturing and loving person, one of the most capable, consistent people they have ever met; that my "can do" approach leaves them reeling in awe. One person told me that in moving to this place, I had become one of the village's most important assets.

Which just goes to show that our private thoughts and our public personas can be poles apart.
And that both are equally valid.

So, that is how I use Moodscope, as a safety valve so my social face is on show most of the time... do you have a comfortable score?

A Moodscope member.

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

Friday, 14 October 2016

Routine Sleep.

Now that the nights are drawing in, I'm trying to get into a proper sleep routine. This has been helped by discovering a sleep function on the exercise app I use (Argus, by Azumio, premium version c£22 annually). I use it to give me some idea of how much sleep I'm actually getting and also to get into the habit of going to sleep before 11, because so much research shows that this is a good idea.

I wanted to see how a sleep routine would help my energy and mood levels. There are so many nights that I've read a book online or watched Netflix and ended up at 12 or 1 still awake and then found it difficult to drop off. As I wake up with the dawn, which got earlier and earlier as the year wore on, this meant some nights I was averaging five or six hours, which left me often feeling under par – as though I were operating with a layer of skin less.

Early indications are that it's really helping. I've felt pretty upbeat since about the third day of doing it – I feel as though I'm getting 'me' back and feel a lot more confident and motivated. I've also got more energy and am able to concentrate more.

Because I'm also keeping an eye on what I eat and drink, using MyFitnessPal (free version) and exercise on Argus linking through the Apple Health app (you can use Google Fit if you're on Android), the nights that I've woken up and been unable to sleep I'm able to see if there are any patterns with what I've eaten or drunk or done. Like Moodscope, measuring and tracking has been a great way to consistently see what the triggers are.

Sleep builds energy, increases memory and stimulates creativity. It also means our brains shrink allowing space for cerebrospinal fluid to flow into and throughout the brain, gently cleaning it of toxins, which is why we need good sleep so badly. Here's an article that I came across recently, which explains it all really well (and links to the study on cerebrospinal fluid).  It's called Sleep: The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Career, but think of it as what it can do for your health:

There's also an interesting video on the same subject:

A View From the Far Side
A Moodscope member

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

The harvest.

When I was little, I didn't understand the harvest festival at school. It meant taking in some tins to put in a box and old people would survive winter... because we had put tins in a box. Then I watched the second Nanny McPhee film and more understood the harvest festival! A celebration that the fields had been worked, the harvest was in, the hard work was done and winter could be faced. Those scenes are filmed so beautifully and I recommend the film to all those who haven't seen it. It's gentle, funny, well written and beautifully acted.

Is there a way to harvest our mood and battles?

I'm a bit of a seasonal girl and I know this time of year can be good for me but I also fear the season after. Once in a while it's good to look back and see where we have been.  In the last year, have you had downs and some ups? How did you feel this time last year as Autumn started performing for us? Can you harvest these thoughts and feelings alongside the ones that remind us Spring followed Winter?

If you are a little seasonal like me, now is the time to think over what may come and how you plan to deal with it. I'm planning on getting things more in order (I'm having clear outs and having the outside painting done!) so that I might allow myself more hibernation in the coming months. I do not mean curling into a corner wrapped in a duvet (although that is SO tempting) but more that I will be able to go easier on myself. Accept myself as productive in the three other seasons and accept I need one to hunker down within.

Try saying 'hunker' five times and see if it makes you laugh.

Love from 
The room above the garage.

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Bliss. Oh, this is bliss! The pool is empty. There is no one here but I.

I have it all to myself.

That moment: that moment standing poised on the edge, mistress of the water, before diving in? That moment is the magic.

I can be anyone and anything. The tiled walls fade away, replaced by green rushes. Chlorine becomes the sharp scent of waterweed. I am a water vole; I am Ratty. My brown head moves smoothly on the silver surface of the river, leaving a sharp V behind, a reflection of the geese skein flying above...

Ten lengths.

