Friday, 22 September 2017

I never promised you a rose garden.

I have never read this book – for others who do not know it, a schizophrenic girl of 16 creates another world in order to escape. Her parents struggle with the stigma of mental illness, then she is lucky enough to meet a brilliant therapist who wins her trust and gives her the courage to fight the illness.

My life has been full of physical (as opposed to metaphorical) roses. A picture exists of me, just walking, under lovely rose arches. I still have roses, every garden has had roses, so that is eight decades of roses! But the path has been decidedly thorny at times, none more so than at the present.

I have just had an hour talking to my only niece. Her brother is schizophrenic (so they say) but his father never talks about him, and his sister is scared of him, he has been violent in the past, and now is scary – luckily, perhaps, for everybody, he has become very withdrawn. Her father, 91, is in hospital – she has had to cancel her holiday to be with him. He treats her in the same way as his brother treats me, like a servant. When his second wife had cancer, his daughter was there, propping him up in any way she could, although she was a full-time teacher. Then her own mother (the divorce was bitter, and the children suffered) had cancer, and off the poor girl went again, commuting by train at least every fortnight.

My friend who I have often cited here has been treated (for depression, in theory – she is also a true hypochondriac while being as fit as a fiddle) on and off for 30 years – she goes from GP to faith healer to devotion (she is Catholic), many charlatans, now she doses herself off the Web. She has drained the sympathy of most of her family and friends.

My husband goes to the excellent Alzheimer Day centre here. I am well known – my car, my shop, my chignon – and I have loads of 'pals' among the inmates/patients, I don't know what is politically correct. The unit is the last and most modern added to a hospital which started in 1347. It houses all types of psychiatric illness. My 'pals' are those who are out and about. They all have mental disorders. Do they, like the girl above, have a world to escape to in their minds? Peopled by fairies? An alter ego? Hobgoblins? I think of these people in the light of the Peter Sarsted song 'Where do you go to my lovely?'

In the depths of depression, is everything black? Or have you had your 'rose garden' dreams?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

P.S. I lay no claim to the roses in the picture. The church is famed because it has had continuous colonies of bees for four centuries. It is in the Mayenne department, calm and beautiful.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/i-never-promised-you-a-rose-garden

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Pressure to get Motivated.

Hands up if you are always reading or buying books about motivation, success, willpower, goals, productivity, in the hope you will be inspired to action. Are you often reading more lists and posts about how you need to be better?

Do you sometimes feel, if you can read enough articles and enough Facebook quotes, suddenly your brain will put it into action?

Keep your hand up if you have not read any of those books you have bought or borrowed.

My hand is up, I keep buying books but not reading them, finding articles, but not reading them, all in hope I can be motivated, find my true path and follow my dreams. I feel under pressure that I have not achieved enough. These books rather than motivating me make me feel I am not focused enough.

I know people who have read the motivational books, and gone to the "You can be a success" workshops and made endless notes and lists about achieving their goals. Most of them do not get motivated or reach their goals.

What is happening?

Why is the reality different from what books promise us?

Is it maybe that we change when we want to change? Humans cannot be programmed like a robot. I feel it is difficult to create motivation when there isn't any. Sometimes it is not the time to change.

Maybe the book you want to write is not able to be started since you have not worked out the idea for your characters.

Sometimes we are sad and can't motivate ourselves till we have made sense of the sadness.

Some of us use so many tools to be more productive and make so many lists that every minute of our day is programmed.

What about instinct and natural impulse and gut feeling?

Many of us want to control timing in our lives.

For many, unhappiness stems from the belief that our lives should be different than they are. All the books and workshops tell us we should be successful, we can be successful, if only we are determined and become more motivated and organized.

Self-loathing and self-hatred comes from this idea that we need to be able to change our lives, that we must be richer, smarter, or happier.

There needs to be less guilt around the notion that you're not doing your best.

Is it time to stop comparing ourselves to people who are in very different life situations and stages.

Is it possible to start liking who we are now and not thinking about we will be happy when: when we get more motivated, when we achieve our goals, when we realize our dreams.

Imagine what may happen then.

We may motivate ourselves when we are ready and the timing is right.

Do you find motivational books and speakers helpful?

Do you feel pressured by motivational books?

Can you motivate yourself in your own time?

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/the-pressure-to-get-motivated

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Getting it Out There.

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2w4RFzP]

I gave my friend an elephant.

He thanked me.
"Don't mention it," I said.

(Boom, Boom)

That was a joke, by the way.

The elephant in the room: I'm sure I can't be the only one who prefers to ignore him. I can't be the only one who lets stuff build up emotionally, who prefers to act as if in ignorance of issues I just don't want to deal with.

I don't want the confrontation. I don't want the anger. I don't want the answers I fear I might get.

So, I put the elephant in a (large) cardboard box. I can ignore him better that way.

Yes, I carry on in fear and worry and in denial which isn't denial at all. And it takes its toll. It's like a medical condition which won't get better by itself. It's something that time won't heal. It can really drag me down.

