Friday, 31 March 2017

Comfort foods and healthy habits.

What foods, smells or sights make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?

A year or so ago I embarked on CBT as a prelude to psychotherapy. Although we (the psychotherapist and myself) decided it wasn't necessary to proceed, the CBT included thinking about comforting things that would bring me a soothing sense of peace when troubling thoughts arise.

For me there is something deeply satisfying about making my own carrot and lentil soup. Whether it's the speed of creating something wholesome quickly or the simple routine of chopping onions, peeling carrots and adding a touch of ground cumin and coriander, and on the best days my own chicken stock, this stands for winter meals eaten in the warmth of home. It's something I have been cooking for over twenty years and I find it profoundly comforting. The same can be said for the simple process of making porridge.

Maybe it reminds me of what my Mum made when I was a small child?

Smells and sights can be evocative too - both good and bad. Today I posted a photo on Facebook of a clump of mini daffodils espied on my morning dog walk, a delightful sight for sore eyes after a long winter and some very wet days.

Of course, routines and habits can be negative too. My need for a cup of tea and bite of chocolate at 4pm is not so great for the waistline. Our thinking is also habit forming and sometimes a challenge to break out of.

So my challenge to you is to think of some things which bring you peace and to see if this is a helpful distraction when you are finding life tough.

From my kitchen.

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Jigsaw of Me.

I haven't blogged for a while. But you knew that already... There's no hiding it! You know it, I know it; we both know it. It's in the air, lurking like a vague whiff of leftover dinner. There's nothing wrong with it of course... except that there's something I'm committed to that I'm not doing. I'm committed to contributing to anyone – including myself - facing mental health issues. And that's the problem. I say it in my head, I say to people around me, and then I don't do it. And in that moment I lose a piece of me.

I think it was Gandhi (but it might be the Dalai Lama?!) who said that happiness comes when your thoughts, your words and your actions are aligned. For me, that's certainly when I experience inner peace. Mostly I don't experience this because I think something... then I might say it to myself (or if I'm feeling brave, I'll say it out loud to another human being, or the cat), and then I don't do it. I stop and find a reason why not, or give up, or convince myself it doesn't matter.

And then my thoughts start turning on me: 'What on earth did you say that for you idiot! You're never going to do that! See, you said it and you've already given up; you always do this, you're rubbish!' And then who I am for myself is someone who doesn't matter. It doesn't matter = I don't matter. And I'm right. I've proven it.

Sometimes if I'm feeling really brave (inspired, clear, calm, motivated, happy – insert other positive feelings that I take as a sign its safe to act) then I'll do the thing I said I would. I'll think a thought about going to the gym, I'll tell myself (or the cat) I'm going to the gym, and then I'll get in the car and go. And boy do I feel good after that!! I'm peaceful and calm and happy and proud (and aching!) All the Moodscope boxes get high scores. A little piece of me is restored.

At the moment I'm restoring the pieces one by one; without waiting to feel the 'right' thing. I've written this and the writer piece is restored; the contributor to mental health issues is restored. I go to the gym and the healthy piece of me is restored. I speak my mind and the confident piece of me is restored. Piece by piece; day-by-day, I'm building me. And so what if a few pieces have rough edges that don't quite fit?! Or if some bits are down the back of the sofa... I'll find them. And, even if I don't, I'm still me. Perfectly imperfect, well-loved, and much happier when I live outside of the box.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Minimally Happier.

"If the two of you intend to catch a train," said the leader of the marriage preparation course my soon-to-be husband and I took many years ago, "Then one of you will arrive in time to catch the earlier train." He looked around the couples, noting the smug expressions on half the faces. "The other," he continued, "Prefers to give the train a sporting chance."

This has proved to be true in my own marriage. My husband is congenitally early for everything; I am on time – or at least, in time – most of the time. The train rarely gets away.

Tidiness is a similar matter. I love to be tidy. I should adore to be a minimalist. But – I am a hoarder. My hobby is papercraft and, like most crafters, I will confess to having a "stash" far bigger than I could use up in three lifetimes. And yes – of course - I am always buying more! I can tidy up, but within twenty-four hours or less, my study looks as if a hurricane has visited.

Not so the rest of my family. When I was a child my regular punishment was being told to, "Go and tidy your room." With my girls, it would be "Go and untidy your room!" We have a family joke that the bedroom of my eldest is so immaculate it could belong to a potential psychopath. My daughter, who considers "Assassin" to be a perfectly valid career choice, merely smiles like a shark whenever this is mentioned. It is she who said to me, "I know you can get therapy for OCD, but – honestly – why would you want to?" (With apologies to those of you who do suffer with OCD.)

Untidiness and clutter not only offends her, it distresses her. Last Saturday she snapped. "This kitchen is disgusting!" She announced. "It's cluttered, untidy and impossible to clean. I want to do something about it!"

I looked around; she had a point. So, as a loving mother I set to work with her to declutter, reorganise and clean.

Out went the sad begonia on the window sill. Out went the old-fashioned scales with weights I had bought on a whim and never used. Out went the cheap (and unscented) scented candles. We cleared the paper mountain on the side. We culled the mug collection. Everything that could be put away was put away. Then we deep-cleaned the whole room.

The feeling of pride, pleasure and satisfaction was enormous.

"Now," said my daughter, fixing me with a gimlet eye, "We keep it this way!"

And, do you know, this time, we have.

We have rules. All paperwork is to be dealt with each day. All washing up is to be done after every meal. All surfaces are to be clear before bedtime.

Rules and regulations are solace to my daughter's soul, and I enjoy my clean and tidy kitchen.

One room down, several more to go.

We'll leave my study to last.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Just a bit of fluff?

At the weekend, I like to get up early. Take time, eat breakfast, stare into space.

Listening to music is essential, and reading for a bit is good, then by 8am I can start work on my novel.

I've been writing it for fifteen years, in different homes and different places, and I've had to change from longhand (Staedtler Noris pencil – sharp, with a rubber on the end – and an abundance of scrap paper) to typing because of disability and, no surprises, RSI.

But there's always been one constant companion; a pot of tea.

It has to be poured into a cup that sits on a saucer – though the pattern has changed, as has the use/absence of milk – and, as bonus, I can have something nice to eat, but it has to be on a plate that matches the cup and saucer.

When I am low, my state of mind can affect my ability to write, to immerse myself in the world I've created, to get in touch with the characters I love and my rituals have no effect.