A turn at the end and the inland water becomes the wild Atlantic as my sleek seal's body twists in the foamy spray under clear Hebridean skies...

But my solitude has ended. People push and smack through doors, their voices an avalanche of dry and broken bones. Ratty and the Selkie shimmer and wink out. The pool water becomes choppy and unpredictable. I attempt to lose myself in its movement and sounds.

That lace shimmer, brushes on cymbals. That slap, a turquoise bolt of silk shaken out with a snap. That deep aquamarine Gollum gulp. These are the sounds which surround me.

Ten more.

So I think of those I love and hold them up to the Universe. I think of Raz with his beautiful mind, generous heart, forged iron will and ice-axe tongue. I think of the benevolent hurricane that is my son and the fragile spun crystal and rainbows girl who is still in his heart but no longer in his life. I think of the comfortable rock of my husband, the quiet intensity and spiky rebelliousness of my daughters. I think of the titanium fox Richard; quick-witted, fleet of foot, always ready to turn on the demons running, baying, at his heels.

Another ten lengths. I focus on the ache in my shoulders and back and arms; on the tingling in my fingers as they sweep through water again and again.

My current novel is set in Orkney. I think of my hero, attempting to escape his weaknesses and his past, only to find that both pursue him. I watch him while he looks for the courage he never knew he had, beyond the cowardice he always feared was his. I think of his lady, with her steadfast heart and pragmatic loyalty. I will test her soon, when he tells her everything he has done. I worry that even her generosity will not cope with his dark past. It is dark indeed. He has done some terrible things. And he has shied away from worse things; thus concluding he is a coward.


And I think of my Moodscope blog. I start to weave the words; the words you have just read. I seek and capture each one, craft it into shape, polish it and set it in place.

Ten more lengths and out.

My morning meditation.

I'm sure it keeps me sane.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The healing power of art (poetry).

I listened to the wonderful writer Jeanette Winterson being interviewed on the radio as part of the Writers Festival. She spoke about the healing quality of art, for her it was poetry for others it maybe be music, paintings, sculpture, prose, song lyrics. Jeanette felt that art in the form of poetry saved her as it got her through her depression and self -loathing, back to a place of innocence.

A tough life, Jeanette explained needs a tough language and this is what poetry and literature offers - a language that is powerful enough to say how things really are.

Great poetry (and music, art, song lyrics sculpture) can break through barriers and reveal an emotional truth in such a raw and relatable way that it reaches out to a person in pain.

Jeannette explained how when was very low she would stand at a mirror and read poetry that had meaning for her. She said she could see her face going from tense and twisted to being calm by the end of the poem.

I found that fascinating. I have never tried reading poetry in front of a mirror but I have read a favourite poem over and over in a loud voice. I did find I felt more peaceful after reading it out loud.

She found the poems cut through the noise and hurt so that the wound would open and be cleaned. Eventually the wound would need to be taught to heal itself.

A self-cleaning emotional wound, now wouldn't that be a useful tool. Teaching a wound to heal itself would take time and patience.

It would be different for every person but what a wonderful strategy if we could find a way to work out a way to heal our wounds. Jeanette Winterson found the answer through reading poetry and her writing.

I am a long way from having self-healing emotional wounds but I think it as useful thing to aim for. I find writing helps and will try to read aloud more often and read more poetry.

What do you think of what Jeanette Winterson has explained about the role of art including poetry in the healing process.?

Do you have a special poem, song, painting, book, that has healing qualities for you and what makes it so helpful?

Have you found a way to teach your wounds to be self- healing?  What plan worked for you?

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 10 October 2016

To Permit or To Forbid - that's a BIG question!

If there has been one recurring theme emerging over the last few years for me, it has been the power of giving 'permission'... to adults!

This came into sharp focus last year when "Lady Penelope" (my pet name for the lovely lady who keeps me grounded) paid me the best compliment in my life. She said, "You bring out the 'Me' in me!"

It took me a few nano-seconds to realise what she was saying. She was saying that something I was doing was giving her permission to be herself.

