Saturday, 30 December 2017

Never surrender!

Well I don't know about other Moodscope members, but I travel to the darkside quite often with my anxiety and depression, and being menopausal doesn't help either!! And everytime I go there I think that I'm not going to make it back, but I always do and suprise myself, be it with the help of medication, family and friends support or just with the strength of character that I don't think I posses but obviously I do!!

Life is a constant fight and it is frightening and very lonely at times even with a good support network around me. I know it is difficult for people to understand my condition unless they have experienced something similar themselves, so I do try and explain, eventhough it is difficult to find the words sometimes.

But I'm back again and fighting on and I will continue to do so and never surrender!!

Sharon the brave
Moodscope member

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Friday, 29 December 2017

Different strokes for different folks.

Advice on how to cope with depression and anxiety isn't in short supply, but it's unrealistic to think that everything works equally well for all people. This isn't just true for self-help of course, but for a huge range of human experiences.

Take sport, for instance. A coaching tip that connects with one person might have no impact on another. As our friend told us, after years of struggling, his skiing was immediately improved when his instructor explained that turning required the same shift of weight you use to dodge around an opponent in rugby. It worked for him but not for anyone else in the group.

The moral is, try lots of different things until one connects directly with you. You don't know what it's going to be until you give it a go. One Moodscoper told us that for her, the best coping mechanism is a particular form of exercise, not exercise in general. Her guaranteed antidote her is circuit training - a gym session where you go through a prescribed set of exercises, moving from one routine to another without break, followed by a period minutes of stretching and relaxation.

She's tried many other forms of working out but none came close as a mood-booster. She's not exactly sure why circuit training is her thing. Perhaps it's because you have to follow a set routine, with no room for decisions. In a way, it doesn't matter why it works so well. She's just glad that she discovered an infallible method of lifting her mood.

What works for you?

The Moodscope team.

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Thursday, 28 December 2017

From thinker to doer.

I haven't been working now for 6 months. I was worried that a period of not working would bring on an episode as it did in the past, but it hasn't - thank goodness.

Many things have helped - but one of the things that has kept me well has been my transition from being a 'thinker' to a 'doer'.  I've (almost) always ruminated and over thought and I'm sure that has added insult to injury. I knew I was going to be made redundant so while going through that stressful period, I made plans. I was going to look for work, do a work related online course, and decorate so that if the worst came to the worst, I can rent out my spare room to cover the mortgage.

As yet, I've not finished decorating but have made a number of different things (knitted 2 jumpers, set up two websites!) and have finished the online course. Work is still not forthcoming but I will keep on keeping on.

Work has always provided me with cash to live but more importantly perhaps is a routine which simply disappears when you stop. I'm making my own routine and it's working.

Despite the money worries and insecurity, I'm well - and that's what matters.

When life doesn't go to plan, how do you react? Is it having a detrimental effect on your condition?

The wee one
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Terrifying Prospect of Another Year.

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

So – that's over then.

Yes – the 25th has been and gone. We survived, if only just.

There's still family to visit of course and the almost equally dreaded New Year's Eve. We have a party this year – but a small party – just a get-together of good friends. So, it won't be too bad. It won't be like other parties where I have crept away to hide. I have been known to slink underneath a handy table, one with a long tablecloth, just to get away. I have sought refuge in the kitchen washing up. "Oh – don't do that!" says my hostess, a little embarrassed. "Go back out there and enjoy yourself." Enjoy myself? I'd rather scrub dishes, thank you.

But this is a small party where everyone knows me well enough I can say, "I'm just going to check out for a bit. I'll be back in a while." They know I need my alone time.

People who don't know me well only remember me from my manic days when I was the life and soul of the party. I can still perform on occasion – after all, part of my job is to give entertaining talks. I'm pretty good at that. Parties – not so much. If I can find one interesting person to talk to for most of the evening, that's fine. Working the room? I mean – how on earth does one work a room, for goodness' sake?

And then, 2018. The whole year, stretched out before us, challenging us to do something with it. It's like that length of fabric or pack of beautiful paper, or piece of wood. We feel we really ought to do something worthwhile with it. Maybe we should have a project. We should achieve something with it.

How about we just have a project to survive to the end of 2018, to just get through? For some of us, that is an achievement in itself. In my darkest times, just getting through to the end of the day was a victory. Getting through the whole year was worthy of an Olympic medal!

I've got a few plans. Keeping on with being healthy is one. I want to carry on working towards the goal on the scales (it's a reasonable one – don't be concerned). I want to stay on top of the drinking. I'd like my business to make a profit. It doesn't even have to be a big profit, just so long as it's paying me, rather than the other way around.

I'd like to stay talking to my girls and my husband. I'd like to stay talking to my friends and nurture those friendships.

Small ongoing goals. Carrying on, really. Keeping on keeping on. Appreciating the small joys and getting through the inevitable griefs and challenges.

2018 doesn't have to be special. If we get to Christmas next year then that's enough.

It's more than some can hope for, after all.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

I'm fine, just a little tired.

When you ask me what's wrong, I'm not sure what to say.

Do you wanna hear how I wish I could crawl out of my own skin because it doesn't feel much like home anymore?

Do you wanna hear how I don't mind the voices in my head or the ringing in my ears because then I know I'm not alone?

Do you wanna hear how I can't stand to look in the mirror anymore because I don't know what self love is?