One morning, I found myself thinking of something my niece had said when she was about four and I'd taken her to see the ballet version of The Snowman.

She looked at the snowman on stage and said "It's just a bit of fluff!"

The morning I thought of it, it felt as if my writing rituals were exactly that – just a bit of fluff – and that they only worked when I was feeling happy and writing well.

That I only deserved them when that was the case.

If I was feeling low and failing to write, I didn't deserve anything good at all. And I fear that if I carry out the rituals when I am in that state, they will become associated with the low patch and it will mean they lose their power when I am happy.

And it's not just on writing mornings I'm like that.

I can't work out which comes first – the self-punishment or the feeling low, the superstition or the association – but they seem to go hand in hand.

I've tried to think of a recovery toolkit – pleasures disappear from my mind when the bleakness sets in – and I've got a long way to go with it.

I am working on trying to be kinder to myself but sometimes I can't remember what kindness is.

What rituals help you?

In what ways are you kind to yourself?

What do you have in your 'Toolkit for Bleak Days'?

The Librarian
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 27 March 2017

The Perils of Plank-Eye, The Pirate.

I'm really good, really good, at spotting smelling mistooks - sorry, spelling mistakes, in other people's work.

Yesterday, someone found a mistake in my work I was doing for free for them - a mistake they could have easily sorted themselves. I was miffed!

However, I've learned that every experience holds a lesson if you're open-minded enough to learn it.

My lesson was to re-visit some 2000 year old wisdom:

Why do you look at the speck of dust in your friend's eye when there's a plank of wood sticking out of your own eye?

First, deal with the plank, then you'll be able to see clearly to help your mate. [That's a rather 'free' translation of Matthew chapter 7 verses 3 to 5.]

What did I learn? I learned this:

Whenever I find something lacking in somebody else - whether that's their spelling, or worse still, their character, it's an opportunity to check to see if I've become Plank-Eye, the Pirate!

Carl Jung dug into this territory too with his wonderful understanding of the Shadow. To simplify the thought: what we cannot tolerate in others is often an aspect of ourselves that we haven't come to terms with!

In the end, it comes down to this: it's best not to judge others. When tempted to, do a self-check first! And, if you do find something you can fix without pointing out someone else's shortcomings, fix it!

Finally, if you do have to point something out - be nice - knowing that there for the grace of God go you... and you probably will!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Altered sensations.

I was reminded today of how much our senses overlap...

We tend to think of each of our senses as having mainly one purpose, yet how many of us look but don't see; listen but don't hear; touch but never feel? As I sat under a large laurel with the snow gently coming down I began playing with words to try and find a connection between nature and its multiple dimensions.

So as I opened my own heart I became aware that as the snowdrop fell on my cheek it became more than just a melting snow flake – it had real energy to it. For the short time it was with me it moved between landing as gently as a feather, through the wet of its melting state and onto the movement of it slipping down my cheek. Then I began to feel the warmth my clothes afforded my body even as my face became colder to the crisp morning air. There was a Robin sheltering just behind me and together we silently listened. The leaves around us began to droop under the weight of the snow and sighed gently as it slipped from them to the ground beneath. I became fascinated by what was unfolding before me and with that in mind wanted to try and share with you my thoughts on just how multifaceted the world we live in is.

I hope you enjoy a little journey through altered sensations…. ('enjoy the grass; watch it play' may seem a little bit of a stretch haha.)

Feel Nature Calling

Taste the rain upon your face
Smell the wind its sweet embrace
See the scent of webs of lace
And hear nature calling

Feel the cacophony of birds up high
Smell the trees and watch them sigh
Consider the rabbits in sun they lie
And hear nature calling

Embrace the trees and all they say
Listen to bulrush gently sway
Enjoy the grass; watch it play
And hear nature calling

Hold onto sand as it drifts
Engage the shadows as they slip
Dance with nothing as it sits
And hear nature calling

Quench the pain of hungered love
Grasp the kiss of one black dove
Play the dance of one last move
And hear nature calling

Caress the sun and all its rays
In your own adoring gaze
Feel the ice through the blaze
And hear nature calling

Drink the sounds of oceans deep
Watch the dance of restful sleep
Time to feast and drink in deep
The sound of nature calling

With very best wishes

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 25 March 2017

An interview with myself.

It feels like there are 2 people in my head. One is confident, courageous and positive, the other is conservative, cautious and anxious. Most of the time they co-exist peacefully, but when I am under stress they fight. Their battles go on for days and weeks, as long as the stress persists. But I am determined and the confident one suppresses the worried and anxious one, not letting her speak, pushing away her comments forcing her to be quiet. This needs to happen so I can continue to move forward and progress to do the things I need to do. But then when I am asleep, I start sleep talking, repeating the same phrases over and over, sometimes to shout out - shouting is something I am too quiet to do when awake.

I asked a psychologist about it. He said it is quite common for people to feel this way, and many people have a chattering conversation in their heads, that the sleep talking was the repressed person not being able to get a voice in the day, emerging from the sub- conscious at night.

I was tired and worn out with it all. He gave a simple exercise to do. To put 2 chairs (e.g. Kitchen chairs) opposite facing each other. Sit in one and ask a question. Then move to the other facing chair (it doesn't work if you don't move) and answer your question. Moving forward back and forth, interviewing yourself. At most I can manage about ten minutes. But it really clears my mind. Everyone has a chance to speak, all are listened to, and the tension in my stomach released.

It helped me, what do you do to find peace?

The woman whose feet don't touch the ground.
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Do you seek approval?

Recently a friend told me about her relationships with her adult children who are in their 40s and 50s. After bringing up her children she went back to study and through a lot of hard work she obtained her MA then a PHD and also about 4 post graduate diplomas. This woman also teaches at universities, teaches writing workshops all over the state and helps other people to edit their books. I was surprised to hear that her own children are not impressed by what she has achieved or interested in what she does. She says she does not want their approval but it would be encouraging to have their support.

I was surprised to find when I googled to find information about adult children who disapprove of their parents or make their parents feel that everything the parents do is worthless and uninteresting. All the articles were about how parents should give unconditional approval and how children can spend their wholes lives trying to seek parents approval.

I agree it is so important to support and encourage children but when children become adults it would be helpful if they showed an interest in their parents' achievements. Several parents have told me how they have felt their children have never felt proud of them and they feel they have disappointed their child/children in some way.