Lest it sound like I'm bragging, let me hasten to add that I wasn't aware of doing anything. So, sensing something exciting, I thought to myself, "this requires some thought!"

Computer says, "No!"

I knew the cause of the shift in Lady Penelope. Her marriage had been one which followed a pattern established early on in life where every time she began to shine, an aunt, a friend, or even her husband 'put her in her place'. Shining was 'boasting'. Boasting was 'bad'.

I was something else! Every time I saw a spark of personality or ingenuity, a glinting ember of creativity or of 'naughtiness' - I would gently blow on it. I gave her permission to play - to be - to experiment - and to risk failure. Her programming said, "No!" but this new guy said, "Yes!"

Since this wonderful moment, I've been watching people's behaviour and language. There is a lot of 'No' in our culture. I remember studying Accelerated Learning for my book on Accelerated Training. Colin Rose shared some research on how many 'No' imperatives the average child has in a day compared to a positive affirmation. Please understand that all the 'No' messages had a positive intent. I'll have to dig out the study again but it was something like 642 'No' moments to 17 'Yes' encouragements.

No wonder we are positively bankrupt!

If the average child, after 10 years of conscious education, ends up with an emotional bank account with 2,343,300 negative deposits and 62,050 positive inputs, it's not surprising we're all not feeling brave enough to be ourselves.

So you and I need to commit to 'giving permission'.

And this will be 'against nature' (small 'n' in the sense of really being 'against nurture') - given that we, ourselves, have been programmed to mimic all these nay-sayers.
Saying 'No' is what psychologists call an 'Empathy Blocker'. I see these killers of liberty on a daily basis - a rolling of the eyes, a 'tsk', a negative statement, a put-down.

Let's leave the putting-down to the vet as an act of mercy.

You and I can be part of the Positive Revolution - or, as I prefer, the Possibility Revolution.

Your mission, should you choose to accept such a bold challenge, is to bring out the 'Me' in others - to give them permission to be themselves - turned up to 11!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

The right tool for the job.

I subscribe to, and follow, various "positive" pages or emails online. A nice daily quote in my Inbox (Oh, I do love a good motivational quote); beautiful photos of nature and wildlife, with vivid uplifting colours; inspirational people; videos depicting kind acts of humanity; that sort of thing.

Well, the other day an article popped up which initially seemed worth a read – something along the lines of "14 things to do in 14 days to enhance your wellbeing". Wonderful, I thought, let's see what I can add to my repertoire.

But in actual fact the article left me feeling like my wellbeing had been somewhat sabotaged. It was suggesting setting aside an hour a day for one thing, 15 mins a day for another, another hour a day for something else... And on, and on, so that by the time I'd reached the end of the 14 suggestions, not only did I feel totally overwhelmed with all these things I wasn't currently doing, I felt like I needed to set my alarm for 3am just to try and fit them all in!

Don't get me wrong, the "things" suggested were all valid and worthwhile (albeit things we probably already know would help) –  doing something you love/derive great pleasure from, reading a chapter from a book, learning/trying something new, taking a short walk, reflection, affirmations... And actually it did make me stop and think that I could probably pick one or two to try and fit into my own evenings more often (certainly more than just slobbing out on the sofa watching Australian Masterchef whilst devouring a tub of BBQ pringles with sour cream & chive dip anyway. Don't judge me...)

But not all in the same day. Not even if you picked one a day, for the next designated 14 days. That still feels like an enormous amount of (counterproductive) pressure to try achieve all these things, in order to reach this alleged state of happiness.

So we need to be careful, and considered. I am, like most of you I'm sure, very open to new strategies to enhance the mood. But we need to decide whether the latest idea we're trying out is actually going to contribute to our overall wellbeing, or whether it's just going to add extra pressure or panic to what can sometimes be a very difficult day just to get through. Otherwise we run the risk of signing up to something that realistically isn't right for us; not enjoying any of the things that are supposed to "help"; and then finish with the feelings of guilt when we "fail" to complete the task. Definitely not the path to a happier self!