Experience tells me that, when I do finally face the elephant, he proves not to be so scary after all. He proves not to be that mad African bull elephant with enormous tusks, but a well-mannered Indian elephant; he's rather embarrassed to be found in my living room at all.

But it doesn't get any easier, does it?

Last Summer I had a family issue I had to bring out into the open and address. It turned out to be much, much simpler than I had expected. What I didn't know, was that for my long-suffering husband (who dislikes confrontation even more than I), the elephant was not only bigger, but multi-coloured too. In fact, so gigantic and hideous was his elephant, that we both ended up in slightly hysterical laughter, and banished it with giggles from our room.

Yet – recently, I wimped out of asking a close friend about our own personal elephant. I still haven't. I don't know if I ever can; I'm scared of the answer I might get.

So often our elephant is imaginary, however – a bit like the Heffalump in Winnie the Pooh.

The trouble is, we don't know if he's imaginary – or at least bigger in our imaginations than in reality, until we deal with him. A bit like Schrodinger's cat, we must open the box to find out his state.

I don't have any easy answers. I know that last Summer I had to make a plan and schedule the conversation. I had to choose a time for that conversation when we wouldn't be interrupted. Then – I just had to draw a deep breath and launch in. "I want to talk to you about something..."

In most cases, the other person is pleased to have the conversation. If you get met with a frosty, "I don't want to talk about it," then I suppose you just have to let that elephant be. If you force the issue, you might end up squashed.

But on balance, I think it's healthier to open the box.

And much kinder to the elephant.

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/getting-it-out-there

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Go with the flow – Part 1

My previous boss was forever saying "Just go with the flow, Frankie" – and I never could...

Try as I might, I couldn't relax until I had ticked off all the items on my "To do" list, and knew what I was doing the next day, the next week (and preferably the next month too!)  On the plus side, things got done, I kept the family going and life was busy. On the minus side I never put time into recharging my batteries which meant that I was often stressed, irritable and not very relaxing to be around. Another consequence was that when major family crises occurred, I simply rushed around even more frantically to fit everything in.  Dropping anything to free up more time was simply not an option.

Why did I live like that?

Lots of reasons; lack of self-confidence, guilt and fear are the top three on the list.

1 Lack of self-confidence: I have long believed that everyone else is cleverer, more organised, more interesting, a better parent, a better colleague (this list is endless!) than me. So I was always worrying about whether I had done things "the right way" (whatever that is).

2 Guilt: I was top of the class with this! I always scored a "3" on this card. I never finished my "To do" list, you see.

3 Fear: I think my greatest fear was of losing control. How would the whole show keep going if I was no longer in control?
   
The trouble with this was that I lost sight of me, Frankie; take away Frankie, the mother, the wife, the sister, the daughter, the daughter-in-law, the friend everyone turned to, the supportive colleague, and who was left? Who was Frankie without all those hats? I had no idea... No surprise then that I had two nervous breakdowns in ten years, that  my body decided to take over and said "enough is enough – you will stop, like it or not".  

I have learnt the hard way; it is not selfish to take care of myself – it is essential. I need to have some "me" time frequently, preferably daily, so that I can support those around me more effectively. And, you know what? Doing so makes me more relaxed, so everyone else is more relaxed and life is much more harmonious as a result.

Today I will choose some music and sit down to listen to it properly.

What will you do during your "me" time today?  (I would love to know!)

Frankie
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/go-with-the-flow-part-1

Monday, 18 September 2017

Are You Ready To Commit Your Next Offence?

Are you offended easily?  I am.

Let's see just how easy it is to offend me:

• Not using your left-indicator
• Not saying 'Please' or 'Thank You'
• Not smiling back when I smile at you...

Actually, the list is almost endless. But taking offence never brings me pleasure.

I know that you and I are only offended when our 'Code' is violated. We have a rule book in our mind that defines what is good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. Unfortunately, breaking the rules is only fun for those who do the breaking!

I want you to be happier.

You can be far happier than you have ever been before - starting today. How? By relaxing some of the rules. Specifically, by relaxing your own rules that you expect other people to play by. Trust me - they don't care - it's only you who is suffering.

Is it really the end of the world if someone cuts into my lane without indicating? If they leave enough space, and don't force me to slow down, I think I could let it pass, don't you?

And if someone doesn't say 'Please' - surely that's more a reflection on their lower evolutionary state, isn't it? I'll be content with being such a spiritual giant.

But what about not smiling back when I graciously offer my gorgeous grin? Who knows what sorrows they are facing. Let's face it - I can let them off, can't I?

Yes, all of the above is firmly tongue in cheek, but I know if I have a little voice in my head that says,

"Which rule are they breaking?"

...this gives me enough pause to regain my poise and enjoy the exhilaration of forgiveness instead.

I want to break free... wanna join me?

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/are-you-ready-to-commit-your-next-offence

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Moment of Calm.

There's a beautiful bay tucked away in a corner of the world, surrounded by impressive, rocky mountains.