"You will never gain anyone's approval by begging for it. When you stand confident in your own worth, respect follows." Mandy Hale

My friend is very confident about her own worth, but respect from her children does not follow. Nor does she beg but she would like respect.

All relationships are complex.

Do you find with adult children or other people, work colleagues, relatives that your life does not seem to interest them and your achievements of little concern to them?

Is that ok or do you continually seek their approval?

Or do you cope in other ways?

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Solution searching.

When my paranoia really takes hold it's difficult for me to see what's real unless I have 100 per cent proof to the contrary! This can be exhausting for my friends. It also feels confusing for me as I've always had very good intuition. Therefore I have to try to solve the mystery of what is true, as my intuition has proved right many times, and what is not, as my paranoia has been proved wrong many times!

I've spent the last 4 years 'working' on my paranoia in addition to my anxiety, bouts of depression and extreme sensitivity. I'm often led to believe that being too sensitive is a fault of mine.

Now I've begun to wonder if not thinking altogether is the solution. To just try and focus on the here and now at every opportunity. To try not to hide behind endless work and study and general busyness.

Or is there ultimately not a solution? Do I just need to accept the way I am and maybe even feel proud? This is the first time I've publicly admitted to having paranoia. I've never had a diagnosis.

Do you feel proud of who you are? Or like me do you continue to try and find 'solutions?'

Jane SG
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

We have Normality. I Repeat, We Have Normality.

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here:]

Aficionados of Douglas Adams will recognise this quotation from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are rescued from certain death in space by the Starship Heart of Gold, operated by the Infinite Improbability Drive.*

Our heroes experience some pretty weird stuff, before the ship restores a probability factor of 1:1 – normality.

"We have normality," says Trillian. "I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem."

I've had a few weeks of "normality" now, but today? Irritable, hostile and agitated.

Normally, when the children say, "Mummy, why are you so sad/tired/angry/grumpy?"  I have to say, "I don't know, darlings. It's just part of the cycle. It's not your fault: it's not anyone's fault – it just is."

But not today. Today I know exactly why.

No – I'm not going to bore you with too much information. Anyone who has a family will know that things don't always run smoothly. There are times when I feel like Prometheus, chained to a rock, while ravens eat my insides (and yes, I know it was an eagle in the original). Every night I heal, and every day it starts all over again. I love my family, I do. But no family is easy.

Just because you are not depressed doesn't mean everything is sunshine and roses.

Sometimes it seems harder. Suddenly there are no more excuses. If this new medication works long term, then I have no reason at all not to succeed long term. And success is important to me.

I want to be a successful business woman, a successful writer, a successful mother. The bipolar cycle that has bound me in barbed chains for so long has been lifted; I am free!

And it's frightening.

There are all the "normal" feelings of inadequacy, fear, self-doubt. But these are only the same feelings everyone has. It's time to pull up my big girl panties and face them. And I'm wondering how much of an excuse I have made my bipolar for not facing them before.

This feels like entering unfamiliar territory. While the ground was trembling beneath my feet, the only thing that mattered was staying upright and making some form of progress, or at least crawling forward. Or sometimes, just holding on; clinging to the side of the crevasse.

Now the earth is stable. There is nothing to impede my progress, except the perfectly ordinary slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

There are two things I need. I need stamina to just keep going, putting one foot in front of the other. And I need a way of reinforcing those big girl panties so they act as armour against that outrageous fortune.

Hmmm – why is there suddenly a picture in my head of a fantasy heroine scantily clad in bikini leather armour?

Is this me? I don't think I ever had the figure for that kind of thing.

But oh, if only!

A Moodscope member.

*For explanation of this, see

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Tuesday, 21 March 2017


I am a daughter, looking after an elderly quite sick mother. I am a mother looking after a 14 year old son whose hormones have kicked in with a vengence. Who am I?

I dont exist, what I want doesnt matter. My soul function is to make sure that my mother and son have good fulfilling lives. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or window, I dont know who I am. Grey hair scraped back in a clip because I havent the time or inclination to wash it, clothes un-ironed, I dont care how I look it doesnt matter because I'm invisible. I used to care but that person is long long gone. I lurch from day to day going to a job I hate then making sure both of them have everything they need to be happy. Day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. The only thing I had was my sense of humour but even that has got up and gone.

I can't feel pleasure with anything, I don't even know what makes me happy anymore. I want to scream, stop the world I want to get off!! I can't let people get close to me, it's as if I have a wall around me. It's so high and wide I'm safe in its protection, I can't let go and break down, admitting I cant cope, for God sake people in the world are living in the most horrendous circumstances my problems are nothing compared to theirs. So I say to myself pull yourself together, but it doesnt last long. I am fortunate to live on a most beautiful island with no crime and eveyone knows everyone, but to me it is a prison and I am trapped.

Sometimes I look at photos of my younger self, I can hardly recognise the smiling happy face looking back at me. Is that me? I am now 52 severly menopausaul! I want a life I want to be happy but I dont know how to get that life. Anyway it doesnt matter what I want.

So I plod on with my life, in and out of hospital with my mom and in and out of school with my son! But where am I, where is that happy smiling carefree Tracey?

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 20 March 2017

The Dog, The Kids, And The Radio Show.

Lady Penelope, my partner, used to know 'everybody' in the village. She hasn't become less sociable, but she knows far less people now. Is this because the village is so much bigger? Is it because people are less friendly? Has she become less confident?

The reasons may be many but I do know one truth: Penelope has lost the 'interface' that used to make it easy for her to talk to relative strangers. That 'interface' was a dual one for her - she had a very friendly Labrador and she had young children. When people have a friendly dog, or young kids, it seems acceptable for strangers to stop and talk to them.

Alas, the dog has passed on and the children have grown up. It is far harder for people to approach one another without an excuse.

If the thought of owning and walking a dog doesn't appeal, and the idea of having kids doesn't work for you, is there an alternative?

Not really. There's something about the attractiveness and innocence of dogs and children that makes it 'safe' and OK to reach out and connect. What people need is a reason or an excuse to connect. They need to feel safe and comfortable to risk what could otherwise turn into a rejection.

There is a less intense version of this challenge with Networking events. We need a non-threatening point-of-contact.

Structuring an event so that there is some kind of round-table or 'speed-dating' experience can help, but it can also still feel uncomfortable for those of us who are not natural networkers.

