Thursday, 31 March 2016

Mindfulness and Mindfulness Training: The Difference.

A few people have asked about mindfulness in recent weeks – so here is this weeks mindfulness newsletter from my good friend Martin Stepek who has been practising and teaching mindfulness now for over ten years. Les, A Moodscope member.

Sometimes people confuse mindfulness and mindfulness training, and it's helpful to get the distinction right.

Mindfulness is one of the many qualities or states of mind our brain can produce. Other examples are anger, happiness, love, hatred, irritation, forgiveness. It's just not as well known as these others.

So there's nothing special about mindfulness but there is a lot that's special about what it can do for us in our daily lives.

Mindfulness is the skill or trained ability to notice what's actually going on, in a much wider and deeper sense than our usual autopilot sense of awareness.

With this particular skill of mindfulness we can avoid so many of our common poor decisions in life, which are the result of knee-jerk reactions to minor things, which we get way out of proportion.

On the positive side mindfulness allows us to see the potential for beauty or positive outlooks in everyday situations.

Thus we can avoid self-created situations and nurture moments of joy, happiness and kindness. It doesn't take a genius to work out how different that makes the quality of your day, and over time your whole life.

So mindfulness is the skill of noticing moment by moment in a much warmer, more open non judgemental way.

Mindfulness training is what is says on the tin. It trains you to be increasingly more mindful. It does this by stepping out of the busyness of everyday life and guiding us to practice noticing what actually goes on moment to moment; usually focusing on our breath because that's always present, easy to notice, and easy to return to whenever we get distracted, bored or uncomfortable.

We also focus on the mind itself and what state it's in, on how parts of our body feel, on how words and mental images can positively affect how we feel. All of this is good practice for noticing more mindfully in normal life.

Over time our ability to be mindful increases, and this improvement can continue for life so long as we keep practicing and training.

The training is commonly referred to as "mindfulness meditation". To my mind meditation is a troublesome word. Many associate it with spiritual insights such as being one with the universe or God. The Buddha, who devised the techniques we call mindfulness, said his sole task was to teach about "suffering and how to end suffering." I'd be delighted to settle for that.

Martin Stepek
martinstepek.com

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

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Eating Worms.

It was a bad weekend.

Well, no – some of it was lovely. We were together as a family. We all went to church on Sunday to hear the Easter message of hope and reconciliation. We have Tom home, which is wonderful – but he's come alone because things haven't worked out for him romantically.

Sad. But life's like that sometimes.

It was a stressful weekend as, on Wednesday, it was my youngest daughter's turn to fall off a horse and break something.  She broke her elbow. Oh, not an easy break, of course. We spent all day Thursday in hospital waiting for them to operate only for the consultant to say he was referring her to a specialist. At the time of writing we are waiting for the specialist to contact us and my poor daughter is in a temporary cast and a lot of pain.

But these things happen.

It was a stressful weekend because a dear friend thousands of miles away – a friend with whom I usually exchange texts several times a day – chose to go off grid for the weekend. This wouldn't normally be a problem except that this friend is going through a really hard time at the moment and – well – I worried. I worried a lot.

That's life too.

Such a minor thing it was which precipitated my breakdown: cooking a beautiful meal for the family on Sunday with a rib joint of beef my sister (the organic farmer) had given me. Only I'm cooking by remote control at the moment because of my broken ankle and one particular member of the family - who shall remain nameless - did not turn down the oven when and as instructed, so this very special meat had two and a half hours at a much higher temperature than planned...

I thought it was ruined and I broke down and cried. At that moment it was all too much. I wanted to run away, to hide in some dark hole. I just wanted out and away from everything. Yes – I wanted to go down to the bottom of the garden and eat worms because everything had gone wrong.

Of course, it wasn't the meat itself but the combined worry and grief over broken relationships, broken limbs, and vulnerable friends far away.

It's stressful time for all of us. As a family we are experiencing emotional and physical pain; we are coping with exhaustion and too much to do. We're irritating each other and snapping at each other. But we keep reminding ourselves that it's okay. We know we need to be a bit more patient and loving with each other while things heal. Broken limbs will heal, the pain of a lost love will fade. We will be able to rest – eventually.

And things aren't as bad as they could be. The meat was still delicious and my friend texted me on Monday with the words "still alive."

I'm grateful for that.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/eating-worms

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Professional Aunt No Kids.

Someone at work called me a name today. She had offered some personal information about herself during a meeting and in return I admitted that I have chosen not to have children. I felt the need to quickly follow this by saying "But I love being an Auntie!" – a nervous twitch I have developed to qualify this disclosure for anyone who might look back at me blankly with no idea what to say. She just smiled and said "Oh you're a PANK! Perfect Auntie No Kids".

I was intrigued. No one had ever described my situation as perfect before. Turns out it's actually Professional Aunt No Kids. It's a newish term to replace the old, sexist archetype of a dotty, spinster aunt. A PANK is a cool auntie with a demanding career who can regale her nieces and nephews with stories of her adventurous life.

It's about a successful, adult woman offering children an alternative role model to a mother at the same time as being offered an outlet for her own maternal instincts. It allows male and female children to see for themselves that a woman can live a meaningful, happy, impactful life without necessarily being a mum.

Often when I'm in the depths of despair, my status in life is my old favourite sticking point. In spite of doing a job that makes my heart sing, having a close group of friends to go on adventures with and being blessed with a close, extended family, my own ideas about societal norms can sometimes cause me to see myself as a massive, embarrassing failure. I buy into the perceived judgement of others. I tell myself there is something horribly wrong with me. Why have I never felt this urge to settle down and start a family? I must be a freak. This has sometimes even led to meticulously planning my exit.

Words are powerful things. It'll be interesting to see if the next time I get depressed, the word PANK might be there to help me out.

How do you feel the world sees you in your darkest moments? How accurate is it? And should it really matter anyway?

Anna
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/professional-aunt-no-kids

Monday, 28 March 2016

The A to Z Guide to Life – Letter P for Possibility.

I first thought of P for Positivity, but realised this is something I have had a life-long struggle with. Basically, my life is pretty amazing compared with those in poorer circumstances. I've eaten well, I've been educated, I've always had shelter even if not my own home, I've drunk a lot of wine... I had my daily bread plus treats. Food, shelter, security – pretty good things to have.

But I have never been satisfied. I am not referring to satisfying any specific material greed. I'm referring to dissatisfaction with a World that I don't think is fair and that doesn't 'work'. I have been troubled with the levels of selfishness in the World and the unspeakable expressions of unkindness. So I've always been a peaceful revolutionary.

P then, for me, is Possibility. I see possibilities everywhere... every day in just about everything. Today, I'm going to recommend "Possibility Thinking" rather than "Positive Thinking". It can achieve similar positive results but there's no need to feel positive. I can feel low, even depressed, but nevertheless perceive possibilities in a situation.