My favourite walk, along a wide paved cliff path, looks out over a panoramic view of nothing but sea.

Protected by a sturdy barrier, it's a safe path for me, who without one, has become anxious and panicky from vertigo if I even glanced towards the edge (I have been known to get down on all fours, even on a seaside sand dune!)

Gazing out at the vast ocean, I'd avoid looking at the dizzying sheer drop, on to the rocks and waves, as if it would somehow be tempting fate. A fleeting, irrational, almost superstitious glimpse of doom, enough to cause a sharp intake of breath and an about turn back to safety.

In the past, I'd enjoy this daily walk to the next town and back before the daytime heat set in.

On this trip though, I was encouraged to take a higher path.

The houses at the top seemed so distant. It had never occurred to me to even consider going up there.

So up for the challenge one hot afternoon, off we went.

It was surprisingly possible to stroll, one step at a time, discovering an abundance of unfamiliar and beautiful sights.

Teenagers had often scrambled beyond the path onto rocky slopes, to make their names in hearts out of stones.

My photographs don't seem to capture what is breathtaking about nature. Whether it's tiny white buildings deep inside a valley, magnificent, dark, mountainous rocks towering above them, the alerted face of a small lizard peeping out of it's rocky dry home at strangers passing by, or speckled sunlight glinting between brilliantly coloured tree leaves, shading it's delicate flowers.

A snapshot photo of a moment like that for me is both irresistible and futile.

Enthused by our achievement, we later explored the high path west of the bay.

Approaching the top, we realised that a wonderful stillness and silence had surrounded us.

It was truly serene.

I knew that if I visualised that place, above the sprawling buildings, in the peaceful open sunlight, with sea and mountains in the distance and the purest sense of nothingness, I'd be able to recall that soothing moment of calm.

The path flattened out onto arid, dry, dusty ground, offering weary souls the space and time to just be.

I did go back on that favourite walk.

Somehow I now found myself able to lean comfortably on the barrier and watch the waves washing over the rocks without a care in the world.

I also tried Tai Chi in the open air.

Eyes closed, I breathed in that sense of calm, as my hands lifted and drifted in unison. Peace and harmony from outside in.

I experienced new treasures about a special place, that I wouldn't have if I'd remained in the comfort of my routine.

Discoveries made about myself.

Having not returned to yoga or any kind of class for a couple of years, I'm looking forward to trying some more Tai Chi now that I'm back home. A new class has coincidentally just started locally. Thank you universe!

No commitment, just to see if it might be a way to find some peace and moments of calm.

Lillipet
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/a-moment-of-calm

Saturday, 16 September 2017

You have a boundary problem!

"Sounds like you have a boundary problem."

This is one of the most useful things anyone has ever said to me.

In my thirties, every relationship that came along became, for the time being, the most important thing in my world. Yet another one had just come crashing down around my ears – only, even worse, it hadn't really, permanently, definitely finished. Instead, the guy involved was giving contradictory signals, doing the 'let's stay friends' thing, and in the small town where we both lived, it was inevitable we would bump into each other.

I wasn't coping. I couldn't think about anything else. I felt as if my world was coming to an end: no-one else would ever do; if I couldn't have this relationship, life wasn't going to be worth living – you know the sort of thing. Maybe not all that unusual in a teenager, but in my thirties? Not good.

Luckily, the counsellor I went to was wise and insightful. She listened to my tale of woe, at length, and finally said just that one phrase. Bullseye! Boy, did I have a boundary problem! I absolutely did not have the ability to think of myself as a separate, worthwhile, autonomous person independent of my lover. It did not remotely occur to me that there was a reality, a validity, to living outside of a relationship. I had not found anyone to settle down or have children with, it seemed to be getting too late, I feared missing the form-a-family boat, and I was in full panic mode.  If truth be told, I had pretty much struggled to separate from my family of origin too, and there was a big part of me that wanted to find a parent-figure to bond with, rather than have to strike out on my own.

Twenty years on, I am still grateful to that counsellor. It was a painful lesson, and there were more painful lessons yet to learn, but it was a vital step on the path of growing up. Thank goodness she did not pour out sympathy, or join me in blaming the man who, let's face it, was probably very wise to save himself from such a predatory and dependent lover as me. Sometimes the truth hurts, but, like stepping into the proverbial cold bath, the shock can revitalise us and give us new energy, once we've towelled ourselves dry.

How about you? Have you had any problems keeping healthy boundaries? How have you developed them (if you have)? What, or who, has helped you?

Sal
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/you-have-a-boundary-problem

Friday, 15 September 2017

He is his father's son.

The Stormy Bears, August 6th Blog really hit home to me. But in a slightly different way.

My son is 20, about to hit 21 in a few days. His father, (that's me) is about to turn 68!  This is a 2nd life child. He is absolutely beautiful in almost every sense. However, he is a mental mess!

Starting at age 6 he thought he would need to 'kill himself' to stop the pain in his legs.   Social, school troubles followed for many years. While at the same time he showed an unusual affinity for math. At age 12, he announced he would be creating his own math theorem, the kind that take 300 years to solve!