So go forth, my fellow Moodscopers, and fill up your emotional toolbox with whatever implement you think can be put to use on your way to wellbeing. Just be sure to pick the right tool for the right job.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 8 October 2016

Harnessing Percy.

No, I have not taken to driving a horse and trap round our French town. Although it would be fun. 'Percy' is family-speak for 'perseverance', almost another commandment for us.

Last Thursday's quote was from Gandhi 'Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will'. Leah's same day blog 'How much is too much?' is also horribly apt for my current situation - looking after my husband who has dementia.

Everything that can go wrong has done so, workmen, the house sale, grief and finances.

The grief was for a co-grandmother, who died yesterday of a massive cancer on her liver – she had not been well for years. I told my other half – it didn't make much of an impression – feelings die with Alzheimer's.

Then the radio was banging on about the working class and deprivation. My husband asked if we had suffered it? I clung to my reason. My early life was rough – his with no pot-holes.

He had a good middle-class upbringing and education. No war suffering even, his father too old, he too young, his brother in a reserved occupation. We've never suffered lack of food, roof, comfort, travel or entertainment.

My difficulty now is due to a sudden crescendo of problems. My husband is cosetted and looked after from morning to night. Illogically, as I listened to a welter of world sufferings, I resented his acceptance of all this.

So, I have to interpret Gandhi by using my brain. If I worry I'll get stressed; dangerous, so I look for rest and peace during the day. Insolubles go on to the back burner.

Gandhi's 'indomitable' will I am reckoned by friends and family to have already. But if not controlled it will be a stubborn and bloody-minded will. Nobody can do everything.

Listing priorities is vital. Avoiding confrontation wherever possible (not let a situation get out of hand, or get too tired to cope with it). So, one step/day at a time Рtrite, a clich̩ Рbut well worth studying.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 7 October 2016

How to help.

On the blog lately, someone mentioned not knowing how to help a depressed person. These ideas will not work for everyone, and are far from complete, but it's a sample of things that have helped me. Perhaps you have more and you can list them in the comments section or even put together a short list of your own in the form of a blog...

Deliver cooked food that just needs warming. This is a biggie. I don't know of anyone who doesn't find this helpful, depressed or not.

Visit, read the signs that imply your company is wanted... if you're offered a cup of tea, stay for tea. If you're not offered, ask if you can make one for them. If the answer is "No thank you", retreat and allow space. But do not stop visiting. Just make your visits regular, but very short. This builds trust.

Drop a text. Every day or every other day. It tells them they are being thought of and that they matter.

If face to face discussions are difficult, find another way to communicate. There are countless ways.

Be honest and say what you're thinking. Say that you want to help but that you need to be told how to help. One of the best things I have ever seen about helping someone with depression was a cartoon strip. It shows a depressed person being asked questions:

What is wrong with you?
I don't know.
How can I help?
I don't know.
Wait here.
(builds a nest from cushions)
Come in here, I built a nest and I'll stay with you until you feel better.

That is what we really need to hear.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 6 October 2016

How much is too much?

I like having limits.

I like having measuring cups so it takes the guess work out of cooking.

When my washing machine is full of clothes I know I can't put in anymore.

These may seem very simple things but they help me to know when enough is enough.

My problem that I have struggled with for years is of not knowing when I have done too much, taken on too much, until I am lying in an exhausted heap like a huge load of dirty washing strewn on the floor!

I wish that I had an emotional/energy/measuring cup that would let me know when my cup is full.

My strategy is I do the absolute minimum as I am afraid if I take on anything other than the absolute necessity I will become very tired and then ill.

This works for a while but I like helping others, I like joining groups, I like learning new skills, so before I know it, I have over committed myself and feel overwhelmed or exhausted or both.

When I don't get involved in my community, don't join groups or don't help friends and family I feel guilty and isolated.

I think my measuring jug would have to be personalised. We all know of people who have a mental illness and still manage to do so many things and not get sick.