Missed the plane? Is it possible that I can catch a later one without penalty? Is it possible that I may meet someone in the lounge or on the next plane that will beneficially impact my life or I, theirs? Will the extra time in the lounge give me a chance to finally read that book I'd been promising to read? Is it possible that I could have a couple of hours peace?

Someone forgets your birthday? Is it possible that they are planning a surprise? Is it possible something else is going on in their life and that they need you to be a good friend?

Possibility thinking can be triggered with those first few words, "Is it possible...?" Setting your mind on this alternative thinking journey enables you to put a new frame around the picture you're seeing and to see it thus in new and empowering ways.

Is it possible this blog will open up a good day for you? How about a great day, it that possible?

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-a-to-z-guide-to-life-letter-p-for-possibility

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Too many choices.

It started out as an easy exercise. To replace my old bed. When I bought that bed I just ordered it over the phone without ever seeing it. I have been happy with it for over a decade.

My partner went to the local bed shop and told me later I would need to go and try out the beds.

This seemed ridiculous a bed is a bed. I mean isn't it just a choice between a hard and a soft mattress, between a double or a queen size bed. As soon as I walked in the shop I was overwhelmed by the number of beds and the wide variety. Who knew? There were memory, microfibre, European, Latex, anti-gravity, chiropractic, Eco Touch, Posture, Spine Aligner, pocket sprung, open coil, orthopaedic.

That was just the mattresses. The pillows have so many varieties too, foam,(why is it that the only thing I have that has memory is foam?) latex, gel infused memory foam, feathers, organic cotton, bamboo pillow, and there are different shapes and sizes. Both pillows and beds come in soft medium and hard and extra soft and extra hard.

When did life become so complicated? When did there become so many choices for simple items? Once bread was either sliced or unsliced brown or white bread. Now there are so many varieties they fill a whole aisle in the supermarket. Shampoo was once for dry or normal hair, now the special ingredients read like a grocery list or a chemists prescription.

Even in the world of learning to de-stress, nothing is simple. There are so many options to help us unwind, relax and to become calm. To name a few: there is mindfulness, yoga, meditation, positive thinking, breathing techniques, and so many more. There is a plethora of books, experts and music to choose from.

Television and radio used to have few channels where now there are so many both free to air and Paytv, AM, FM, digital as well as option to listen and watch online at a convenient time.

Choices have brought variety to our lives but sometimes I yearn for a simpler life and simple solutions. Am I sounding like a grumpy old woman? I do like much of what technology and choices have given me but there is a movement to go back to a simpler time even in a small way. Many young people prefer vinyl records and record players are being manufactured again. People make their own soap, their own bread, their own shampoo.

I would like you to contribute any simple ideas on any subject that makes your life easier.

So let us appreciate the little things, the simple things in life.

Leah
A Moodscope Member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/too-many-choices

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Good things come in furry packages.

Next week will mark four years since my cat moved in.

We met at the animal shelter and I can't bring myself to say that I rescued her as I am quite sure it has been the other way round.

I was utterly floored by an acute health issue this week, over and above my usual chronic issues, and found myself having to go back to bed. A situation I found deeply frustrating.

On more than one occasion I opened my eyes to see my furry friend stretched out next to me and noticed she was purring gently. I read somewhere that cats don't just purr when being fussed by their human, but they also self soothe when they are ill or in pain by purring to themselves. Despite feeling awful it made me smile to have her keeping me company and the purring made me think that she was doing her best to take care of me.

Not long after she moved in we discovered that she has long term health issues of her own, which necessitate frequent trips to the vets. As a re-homed cat no matter how often we go I still have to explain the concepts of 'home' and 'forever human' to her whenever we get back. But when we are there I am her safe person, protecting her. As I am whenever there are scary noises at home.

When I wake up in the morning she races in to see me, demanding a fuss, saying good morning. She tells me when it is time I went to bed and she rushes up to tell me she misses me when I've been out. She knows when I should take a break and demands I stop what I am doing and fuss her. Sometimes she comes and sits next to me, just because she wants my company.

She came into my life not long after things seemed at their darkest and she makes me smile, even when I don't think I want to and is always pleased to see me, no matter how I feel or how I look.

The purring might have been a giveaway this week but she looks after me every bit as much as I look after her. You see what I meant about who rescued whom?!

Lou
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/good-things-come-in-furry-packages

Friday, 25 March 2016

Saturation.

I have reached saturation point.

The spiral downwards has started to grip more and more tightly; the more I fight the fatigue and depression, the worse it gets. The more I look outside myself for ideas and fail to find the time and energy to work on them the more overwhelmed I become.

On Sunday I decided to stop, to go on strike, to allow myself to fall into the depths of despair and inactivity. I might as well accept my darkness – it's where I am going anyway.

It frightens me but I know I'll come out of it.

And repeated experience has shown me that while I'm there, I'll rediscover my own wisdom.

Sometimes I just need silence and stillness and no further input. I know when I have gone beyond my introverted limits when I can't listen to the radio or even listen to music (a great passion) any more.

So I abandoned myself to the sofa, I closed my eyes, I lay and felt the feelings, I lay and let the thoughts surface.

And as they began to surface, they began to dissipate.

After a time I was able to open my eyes again (always a sign that my flat battery has been plugged in and is beginning to charge). I was able to stare at the blank wall and listen to the rain, the children passing my house on their way to school and the traffic hurrying along the main road on the other side of the hedge.

And before long I was able to look at the tree beyond the window, its branches buffeted by the wind, brushing against the grey sky.

A rose in a pot on the windowsill caught my gaze. I have trimmed it recently, cutting back its dying leaves and unhealthy looking stems. Now it has fresh growth, the smallest of its new leaves holding my attention for longer than anything else.

I can't think of my life as a whole at this point or of what will or won't matter in twenty years time. I can only think of basic tasks; eat, drink tea, wash, find out how those I care about are getting on.

For me, there's a time for gathering and seeking, and there's a time for expressing and de-cluttering.

At the moment I am in the latter; I don't want lots of new ideas. I want to steadily, doggedly, build on what I already have, what I'm already doing. Flitting from idea to idea only adds to the clutter.

The wisdom I need is inside me but it takes time and a lot of staring into space to find it.

It is there, somewhere, if I put some trust in myself.

The Librarian
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/saturation

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Pain is inevitable – suffering is optional.

Can we believe in the above heading? How does it make us feel? Is it true?

From the moment of our birth, we're on a quest for happiness. In those first days of our lives it may take no more than mothers' milk to satisfy us, but our needs and desires multiply as we age.

For some, happiness is having a nice family, a good job, excellent health, lots of money and the love and admiration of others, but pain still strikes even under the best of circumstances. We can think of many 'rich and successful' people who have died alone and miserable.

Circumstances are particular to each individual; one marriage may fall apart, another couple could have a child with a developmental disability and as we know even recently in the UK, others may lose everything in a flood.