At age 15 all hell broke loose with drugs, anger, misdiagnoses, treatment, medication, counseling, multiple suicide attempts, and incarceration for breaking a window.

We recently moved and in the process of finding a new psychiatrist and counselor I asked for a full psychiatric evaluation. It involved multiple tests and interviews with my son and his parents. The result was a good, but scary inventory of his issues: Anxiety (!), Personality Disorder, Suicidal tendencies... and on. It started the doctor testing him. We hope this will be a good starting place for new treatment and counseling. He is to start DBT therapy soon.

I watch his moods each day, with hope and frustration. I can tell when the day will start badly. Or when anger is about to explode. Or he is about to fall down a hole of despair for another day. But I do all I can to help him through another day. Hoping he will find some coping skills and a brighter future. After all, he has a theorem to write.

I have not decided whether my love and empathy for him are helpful. If, in the midst of his pain and anger, do I give him too much leeway. Or if guilt is a part of my allowances.

Because, he is very much, his Father's Son.

Ron
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/he-is-his-fathers-son

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

How Much is Physical?

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/2xvjDJm]

I once read a story where everything changed and nothing stayed the same. What I mean is, that every day, when the protagonist awoke, things would be different from the day before. Some days he would have a wife, but never the same one. Some days he would have children, but they were never the same children. His house was different; the route to his work was different. Nothing was ever the same. Then one day, that all changed; everything did stay the same and he found he couldn't cope.

It used to be a bit like that for me, but in reverse. The world stayed the same, but I was different every day. Whether in a manic phase or in deepest depression, the days were never the same. I was never the same.

With this new medication, I wake up every morning feeling – about the same: fairly cheerful; moderately energetic and enthusiastic; reasonably alert. Not exactly the same – hey – human here, but – pretty much. After six months, I am just about getting used to it.

So, a little while ago, when, at a friend's house just before lunch, I was suddenly and for no reason, overwhelmed with a desire to weep, to crawl away into a dark place and hide; I was horrified. Was this the depression coming back?

The world retreated behind a thick plate-glass window and sound became dim. My thoughts started that cockroach skittering, that rat scrabbling, in the corners of my mind. The tide of foul darkness engulfed like floodwater, icily cold.

Depression.

Please, no!

Panic!

Then a lance of bright pain pierced behind my left eye and I remembered. Ah yes –  migraine.

Some people get visual "auras" with migraine. Things blur, or zig-zig; one side of their sight might disappear. I get what's called a "neurological aura"; it affects my emotions. Oddly enough, the moment the pain hits, the aura disappears. It's almost a relief. I know that I must take painkillers and lie down for a couple of hours (sometimes more) and it will be over – all bar that floaty, head stuffed with cotton wool feeling, that is.

I hadn't had a migraine for years; I thought they had disappeared for good once I left my highly stressful job, but now they have reappeared as a side effect of the medication. I'll happily take that swap.

But it made me think. How many of the symptoms of our depression are the depression itself? How many may be attributed to physiological reasons?

If we are exhausted, if we have not eaten or drunk enough, if we are in pain; the mind will reflect this.

We know that some of the symptoms of depression are the overwhelming desire to sleep and a craving for carbohydrates. This is the brain decoding the symptoms of depression and effecting the "cure" it knows has worked for similar symptoms before.

But it's always worth thinking about the physical causes of depression.

Before you panic.

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/how-much-is-physical

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Please like me.

When I was 9 years old we had a student teacher who was trying to study the social dynamics in the classroom by asking us about who we liked in the class. A few girls decided they would do their own survey by seeing who was the least liked in the class.

They proudly announced to me that I was least popular girl in the class.

Now, before you start getting out the violins and suggest I need counselling, I really was not upset. I knew I was not popular, never was, never have been. It was just and still being my reality. I was never even nominated to be class captain. Even back then, I was ok because I had a few close friends who would always be there for me. The fact the rest of the class preferred other people to me, was fine.

Some may say but Leah you are remembering this some 50 years later so it must have concerned you. Not really, I find it a useful anecdote.

Today we seem obsessed with being liked - how many likes did you get? If something on YouTube is like by 10,000 people and something else only 450 does that make the first one better. Since when does being more popular make it of a better quality?

Of course, people who don't use Facebook, YouTube, twitter, etc are probably aware of the trend to want as many as likes as possible.

Going viral is something people aim for with their posts or videos. Why is popularity seen as being the main thing to aim for and a very desirable trait?

There is nothing new about popular movies, blockbusters, top selling books, achieving fame only on their popularity.

If something is popular should it be valued more than something that is not popular?

Have you ever been popular? What was it like?

Are we concentrating too much on whether a film clip goes viral than on whether it has a worthwhile message.

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/please-like-me

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Flea in Me, who said, "That won't work!"



I've never really had a 'happy' tummy. It's caused me much grief over the years (and I've given it a lot of grief too!) I know its limitations.