This is where 'tangibility' becomes a great ability to have. A business card is tangible - touchable, exchangeable. If you want to feel more comfortable at networking events (and help others to feel that way too), have something tangible to give them, and give them a reason to connect.

I confuse the life out of business people I meet because it's difficult to put your finger on what exactly I do. To overcome this barrier, it is essential for me to offer them a point-of-contact and a conversation opener.

When I used to volunteer as a Breakfast Show Host on the local radio station, it was easier. Being a volunteer wasn't glamorous, so there were no bragging rights, but it was interesting and it was exciting to chat to people about being a guest on my show.

Nowadays, I can get a similar impact with less time constraints by talking about podcasts. I can use my broadcast experience and help people get their message online and on air by recording a podcast with them. This potential benefit makes it easier to connect with relative strangers. It gives us an excuse to talk!

It would seem then that to meet friends and influence people, it helps to have a dog, or young children, or a radio show! Go get one - or all three - and be clear on your conversation opener! Don't be a stranger!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 19 March 2017


We all experience endings
On our journey through life
Some of us appear to pass
Through very rugged terrain.

Somewhere along our way
We experience an ending
Some are more painful
Distinctly more dramatic.

These can be life changing
This year I have experienced
At least five endings
Fortunately not due to loss
Through an eternal separation.

Please help me to come
To terms with the various endings
I have experienced recently
Fully accepting that they
Could possibly be fresh horizons
New beginnings for the other.

A chance to use
What they have learnt
During our encounter
A meeting of lives
And a hope that
It was also a meeting of minds.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

How @findyourwe Helped Me

A couple of positive things took place as I felt my latest major period of depression lifting. One of them was that I went on a Mental Health Mates walk @findyourwe, and I did, find my we! I was immeasurably reassured by the group of people who I walked with 'without judgement'. We were an eclectic group, all ages, male and female, from varying walks of life. I really wasn't alone. We could have been any group of people on any bus, in any cafe, or in the Co-op, but we were all finding our way through mental illness.

I listened to someone who voiced so succinctly the fear when you're well of becoming unwell again. I talked to someone about my struggles with medication and the lack of control I felt when I was on them. We talked about striving to battle through and keep yourself well; the importance of routine and support. 'Find your We' is such a simple term but it rings so true.

It helped listening to other people who have the same worries, concerns or issues and knowing that for the couple of hours that we engaged in conversation I wasn't responsible for making them better or them for helping me, we were simply just sharing and as the posters say 'walking and talking without fear of judgement'. I didn't have to try to explain what being 'mental' felt like.

I say that going on the walk helped me as I was coming out of a bad period, it just seemed to lift me a little bit more. I'm not as sociable as I once was and a walk and talk is a good way to have the face to face pressure of meetups removed. It provides other people and distractions if you want to keep your head down and interact less. I'm not as adventurous as I once was either, so turning up to a venue that was new to me ( I left an hour for a 20 minute drive, just in case!) to meet a group of strangers actually gave me a bit of a buzz when I'd achieved it!

Mental Health Mates walks are a brilliant initiative, thank you to everyone who has had the courage to set one up in their local area!

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 17 March 2017

Is everything out to get me?

I made a small breakthrough the other day.

Things weren't going well.

I was trying to list a piece of furniture and the app on my phone crashed again. Just as I was taking a deep breath to upload all the pictures and text again, I remembered, my car!  I left if it on the high street yesterday and should have moved it by 10am! It was raining, so I put on a jacket and headed round the corner and started thinking about how good it would be to find a house with off street parking. Except, in the two months since we decided to get our own place, we can't find a house to rent at all. Oh, but wait, my partner didn't get his contract renewed so he leaves next Wednesday, so maybe now is not the best time for a bigger financial commitment...

I felt a woe list starting. Instead of heading down the spiral, as it's easy to do, something clicked.

I've always felt a little bit of pride about being an intuitive sort of person and living my life that way. Feeling an accumulation of signs leading me this way or that.

I suddenly realized, a series of little wins or losses can be totally unrelated.

If I get a parking ticket, it's my own fault for being parked in the wrong place. It's not an occurrence, specifically designed by a malicious force, to attack me at my lowest moment.

The parking attendant doesn't know that my Dad died last year and since then I've been struggling to cope. The rain doesn't know we can't find a house to rent and the app doesn't know I might be about to get a parking ticket.

It's tempting sometimes to feel that things are out to get you.

But don't be tempted to see a pattern that isn't really there.

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Living guilt free - is it possible?

My friend decided she was never going to feel guilty and so be different from her mother and the rest of her family. I envy and admire her ability to live a guilt free life.

People say when you 'feel guilty' you think that you have done something wrong and are judging yourself. I agree to a point as I usually feel guilty when someone else tells me I have done something wrong. Therefore as psychologists say that guilt is a condition response not an real feeling or emotion. I find this confusing - does it matter if it is a reaction/response or an emotion/feeling?

As a child I felt guilty because there were starving children in the world and I had enough to eat. I did not feel guilty till my parents told me about the poor children who did not have much to eat.

When I hurt someone's feelings, or someone has told me I have upset them I feel bad. I become upset and if possible apologize to the person. If they won't accept my apology I feel guilty and upset and then I worry.

Counsellors say the only way to end guilt is to stop making you or others wrong. They say it is simple. Stop the judgments that you or anyone else is wrong and then you will be able to relax. I think that is too simple, if I have spent a lifetime feeling guilty I don't think I can stop the guilt cold turkey!

I read an article that said there is no right or wrong, only experiences to learn from. It encourages us to toss guilt out. Trust yourself. What do you think?

Do you live a guilt free life? Have you always or have you changed?

Do you believe that guilt is not a feeling.?

Do you think it is possible to change easily a life time of 'feeling' guilty?

Do you think changing one's way of thinking about guilt will take a long time?

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Home for a Dozen Horses.

69. 74. 73. 73. 75. 71. 73.

So, what's with the numbers, Mary?

Those wonderful numbers are my Moodscope scores for the past week.

Please, I'm not boasting or crowing. If you've been stumbling along in the teens, for what seems like forever, and the most you've ever scored is 35%, then I can see that the above numbers might seem like I'm rubbing your nose in it.

But I'm not. Believe me, I'm not. If you've been following my blogs for more than six months, then you know that I too am familiar with that deep dark place called depression. All too familiar.

But back to those scores.