People differ from each other in the amount of suffering they experience over a lifetime, or the type of suffering, and pain and suffering are common threads that unite all of humanity.

Pain creates a conflict between the way things are and the way we'd like them to be and that can, depending on our response, make our lives less than satisfactory.

The problem with avoiding pain is that it's just not possible to do, and it often gets worse with our increased efforts to try. For example eating to avoid stress can cause obesity, and working obsessively to overcome low self-esteem can land folk in an early grave.

So how do we cope with the inevitable pain and avoid suffering?  Here is a formula that links the two:

Pain x resistance = suffering

It is the resistance and non-acceptance of emotional pain at times that can lead to suffering; the inability to live in the moment.  Sometimes we want to find a 'cure' for our emotional pain and instead of that cure it is 'care' that will help. Cure is what we try to do when we have some way to fix a problem; care is what we can still do when all efforts at curing have failed. It's like attending to a dying person; we let go of the struggle and tenderly join the experience of dying.

Paradoxically then, care can lead to cure.

This, I know, is a challenging concept as for some if your pain is too real and present, even physical at times.

First care for yourself, practicing self-compassion by giving the same kind of kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. Mindfulness – being in the moment, a sense of freedom, of being connected without judging or resisting will help.

When we're mindful we're less likely to want life to be other than what it is, at least for the moment.

How mindful can you be today – letting go of any resistance to minimise the suffering from any pain that you are experiencing?

Les
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/pain-is-inevitable-suffering-is-optional

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Honourable Company of Silver Miners.

"You are always so cheery and optimistic!"

"You always look on the bright side – don't you?"

"I've never met anyone quite as positive as you!"

Yes, all these remarks, and many similar, have been made to me in the past.

It's ironic then, that they are made to someone who suffers with depression. And – no – those remarks are not made when I'm flying high on the other end of the bipolar either. This is normality.

Critics call it being a Pollyanna. But I should imagine those critics have never read that excellent book by Eleanor H Porter, because Pollyanna herself goes through some dark times and also struggles to look on the bright side.

I call it being a silver miner.

We are told that every cloud has a silver lining and in my experience that is always true. Even if that lining is thin, and even if there is a lot of black cloud to get through first.

We look at divorce, bereavement, redundancy, injury, illness and cannot immediately see the positive side of it all. It actually takes acceptance of the dark cloud, almost an embracing of it, before you can start to see anything good inside.

Silver is rarely lying around on the ground, waiting to be picked up. It has to be dug for.

And it's also easy to miss.

Sometimes we are so intent on bewailing our misfortune that we allow the good stuff to slip by, unnoticed.

The kindness and generosity of family, friends and strangers, for instance.

How many times, in the abyss of grief, has a bereaved person said, "People have been so kind..."

Note; the silver never negates the cloud. The cloud is there. The series of unfortunate events has still occurred.

The difference is that you travel through the cloud. There is sun on the other side.

You can choose to hold onto the memory of the cloud, or you can choose to take the silver. You can keep the silver; it adds to your emotional wealth. If you try to keep the cloud it just makes you wet and soggy.

So, go on: sharpen up that pick-axe.

You'll be relieved to know that there is no requirement to sing "Hi Ho, Hi Ho!"

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-honourable-company-of-silver-miners

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

In the room above the garage.

Once upon a time there was a girl who did not know she had depression.

She was running free one day and smashed into an invisible thing. It was a glass wall. It hurt. She would look out at the world and wonder why there was a glass wall in front of her.  Nothing could be reached, nothing could touch her. And the wall was very cold. She would cry.

One day she walked and found a room. It was above a garage. It had a large box in the corner with buttons. The box was magical. It had life inside. And paths. It led her into the world. It showed her words she understood. She realised there was a name for the glass wall and that other people had a glass wall. Some people broke their walls and it hurt them. Some people painted their walls the same as Other People's walls and hoped Other People would not notice. Some people decorated their walls and hoped Other People would notice.

The girl visited the room above the garage every day. In that room she could be free. She met a friend in that room who stood beside her and said "Now I know you, I will never not know you". Her friend didn't have a glass wall but her friend said they could share one.

In the room above the garage, the girl spent years learning about glass walls and how they are different depending on which bit of the wall you are looking through.

One day she wrote a story about glass walls. And someone read it and found it useful. And so now the girl keeps her glass wall in the room above the garage. She doesn't know if the glass wall will be hers to keep forever but she does know that she has somewhere to belong, in the room above the garage. And that makes her smile. And it is better than ok.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/in-the-room-above-the-garage

Monday, 21 March 2016

Critical Condition.

I have lived my life in a Critical Condition.

I have criticized people's driving, others' dress sense, individual's use of grammar – you name it, if it didn't meet my expectations I would give away a piece of my mind. You can lose your mind if you keep giving others a piece of it. Being critical is most definitely a Critical Condition.

This is not to make light of a physical critical condition. I've just lost one of my dearest friends. His loss has made me reevaluate what I do with my thinking. My thinking was in a dangerous, critical state.

I would like to think of myself as 'spiritual' but not 'religious'. As such, I like spiritual teachings though not the systems that humans wrap around them. Jesus is my Hero.  He says to me, "Why do you seek to take the speck of dust out of your neighbour's eye when you've got a massive plank sticking out of your own eye?" It's pretty funny when you think about it.

That's my life story. But it's just changed. You see, I can't think of anyone who's ever been 'fit' to judge me. They all have had planks protruding from their own eyes. My hero put it even more succinctly: do not judge.

The root of the word 'Criticism' comes from the idea of being able to make distinctions and separate items. It's a good word with a good intent, but it's become corrupt. We all need to make judgments to survive and to make decisions. But we don't need to judge others.

We can judge situations as potentially dangerous – I understand that. But we don't have to judge the other people involved.

So, my assertion today is, "There is no such thing as 'constructive criticism'!"

Criticism is a Critical Condition, and I would want us all to be healed from this and out of danger.

Making this distinction (a kind of criticism of criticism) has freed me.

You're OK.

And so is everyone else.

And so am I, so I won't even criticize myself.

Best Wishes

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/critical-condition

Sunday, 20 March 2016

10 Keys to Happier Living and a Great Dream.

To celebrate this year's International Day of Happiness, Vanessa King from Action for Happiness has written today's blog which I hope you'll find interesting.

Kind regards. 
Caroline. 
The Moodscope Team.

I've asked hundreds if not thousands of people the question: "If you had to choose one thing, you ultimately want from life or hope for those you care about, what would that be?" The answer is always the same: "I want to be happy or I want them to be happy." Yet when I then ask: "What does that mean in terms of your the way you live your life, your daily actions and ways of thinking?" people are always less clear.