Or do I?

I'm attending a four day conference in London, travelling in each day. The journey is unpleasant and promises to be worse today - Sunday. My tummy is playing up. I'm dreading the journey and then the uncomfortable seating in a freezing and dark conference centre... not the most positive frame, is it?

Bizarrely, I found myself having a chat to my tummy! I told it it had 'proven' to me time after time that it wasn't to be trusted and I would have to take steps today to 'protect' myself against a possible meltdown. (Which has happen so many times before - and I know all the signs.)

Then I remembered the fleas.

Do I really want to think like a flea?

A parasite?

Whether the above video clip is true or not, the point is taken. These fleas have adopted self-limiting beliefs that are robbing them of opportunity.

Just because something 'hasn't worked' a 1000 times before, doesn't mean it isn't going to work this time.

Have you stopped trying?

Have you stopped trusting?

Have you stopped giving?

Jump higher, my friend, jump higher - the lid may have moved on!

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-flea-in-me-who-said-that-wont-work

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Shadows.

A shadow fell across the sun the other day and the world watched in wonder.
The earths light went out for a few minutes and the birds became very still.
When the shadow had passed people turned away and carried on about their business.
Scurrying here, there and everywhere!
Shadows furiously racing to keep up with them!
Scurrying madly cramming bags full of goodies.
Scurrying home to unload the contents then forget about them.
Designer bags put away in to the shadows of their silk protective shroud.

A man living in the shadows inside a ragged sleeping bag, slumped on a street corner, hand stretched out for pity, money, anything to get by.

Shadows of faceless people passing him by.
Shadows spoiling a sunny day drifting by and resting a while over the brightness.
Shadows of dark clouds reaching out, silhouettes in the fading light.
Stretching out to become the dark of the night.
Shadows in my mind swimming around, blocking out thoughts.
Shadows in the night making me lie wide eyed listening for a creak on the stairs.
Shadows in my dreams. Screaming jumping shouting.

Then out of nowhere light blinds the shadows, thoughts race.
A coin handed with kindness to the poor man on the street corner. His smile a beacon in my heart.
Words start connecting again in my brain and I am free of the dark thing.
The shadow that tried with stealth to drag me into the blackness has gone.

The day is good and long and the Shadows for now are sleeping.

Audrey
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/shadows

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Warrior Training.

Spiritual warrior that is.

My brain is wired differently than most people. This I have finally accepted.

For a long time I operated at two speeds. At my worst I was self destructive, enraged, paranoid, suicidal - a runaway train barreling down 100 miles an hour at anything in my path. This was usually followed by periods of shame, tiredness, loneliness, depression.

Luckily I have not experienced my worst in a long time, thanks to an arsenal of meds, an amazing therapist, and what I call my daily non negotiables - running, yoga, rest, limited drinking and meditation. Mindfulness meditation. I could not meditate for a long time. I couldn't sit still long enough to be alone with my thoughts. I didn't want to. The rage was too great, the depression too bleak, the shame too painful. But that was when I was trying to escape from myself. I didn't want to exist. I was ashamed of existing.

Through therapy - my therapist is also a practicing kundalini yoga teacher - I learned to sit with the thoughts and feelings. Not judge them but rather observe them and release them. When a particularly painful memory comes up, we use breathing and EMDR to help release the emotions behind the event.

I do my hardest work with her, but she has taught me a very effective technique for dealing with uncomfortable feelings on the spot when I'm alone. After a few deep breaths to settle myself, I concentrate on where in my body I feel the tension. Usually it's my stomach, but sometimes it's my heart, or my throat. I give the feeling a number from 1 through 10, 10 being the most intense. Then I give it a color and a shape. Usually red is the color that comes to mind, and sometimes it's a ball, other times a tight knot or even a knife. Then I just sit and breath and focus on the color and the shape and watch it change. It will change, from red, to perhaps yellow or green, to something else. The shape changes too. And then eventually I realize the tension is gone. Then I visualize the feeling floating down a chord or string from my spine into the earth, dissolving into nothing, hurting no one.

I like the term spiritual warrior because to me it means never giving up on myself. I can accept myself as I am, knowing that I am not perfect, that I have hurt others, that I have been hurt, and know that it is all part of who I am.

I can change my reality of myself, see myself differently than as someone who is just shameful and strange and unlovable. I have another speed now and it's becoming my norm - being calm and rational and dare I say happy. It's a daily practice - a lifetime practice - but it's worth it to me to be a warrior for my own peace of mind.

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/warrior-training

Friday, 8 September 2017

Busyness and resting.

The following is a rough synopsis of a series of programmes broadcast in the UK on BBC Radio 4 last year entitled "Oliver Burkeman is busy". The five 15 minute programmes are available until the middle of September through BBC iPlayer.