Do you wanna hear about how I'm not sure what love is because it's something so foreign to me?

Do you wanna hear about how I cant sleep much anymore so I often find myself thinking about everything I wish I could change.

Do you wanna hear about how I'm not even sure why I'm sad, I just know that this hole inside me shouldn't be here.

I know that these things are things you don't need to hear, so instead I tell you I'm fine, just a little tired

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Moodmas.

"And so this is Christmas. And what have we done. Another year over. And a new one just begun." (John Lennon)

Those words always prove to me that my internal pipework is working beautifully. My astonishing creation of a body can read the words, convert them to emotion which turns cogs and wheels, and produce tears. It's quite an amazing feat and I am fascinated.

And so I read the words. I puddle the tears. Some spill. And there must be a lesson in there.

I like to see this time of year as the middle of the year. I find it too hard to deal with the weight of it being both 'the end' and 'the start'. It's too much. I make a strong effort to remind myself daily that it's just another week in the middle.

What I would like to remind you of is that you are here and you are reading this. I bet you have had a wonderful Christmas somewhere in your history and I bet you have had an awful one too. I know I have. And maybe this year it will lean more towards one than the other. But what you must remember, and really give yourself credit for, is that between all the days from then to now you have held yourself up, got yourself through and never given up. Those who have not suffered with poor mental health cannot possibly understand how immense that achievement is.

The paper and the boxes and the endless plastic packaging which require pliers, patience and swearing (is it just me?) can all take a back seat. The best present is to ourselves and it is the gift of recognition. To recognise that we have, once again, clung on, made it through and that we are still doing it. We have done it before, we can do it again. And I am so very proud of you all. People I have never met, but sometimes hear comments from, I share in your disappointments and your achievements as well as those of you I have never heard from but who I know read, digest and silently keep on.

I consider you all good friends with big hearts. I like being a part of us, steadying each other over stepping stones, and I wish you all to treat your absolute 'needs' first and then have a very Merry Moodmas. So glad to walk with you.

Much love from

The room above the garage with the little lights.
A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

Are you a party person?

Depending on your personality, you have been longing for or dreading this time of year: office parties, Christmas with the family and the silliness of New Year's Eve. The recent blog, on the joy of snow, had as the thought for the day 'Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun'.

The snow reminded me that it wrecked our 55th wedding anniversary. Our 63rd was on the 19th December – I thought 'pointless celebration, my husband still knows I am his wife, but blames me for "getting rid of him" into a care home. But there they are all 'party people', birthdays celebrated with a gather round, cake and a sing-song. Mr G not keen on latter, but I'm half the marriage, so made a big variety of little cakes popular over many decades, staff were pleased.

I think our 48th anniversary was in Madras (Chennai). Decorated chairs with gold bows, red roses for me and a disgusting cake. The Taj group keep records, and realised we had a golden wedding coming up. They suggested we fly a load of friends and family out, with the inducement that the hotel was always set up for Bollywood movies, and our party could be part of one! As it happened, a daughter said 'Party is on us (in UK) but I needed to take 50 year history of photos of business, travel and family. A tall order – resulted in displays which pleased everybody and an album of 'composites'. The cake, made by me, was totally OTT.

When we left our second house, we thought that if you had a house warming party why not a house cooling? So we told the kids and the au pair to invite their friends. Coming downstairs, I greeted 'guests' and asked whose friends they were. Nobody, they'd just heard there was a good party! There were 28 for breakfast the next morning, the removal men arrived, took one look and started the other end of the house (it had 17 rooms, we could not afford to live in it). My oldest friend, very acerbic, phoned for news. 'We've just had a super party' (14th July, I think). 'Oh, you two, you'd have a party if you cut your fingernails'.

When the son who is 60 next week was 6 he wanted a party – for 30 littles boys. Riot wasn't in it – we used the village hall, not going to wreck the house. They fought, they went up one side of the stage and down the other, they illustrated the meaning of a 'bun fight', Then, being polite little boys they left, panting, saying 'We've never had so much fun in our lives'. (Back to thought for the day).

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 23 December 2017

Blog through the fog.

The fog being my brain.

Why do we develop these mental states that haunt us and tie us down?

I observed that my nerve left me some time in my early 50's. After a very active career, filled with travel, new people, hard work and daily changes of routine, I had become reluctant to even drive to the garden centre! Driving now being the cause of several heart pounding moments on the M25, among others. The fear of the open road, of all the obstacles, dangers and aggressions of some fellow drivers. It is enough to make me a recluse, except that our lives have to move on.

So have I now become trapped in my fearful mind. Imagining the worst outcome of every journey and searching for non-motorway routes for every trip? People say to me that they too dislike driving, but they will still take on a drive to Manchester or Marseilles, disliking but doing.

I however would do anything to get out of such mileage, for fear of the loss of control or collapse at the wheel. Life limiting.

So why do we change? Life experience should make us stronger not weaker? Fear creeps up on us and slaps us on the back. Pinning you down and slowing your step. It infects your world, grabbing at your insecurities, expanding your imagination of the imminent disasters you could befall. Pull yourself together. Get a grip. It's all in your mind. It's not real.

Oh but it is. To me.

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 22 December 2017

Christmas approaches...

For years I have written a Christmas 'Round Robin' letter updating friends with news of my life. These have been happy, sad, distressing, heartbroken, glad and joyous synopses and keep me in touch with those I love and admire.