The good news is that psychological research into what helps us lead happier, flourishing lives has exploded in the last few years, but if it stays in ivory towers and academic journals what good is that? That's why I was excited to write a book on 'Action for Happiness' 10 Keys to Happier Living – ten areas the science shows we can take action in our day-to-day lives to help us become happier and stay that way and that can also help us cope when times are tough.

I describe the 10 Keys as the 'active ingredients' in happiness. A lot of different factors or circumstances can impact how happy we feel and not all of those are in our control. Yet there's strong psychological evidence to suggest that for wellbeing we need a sense of control. So the 10 Keys to Happier Living are the areas science suggests we are most likely to have control to take action.

Importantly it's a menu not a prescription and there's room to think how each key applies for you. We're all different, so what works for each of us varies. It will also vary at different times too. When things are going well it's good to know how we can maintain that and when we're struggling other actions can help us pull through. Give different actions a go with a spirit of experimentation  - you never really know what will work for you until you try it – you might be surprised! The Keys have already helped people around the world to make a difference - for themselves; in schools, colleges and universities; in workplaces, communities and healthcare settings.

The book is really practical. Each chapter focuses on one key with an accessible look at the science behind it, why it matters and how it works. There are questions to reflect on and, importantly, lots of evidence-based new ideas for action. Whether you read it from cover to cover or just dip in, I hope there's something for everyone.

The acronym for the 10 Keys to Happier Living is GREAT DREAM. It's my dream that the book inspires readers to take action to become happier and contribute to a happier world.

Vanessa King
Board Member and Lead Positive Phsychology Expert.
Action for Happiness.

10 Keys to Happier Living – A Practical Handbook for Happiness by Vanessa King is out now (Headline £12.99). Find out more here.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/10-keys-to-happier-living-and-a-great-dream

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Kindness of Strangers.

I have been reading Moodscope since 2012 when someone forwarded a post to me and I actually read it.

Back then I didn't record my scores. But I was reading the blog with enough regularity to be a bit miffed when Jon left. He was an excellent writer and a philosopher and his posts were tidy, with a beginning, middle and an end.

But the new bloggers were different. Their posts were open ended. I found them messy, poignant, funny, sad, beautiful, disturbing. In short, they were like my moods. My unpredictable, complicated moods.

I was just on the cusp of the most major breakdown of my life when the bloggers changed. I was recently married and had a young daughter and I had quit my career and started my own company. We bought a house.

Then I crashed. I hated being married. I felt claustrophobic. I loved my daughter but I had postpartum depression that didn't reveal itself until years later. I was feeling financial strain. Everyone around me seemed to be doing great. But I was imploding.

What the hell was wrong with me? I yelled. A lot. I threw things. A lot. My husband would hold our daughter while I raged. I couldn't believe he was more concerned about her than with my despair (so it seemed at the time). I would say awful things to him. I was convinced that no one could understand.

How can you articulate the feeling of drowning? How can you describe feeling out of your body, watching others as if they were on a different plane? I contemplated suicide. I thought about how I would do it. I would think about how my daughter would get on. I thought she would be much happier without a crazy, enraged mother who couldn't do anything except lie in a dark room for days on end.

I didn't talk to my friends for weeks. Then I couldn't believe that no one cared enough to check in on me. Now I know they were terrified and didn't know how to help.

But through it all I kept reading. I started to recognize some of the bloggers' names and I even posted a comment or two. People would respond with such love. There is something so powerful about hearing kind words from a stranger when you aren't able to hear it from your own loved ones.

It didn't matter that the bloggers were thousands of miles away. I started to feel part of something, so that when my mother in law said to me (probably for the 100th time) "You don't need to suffer like this" I was finally able to hear it. I called my doctor and got medication. I found an amazing therapist.

I never thought I would write about my experience. But this community is one of the ways I stay healthy and helped save my life. So here's to throwing it all out there!

Lexi
A Moodscope member

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-kindness-of-strangers

Friday, 18 March 2016

What's in a Word?

I don't need to tell you how important words are; why they're written, how they're written and how they're perceived. They bring us together and they set us apart in ways we cannot always conceive when we use them.

I'm saying this because a couple of years ago, a US programme arrived in the UK, the Zero Suicide Initiative; with the fantastic aim of developing fresh approaches to preventing suicide with multi-agency input (e.g. NHS, police, charities, those who had attempted suicide and the bereaved). It was championed by the Lib Dems in the previous government and led to pilot areas being set up around the country. It's doing some great things on minimal funds, but I have always found it hard to get past that word zero, which has coloured my view of the project.

To me it's saying that unlike cancer, heart disease or myriad other ways that eventually kill us all, suicide is one death that is 100% avoidable. But it isn't and it never will be, so why have such an unattainable aspiration that sets people up to fail? Why use language that still makes mental illness other, different, apart? Why add to the stigma and loss for those left behind? Because to my mind using the word zero does all of those things and I'm sure that wasn't the aim of the people who started the initiative.

So what to do about it? Well, have a grumble (I can tick that off the list). Ask that zero be replaced with something else. Or maybe I should just get over myself. After all, it is just a word, it got a huge amount of publicity for the initiative, and the extremely important point is that very committed professionals and volunteers are working together around the country to prevent suicide, improve quality of life and recovery rates. Take this wonderful group, survivors of suicide attempts in Devon, who have been given a voice thanks to a zero suicide initiative in the South West. They used it to craft a letter for anyone who is thinking of taking their own life. It's called A Letter of Hope.

Meanwhile for those who have a loved one suffering from suicidal desires and are struggling to know what to do, there are increasing online resources which you might find useful in the UK and beyond - I thought Metanoia, an Australian website, talked a lot of sense. Please post in the comments below if you know any others that you would recommend.

A View From the Far Side
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/whats-in-a-word

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Mud, mud, glorious mud.

"There's nothing quite like it for cooling the blood..." goes the song. And I agree. My feet were ankle deep in the stuff, it was under my nails from picking up the skins from the half-time oranges and I had a Harry Potter style scar splatter across my forehead, where an annoyed boy had kicked up a dollop of it at the try line. (He was lovely, he apologised and I laughed.)

I've been wrestling with my low for some weeks. It's been better this Winter than any other Winter for a long time, but still it remains to be seen whether it will grind me to a pulp or ease its grip.

In an effort to battle back and loosen its surly grip, I made myself watch my son's rugby match. I didn't have to as it was within normal school hours. But I made myself go. Partly because I like to watch, partly because I like him to know I have him and partly because I knew being outside, with like-minded people would help. We huddled in the rain. We shivered in the cold. We squelched in the mud. I kept my distance but we were still together.

I came home and realised once again I had the magic thing. Perspective. It had brought me perspective. I was grateful for warmth, grateful for dinner only needing warmed up, grateful for my walls and my roof. For a short time, the thoughts, the whirring, the nagging, the sick feeling, the iron cloak, had all slid into the waiting room and I had had a rest from it.

There is still daylight as I type. I have a good feeling it's going to be okay.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/mud-mud-glorious-mud

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Paying the Price.