• Research shows that, compared to the past, women are doing more paid work and less unpaid work, whilst for men it is the reverse. Overall, there has been no significant change in the amount that we do!
In the "Knowledge economy" it is more difficult to identify what has been achieved compared to, say,  working in a factory. At Microsoft, whilst young staff thought they were busy, constantly answering e-mails, etc. their managers were concerned they had lost control of their workload.
In addition, in these situations individuals start dividing their time into ever smaller slices. This leads to a growing number of unfinished tasks. Again, research shows that we find it easier to remember tasks whilst they are still current. Consequently, the brain is trying to juggle more balls and this leads to things being missed and an increased difficulty in making even simple decisions. The brain becomes overwhelmed.
Multi-tasking: when we are switching between two different tasks it takes about 40% longer to complete them and performance drops. A Harvard MBA performs at the level of an eight year old once they start "multi-tasking" so jobs tend to go unfinished as other priorities appear. The result is that the brain's to do list increases which creates more distractions.

As you might expect, the answers are all too familiar:

Cluster similar tasks together, e.g. answer your e-mails, etc. between sessions focused on more important or demanding issues.
If you are focused on something, like a meeting, and arrive early, don't check your e-mails as this is likely to distract you from the subject of the meeting.
Don't fill your day with appointments as something unexpected will throw your schedule. Add a couple of short periods for "meeting with self". Use them for that unplanned event but if nothing crops up use them for thinking, revising priorities or getting a head start on tomorrow's agenda.
Establish a closing down routine for the end of the day. Turn off laptops, phones, etc. and start cooking dinner. Anything that tells the brain "work is over".
The human body is very good at coping with short bouts of stress but it is not a machine.
The way to change is not to look for things to give up but to focus on what is important to you.
Take time off. Really. Set aside time to rest and relax. Go for a walk. It is only when you stop and think that you will get the opportunity to change things and make improvements in your life.

I can relate particularly to feeling overwhelmed, most days there is at least one occasion when I just want to sit down and cry. Listen to the programmes and see if there is anything that helps.

Alan
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/busyness-and-resting

Thursday, 7 September 2017

There's nothing like a bit of D.I.Y. is there? No, not the get-out-the-hammer-and-nails, off-to-B&Q kind of D.I.Y., (do I strike you as the sort of person who is going to build it myself?) I mean Do It Yourself in a Self Help kind of way.

The current trend for mental health is "Tell someone" - which I totally agree with.

"Don't keep it to yourself; ask for help" - yep, done that. Unfortunately, I have not had positive experiences. It has felt like that trust exercise where you fall straight back and somebody catches you - except that on every occasion they just let me drop, smack bang, flat on my back. Ouch!

Husband (now ex) told me to get a grip. Having 'shared' with my parents and siblings, they just pretend that they don't have such a difficult person in the family and hope (even after all these years) that I'll either grow out of it or (now that I am in my fifties) snap out of it. Professional help has proved to be incredibly difficult to access and then inappropriate and inadequate if I have got it. (No disrespect to all the effective and committed practitioners out there, unfortunately I didn't get sent to you.) So ultimately what I have learned is that if I want help, I have to do it myself.

When I am depressed I feel out of control and powerless; I panic because I think I can't cope. One of the ways that I seek to regain a feeling that I am in control is by searching for ways that help me to deal with the illness when it's there or, even better, prevent it from returning. Being part of the Moodscope community is one of those things and the few blogs that I have written for Moodscope are about things that help me that I hope might help YOU too.

All sorts of people write blogs for Moodscope and mostly they do not, to my knowledge, write for a living or have any professional background in advising on depression, bi-polar or anxiety (I say "mostly" because I know some do). What we all have is PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and this gives us a unique understanding; in many ways WE are the experts! Who is the expert on you? YOU are! Hopefully we are all on a journey to recovery, finding things that work for US as individuals to manage our conditions.

This is becoming a blog about two kinds of D.I.Y.  Firstly the help yourself kind. Be your own project, the on-going aim of which is to bring about improvement. Secondly (and this has just dawned on me) if you find anything that works, put it out here on Moodscope.  Don't just be a consumer of the blogs, write one! Do it yourself! There's a glorious range of contributors, with so many different styles and such varied approaches to life - but ALL of them are helpful in their way, and YOUR contribution would be helpful too. I am not good at D.I.Y. (the put-a-shelf-up kind) but I am trying to improve at the helping myself kind of D.I.Y., and I would really appreciate YOUR input!

Thank you.

Marmaladegirl
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/a-spot-of-d-i-y

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Letter to Bradley – Age 12

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/2iX4FFE]

Dear Bradley,

Your mother phoned me last night and she is worried. You know she is worried and I know you don't want her to worry, but – let's face it, if you were your mother, you'd be worried too, wouldn't you?

She phoned me because she'd heard that my daughter, your friend from Primary School, has self-harming issues too. She thought I might understand.

I do understand, although not for the reason she thinks.

What I want to say to you, Bradley, is that you're not alone. You may think you are. You may think that you're the only one who feels like this. You may think that something must be wrong with you; that somehow, you're a failure because you can't cope. You might feel weak because you can't shrug off the bullying – or stand up to the bullies.