You see, the numbers themselves don't mean too much; it's just that they're steady. I've never – never – been so steady before. I simply cannot remember a time when I have woken up every morning feeling about the same; give or take a percentage or two. It's been six weeks now. It's simply wonderful!

And – because I've been doing the Moodscope test almost every day since 12th May 2011, I can check. I've gone back and found the longest stable period I can and looked at the scores. This was a month-long period when I was neither in mania nor depression; when I was what I would have called "steady" and "normal". The scores in that "steady" period see-sawed from 65% to 85% and back again. Several times.

So, okay, that was much, much better than going from 96% to 6% inside twenty-four hours, but it's only now I realise it was not exactly steady.

Ever since the new drug kicked in I've had a variance of only 5%.


Sorry, just taking a moment to appreciate that.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder ten years ago. It's taken ten years to find the right drug. And – even now, I can't be sure: it's still early days.

If, in April, the Easter Bunny visits in place of the usual Dementors; if I can get through to Christmas and out into 2018 without any period of incarceration in my own personal Azkaban; if this year I don't have to fight the allure of the river, then I might be able to say, "Yes – this drug works."

Not just the drug, of course. Therapy, meditation, writing this blog: they all help. But for some things you need to fight fire with fire. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain and this new chemical is providing the counterweight.

Yup – I'm so stable now, I can give dozen horses a home!

A Moodscope member.

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

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How much should I share?

So, this journey I have to heal myself is all about the pain I have suffered, and the fictions I have told myself and believe about my life. I'm trying to uncover so much as part of this journey, and bring a lot of pain out into the light. And, it's really tough.

A couple of years ago the anxiety and fear I was feeling was so intense that I was rude and cruel to my wife. It really was touch and go whether she would leave me, but because she loves me she stuck by me, and has helped me through this intense storm of emotions. I feel so very grateful to her and so now I really feel that I am coming out the other side, and we can get our life back on track.

One of my problems has been that when I feel stressed I stop communicating, I internalise, I get wrapped up in my feelings. And that causes a problem in my relationship.

I wrote a poem last Friday about a person from my old life and how they used to bully me and what I felt, but the poem was also transformative, in that at the end I turned it around and stood strong against them, that they were dead to me and that I let it go. I felt very vulnerable about that poem, and I didn't mention it to my wife until the Monday after the weekend.

I suppose I hadn't realised the significance of the poem either emotionally to myself, it is very heavy going, or to my relationship with the fact I had delayed talking about it. I think the key thing in the argument that followed was: "What else aren't you talking to me about?"

But that raises a big question in my mind: how much should anyone who is going through therapy or any emotionally turbulent times share with their life partner?

Should I just not have mentioned the poem? Or should I have raised it when it happened? Or was I okay to mention it later?

I really don't know and I wondered if anyone else had any thoughts about this?

A Moodscope member.

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

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Magic of Milestones.

It's 4.15am. The boiler has kicked in. It always does before the alarm goes off. Don't really know why we bother with the alarm because I awake with the boiler. It's Sunday morning. Nobody should have to get up at 4.15am on a Sunday morning...

There's something magical about the psychology of performance and the motivation that milestones bring. There's a sense of movement, bearing, direction, and progress when we have a clear milestone to reach. I'm not big into goals, like most personal development presenters are, but I am into milestones - those waypoints on the journey.

Birthday's are milestones for the vast majority of us. Nature offers her own milestones - the circuit of the Earth around the Sun each year - giving us the seasons, the circuit of Moon around the Earth each month, the circuit of the Sun around the Globe each day - giving us the clear markers of dawn, midday, and dusk.

Then come the invented Milestones: the days of the week, our goals, and the alarm going off at 4.15am on a Sunday morning.

Invented Milestones need something added to them to give them credibility. They need a "Why".

I know that my Dad, in retirement, can lose the rhythm of the week. My Mum is similar. So, Sunday lunch with my sister or down the pub can help create a Milestone. Others might choose Church, or a weekly appointment on the same day with the hairdresser. All these things are good for us.

Let me share, in her own words, the trouble with Alice in Wonderland...

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where–" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"–so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Like too many others, I have experienced Alice's dilemma. I remember inventing some milestones: a certain number of views on Flickr was one. It didn't mean anything on the grand scale of things, I just found it interesting, and therefore motivating. Fascinatingly, the journey was very engaging but once I hit the target, I completely lost interest and motivation. Like Alice, I had invented the Anti-Milestone - the void.

Milestones - Natural and invented - help us. They give us a sense of Overview, Structure, and Control. They give us a rhythm to life, perhaps even being a part of The Rhythm of Life. When I stopped setting milestones, I lost interest in life.

Therefore, set milestones!

...and assign a "why" to them. Our alarm goes off at 4.15am on a Sunday because Lady Penelope works on Sunday. Working early means she finishes early, so she is able to weave this benefit into the story she tells herself about why this is worth it! It's too early but it still has value because it is a milestone set on purpose.

What new meaningful milestones could you set for yourself?

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on your blog on the Moodscope website:

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Empty Chair.

A large proportion of our church congregation (Catholic) are widows. Not because, statistically, women live longer than men, but due to the area we live in. Being rather poor the men, frequently not strong due to wars, overwork and malnutrition, took to smoking, alcohol, and died young. Most of us are creatures of habit, and once the children have left we have our own chairs.

I've just talked to my eldest son, whose birthday it is today – had a lovely treat all day, now, he is facing his wife, in beautiful armchairs, in front of a log fire, waiting for an Indian takeaway.

The chair opposite mine (which is a junk heap of knitting, current magazines and SUDOKU) is empty. Its emptiness is the cause of my consuming a half bottle of champagne. My husband (as most Moodscopers know) is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers. That empty chair means two weeks of freedom. For the last fortnight it has been nothing but grumbles and abuse. But, if I can't cope, and the chair must remain empty, will it haunt me?

Every time the screen saver comes up on my computer, the first picture is of my husband, when we first met, he 18, me 13. He is driving an ancient tractor, with a binder cutting corn and leaving it in sheaves. The difference between that young man and the shambling, miserable wreck who occupies that other chair is ?? I would need a whole Thesaurus for the right adjective.

But to return to these widows, bereaved suddenly by an accident or heart attack, or a long debilitating illness, how do you cope with this real severance?

Most, through necessity, have to move to somewhere smaller, from their farm into the town, into an old People's home, with a son or daughter if that option is available. If they stay in the marital home – do you give that chair away? Change the furniture?