I wrote to Moodscope once and the replies I received were so welcome and I apologise that I never responded to any of the kind people who wrote and helped me at a very difficult time. I thought I was ok but regressed and went back to a dark place in my mind and life.

Recently I have had good news regarding a cancer op and am clear for the next year and now my son and his wife have given me a gorgeous grandson. My feelings however have been put into turmoil as I expected none of the extreme negative feelings I now have again towards my ex husband who left me after 32 years of marriage and married a younger 'friend of a friend of his'!

All your thoughts and expectations are paramount when married of the time to come when grandchildren arrive and then to enjoy them with your partner/husband. This for me is especially so at Christmas time which is so wonderful when children make it very special.

It is my circumstance of being alone that makes what used to be a lovely time for me in the family home now so different... My son and daughter in law have kindly asked me to stay over with them on Christmas Eve and we will then go to her parents to stay over on Christmas day evening. They have always been wonderful and generous to me with their care and consideration. Then on Boxing Day my son, wife and my grandson will be with my ex-husband and his wife... and this is where the pain intensifies and continues for me... I truly resent they will all be together and I accept I am deeply angry. My son still loves his father and they have to accept his wife and be with them also at Christmas.

This is not how I thought my life and retirement would be and I am finding it much harder to cope with now I am a grandmother. I so wanted to have lots of time being around with my grandson but now I am 72 and thoughts of that time being so limited scares me and fills me with sadness. I can just try to accept what I can't change and cheer myself up with the fact that the option to not growing old is certainly unwanted!

It is so hard to be alone and the family time of Christmas accentuates this. I keep going through in my mind all the good things I have in my life and try not to be negative and know that I will pull through when the 'Season of Good Cheer' is over!!! I will make the most of my future time with my grandson, son and daughter in law and try to lose my bitterness. I know it is not good for me but its hard to shift and to find a peaceful and rested mind.

I wish all Moodscopers a very Good Christmas and I hope peace and joy will prevail for you.


Lyn x
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

For times of need.

Clearly more of an earth warrior than I credit myself for, I am recycling a blog. Yikes!  Cheating! No? Yes.

In this season I have one time when I can listen to Christmas music. It's at the very start when my children pull out the CDs and for a while we take therapy in belting out each and every last Christmas song from Wham to Sinatra.

From that point, on all of the other days, sometimes just on repeated repeat, I play this.  Over and over and over and over. I carry it from house to car, from car to house. I have it on my phone, I have it on CD, I am seeking out vinyl. Sometimes I just concentrate on their faces.

It gets me through absolutely everything. I share it again with you. May it help:

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas and Candles.

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

"Are you ready for Christmas?" asked a poem read out on Sunday.

It was our carol service; the church was packed.

We have a pretty church, parts of it dating back to the 600s; part of it built only ten years ago. It sits on the banks of the river Ouse, set on a rise, so the floods of winter never reach it, although they come right up to the gate.

From the church door, you look across the water meadows. In summer they are lush, grazed by fat cattle, their tails flicking in the sunshine; swallows darting between the willows. In December, they are a scene in monochrome: grey pencilled lines of grass and charcoal etched branches against a Payne's Grey wash of sky. And between the church and that view, the river.

There have been times when the river has called to me, in my darkness. After rain or snow it runs deep and fast. Branches and other flotsam caught in it, end up at Denver Sluice, fifty miles away. They are used to retrieval operations there.

But my medication is keeping the darkness away. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it and know it's out there, still lurking. It would love to draw me down – deep down. But it can't, at least, not right now.

So, I stood with quiet joy in my heart as the choir sang the first verse of Once in Royal David's City; unaccompanied and in candlelight.

The first reading was from Isaiah. I sat back and prepared for one of my favourite passages, "The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light." But it wasn't Isaiah 9, but Isaiah 42: "A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out."

I imagine, if you are reading this, that – like me – you have often felt like a bruised reed; battered and trodden down in the mud. You have felt it impossible ever to rise again. You have felt as if your flame is the tiniest flicker, just one step away from the grey ash that signals the end of light. Maybe you're there right now. I know there have been many Christmases when I have been there.

This is not a religious post; I wouldn't do that to you – but in answer to the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" No – I haven't got all my presents. Nothing is wrapped. My cards are unwritten. I haven't got a Christmas menu sorted, let alone bought the food.

But – I am ready for the real message of Christmas. I'm ready for that message of hope, born in darkness. I am ready to hear that my broken reed will be lifted, supported and nursed back to strength. I'm ready to hear that my flickering candle flame will be gently breathed on so it gives light again.

That message of hope applies throughout the year and not just in December.

I'm certainly ready for that.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Are you a weed?

I have noticed that when a living thing is used in a story or to point our psychological strengths and weaknesses it is usually an animal like an elephant, a wolf, a tiger, an owl, a dolphin or some animal like that.

Rarely does anyone use a plant to illustrate a human characteristic let alone a weed. A weed is a plant considered unwanted in a particular situation, that is a weed is a plant in the wrong place.

I have often felt like a weed in my life. I used to think there was something wrong with me but often it was because I was in the wrong place. Maybe with the people who did not understand me, maybe I was in an unsuitable job, maybe I was living in the wrong town, but I usually came to the conclusion there was something not right with me.

The thing is maybe I was a weed and I just need to find the right place for me.

Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place, or you were surrounded by people who did not understand you?