And because the darkness has overwhelmed you.

So, you cut yourself because the bright pain overcomes the dark for a brief time. And because this is a pain you can control, even if you cannot control the desire for this pain. You cannot control the hurt of the dark, but you can control the bright bloom of pain. It's all that keeps you going sometimes.

You need to know you are not a failure and you are not weak; you have the illness known as depression. Your mother says you call it the sadness. That's as good a name as any. Some of us here call it the black dog, although that's an insult to all dogs everywhere. For me it's a dirty grey monster that swallows me up whole, and cuts me off from everyone. I call my monster Leviathan; it's just a bit easier if it has a name.

I admire you so much for talking to your mother, for explaining to her how things are for you. For many of us that is impossible. We are dumb, and unable to confide in anyone.

I am sorry you are having to cope with the bullies; those monsters who just look human. They exist everywhere and take joy in hurting us; hurting us physically and emotionally – even spiritually. They steal our joy and stamp our energy into the ground. They carry the sadness with them and cast it over us like a net so we cannot escape and then they laugh at us as we struggle.

But I want you to know you are not alone. You are not alone and you are not friendless and there are people out here who understand.

We understand because we live in the darkness, the sadness, too. We know how it is to struggle every day to get out of bed because we dread the day ahead. We know how it is to grasp anything that promises a brief respite or escape from the pain – even if that respite or escape is more pain.

You're not alone in the dark, because we're here too, and we're fighting with you.

Welcome to our band of heroes, Bradley. You're safe here.

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/letter-to-bradley-age-12

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

I believe in fairies.

Adults have it all wrong. They spend little time on the really important stuff. We only need to look at a four year old, blowing bubbles in the wind to see the magic. The belly laugh when a concentrated-on bubble flies off the wand and pops! Or when a tumble of bubbles appear and the child feels like a King! I am lucky to have a video of my eldest daughter doing this very thing and it is one of my most treasured possessions. I'd picked up a cheap, plastic bubble machine, filled it with batteries and liquid and switched the switch to 'on'. The squeals!! I don't even need the video as I can remember every moment and sound. It was a windy afternoon and so she was caught up inside this magical tornado of bubbles.

It has been a long time since I felt that freedom. And yet it is vital.

Unless ye olde Knight wearing white satin appears on a steed outside my front door in the next wee bit, I'm not convinced I'm going to feel that sense of freedom today. Or tomorrow. But even in the writing of this first paragraph, it sent me back to a place where I felt wonderful. And that is all you need. Just for a few moments, recall something wonderful. And that is all you need. You have traversed yet another moment. Now you can carry on, just the same as you were, but now with a sprinkle of fairy dust on top. I declare no growing up today if we can at all avoid it!

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/i-believe-in-fairies

Monday, 4 September 2017

When Harry Met Joe – a Windows Fairy Tale.

When Harry (Harrington Ingham) met Joe (Joseph Left), the two psychologists came up with a model of four windows that can really help people grow. Since I've been using this a lot recently in mentoring and coaching, I thought I'd share how this can help us all mature because I think the Moodscope Community is good at this.

The four windows are frames for what we know, and don't know about ourselves. The most often used window is the self we show the World and the window through which the World can see us. We even say, "What you see is what you get!" and, "Take me as I am." Frame 1 is 'known to self, shown to others'. The quick reference word for this is 'The Arena'.

The next frame is far more mysterious. This one is the self that is known to us but not shown to others - what the psychologists call 'The Fa├žade'. Imagine a window with the curtains closed. Only you and I know why we hide certain aspects of ourselves from others. Growth comes from opening up more and more... pulling back those curtains. We do, however, need to choose our moment and our audience carefully. Remember, they've invested in seeing you and I a certain way, and they are certain of that! New revelations bring uncertainty into the picture... for a while.

The most immediate area for growth is our Blind Spot. In this window, other people can clearly see what we're like, but we don't see it. It's as if we've turned our back on the window.

Let me tell you about Bridget.

Bridget is what all of us need: a good friend. She told me years ago that I was a 'Sullen Tiger'. Initially flattered, thinking it was a rather cool Kung Fu name, I asked her what she meant. She said, "I'm never sure whether you are going to rug nicely around my legs... or turn and claw me one!" I was offended and stomped off... just like a Sullen Tiger would. Within 20 paces, I realised she was absolutely correct, and, in that moment of insight, my Sullen Tiger moved from the Blind Spot into the Arena.

Another friend, Jacqui, told me yesterday that a lot of people loved me. I genuinely confessed surprise at this - another Blind Spot.

So who would you be Bridget and Jacqui to? And what would you say to move them forward? Care, tact, and perfect timing help!

Molly has said some challenging things in the past and I've found them helpful as part of my own journey of self-discovery.

An adaptation of Robert Burns' poem, 'To a Louse' explains the poet's own understanding of this window.

Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

Even stranger is the last window. This is the self that is unknown both to us and to those outside looking in. It can be discovered often through the behaviours we don't tolerate in others. This is because we often project dissatisfaction with issues we can't face in ourselves. This, I feel, is a subject for its own blog!