A poignant loss as great as the empty chair is that few widows here ever had the chance to drive – their husband dies, and they are seriously dependent on friends and family – because there is no public transport. Moodscope has turned a lot on grief recently, that 'empty chair' is symptomatic of loss.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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

Saturday, 11 March 2017

I can and will.

Sunday morning, brilliant sunshine, frost on the fields. I woke up to the usual emotional tsunami, not least self reproach at making so little of so much inner turbulence. But perhaps today, I will do more than drown. Perhaps today I'll tap out a blog. Surf each wave of "If only" with a mantra: "I can and will."

Firstly, let me share my guide to keeping my head above waters of misery, regret, self-loathing: you know these seas of bitterness and anguish:  

1 Be brave (get out of bed and stick your nose into the world).
2 Be kind.
3 If there's someone in your life, you love, love them wholeheartedly.
4 Make someone laugh.
5 Make something.
6 From the end of Anne Michael's novel, 'Fugitive Pieces': Learn to give what you most need.

My town, like yours no doubt, has a shaming number of homeless people, some hardly visible beneath makeshift bedding and pitiable possessions stuffed in plastic bags. It costs nothing to have a word, costs little to hand over a coffee and a sandwich. And again, the stories I hear touch me and, yes, hand me a lifeline. One amazing friend, sick of the failure of the "system" faced the problem head on and bought a homeless person a caravan. Could I emulate her? If this is way outside my scope, at least today, I can talk to the woman on the bus who travels into town every day from an isolated village and who spends busless Sundays staring from her window and hoping her daughter will call. Can I ask someone I know in that village, to knock on her door?

And perhaps I can raise a smile by sharing Dorothy Parker's poem  "Résumé" with you?

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Come on, you moodscopers out there: join me as I swim to the sandbank, I know that just as I'm about to drown, one of you will throw me an inflatable.

A Moodscope member.

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

Friday, 10 March 2017

Being a Highly Sensitive Person.

Since my earliest memories, I've felt out of kilter from most people around me and I've never really understood why until 18th January, when I read Mary Wednesday's blog and saw the comments underneath about highly sensitive people and information about the psychologist Elaine Aron.

I bought her book the same day and it has been an absolute revelation, life-changing even as I've understood that I react to life through the prism of being born a highly sensitive person or HSP.

What that means in effect is that an HSP's nervous system is different and very sensitive to change. It can get over-aroused very easily and needs more time than the average person to recover from general day-to-day stresses.

HSPs often feel overloaded with information, can take a lot of time to make decisions as they pause to check rather than charging in, and are subtly aware of others mood and behaviour, which can be exhausting.

70% are introvert, but 30% are extravert. We are more prone to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety and more likely to be people pleasers, which makes it hard to say no when really we should. Again and again through the book, I was nodding yep that's me, yep that's me.

I already knew I was creative, sensitive and a deep thinker, but I'd often thought of these as negative aspects because they got in the way of 'living', yet Aron says these are traits to be proud of and that HSPs have a very important role to play in the world today as thinkers and advisors.

We make good friends, are highly conscientious and often quite popular. The important thing is to be sensitive to our own body though and not overdo things. As a past mistress at ignoring such advice, it helps explain why I keep puffing like a train to full speed, taking on too much, and then crashing into buffers.

Aron suggests you reframe experiences in your life knowing you're an HSP. I've started to do that and my goodness it's cathartic. This is not just some crackpot theory; it's been well studied and apparently HSPs number between 15-20% of the population.

Thank you Eva and all those of you who brought that knowledge to our attention. I'm wondering whether others of you out there have had a similar reaction.

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:

Thursday, 9 March 2017


"Seize the day" the saying goes. What?! That's far too big a seize for me! However, I am a firm believer in seeking out and seizing anything that gives you even the smallest of boosts. If it gives you the tiniest of smiles, no matter how wry or how deep down inside you, seize that thing and hold on to it for dear life! Better still, make a mental or even a physical note of it, so that you can repeat as and when required.

Here are some moments of my own that I draw on:

In the film "Finding Nemo" there's a very forgetful blue fish called Dory, who sings a song that goes "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming" (repeat). When I first saw this magical movie moment I LOVED it! I SO identified with the character and her song, and, most important of all, it made me smile. So now, if I need to lift my spirits I wryly sing this little ditty: "Just keep swimming..."

Another kids' film, "Lilo and Stitch".  Stitch, the blue alien with anger issues, says: "This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good.  Yeah, still good." That's making me cry even as I type it - but happy tears. That sums up my family too and therefore makes me feel content and smiley. Things come in all shapes and sizes, and all shapes and sizes are good... So I picture that small, blue alien, and things suddenly seem better.

When I was a child I had a thing about Smurfs (small blue creatures with big white hats).  I had a tiny toy one and would take it around with me, like some sort of talisman. (I don't know why all my examples are fantasy creatures and BLUE... plus, they tend to sing chirpy songs...)  "Talisman" is probably a good description - of course, they can be a phrase, a piece of music, a picture, an object, mine are really just a thought...  But I recommend that you actively seek out "talismans" in your life - seek them, find them, seize them, keep them and refer to them regularly so that you can feel the power of their magic!

I hope you feel the power today!

A Moodscope member.

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

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

What You Are, Not What You Do.

I was talking to a priest the other day.

Oh, you can relax; this isn't about religion!

You see, when I first met Paul, he wasn't a priest; he was a scientist. And a musician. Well, a drummer in a heavy metal band, which some people would tell you isn't a musician at all! He would call himself a percussionist now (which apparently is) and these days he tends to play more folk music than heavy metal.

But I digress. Last year I attended his 50th birthday party. I wrote about it (Almost Heaven – 17th February 2016). This year it was his wife (the singer and harpist) who reached that milestone, and celebrated with a Mediaeval costume party! Typical really.

It wasn't until I left, that I had a chance to really speak with them. As Paul looked down at me with all that love and softness and compassion in his eyes I realised something. "You've always been a priest," I said. "I can remember coming to you twenty years ago and pouring out my heart. You listened and gave wise counsel, you were a priest even then."

"Yes," he replied. "I still can't believe I get paid for what I am; for what I've always been."

Another of my friends did it the other way around. He very nearly became a priest, but then opted for chemical physics. He too says, "I can't believe they pay me for doing what I love." He works every day, just because he loves it. He spent his last summer holidays working out a problem nobody had been able to solve for twenty years. And yes – he managed it: I got an exultant phone call at midnight to tell me.