I sit writing this with a tummy ache.

And it's all my own fault.

You see, yesterday we had a family celebration. There was sandwiches and cake. Delicious, soft white bread; brown granary bread with crunchy inclusions; creamy unctuous butter; crisp cucumber; sly smoked salmon; muscled beef growling with horseradish; sharply opinionated roast gammon with mustard. Oh and the cakes: lemon butterfly cakes so light they almost flew off the plate and into my mouth, decadently sensuous chocolate cake that invited my lips to seduction, an elegantly innocent Victoria sponge with an unexpected voluptuous clotted cream and jam filling...

I didn't even try to resist. Even though I know my system just doesn't like wheat these days.

And today I am feeling the effects.

I suppose it is a little like having a hangover. Except with a hangover I am usually saying, "Oh why was I so stupid? Why did I drink too much?"

Today I am saying, "Yes, I chose to eat those sandwiches and to devour those cakes. I knew full well what would happen and I chose to do it anyway."

It doesn't make the tummy hurt less, or the nausea to go away, but at least I'm not putting a two or three on the guilty card.

Maybe it's taking responsibility for my actions.

For every pleasure there is a price. Sometimes the pleasure comes first, as with the sandwiches and cake. Sometimes we choose to pay the price first, when we drag ourselves to the gym, resulting in aching muscles, or cook a healthy stir-fry when our taste-buds are telling us they'd kill for a Big Mac and Fries and – yes – they would like to go large with that.

It's easy to feel virtuous when we pay the price first. Like the child with the marshmallow Norman wrote about on Sunday, we expect a positive payback. Somehow, receiving the pleasure first doesn't seem quite right. Surely I should feel bad that I have inflicted wheat on my digestive system.

I think I would feel bad if I had expected to get away with it. But I was wise enough to have no such expectations. I knew it would hurt and I did it anyway.

Yes, every delicious mouthful was worth it. I'm still glad I chose to do it.

But I won't be doing it again any time soon.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/paying-the-price

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Why I talk to machines.

When I was a student teacher, there were two photocopiers name B1 and B2 after Bananas in Pyjamas. Well everyone favoured B1 and there was always a huge queue because B2 always caused problems. One day I was in a hurry so cautiously approached B2. I whispered (because even teachers would think that was a bit silly) to him that I had every confidence he would photocopy my papers without jamming especially when I was doing double sided, and I felt he was misunderstood. B2 rose to the occasion, my task was completed, and I never had any problems with B2 again.

I talk to my computer but I have actually shouted at it, so my computer is not always that helpful.

I have tried being patient and understanding but sometimes when I have just lost a whole email or page I tend to get a bit upset!

I have had a difficult time with printers over the years. They tend to be in my experience rather an arrogant and selfish lot. I have tried to be calm and tolerant but they insist on jamming paper or not printing what I wanted on one page preferring to spread a few sentences onto a new page!

The machine I have had the most trouble with is the laminator, no matter how hard I try to be careful one piece is always scrunched up. I have tried to bargain with laminators, beg them, bribe them, promise them anything, but to no avail. People say, trying to be helpful, that I have had the settings, too hot, too slow, that I didn't have the laminating sheets even enough and many other pieces of advice.

The laminator knows and I know that laminators want humans to be scared of them and it works so well.

There will be some people reading this blog thinking "and I thought I had problems!,"  while others will be relieved that there is another person who talks to machines.

Sometimes it is far easier to believe that it is the machine playing up than admitting it could be my impatience or ignorance.

I have found it is more useful to try to reason with a machine than get frustrated and angry.

Have you talked to any machines and was it a calming or stressful experience?

Leah 
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/why-i-talk-to-machines

Monday, 14 March 2016

The A to Z Guide to Life – Letter 'O' for 'Organic'.

Yes, dig up your spuds, then leave the dirt on them, then sell them for twice the price, labelled as, 'Organic'! Sound skeptical? Not at all. Sounds like a wise use of time (saving time unnecessarily over-washing and sorting) and boosting profit.

Huge thanks to Jo for covering 'N' for 'Nutrition' for me last week. Surprisingly, this isn't going to be a blog about Organic Food but rather a blog about Organic You!

Over processed, time-saving, convenience food is a wonderful metaphor for our modern lifestyles. We can get caught in the rat race from one meaningless meeting to another, multi-tasking as we go to make the most of our time. Hey, I've even taught such over-processed rubbish.

STOP!
Press pause.
Breath. (In and Out – very good idea.)

You are a Living Organism.
That means, by default, you are most definitely organic.
And organic organisms need rest.
They need light – natural light.
They need pure water.
They need sleep.
They need good food – natural, wholesome food.
They need good friends – good, positive, supportive friends.
They need cuddles and stroking.
They need a sense of direction.
They need help and support from the group they are in.
They need a way to structure their time so that it supports their purpose.
They need to know they are OK.
They need thanks.
They need to show thanks.
They need to honour the meaningful emotions... like grief, joy, peace and love.

You are not a robot.
Neither are you just a cog in a machine.

You have a voice.
You have a heartbeat.
You are passionate.
You need to be yourself.
You need to express yourself.
And perhaps you need to find yourself again.
You need time.
Quiet time.
To be.

So Press Pause today and realise that Organic Beings need good, wholesome, natural inputs and stimuli.

[And a bit of organic food wouldn't go amiss either... you can wash the dirty bits off!]

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/the-a-to-z-guide-to-life-letter-o-for-organic

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Who ate my marshmallow?

There is a famous experiment in which children were sat alone in a room with a marshmallow on the table before them. The task was simple. If the child left the marshmallow untouched until the experimenter returned, (after 15 minutes, although the child did not know that) they got a second marshmallow and got to eat both. If the child ate the marshmallow before the experimenter returned the experiment was concluded (although they still got the one!)

The power of the experiment came in the follow-up when there was a clear correlation between those who had held out for the second marshmallow, and success in life as defined by a range of factors. Clearly the ability to defer immediate gratification in expectation of better rewards later has a strong influence on major life decisions. Obvious parallels are income now versus education (deferment) and more income later.

I get it: I have lived it. When my schoolmates who left at 16 were in the pub spending their wages, I was in the sixth form studying and living off my parents and small part-time earnings. When they had finished their apprenticeships and on full wages, I was at University eking out a state grant (we still had them in those days) and holiday earnings.    

My latest sacrifice is alcohol. I was told that if I gave it up and allowed the pills to work I would be through into the promised land, depression would be a thing of the past. My only concern is that once I find the energy and drive to achieve my potential, I may find that the opportunities have disappeared due to age. Having gone round and round this particular course more times than the electric rabbit, it is a prize worth pursuing. It is not working out like that. I feel deprived of my one reward with as yet no significant alternative.  

I feel like the child who closed their eyes to avoid temptation and opened them to find the marshmallow gone: who ate my marshmallow?