If you moved to another place and found people accepted you did that help?

Or are you still looking for that special environment where you can be appreciated and nurtured?

Have you ever felt like a weed?

A Moodscope member

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Monday, 18 December 2017

It's The Most Vulnerable Time of the Year.

It's back, why does it come back? And why now? It's Christmas and I love Christmas. I love the winter, I love the chilled air and the assault on my senses when I leave the house. I love the list making and the excuse to treat myself and those whom I love. I love the food and wine and chocolate in every room of the house. I love the lit coal fire and the hot water bottles. I love Christmas carols and christmas songs. I love the lights and the smell of the tree. Ok, so I don't love all the socialising, I find the magnitude of social engagements to negotiate terrifying. Oh why has it found me out now?

I've been well really; bobbing along to a merry little rhythm and it's all been fine. I've taken on a couple more hours teaching, joined a social running group, helped on the PTA. The odd down day and I've bounced back up. I'm generally a positive person despite the depression, I'm a teacher, a parent, an empathetic and supportive friend and I live a full life. But it's come back again.

I won't deny looking over my shoulder when I'm whizzing forwards, checking it's not closing in on me. I definitely look ahead and anticipate if it could be looming around the next corner, but I wasn't expecting it to pounce on me with quite so much force. Is it out of the blue?

I want to have a tantrum, stamp my feet and shout in it's face that 'It's not fair!', 'Leave me alone!', 'Go away!'. It has taken over my being again and I'm angry because it's robbed me of the beautiful winter and Christmas with my children. I'm still here, I know, but I'm not me, it's making sure of that.

I know for lots of people Christmas is a time to hibernate or protect themself, last year I was prepared, I had a list ready of 'How to look after myself at Christmas'. It feels too late for that now. What do I do Moodscopers?

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Tis the season (part iii).

Week 3 together. Something soothing...

Take a piece of paper, real paper, you will be keeping it. And a pencil because if you listen closely you might find the music from its spine as you scribe is on its own worth a ticket fee.

Can you write out a small list of things which make Christmas work? Did you notice that I did not say what makes Christmas 'Christmas' or what makes Christmas 'special' but what makes Christmas work for us. Once its written, all we need to do is to let time take care of it. I'll start you with mine. And it would be interesting, and maybe helpful for others, to hear yours.  My list reads:

To be with a small group of people and to tolerate their differences.
To eat together regardless of what is on the plate.
To sip something special but to value and limit it, water is special to many.
To surprise children with something they had not expected.
To toast those who are no longer at our table but waiting in the next room.

There. Maybe it's not that hard to make Christmas soothing and manageable. The 'right' napkins are not important. We have our lists. Stick yours up and let us all worry less about what does not matter.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Waking up to a positive, energetic day.

It's summer in Cape Town and a December south-easter wind rattles roofs and jangles nerves. I am working hard, harder than last month and I'm loving it. This morning I woke to a calming meditation and as I listened the words, "I can do it," came to mind. I went downstairs and made a coffee. I can hear the sound of the ocean and the wind has miraculously calmed down.

As I wait for the water to boil, I think about all the people in the world with no running water, a roof over their heads and a comfortable bed to sleep in. As I pour fresh ground coffee, I feel grateful for the many comforts I enjoy.

Today, I refuse to listen to all the bad news, over and over. It only makes me worried and upset. By letting go of all this noise, I can free my mind to be present to the moment breath by breath.

You see, getting to this place is not easy. As an older woman (now 60), I have fought the world, always wanting to make a difference (whatever that means). I see how futile  is this struggle, this angst. Now, it's about quality of life and making time to be in the flow, in the zone.

Quite simply, I take control of my mind chatter with mindful breathing and a strong commitment to practice loving kindness and to apply the balm of patience to angry and reactive thoughts. They only cloud my judgement and my loving heart is obscured, like clouds in the clear blue sky.

Julia G
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 15 December 2017

Rip it up and start again.

When I was little I loved to draw stuff even though I am no artist but if I made a mistake on my nice new clean sheet of paper I could not tolerate it and I would screw the paper up and start again. If only real life was so easy.

We all make mistakes as we grow up and become adults. Others may make mistakes in how they treat and relate to us. Sometimes life goes through phases when everything feels like one big mistake. I know. I experienced a lengthy period of depression twenty years ago when my own life felt just like that and which felt like it would never end. But the important thing I think is to realise that life does indeed go through phases. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are short. Some can be very long. Sometimes we get stuck in them and they feel very painful and out of our control or alternatively we can become so familiar with them that we accept them even if they make us feel very uncomfortable.

But do we have to ?... or do we have the power to rip things up and start again?

Do we even want to start again or are we resigned to what we have created or had thrust upon us or even secretly a little proud of our stuff or just don't think we have it within us to draw anything better? The art analogy is taking over !!!

Ironically my husband came to talk to me in the middle of writing this piece and when  I went back to it I thought to myself... maybe this is not very good... maybe nobody will be interested in my ramblings... maybe I'd better scrap it and start again! But after giving it a little more thought I decided not to. Stuff doesn't have to be perfect. Life doesn't have to be perfect and I don't have to be perfect or even try to be perfect any more.

So you can admire the handiwork of your life, paint over it, erase bits of it, embellish it, frame it for everyone to see, be proud of what you have created, hide it somewhere or rip it up and start again. The options are many, you are the artist and the choice is yours.