I've seen that too in my own life. I trained as a chartered accountant and spent fifteen years in finance; always struggling, never performing satisfactorily, always getting sick with migraines – in addition to the long unexplained illnesses which I now recognise as the depressive part of my bipolar cycle. It was a miserable time. I felt a failure, and was always conscious of letting people down.

Because I wasn't an accountant – I was just doing the job of an accountant. The woman who now does my books: now she is an accountant. She loves numbers and putting them in order. She gets excited about tax to the point where she jumps up and down as she's explaining it.

It's an interesting distinction, isn't it? I do love my job as an image consultant. I love working with people to improve their self-confidence, to enable them to express themselves with their physical appearance. But I'm not an image consultant right down to the bone; I'm a writer.

I've always been a writer: from the moment I learned that words made up stories, that words could transport you to another world.

And I'll be a writer until I die.

So, my question for you is, what are you?

A Moodscope member.

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

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

What's in your Story Box?

Last week I was given the story box which is a segment on our local radio station where the holder of the story box talks live on the radio the next morning at 6.45am. Although I have no difficulty talking in public I wondered what I could talk about. I had given radio interviews before and thought I had nothing new to say. I wondered if bipolar is the only interesting thing about me. I do have a book and gift shop but a few people had already spoken about having a bookshop.

I like communicating about mental health as often as I can but I worried I had nothing new to say. Even though being open and honest about mental illness is a passion of mine but it is not who I am or is it?

Do I only want to be known as the woman who has bipolar and owns a book and gift shop? I decided not to speak much about my own personal experience but to explain about how I use my lived experience (I like that I no longer have an illness but now have a lived experience!) to give information to community groups.

When the phone call ended I thought of many witty, clever things I should have added. However I even managed to talk about Moodscope.

Now it is your turn. I have given you the story box. What will you talk about in 5 mins? What questions would you like to be asked? What would you like the listeners to know about you. You can focus on any part of your life, anytime past and present and even future. You have our undivided attention.

If you find it hard to decide what to talk about, like I did, please let me know what is going through your head about what has been important in your life.

Over to you, tell me  what is important in your life - what would be in your story box?

A Moodscope member.

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

Monday, 6 March 2017

Magic George.

Too many years ago, Paul Miller and I had the pleasure of spending time with 'Magic George'. Magic George is a psychologist and magician who helps disengaged individuals - especially youngsters - re-engage through the medium of magic.

The key 'Aha!" moment for me was that Magic George was able to demonstrate to me that my eyes really didn't see the 'real' world. He showed me how my eyes had to invent some of reality in order to make sense of the world. He explained and showed me that I actually don't have the sensory apparatus to 'see' reality as it truly is.

To a certain degree...

Another couple I've been fortunate to come across are husband and wife team, Benjamin and Rosamund Zander. Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander's book, "The Art of Possibility," is one of those books that just might change your life. I have the book and the audio version - and the audio version still brings me to tears, even after listening to it time after time. Tears, and for the right reasons - this is deeply moving material.

I'll lift just one profound point from the Zanders' book:

It's all made up!

Benjamin and Rosamund are unambiguous on this point: we invent our lives and the rules we live by.

Clearly this isn't ultimate or absolute truth... some things are real. In terms of living day-to-day, though, it is enormously liberating to realise that most of this 'stuff' we see as the rules and regulations of life is made up - make believe - invented as we go along...

...and that means we can challenge it!

In Society, when what we make up gets believed by enough people, we make it Law - and then it has another dimension of credibility, but it is still invented!

When I began to drive, you didn't have to wear a seat-belt. Hey, in my Dad's day, it was pretty common to drive back half-cut from the pub. I make no moral judgment on this - I merely make a point: the rules have changed because we have invented new rules.

Am I suggesting then that we break all the rules? No!

Am I suggesting that we begin to break some of the rules? Yes!

I am suggesting that we see them for what they are: mere invention; mere things we've been led to believe, and thus they are 'make belief'. Understanding this gives us permission to question and to challenge and to change.

There are, for example, dozens of rules that bind your own behaviour (and even your beliefs) that are ridiculous and inappropriate. Maybe today is the day when we can encourage the Conscious Revolutionary in you to challenge just one of them?

Far more of what you perceive is illusion and invention, and, for these reasons, everything is worth a closer look.

You've invented your life. You can reinvent yourself - starting today. This is 'life on purpose' - the deliberate life.

A Moodscope member.

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

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Welcome to Normaltown.

"I'm off to the shops, will you put the washing in the tumble dryer when it stops?" My partner, high- functioning Asperger, working from home today, is fixated by the diagrams on the screen. He won't notice I have gone, the washing will still be wet on my return.

I wave at my neighbour Anne, examining her pristine lawn. She tends to it every day, weather permitting. Every leaf picked up, each scrap of rubbish, tea bag, down to the recycling bin. When I moved here, I found her going through my dustbins. Nonetheless, I have come to be very fond of her. She was a nurse, and a very good one, or so I am told.  I catch her sometimes, looking into my kitchen through her binoculars.

On the other side is reclusive Laura. Never worked, and keeps demanding yet more surgery on an arm broken years ago. Anne says she has Munchhausen Syndrome, I am inclined to agree.

A quick chat with The Nudist. He is very hale and hearty, in amazing shape for a man nearing 80. I gave him the nickname because he wears the bare minimum to preserve decency, whatever the weather. Off on his regular 15 mile hike, fuelled by a breakfast of 3 cups of tea and 2 large raw carrots.

Waitrose is a rugby scrum. The weather forecast mentioned possible snow on northern high ground. We are on low ground in the Midlands, but panic buying has set in. I need cereal bars, and squeeze in alongside the row of women, all glumly scrutinising the sugar content.

Shopping done, I join the shortest queue, spot Mad Marion near the front, and join a longer queue. It will be quicker.

Marion is dressed like a bee keeper, the opposite of The Nudist. In the hottest weather  heavy garments reach the ground, head encased in a big hat held in place with a scarf tied under the chin. She never unloads her trolley until the customer before has gone. Never packs her goods until she has paid.

Walking home I am joined by Dirty Keith. We exchange gossip. He looks like a vagrant, but that is only partly true. Banished from the home by his long suffering wife, he sneaks in at night and sleeps in the cellar. Every few months he has a bath when the house is empty. After one such pampering, he went to the British Legion, one place where he is not barred. He scrubs up well, because the Elvis impersonator propositioned him in the crudest terms. Not fancying a Hunk-a-Hunk of Burning Love, Keith declined and decided bathing was too dangerous.