OK, that's more than enough for today - go and be Bridget, Molly, or Jacqui like a good friend!

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/when-harry-met-joe-a-windows-fairy-tale

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Reasons To Be Cheerful.



This is from an article I wrote in 2003 for our UK church magazine.

A pop song – another 'Don't worry, be happy'. We'd just returned from India, and turned into curmudgeons – not even 'Old Codgers' which has overtones of cosiness. From a country which had poverty and sadness, England seemed full of discontent – illustrated by the politician's words 'You never had it so good'. Young people were well fed, educated, they had total freedom of choice, yet the crime rate was rising, children of broken homes on the increase, many did not have the joy of a father-figure because modern woman thought she could manage without (by choice or abandoned), and many children were under psychiatric care.

In the same issue were extracts from 'If I had my life to live over' by Erma Bombeck*, written when she found out she was dying of cancer. A few of her 'regrets':

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show dirt, or would last a lifetime.

When my children kissed me impetuously, I would never have said 'Later, now go get washed up for dinner'.

There would have been more 'love you's. More 'I'm sorry'.

Now, 14 years later, neither of us is terminally ill, but it's often difficult to be cheerful. However, the picture above has real meaning. Among the girls is the one we have 'brought up' from the age of 7. She was rescued from an awful childhood, and taken into a Catholic convent. We paid all the bills, and visited 9 times. I lost touch – her English is not good. Then I heard she had moved states, followed by the news that she was ill and had an abortion. Reading between the lines it seems likely she was raped, she'd never tell me. I thought she was dead. Now, she has 'surfaced' through Facebook, it was her birthday a couple of days ago, and we are going to be 'grandparents' again in a few months. (She regards us as her parents, and our children as her siblings, she knows all about them). Reasons to be cheerful indeed.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

* Erma Bombeck was a much syndicated writer of humorous columns in the US, she died of kidney failure.

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/reasons-to-be-cheerful

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Saying Goodbye.

Yesterday my very courageous daughter said her goodbyes to her grandma. She didn't know, until we were at the hospital, that it would probably be be last time she saw her. Nor did I before we went. I just suddenly instinctively knew and I told my daughter to say anything she needed to say. What a brave young girl. Aged just 12.

It took me ages to get to sleep last night and I'm awake early this morning. I don't know how long left we have with Mum, whether it's days or a few weeks even. I do know, however, that this is the beginning of the end.

I feel stupidly strong and needy all at the same time. I feel lonely, yet loved. I feel numb and choked, yet I can still make my Dad (step-dad) laugh a little. Although he is devastated.

I lost my brother in December. Now it's time to be brave again. I'm getting ready to say goodbye again. I know this is all part of life. You may have been through this already with a parent. Or another loved one. I know that many Moodscopers have.

I'm so sorry that this is a sad blog and I certainly don't want to rake up painful memories for anyone. I'm just asking for your support. A hug would be lovely. Thank you.

Jane SG
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/saying-goodbye

Friday, 1 September 2017

Boys Don't Cry.

I casually remarked to the Man with Two Brains that it seemed to be the case that the majority of the bloggers and contributors to Moodscope were women.

That familiar smirk, he's about to say something he thinks is very clever.

"It stands to reason doesn't it? You're all nutters. These forums are all filled with women having a good moan"

I should explain that he is so-called high functioning Aspergers. One of three brothers, no sisters, off to boys boarding school aged 12, followed by a largely male college at Oxford, Officer in the Navy, then career in engineering. Only three girlfriends in his life including me. I say "girlfriends" but soft-hearted charitable ladies would be more accurate.

All of this makes him eminently qualified, in his eyes, to be an expert on female psychology. We once read a book and did tests on the extreme male/female brain. We are each perfect examples.

To be fair to him, he is very respectful of the few women he encounters in his professional life. We have had very many rocky patches in our years together. Were it not for our adored rescue dogs I doubt we would be together today. One particularly bad patch was last winter. I asked if he would consider finding himself a therapist. If I am honest, it was not because I hoped it would help us stay together, things seemed to have gone too far. My main intention was to allow us to discuss parting without bringing on one of his meltdowns.

To my great surprise he agreed. His chosen therapist was a woman of around my age (I am older than him). They got on well, and he accepted a lot of her insights. We are still together, and I have no doubt he will go back to therapy if the need arises.

This got me thinking though. Are there actually more female members of Moodscope? Do the men feel intimidated? I wonder if they are more inclined to do the daily test. It is a bit technical and maybe they relate to it more easily. I hardly ever do the test, but I do read the blogs and comments nearly every day.    

I would really like to hear the male viewpoint on mental illness, anxiety, mood swings, despair. Are they having to put on a brave act with everyone in their lives? I think it is true that in all age groups men are at much higher risk of suicide than women. Why is this?

Come on boys,have a good moan, you never know, it might help.

Valerie
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/boys-dont-cry