In keeping with the art analogy, I myself am choosing a clean sheet today but keeping all my  previous efforts, both good and bad, in a treasured portfolio... my mind.

So what will you choose to do today with the masterpiece that is your life ? I can't wait to find out!

Much love to all you moodscopers out there

Romy B
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Let your happiness start now.

Only a few weeks to Christmas and the race has started already.

"I'm busy, sorry I'll call you later, see you later, I have to go lots of things to do, catch up  another time..." the same words over and over again. It's mad busy out there, may be good busy but it's still busy with the endless run to shops, buying gifts, sending cards, arranging dinners, meeting friends, going out and do not forget the "New Year resolution list".

The so exciting and apprehensive new year list with all the "I must and I will do this and that... to be happy in 2018."

Not surprisingly, with all these things to do and race to run, the Christmas holidays are the height of the flu season.

What about the real meaning of this magical season? Would not the real Christmas miracle be if we slowed down long enough to remember the reason for this festivity so that our celebrations became authentic and meaningful?

So let's slow down and look at our lists again so we can choose to let only what we love best about the holiday remain. Now we can finally relax and be delighted by the sounds of bells and joyful music, savor the aroma of the roast turkey and gingerbread, sipping hot chocolate and re-creating cherished customs that care for our souls and the souls of our loved ones.

Let you happiness start NOW!

Have a peaceful and joyful Christmas

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano - Parte Quinque

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


I write this with a sense of failure.

It is now a month since I started this series and, yes, there is a reason why I left this topic to last. I am lousy at meditation.

Oh, I had such good intentions. I always do. A month, I thought; a month was surely enough to get into good habits.

I sought advice from anyone I could think of who was good at this. I downloaded apps and guided meditations. I subscribed to a couple of daily "Thoughts". But nope, after a month I think I have done exactly two meditations and read maybe four of the thoughts.

So, this morning, I made myself do another meditation. This one from Head Space, which comes highly recommended from a fellow Moodscope user.

Honesty time? Yup – I felt really good after doing it. I felt light and floaty – as if I'd had an hour's whole-body massage in a darkened room with soft panpipe music and jasmine scented air.

But doing it was sheer torture.

So, I identified a few things.

1. I cannot bear to do "nothing". I can't even watch TV without doing the ironing at the same time.
2. I'm really rebellious. When the guide asks me to breathe in a certain way, my reaction is to do exactly the opposite.
3. My inner child feels as if she's being punished; being asked to sit quietly on her hands for those minutes, when she really wants to play.

On the other hand, I do other things which are very nearly meditation.

I have written many times about swimming. There is something about the rhythmical movement of one's limbs through the water, the discipline of breathing, that is conducive to letting one's thoughts wander where they will. I usually use my swimming time to play with ideas for writing and in intercessory prayer – which is different from meditative prayer. Guess what? I'm not much good at meditative prayer either.

Another thing I do is make greetings cards. Apparently, studies have shown that the brainwaves of someone who is deeply involved in a craft process are identical to the brainwaves of someone meditating. So – when I'm cutting paper to millimetre accuracy, when I'm placing that stamp image with pinpoint precision, when I'm gluing embellishments exactly where they need to be: that's as good as meditation. Isn't it?

Well, maybe. I think both are good for mental health. But both are meditation lite. They're not a substitute for the real thing. I rarely rise from a cardmaking session with the feeling of having spent an afternoon in a spa, with that physical feeling which is at once a feeling of heaviness and lightness – a feeling of being effortlessly stretched like Alice after she drank of that bottle so invitingly labelled "Drink Me!"

It's a good feeling. A feeling of being calm, loose, relaxed, centred, resilient. A feeling I'd like to feel again.

Almost worth meditating for.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman..?

Yay, it's snowing! Outside my garden looks like a Christmas card. I'm impatiently waiting for my daughter and her friends to wake up, after a late birthday sleepover, so we can pull out the sled, build a snowman and generally have fun. Snow happens here in the East Midlands so rarely that, when it does, I make a conscience effort to go outside and have fun and not listen to my 'louder' voice telling me to stay under the covers with hot drinks!! Time for hot chocolate later when we are back in doors with red noses, rosy cheeks and a feeling a contentment and pleasure.

Is snow fun for you? Do you wanna build a snowman?

Jane SG
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 11 December 2017

How can I help?

Today's poem was inspired by a very genuine friend who was proud of how she gave love letters to homeless people. She assured me that these were received well, and that she never gave them money.

I realised, to my shame, that I was horrified by this. She sincerely believed she was doing them good because nobody told them how beautiful they were and how loved.

However, I also realise that I have turned away from friend and neighbour when it was in my power to make a relevant difference.

Instead, I have shared empty words.

So I wrote this poem to myself, and for whomsoever it resonates with.

True to life, when my turn came to need help, many friends said, "If I can help in any way... just let me know." When the right type of help was blisteringly obvious. Appropriate help did not come.

Christmas is not a happy season for all, but it is a grand opportunity to make a significant difference to someone's life.

Thus here is the poem.

"How can I help?" I helpfully said!
They gasped, "I am thirsty."
So I gave them some bread.


Then I saw a friend stranded - they had a flat tyre.
So I stopped and I hugged them,
And shared a word to inspire!


What of the homeless man exposed to the rain?
Well, I gave him my own ticket
For a cheap flight to Spain!


And when it was my turn...