I get home, stepping over dogs strewn everywhere. Empty the washing machine into the dryer. I prepared my lunch earlier. I check the calories, make adjustments, it's 20 calories over my limit. It's hot indoors, I remove my jeans and jumper. Still decent with  pyjamas worn underneath. I go to fetch the Man With Two Brains. It is a relief to be back  in my own home. I tell you,it's a madhouse out there.

A Moodscope member.

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

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Whatever happened to old so-and-so?

As ever, this started from nowhere. My Great-grand-daughter had returned from a geography week-end, complaining vociferously about the awful food and weather. I found she had been to a Field Studies Centre. Bingo. Organisation still existed.

I wanted to trace a student who worked for us in the 1960's, who introduced me to classical music, worked for said organisation, and emigrated to Canada in 1975. He had an unusual surname – so go to it, Mr. Google, just surname and Canada. I think I have found him, now a successful photographer. But a day of phoning Canada, changed e-mails, and a search worthy of Hercule Poirot, and needing as many grey cells.

When everybody sent Christmas cards you kept up, however briefly. Then the, often pernicious, Christmas letter started – about grand-children you never knew or doing up the Lotus.

Now, e-mail and postal costs have deprived us of lots of news, many of our oldest friends (in both senses, age and time known) have not embraced the computer. Now, I have at least 8 people, 3 of them relatives, with whom I have lost touch – makes me sad. If they are ill or bereaved I'd like to contact them.

I am getting almost belligerent e-mails 'Why have we not received your Christmas letter – so amusing'. I don't write 'I've had the most miserable, worrying year of my life' to old contacts. I use Moodscope instead!

Then, the most disturbing, was a visit from one of our daughter's. We caught up thoroughly, and she said "Are any of your old friends in good nick?" Truthfully, no, it has been a ghoulish year. But, we also have young friends, kids of old friends. I have town friends, university, research, church friends. My daughter has virtually none. She seems happy enough, a short, disastrous marriage – then a liaison which lasted too long and made her unhappy. Now she looks good, manages her life well, and her finances.

But, she's never going to be able to say "Whatever happened to old so-and-so" because she has no Christmas card list, and her friendships are recent and on Face Book. Will it be enough?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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

Friday, 3 March 2017

It's only a week...

It's a collection of old stones and lime mortar, perched wet and lonely in a Welsh Valley between Betws-y-Coed and Capel Curig. The storage heaters have little effect on the chill that is not so much cold, more Victorian piety. This converted Chapel is my home for the next week. I've been here twenty four hours, and already I want to go home.

I needed a break. From the noise of life, of my life and those people who I think need me. I need to think they need me, otherwise I have no purpose. But their need is exhausting. And I'm selfish because one of those in need is my father, imminently moving in to a home after a pre-Christmas fall accelerated his dementia in ways we couldn't imagine. He will never be home again. And then there's my mother, dealing brilliantly with the uncertainty that 2017 has brought. Her mother suffered from Alzheimer's and knows the mixed blessing that residential nursing care can be. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Now the house they shared will be an empty, quiet place in which she will live out her days.

They are good people, worked hard, did their best by us kids; and still, life gives them disappointment. There's two ways to look at this of course. That life is nasty, brutal and short, so live every minute. Or, that life is nasty, brutish and short, so why bother? I'm doing all the right things, seeing my local mental health services each week, taking the meds. But they haven't passed my prescription to my doctor, or my doctor hasn't done anything with it, and as such I have come away to Wales without my Sertraline.

But it's only a week. What can happen in a week? I am stronger than this anyway, and that little pill might just be the placebo that I need to cope. That said, I know there's something chemically wrong in my head, so for the next few days I am sailing solo. It's a test. I win if I fail, fail if I win. And that's it. I want to be away. I want to be alone. But I don't want to be alone. And I don't want to be with me. Because I am selfish and small minded, and self-indulgent, and I need a drug to manage the things that other people seem to manage effortlessly.

The Old Man and the Sea
A Moodscope member.

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

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Unbearable Whiteness of Swans.*

"Oh, how revolting!" I thought, as I rounded the corner. "Some people have no consideration."

I was attending my monthly Women's Business Networking Group. We have the great fortune to meet in a delightful venue converted from an old water mill. It is surrounded on three sides by the river Ouse and its backwaters and, in summer at least, is idyllic. In winter, it is merely pretty. It's always a pleasure to walk around from the car park and across the bridge over the river to the Mill.

Only today someone had discarded a white plastic bag in the water. Yeuk! It spoilt the whole view. I walked over the bridge and tried to avert my eyes. I looked up at the intricate crochet of the leafless branches overhead and then back to the water. There was no ugly bag there. Instead, a serene swan swam on those silver ripples.

As I watched, the swan dipped its head and dived underwater, leaving its back half sticking out; looking, for all the world, like a discarded plastic bag.

A lot of life depends upon the way we see things.

Many of us see our lives like that plastic bag. Others do not see us like that; they see the swan. One of my friends said recently, "Facebook presents us with a series of lush green lawns, all on the other side of the fence. It is only our own lawn that is patchy, moss filled and beset with molehills. It is only when we travel to the other side of the fence we realise other people's lawns are as bad as our own."

Someone else then commented on our habit of idolising – and idealising – our heroes. When we find, as we inevitably do, that those heroes have feet of clay (they are, after all, only human), we feel almost personally betrayed.

Some of us are desperate to keep up appearances. We dare not admit to vulnerability for fear the world will fall upon us like ravening wolves and tear us apart. This is especially true in some work environments. For others of us, it is the world around us which is just as desperate that we keep up appearances. Our friends and family are invested in our perfect life as it gives them a sense of security. After all, if we can keep our lawn green it must be possible to actually have a green lawn and it therefore gives others a sense of hope and even security. They do not wish to see our moss and molehills.

But none of us has the perfect life. We can have stable and loving families and relationships; we can have work which brings us satisfaction and joy; we can be financially secure, but still we can feel like that discarded plastic bag: hollow, waterlogged, and worthless.

But remember: that plastic bag is really a swan. It's just that even swans cannot be elegant all the time.

A Moodscope member.

 *With thanks to Alexander McCall Smith for title inspiration.

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