Norman
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/who-ate-my-marshmallow

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Modern definition of insanity – to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.

The Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis who practiced obstetrics in Vienna 1840 started a change that would eventually shape medicine worldwide.

He noticed impoverished women, who were under the care of midwives, were not nearly as susceptible to fatal childbed fever as the wealthy women who were cared for by doctors.

He figured out, that this was due to the fact that the doctors were not washing their hands before examining the women.

As an experiment Ignaz, tried washing his hands before seeing patients, with the result that his patients did not contract the dreaded fever. But when he implored his colleagues to do likewise, they scoffed and laughed, paying no attention to his seemingly outrageous idea.

Finally in 1862, in a desperate attempt to make his point, he cut off one of his fingers and plunged his hand into the open belly of a corpse, only to develop the fever and die within a few days.

Yet still nothing changed. The medical hierarchy was not yet ready to change, because without any knowledge of germs, his observations made no sense. It wasn't until Louis Pasteur in the 1880s and germ theory materialised that reluctant doctors were forced to comply with new rules on cleanliness.

Organisations today are no different, as they are simply made up of people, who often choose comfort before courage to change, even if things are now proven. And to quote Brene Brown 'You can have comfort or courage, but you cannot have both."

We comfort: eat/drink/drug/seek sex/think/watch TV/play video games/internet and we even get upset when our comfortable route to work is denied us, for the sake of improving the actual road or rail we are on.

I talked last week about the importance of desire (want to) over the knowledge (what to and why to) and skill (how to) to create a healthier habit. Due to shifting from our comfort zone to somewhere less initially comfortable - desire (courage) is key.

I know for me, doing more mindfulness will help, yet up until my last depression I didn't have enough 'want to' – even although places like Harvard and Oxford have carried out endless research which proves it aids mental health and can reduce depression by up to 60%. Why would I not embrace it – except to avoid change and thus effort!

How can you find the courage to change your lifestyle to become healthier from what you 'know' will make you feel better and you have yet to embrace?

And often crucially, can you find a buddy to work with you or support you along the way?

Les
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/modern-definition-of-insanity-to-continue-to-do-the-same-thing-and-expect-a-different-result

Friday, 11 March 2016

Metaphorical Rainbow.

"As I was walking, I was thinking a lot about my psychologist's suggestion to spend some time away; thinking about how I'd put it into practice. It needed serious thought, but the idea made me feel extremely anxious. There are difficult times ahead – and difficult times right now – no matter what I do (or plan to do). Pain, of the emotional kind, is inevitable.

The weather had been fine, but then it started to rain. At first I thought of it as a nuisance, and turned around, deciding to cut my walk short as it was getting heavier. I started to get irritated, thinking I'd be soaked by the time I reached the shelter of the car if it carried on like this.

And then I looked a little ahead, and saw a vivid and beautiful rainbow. It was unusual in that one of its ends was actually in front of the trees on the other side of the river. I think I've only ever seen that once before in my life. Today, It felt symbolic; one of those moments when it seemed as if the universe was speaking to me, telling me that even in the toughest of times, there's beauty.

It felt like a sign that I should go forwards despite the rain, and there would be something beautiful – or at least positive – on the other side; it was in sight and it was in reach."

I wrote this just over a year ago. I didn't mind the rain after seeing that rainbow, and somehow, I stopped feeling so anxious about what lay ahead. I did what I needed to do; I made my plans. It was hard – really hard at times – just as I expected. But you know something? The universe was right; there was a 'rainbow' at the end of it.

Emma
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/metaphorical-rainbow

Thursday, 10 March 2016

My Inner Critic.

This is adapted from a writing exercise to interview your inner critic about one's writing. As my inner critic has an opinion all aspects of my life I decided to broaden the scope of the interview.

Me: I welcome (well I don't really) this opportunity to find out why you always need to have an opinion that is always negative about me and my life.

IC: I thought this was going to be a friendly interchange of ideas but there you go with your anger and hostile remarks. I do not see myself as negative but as helping you, because you do need help.

I am here to help you why can't you see that?

Me: So when I am trying to sleep and you tell me about all my mistakes, embarrassing moments, how does that help me?

IC: I thought while you are in bed you would have time to consider some of your past behaviours. This I feel will only help you to improve.

Me: If you are so helpful why do I feel so worthless, so sad, so ignorant when you are around? Do you really know how low I can feel when you are constantly telling me all my faults?

IC: You make yourself feel that way- I am merely pointing out the truth. It is not my problem that you are so weak.

Me: Maybe this was a bad idea you are never going to listen to me or understand me.

IC: Have you ever thought that maybe you shouldn't listen to me if I upset you so much.

Me How can I ignore you when you are so loud at times.

IC: See this is what I mean you are so weak. You have the power to ignore me, to silence me but all you do is whinge and complain.

Me: I am ending this interview. Enough is enough.

What would you say to your inner critic and what do you want to hear from your inner critic?

Leah 
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/my-inner-critic

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

In search of Perfection.

Hey – who died and made me the Agony Aunt Supreme?

Because I'm not qualified; honestly!

It may surprise you to know that I don't actually have the perfect life, so I'm totally not qualified to advise you on yours.

I know, I know – I've shocked you haven't I? Because yes – I had you totally fooled.

We all have this tendency to think that other people have got it all sorted. In fact, we seem to have a vested interest in keeping that fallacy alive.

Unless it's to read about celebrities in the tabloids, we don't want to know that other people have problems. We'd like to think that it's possible for other people to have everything just so – even if we resent them like crazy for living in and with that perfection.

When I read of women who bring up well-adjusted families while writing a series of best-selling novels, I think "How Does She Do it?" and when that same woman blogs honestly that she did it only because she never does any housework and her home resembles a toxic waste site, I feel cheated. She wasn't supposed to be like me, with guinea-pig bedding trailed up the stairs and the bed sheets not changed for a month. She wasn't supposed to have an ironing basket where the lower levels contain the fossilised remains of small velociraptors, and grease on her kitchen surfaces likely create a hazard to wildlife if dumped in the North Sea.

And then there's that well-adjusted family. Because her daughters would never stand at either end of the landing screaming at each other, would they? Her husband doesn't need a garden shed in which to hide away.

I bet she never snaps at her children and yells at them to leave her alone for just five (deleted) minutes!

And – you know what? I bet she does.

I bet she's just like me.

So when a day like yesterday happens and I get three emotional phone calls from friends wanting support and advice, such that I get no writing done and end up snapping at my family and in tears on the phone to my own therapist, I'm going to take comfort in the fact that actually, it's pretty much the same for everyone.

Nobody's perfect and nobody has the perfect life.

And – I owe my husband and children a huge apology for being so grumpy yesterday.

And the day before.

And the day before that...

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/in-search-of-perfection

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Happy Songs.