I said, "Send reinforcements; we're going to die."
You heard, "Lend me fourpence; we're going to fly."
So you said you'd no change, and instead gave a grin,
Not knowing that I was about to give in.


Helping a friend doesn't take the science of a rocket
If your neighbour's in need, put your hand in your pocket.


It doesn't cost much to show that you care;
You may well be the answer
To someone's last prayer.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tis the season (part ii).

It's our second week. If I could create a warm room for us all with soft stuff and candles in the style of the Danish concept Hygge then I would. (Of course, in this virtual world someone else would cook and clean for us, we'd all get along and our differences would dovetail, never to collide.)

How can I bring you something soothing this week? My thought is a reverse advent. For you. Throw around in your head the idea of putting just 5 minutes inwards each day. Only 5 minutes, time it. You can't? I'm raising an eyebrow. A time investment in to you. Just for the season and you can go back to ignoring yourself after December if you wish.

Why not a deposit into the Bank of Mental Health? Daily. Five minutes. You might find it strange. Indulgent. Useless. Absurd. Are you willing to try? You might grow to look forward to it!

Ideas - for me, things like making a fresh bed for myself, a candle with dinner, to rub lotion into my sore feet every morning before socks, drying my hair, lying flat on the floor staring at the ceiling, enjoying the sunset or sometimes just telling myself into the mirror "you are doing ok Room, better than you think".

Maybe you will think it's weird. And maybe you'll like it. Be soothed. Five minutes. A reverse advent.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Alert and Ashamed.

Alert: Being quick to notice and react
Ashamed: Feeling shame for doing something wrong or foolish

I have plagiarised the series of excellent blogs by Lex, offered to our Moodscope community quite a while ago (September to November 2013) looking at the Moodscope cards and their meaning. Today I'd like to take another look at the Alert and Ashamed cards.


Lex gives us the vivid examples of pets, seemingly sleeping but with senses still working, easily able to score a 3 on this card because they are ever quick to notice and then leap into activity... especially if there is food or attention available.

There is a difference between being aware and being alert. Being aware relies heavily upon our innate senses, senses that are often the key to our own survival. Being alert takes us that extra mile, we are now FULLY aware, wide-awake and keen. Imagine hearing sounds all around you, being aware of those sounds. Now you hear a gunshot ring through the ambient noise – you change gear and become alert.

I think most of us are better at awareness than being alert. We become alert most often because we have become fearful. Practice being alert and you will appreciate your surroundings so much more.


So we have done something wrong or foolish? Show me someone who hasn't! This card is making the way that we feel about our mistakes very strong. Are we sure that we are really ashamed or is it that we are embarrassed about something we said or did?

Being embarrassed is usually fairly easy to handle, often we have caused other people to laugh at us but it's usually quickly forgotten. The magic words "I'm sorry!" will often be all that are needed. I get ashamed only when I keep doing the same wrong or foolish thing time after time, especially if what I keep repeating hurts others around me.

Lex postulated that taking a break even for a few minutes to go to the loo is often a good coping tactic.

Shame is an emotion that makes you feel horrible. It's not the same as the feeling of guilt because you did something wrong. Shame makes you feel inside that you're unworthy and inadequate.

Understand that most people feel a bit ashamed, so don't be too hard on yourself when marking yourself on this card. Best of all if you have someone close who you feel able to share your insecurity with, try not staying completely in emotional hiding. I'm a typical guy and find this very hard but when I do manage to do it even a little bit... fantastic.

Please share with other Moodscope members your tips, insights ideas or advice on these two cards.

A Moodscope member

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Friday, 8 December 2017

They can't take that away from me.

Pre digital cameras, when you got your prints from the chemist the packet (and much publicity) had the phrase 'because someone took a picture'. Without this record, it would be difficult to remember that we built most of that house ourselves, the five children had a super time, always larks, impromptu parties and loads of visitors. The children are in their 50's, the house and garden are under the M25, but the memories live on.

The title is a Gershwin song from the 1930's, sung by all the most famous singers in their time. I've written about memories, their importance for me, loaded on a computer with a large screen, and appearing at random. A doctor who specialises in dementia says it is a brilliant way of communicating with sufferers, who cannot cope with albums.

The whole subject of photographs came up last week - visit of eldest son, complete with USB and CD of latest family occasions, grand-daughter wedding and brother-in-law 90th birthday, plus shire horses and a breed of sheep, of which the ram could be champion of the crumpled horn. We were then glued to the screen. Friendly battles ensued on pictures which could not be dated. I did it on dresses or hair styles; son had a fool-proof method, any number plate he could put a date to.

This blog has a serious warning and a plea. My brother in law is in a bad way – he's 91, still stubbornly living at home, rapidly losing sight, hearing and mobility. I've tried over the decades to persuade him to let me see his photographs – he has been a visiting professor in many countries, and took many pictures. They are all in boxes. He has a mentally ill son, a daughter and grand-daughter. If they do not insist on getting him to name the photos where he can, his whole life will be lost, no record except, I expect, an obituary in the 'Times'.

The saying 'every picture tells a story' is very true. Our record of the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989 is a glorious example. We wanted to watch the fireworks - we took a champagne picnic. Could get no nearer than the 5th bridge, already about 10,000 people on it. We were pictured on the central reservation. A police car tried to cross, we all stood up and did the Mexican Wave. Afterwards, on that warm July night, it was one giant street party.