I suppose knowing what we can cope with as individuals and work within those parameters.

So how do you know before you have done too much?

What are the signs you look for so you don't do too much?

How do you know when enough is enough?

A Moodscope member

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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

That Emmental Moment.

You know it's been tough for me and my family this year.

I won't bore you with details – the details are not mine to bore you with, and I wouldn't want to bring you down, but – it's not been a joyride for any of us.

At times it has felt like looking down into a great chasm. At times it has felt like there has been a great divide between my family and me.

I am not talking about the thick sheet of fogged plate glass that exists when I am in one of my depressions; I'm used to existing in that murky gloom while they continue their normal lives around me. This is more of an ideological divide.

I first became aware of it with the Brexit vote. We were split: they were all on one side, I was on the other. Passionately and completely on the other. I can never remember falling out with anyone over politics before. But it wasn't about politics: the politics was only a reflection of the way we viewed the world. I saw that my children's views were a pure reflection of my husband's views and that they all saw the world in a way utterly alien to me.

I have felt that my ideas and philosophies have been dismissed, unvalued and disregarded. I have felt myself dismissed, unvalued and disregarded.

And that pattern has been repeated in a number of areas so that I have felt more and more isolated.

But this morning my sister turned it around for me with one sentence. She said, "You're looking at the hole. But you need to look at the cheese."

And I'm going to leave it there. I am looking at my cheese, and feeling grateful that I have cheese (and that no one has, as yet, moved it). It is a good and tasty and nourishing cheese.

And there is far more cheese than holes.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The two of me.

Yes, really there are two of me!

Just every now and again I will see the other me, who I call Penelope (as I always wished my parents would have noticed at birth that I was a true Penelope, a girl who would be adored and loved by all who met her, a dazzling shiny sort of girl who could only succeed at life.)

I am called Maud named after my grandmother because that's what sometimes happened in those days; you had to carry the name of someone dear lest they were somehow forgotten!

It's not the name itself that's a problem as I'm sure there are a lot of lovely Maud's in the world, it's the picture it conjured up to me at a young age living amongst all the Isabel's  Annabel's Caroline's and Alicia's all lovely dainty rainbow coloured names. I felt Maud was like a smudge of dark brown and grey puddles. I had grown up quite ordinarily, without any great talents. Not witty like the rainbow girls, not musical, not clever not anything really. A plodder my teachers had called me. Maud who plods, Maud who has nothing to say. Maud who lives in the deepest shadows of herself.

Yet there is someone else within, there is Penelope, the one who dances on the horizon with the long auburn hair and floaty dress, who laughs a lot and is loved by all. The girl who can chat easily and enjoy her life.

There she is now just standing there behind me in the mirror putting on her lipstick over my shoulder, ready to go out and be a bright Penelope sort of person. I turn around and she, for the first time looks at me and actually seems to see me.

I am waiting for her to glance away and walk past me as usual, but instead she smiles and takes my hand and says 'come with me Maudie, come with me to the party on the horizon and we can dance in the sunlight!' I smile back and suddenly it's as if my eyes have been opened to the world.

I find myself feeling lighter and lighter as we walk away together into the bright day ahead.

We are both smiling, both staring up at the flock of brown and beige birds flying overhead, wings flapping in unison, squawks echoing into the clouds.

They disappear as I watch them fly far away into the distance until they are specks. Then they are gone.

We start twirling round and round, our floaty dresses swishing together as we dance under glistening rainbow.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 3 October 2016

Alpha and Omega.

Last night I danced barefoot under the stars - then I stood and gazed at the moon. This morning I awoke with William Butler Yeats' poem in my heart and an image of the Milky Way in my mind.

All this seems a potent reminder of the importance of the last and the first things in our lives. I know the order is usually the first and the last, but it was a great example of the last thing I did before sleep getting my first moments of the new day off to a rather wonderful and inspired start.

How do you bring your day to a close?