Room Above The Garage recently blogged that Little Boxes by Pete Seeger never fails to make her smile. I just did my moodscope test whilst listening to the radio. The song playing was Lovin' Things by Marmalade. And suddenly my score was rocketing because the song made me happy.
 
I don't mean 'sublime' music such as Schubert's String Quintet in C, which always reminds me of my much-missed father;
or 'classy' music like Nina Simone singing I Put a Spell On You;
or 'take your breath away' music like Alison Moyet's version of Love Letters;
or the 'leap around the kitchen' energy of The Damned's Love Song;
I mean proper make you grin, uplifting music. My mood was instantly sunnier.

I don't know whether it's the jangly guitars, the harmonies, the rhythm or the sentiment. All I know is that I wanted more of it. So I bought the song (all of 79p) and have resolved to listen to it each morning, for so long as it makes me feel great. (http://bit.ly/1OXs1xL)

A colleague told me that every morning, before starting work, he would take a couple of minutes to listen to that famous 1991 test match commentary when Johnners got the giggles at Aggers' remark "He just didn't quite get his leg over". That laughter would set Mike up for each day.
(http://bit.ly/1efsAJ4)

Have you got a 'Start The Day' brimming with happiness soundtrack that might help others to get going each day?

Susannah
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/happy-songs

Monday, 7 March 2016

'N' for Nutrition!

Everything in moderation...

I remember as a student trying to save money by spending less on food. After becoming very ill I soon realised that my health was suffering... that I may not have been financially overdrawn, but emotionally I was bankrupt. I had no reserves... nothing left in the tank. Physically my strength had been compromised, as had my emotional resilience.

To keep ourselves in mental and physical good health we need a healthy balance - 5 a day at least to keep our body and mind well fed. We know this fact, alongside the knowledge that certain foods are mood lifters (such as fresh fruit, fresh vegetables etc). But do we always help ourselves by eating these types of foods? Or do we comfort eat?

The close link between food and mood is now more clearly understood. It's a habit we need to break and I can attest to its truth. By buying fresh fruit, vegetables and ensuring a balanced diet, I have been able to lift my mood and general well-being. My body feels better and in turn so does my mind. It wasn't easy at first as my body craved sugar. However, persistence paid off and as I started to feel better I became more motivated to continue. My 'lows' are less extreme and my skin looks better. I feel and hopefully look, younger.

So here I am on Mother's Day... sitting in bed with my cup of tea and a lovely bacon sarnie, courtesy of my three wonderful young children.

Today, the balance doesn't matter. It is a treat! It doesn't matter what it looks like, or even what it tastes like (it was yummy!), it's the thought that counts. My heart feels fulfilled and my emotional tank is topped up!

I can go back to blending my home-made, full of goodness smoothie tomorrow!

So 'everything in moderation' is so true; feed your body, your mind and your soul. Go out and grab some strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, watercress, carrots, broccoli, avocados and much more...

... and enjoy feeling great with the odd treat too!

Jo 
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/n-for-nutrition

Sunday, 6 March 2016

My therapy journey – chapter one.

Hi. I'm Debs and I'm a perfectionist. It's my lifetime struggle. The problem is there is no perfect so I am constantly held hostage to my own high ideals.

The reason I say this is because I was writing for Moodscope for most of last year and feeling good about it. Really good. But then I stopped. I went downhill mentally and the creativity dried up. The perfect idea eluded me. And then I realised what a perfectionist I am and how much it holds me back. What kind of life to be constantly striving for an elusive 100% that can't be reached?

So I asked myself what I would do if I wasn't waiting for the perfect idea? What if I could just write? Surely I could just write? What if I just write about me and what I am going through? So that's what I've decided to do. I am going to write about my journey in therapy. And hopefully some of it will resonate, be of help, or prompt a thought or two. My perfectionist mind is already telling me that I should have started this a year ago when I first went into therapy but I'm ignoring it and doing it anyway! (breakthrough number one!)

Last week my therapist said that I have a problem making mistakes. I'm terrified of them. I need to be 100% certain of my decisions before I make them, and then if I perceive a 'mistake' I drop the project, move on, start something else and the cycle repeats itself again. I sabotage myself in every aspect of my life. I'll reframe that: DID sabotage myself. With men: every man I met I'd be assessing to check if he was 'Mr Right' and as soon as I found something wrong I'd run. With my house: I moved in and then started finding things wrong with it. Even with my son: I picked the wrong father, I'd made a mistake and this time I couldn't take it back.

A lot of people with depression are perfectionists. It probably comes from the view that we're not good enough so we're striving to be the best. But in that path lies misery and more depression. I get this now. And I've decided to be good enough. To live in a house that's good enough. Be a good enough mum. Make good enough decisions. Or wrong decisions. Who cares. And I'm open to meeting a man that's good enough. And just maybe falling in love with his imperfections and he with mine... And maybe I'll find that being good enough is just perfect after all.

What about you? Where could you make some mistakes and live with the consequences? Where can you be good enough and love yourself for it?

Debs xxx
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/my-therapy-journey-chapter-one

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Big Spender.

I kept looking at my first credit card bill hoping that the 4 figures would disappear if I looked long enough. In the foetal position I started to cry and I could not stop.

Was it only a few weeks ago I was spending money and having so much fun? My family used to call me mean with money but now after a manic episode I was in a lot of debt.

When I was busy buying I gave no thought to how I would pay for everything. I felt so exhilarated, so wonderful so powerful when I was spending money that it was all about the feeling not what I was buying. I really had not much to show for it.

I would go to expensive boutiques and put designer clothes on layby (remember layby, putting a deposit on an item and then paying it off over a few months) but I would never pay them off as I was too ashamed when I was depressed to go back to the shops.

Amidst my tears I decided to never use my card again and to try to pay off my debt when I could from my part time job, as I was a student.

The plan worked until about 6 weeks later when I was high again and I found where a friend had hidden my card. The mania made me forget my plan not to use the card, to restrict my spending but it seduced me to spending more and more.

After many years, I cut my card up, because a relative offered to pay off my debts if I destroyed my card. This worked for a while, but I still put things on layby.

I did not stop the excessive spending until I admitted I had bipolar and received help.

It was not easy because I had friends and family questioning my every purchase making me feel like a child. I knew my family were just trying to help but it made me want to rebel.

Things that helped: getting better through medication, exercise, supportive friends, having no credit cards, only using eBay /online stores when accompanied by a responsible adult, paying cash, and being honest about how much I was spending by writing every purchase down.

This was my story and everyone is different. When I sought help, started being honest with myself and others, stopped feeling ashamed and tried to minimise the damage, it made me feel more in control.

Some people spend more when they are depressed, some when they are high. Can you share your experiences and what worked for you?


Leah 
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/big-spender

Friday, 4 March 2016

And you took my hand.

You may remember I wrote when my trainer (who became a friend), who had pulled me up and who had been helping to keep me well, embarked on a new venture in another country. I was more than a little sad, I was daunted and apprehensive.