I've kept a diary for 30 years, invaluable. Records now go on Facebook. This Christmas, as well as texting and watching soaps, dig in the family photos, and play the game 'Who was that, where was that', it's fun.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano - Pars Quattuor.


"Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care. The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath. Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast."

Yup – That's Shakespeare. It so very often is. That's from the Scottish Play. What is often forgotten in this quotation is that it comes immediately after the line, "Macbeth does murder sleep."

When I was in my mania periods, back in the bad old days before medication, I was rather proud of the way I could do without sleep. I could function for weeks on three and a half hours a night. I would cheerfully murder sleep.

Of course, the moment I came out of the high and slid down that garderobe slope into the dungeon of depression, I could sleep for seventeen hours a day; and frequently did.

Even recently I was still spending hours awake during the night. At three in the morning I would text friends all around the world. "I am concerned for your health," replied Raz, it being either 9am or 9pm for him. "You should be in the sweet embrace of Morpheus, not conversing with me."

I was unconcerned. So long as I could still function, did it matter that I did not or could not sleep?

But then I read of recent research which suggests that a lack of sleep could seriously shorten your life and certainly adversely affect your health. Turns out, old Will knew what he was talking about.

So, I started to develop a more disciplined sleep routine. I know this does not work for everyone, and I know that there are some (many?) of you who feel you have tried everything to get a good night's sleep and yet still you lie awake, tormented by your thoughts. I do not wish to patronise you with these ideas.

Our day as a family starts at 5.45am, when I stumble out of bed to wake the girls who are blissfully sleeping through their alarms. (How can they do that, if their alarms wake me at the other end of the house through two closed doors?) Working back from that, I try to be in bed by 10pm with lights out at 10.30pm. To facilitate this, the phone and computer get switched off at 9.30pm and I have a snack of slow release carbohydrates to stop me waking hungry in the night. A gentle wind down, warm shower and cosy pyjamas are all part of this process.

And no – it doesn't work all the time. It doesn't take into account evenings spent out. It doesn't account for that really good book I can't put down until my Kindle falls forward and bats me on the nose. It doesn't account for waking up at 1.30am for no good reason.

But it has worked enough for me to feel the benefits, and to recommend the regime to others.

What sleep routine would you recommend?

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Who am I? What am I? Where am I?

Don't worry, dear reader. I am not having an existential crisis! I know exactly where I am. It's an early evening and I am sitting on my well-worn leather sofa, dog by my side and beer at hand (low alcohol, I hasten to add).

What am I? Well, I also know the answer to that. I am a mother of two, plus dog, daughter, sister, partner (although God bless him, we only manage to meet up once a week), friend and in my professional life an adviser on employment rights.

Who am I? Well, I clearly am lots of different things to different people. And the real question that has been nagging me for some months is more not about not knowing who I am, but wondering when I have time to be me?!

Like many people, I am a wage slave with caring responsibilities, and finding time for me is scarce, but yet so important....

This is why I have found mindfulness such a helpful concept. It's learning to live in the moment, trying to focus on being in the present, and although it's a skill which may take a lifetime to master, it's one I want to learn.

Yesterday when parking up to drop my son off at the school disco, he pointed out a bird perching in a bush by the car. "What's that, Mum?", he asked. I squinted and saw a little Jenny wren right there, a yard in front of us. On explaining that this was the smallest bird in the British Isles he was very impressed, which just added to the pleasure of the moment.

I can't really answer the question I posed at the beginning of this blog. I wear many different hats. My responses and behaviour are shaped by my habits and experience gained over the years. What I do know that is that I need time for myself and I need moments of pleasure, like that brief glimpse of a wren in a bush, all 90 seconds of it.

I hope that today you find one small thing that either makes you smile or is comforting.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 4 December 2017

Two friends and one enemy: Could, Should, and Must.

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

For years, years I say, I have been banging on about the dangers of the words 'should' and 'must'. 'Should' and 'Must' have been my enemies - enemies of freedom and productivity. But one of them has just shifted from long-term enemy to firm-friend.

'Should' is a modal operator of necessity. It's a way of helping us understand the often hidden rules we live our lives by, and by which we judge our experience as good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable.

'Should' can be challenged with a great question:

"What would happen if I didn't?"

For example, a useful rule is that I 'should' ring my mother more often than I do... To test the value of this self-imposed rule, asking myself, "What would happen if I didn't?" then opens up a useful stream of thinking:

She may not feel loved
I would miss out on her news
We would weaken our bond.

Since I would like Mum to feel more loved, hear her news, and relish the opportunity to strengthen our bond, it would be a good move to call my Mother! The important difference to be made is to shift from the disempowering 'should' to the empowering word: 'could'!

Suddenly, there seems to be a more empowering option - to choose to call my Mum because I can (could), not out of guilt but rather out of love and in the quest for positive possibilities.

'Should' then, remains an enemy of the state - the state of freedom.

By now you must have guessed who my new friend is: 'Must'!

'Must' is a modal operator of necessity, equally as dangerous and challengeable as 'Should' but one that can be turned to good use. 'Must' can disempower or it can empower.

Let's take a rewriting of the Ten Commandments as our example. "Thou shalt not..." is actually very strong language. It is non-negotiable. It is absolute. And, unfortunately for many of us, it is archaic and thus open to misinterpretation. For most of us, 'shalt not' means 'shouldn't'... and therein lies a lot of trouble.