To stand there - barefoot - long enough to feel the dew become warm beneath my feet - was an inexpensive investment in my happiness that has paid generous dividends already. It was, perhaps, only 10 minutes at the close of the day, and worth every second.

I awoke, inspired.

I believe we do well to live a life on purpose... Thoreau spoke of those who live lives of quiet desperation. Let us, instead, lead lives of quiet deliberation.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Making Friends with Demons.

I had one of those "I feel a blog coming on!" moments while commenting recently on Mary's blog called Once Upon a Time. It was about acknowledging one's demons or dark side.

Mine has been my anger. My mother was always angry with someone, it was like she was on a loop. I always wondered "Who's in for it next?"

For as long as I can remember, I have had long lasting inner feuds with particular individuals who impose themselves on me in some way and who I am unable to avoid completely.

It has worried me that perhaps I have somehow needed to constantly be in a deep dark angry feud. I don't want to believe that. I just want those people to go away.

I'm thankfully in an ok place at the moment. I live with the feuds, and am wanting to be gentle on my self.

So how do I deal with my anger? What do I do with it without burying or fuelling it?

Mindfulness is wonderful. Remembering to stay present has rescued me many times.

Writing down all my angry thoughts and putting them away or physically getting rid of them has helped in the past too.

This ongoing feud state is still with me though. I know that to forgive and forget everything that goes on is probably much healthier. That feels a bit "should" for me. Like I'm not being true to myself.

Mary mentioned acknowledging and bridling them and it really struck a chord with me. Yes, I can acknowledge my anger, it's a valid emotion. Acknowledge it, but keep it in check.

Analogies can be really helpful. At the moment though, in the sprit of learning to love ones self, I don't want lots of dark imagery to blow my anger out of proportion. For ME it's like looking behind the curtain and discovering the little man operating the projector. The real Wizard of OZ and the machinery that magnifies a dark side, those demons, surrounded by smoke, noise and fiery fury!

At the moment I don't want a part of me to be a "dark side". It works for many and has done for me. Right now I want to take the power that has scared me, out of it.
I want to learn to love all of me, not just the nice bits.

Anger is just a natural emotion. I feel it. There's a reason why I feel it. I'm entitled to feel it. I don't have to justify it. Maybe that's what I prefer to write down. Make it concrete. Important.

If it comes up (and it will) I can acknowledge it properly, feel it and let it subside.

I've realised that my anger is actually my buddy! On my side. That makes me smile, I love that my anger is there for me!

And that is what it is, one of my human emotions, no more and no less.

In this chapter, I'm making friends with my anger.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Fly away poisoned parrot – with thanks to the moodscope community.

Remember Leah's blog about Dr Seuss? Lots of you who commented keep helpful quotes. I've often seen this suggested to help when you're low but I never quite managed to get started. Until now...

The blog and comments helped me realise what was stopping me. I was afraid it wouldn't work for me and that when I was depressed my favourite quotes would seem meaningless like everything else. So I commented on the blog asking whether quote collections really helped. I was very touched by the number of responses I got and the stuff people chose to share. Thank you all so much. (Sorry for my slow response on the day.)

So far, I've bought a pretty notebook with coral on it (I like the sea and it will be nice to see something pretty when I'm down). I've made a mind map of categories and quote ideas and I've started writing them up.

I started with 'Fly away poisoned parrot' and copied a picture of a flying parrot underneath. My counsellor gave me a worksheet in which you imagine your inner critic having no more validity than a parrot. The sheet suggests putting a blanket over the cage to shut the parrot up but I think it is more fun to tell the parrot to fly away.

Next the Bible, Zephaniah Chapter 3 Verse 17 and Joshua Chapter 1 Verse 9; the Desiderata (thanks Room Above the Garage) and the Dr Seuss big bat quote (thanks Leah) – and a big bat picture to make me laugh.

I had a couple of rubbish days earlier this week (too much work, too little sleep etc). I wrote the Desiderata into my book on one of those evenings and felt a bit better.

That's got to be worth it so thanks everyone for getting me started.

Tutti Frutti
A moodscope member

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