I'm a slow burn. It had taken me years to unfurl in the spot where I had climbed and so I stayed sitting where I was...for 7 months. And then I was ready. I researched again. I took opinions again. I listened to my gut again. Last month I began again. Strength training. It is as much about growing my mental strength as my physical and I'm delighted that, with the right person, they go hand in hand.

I knew building a new relationship would be hard for me. The new venue would be hard. Pushing myself out the door, and in the door, would be hard. There were big boots to fill...

I've just completed my 6th session. I like him very much. He's very similar to what I've been used to, someone instinctive who doesn't push with exuberance but who pushes with precision. Someone who is on my team not just leading the team. Someone who is passionate about my path not just showing me his.

I feel safe. I feel challenged. I feel this is going to be good.

When he offered me his hand today, to steady me through a strength balance, it meant the world. Not in any way other than for me to feel grateful I have found a new friend to walk with for a while. Somebody new who knows my story and wants to help anyway. Accepting that hand showed me I trusted him, not something I do often.

I'm lucky. And I'm back. It was possible after all.

"It always feels impossible until it's done", Nelson Mandela.

Love from 
The room above the garage.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/and-you-took-my-hand

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Do you WANT TO... really?

"Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs."  Vaclav Havel

If I were to ask any of you now – ‘How can you improve your own life?’ I’m sure you could immediately write a number of things down, that are immediately under your control.

Let’s turn those thoughts into written words and align with Havel’s quote that action is the key.

In fact why not do that – take five minutes to write down what you could do for yourself, to improve your health and wellbeing to create a sustainable habit.

This of course could be physical (PQ – to Live), or mental (IQ – to Learn), or emotional (EQ – to Love) or spiritual (SQ – to leave a Legacy) or a mix, see what falls out for you?

I’m hesitant to write examples down as it needs to come from inside you – how YOU feel? Please do it before reading on, unless you are struggling.

If some of you are however ‘lost’ in thought, as I can be on certain days, examples could be simply calling a friend (EQ)/going for a walk (PQ)/practicing mindfulness (SQ)/learning or reading (IQ).

My question would then be 'why don’t you just do it?'

If as Havel states we not only have to ‘see’ the stairs but also ‘climb’ them, and you KNOW these actions will make you feel better about yourself, why are we not doing them already?

You may now be doing what I call DJE (defend, justifying and explaining), even to yourself! why you have not done these actions. Too busy, too wet, too tired et al.

One of the foundational slides I have used for years is the excellent Stephen Covey concept of what creates a habit, which I have added to.



Is there any one of the three foundations (Knowledge, Skill & Desire) more important than the others? The answer eventually will always be ‘desire’, the EQ.

So while we see the ‘steps’ to achieve a better health and wellbeing (what to and why to) and know how to climb them (how to) THE key is the ‘want to’.

Now, looking at your list of things you know will improve you and having the skill to do that – will you do it?

This is why diet books, exercise DVDs and self-help books sell more than anything else – we mostly already know what we need to do – we simply need the motivation. (Hence why over 80% of New Year resolutions fail.) The motivation cannot be ‘out there’, it must be ‘in here’ with ourselves.

What are you going to do now?

There is no easy route to anywhere worth going.

Les
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/do-you-want-to-really

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

I am Titanium.

Our lovely Lex issued me with a challenge the other day. "Whatever happens to you," he said, "use it to make good art." He was channelling Neil Gaiman at the time, and very appropriately too.

So you are all going to hear rather a lot about this broken ankle. Sorry!

I won't go into gory detail, but it was a bad break and I spent ninety minutes on an operating table while it was pinned back together with titanium rods and screws.

The bad news is, once it's healed, I still won't be able to leap high buildings in one mighty bound.

But the ankle will be stronger.

And I too will be stronger.

I'm determined to make this time as profitable as possible for everyone.

For a start I can write more. I can finish the first three novels of my series and start the fourth one. I can attend to real life and Facebook friendships, deepening them. I can learn a foreign language (Spanish, in case I have another accident in Tenerife!). I can start training my daughters to cook and clean and iron instead of doing it all for them (they'll be grateful later on). And I can spend more time with my husband. We both rather like that.

I always say that when life hands you lemons then reach for the gin and tonic!

But does going through depression also make us stronger?

I have never been able to use the down time with depression profitably as I can with the ankle. Although I can continue (just about) to write these blogs, my creative writing stutters to a shambling halt. There is no teaching anyone to do anything when you are just a shaking lump on the sofa. Even if I am physically in the same room as my husband I am not really keeping him company.

But yes, I believe it does make me stronger. Or at least more resilient. It deepens my wisdom and compassion – if I let it.

But just as with my ankle, I cannot afford self-pity.

Having a broken ankle is horrid. So too is having depression. And while it's much easier to be positive with the ankle, I choose also to be positive with the depression (even if that's almost impossible while in the grip of darkness).

Unlike the visible results of this time off my feet (a completed novel, a new language, new skills for my children), I cannot immediately see the positive results of my depression. I can only hope that they are there and then gradually perceive them over the next years and decades.

I think this is where Lex's Hope (see blog January 25th) comes in. It's the sure and certain expectation that something positive will come of these times.

Yes, I will be stronger. One day I will (metaphorically at least) leap tall buildings in one mighty bound.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/i-am-titanium

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Navigating Grief with Moodscope.

It's six years this March since my much-loved husband died of suicide, after a long and brave fight against severe mental illness. It's five years since someone who'd also lost a loved one to suicide, recommended Moodscope. A recent blog by Mary on that topic made me want to start sharing my thoughts and experiences from my perspective when my husband was alive and also since he died. In this first blog though, I wanted to write about how Moodscope helped me through my grief.

I remember taking the test for the first time the day of my husband's inquest and how it dropped from 40% to 21% the day after, as the adrenaline rush that had got me through disappeared. Looking back over that first year of Moodscope, I can see how I tracked up and down like a yo-yo from a low of 20 to a high of 100.

It wasn't that I did the score every day, as is recommended, but when I did and wrote something down, it was incredibly helpful just being able to put that thought somewhere so I could carry on with my day. I would also discuss it with my counsellor. It wasn't until 2.5 years after his death that the grief started to even out and my own peaks and dips took over, which were rarely as deep or, thankfully, as high (the day I got 100% I thought, Oh No, the only way is down).

These days I rarely do the test, but I love reading the daily emails and several Thoughts for the Day have made it onto my study wall. In the early days when Jon was doing it alone, I used to wonder how he could consistently write such prescient and interesting blogs and how he could be replaced. Bringing in a variety of writers has been a genius idea though. You all bring such different talents and ways of seeing mental illness that has enriched this website immeasurably. Thank you.

So how has Moodscope helped you?

A View From the Far Side
A Moodscope member.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/navigating-grief-with-moodscope