Listen to one of the commandments written in three ways, beginning with the archaic:

Thou shalt not commit adultery (archaic)
You should not commit adultery (interpreted as)
You must not commit adultery (new alternative form.)

Laying aside the 'shall not' for now, let's consider the difference between 'should' and 'must'.

If I should not commit adultery, that sounds to me like adultery is ill-advised, best not to commit it. However, there is the possibility of exploring the option.

If I must not commit adultery, that sounds to me like adultery is never an option, I must never, ever commit it. There is no possibility of entertaining it as an option.

I hope you agree.

'Must' then can be used to change my behaviour because it changes my options and possibilities. It takes the choice out of the equation. The negotiable becomes non-negotiable, and the energy wasted on choosing is saved because there is no choice.

Let me illustrate.

"I must not eat crisps." This is far easier than, "I should not eat crisps."

Smoking, drinking, swearing... you name it. The power to change is in the shift from 'should' to 'must'.

I recognise that this has the potential to transform your future, so let's start gently and in a manageable way with just three promises to yourself where you will move from the good idea of 'should' to the great action of 'must'.

Kurt Lewin, I believe, suggested that a goal we commit publicly to is a goal we are 10x more likely to achieve. Please feel free to commit publicly to your own 'must' goals in the comments below.

Now I must tidy the lounge...

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Tis the season (part i).

I'm sending a weekly blog in December designed to soothe. Press pause. Reset. Help you pull away from what we think we should be doing. If you are at a difficult point in life and/or health, then this season might be almost unbearable.

From a mental health perspective, I find this time of year filled with feelings of heaven and hell. Heart spilling with love watching my eldest daughter lead her choir in a huge service in our cathedral, followed by silent sobs in bed overnight as I battle through fragmenting myself to help others and a realisation of utter loneliness. Why that dichotomy? It's because there are many things to enjoy about this season and they in turn can highlight what is missing.

Let's revolt! Turn away from the crippling excess. Return to valuing the special, the smaller the more significant. I think for those of us who suffer in our mental health, witnessing the excess of eating, drinking, spending, frivolity, lights and noise can be an extra body blow. We either throw ourselves into it, in an attempt to surf over the season, being buffeted and numbed in the process, or we withdraw even further and hold that weightiness upon our shoulders. We must feel we can stand aside from both.

And so how do we navigate? How do we care for that delicate balance? Well I'm going to attempt to bring you something soothing once a week. And to start I'll say that you are not alone, we will step through it together. If you haven't commented ever before, think about saying hi, it's a connection. That alone can be pivotal. You are not alone. And we will cross the stepping stones of the season bit by bit together. Sometimes we'll slip and sometimes we'll fall. But if we hold hands we can get there together.

Love from

The room above the garage, sticking out a hand.
A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Feeling Cold.

I've felt physically cold for two days and now I'm snuggled down with two hot water bottles and a teddy. This has given me time to re visit the Moodscope site. It has been nice to check in and see the familiar names, as well as a lot of names I don't recognise.

I've had a long break from Moodscope. As a result I wittingly put myself 'out in the cold' and increased my feelings of loneliness. Starting a new job six weeks ago, after nearly 8 and a half years in my previous job, also increased my feelings of loneliness. I don't really feel I 'belong' anywhere anymore. However I'm finding my way back to supportive places, such as Moodscope, and warm, comforting things around me at home.

Do you ever feel 'out in the cold?' Where do you find your warmth? Maybe if you are feeling down, or cold, today you can look for things around you which will warm you up a little. Who knows, you may even feel warmth down to your toes, like mine nestled on my hot water bottle!

Jane SG
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 1 December 2017

Not my favourite words.

I love words. I love reading words, I love writing words. I like mixing words up, I like listening to words. I like playing with words. I like speaking words out loud or saying them silently. I like word games.

However, there are a couple of words I hear in other people's vocabulary and sometimes in my own, that I do not like.

Now of course there is no law on what words you use unless they are deemed defamatory or swear words but there are a couple of words that I cannot find any positive use in them.

The first one is failure, even the sound of the word is sad. When you are depressed and feeling very low, you may say "I am such a failure" my whole life is a failure, every relationship I have is a failure. It is such a big all-encompassing word how on earth can you make it more manageable, make it less general and more specific. As I am naming words I don't like to use I should try to put something in its place. I of course can't and don't want to tell people what to say. Maybe you could narrow the word down.

Maybe saying I made a few mistakes in my last job, I had trouble keeping up at school, instead of saying I am total failure at life. How can you fail at life, it isn't an exam? At schools here, they don't even use the word fail but you have not met the requirements to pass - ok it may mean the same, but it does not sound as damaging.

So, looking at just one section of your life instead of calling it all a failure.

The other word that is not on my favourite is the word stupid. I am so stupid, you are stupid - what does it mean? What good does come out of calling people that word? If you are called or call yourself stupid it makes you feel you have no skills or talent and makes you feel worse.

I have never met a stupid person; some people have more skills in one area than others, but everyone has things they can do. I feel people are trying to say I made a mistake I did something silly, I want to learn from what I have done.

That narrows down the word and makes it more meaningful.

I will stop at two words that are not my favourites and hand it over to you.

Please choose one or two words that are not your favourite words.

Explain why you have chosen those words (excluding swear words) that you do not like to use, and what words we could use in their place.

A Moodscope member

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