Friday, 17 November 2017

Murders, muffins and music.

Like many people with mental health issues I have some things I do daily so I feel okay, along with a little box of tricks I delve into when I know things aren't going so well.

It's the usual stuff we're advised will help: exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, surrounding myself with positive people, doing my daily meditation and of course Moodscope. Proven techniques to get me back on track.

However, also in the depths of my tool box are some more obscure methods. During counselling they were things I did that really made a difference. 'Do these thing more,' said the counsellor. So now I do.

Agatha Christie's Poirot. I've no idea why this helps so much but it does. Maybe it's partly because it demands my full attention, it takes me temporarily to another world and it's just so far removed from normal daily life so my brain is able to rest.

Baking – I'm a terrible cook and burn everything but I love to bake. It fills the house with an amazing comforting smell, again it takes my full attention, it also transports me back to my childhood and at the end you have something to enjoy and something to give to other people. What a great feeling.

And lastly, and probably the most obscure... 80's piano star Richard Clayderman (younger people google). My late Mother was a big fan and when I put this on it's such gentle, comforting music it seems to fill the whole house with her.

So there you have it, my full confession of the more unusual techniques that help me when things get tough. Obscure possibly – effective yes.
 
So come on why don't you share yours if you have them, it might help someone else.

Rosie
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/murders-muffins-and-music

Thursday, 16 November 2017

How to fool the world.

Yes I know it's an odd thing to say but I do it every day.

I might have mentioned once before that I work in a Hospital, I might have said how I see all manner of things in my day some good some sad, some uplifting some devastating.

I have realised that I fool the world I live in every day while dealing with everything that walks through the Hospital doors.

I am at once able to attend to people's needs, directing them to the care that they need, sometimes just a friendly chat seems to be all they require. I can chat and chat!

I answer the phone and I often hear myself laughing with some colleague or sharing a moan, it always amazes me how normal and happy I sound.

In fact I wish I could meet that me and share a coffee or something as we would get on so well!

Underneath all this is the constant churning in my stomach, butterflies fluttering and crashing into each other as I gulp down some air to steady my racing brain, desperately trying to keep the dreaded darkness at bay.

Depressed? Neurotic? Naturally down? I can't seem to label myself, I just know that the dark despair is a world away from the paradise I see in other people's lives sometimes.

A stranger can impact an impression on me in seconds, I can look and admire their dress sense their posture and happy vibes as they stride through my day, I cannot imagine these people having the black moments I struggle with.

I never show it.

I am just me, smiley welcoming helpful me.

And yet, and yet!

There it is plainly standing there before me this wall that separates me from the rest, a tall black ugly wall blocking out the light and the rainbows that I know are there somewhere.

I sometimes stop to stare out of my office window and admire the sunshine filtering through the trees and the tiny birds shrilly enjoying their little birdy lives.

Flowers hanging onto their beautiful colourful coats before the colder wetter winter days arrive to wash them away.

I can feel the glow of autumn surrounding me and forget for a moment about the darkness standing there in the corner slowly moving across the room towards me. It stops in its tracks as I lift up my phone and console the caller who is distressed about their relative. I can hear my voice talking to them calmly, comforting them and finally wishing them well and yes please do call me anytime.

I am very kind I think.

It's just this wall of sorrow that has attached itself to me it will not leave me alone, I can see how it might end, it's a bit odd but the sleep it could give me is so welcome sometimes, I could just let it fold over me and close my eyes and just sleep in its thick black arms.

It's the phone ringing that I automatically reach out for that drags me just for a little while back into the sunbeams sitting on my desk and the sound of the small birds singing that allows me to be the kind woman on the end of the phone again.

Just for now.

Just for now.

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/how-to-fool-the-world

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano – Pars Una.

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: http://bit.ly/2iV8hVz]

I always associate that phrase with slightly sweaty, red-faced, public-school type chaps who have just come off the rugby field and wouldn't recognise a complex if it hissed at them and battered them over the head with a two-by-four. Even then, they might frown slightly and wonder if this was some kind of new-fangled mathematical theorem.

But it popped into my mind yesterday and so I thought I'd play with it for a while.

These words are widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being.

But it's not just exercise, is it?

What is it to have a healthy mind in a healthy body?

For many of us reading this, it is just a dream. Our minds have been so battered by depression for so long we wonder if they will ever heal. Many of us have chronic physical health conditions which contribute to the mental anguish.

But maybe we could do something to help a bit. After all, every little helps, doesn't it?

Exercise is part of it of course, but we probably all know someone who is fit but not healthy. The brain needs to be exercised as well as the body and nutrition plays a big part in maintaining the health of both mind and body.

So – for my next three blogs I will be thinking about nutrition, exercise and meditation. I will be your guinea-pig (with apologies to my own lovely guinea-pigs, Nugget and Patchy). And I will let you know how I get on.

Healthy Eating: what diet helps best with depression and how can we stick to it?
Exercise: how much and of what type is good for us?
Meditation: What form, if any, is right?

I'll be honest and say that I have been playing with the healthy eating thing for a long time, but have only recently taken it on seriously (the tummy was getting to the stage where it needed its own postcode). You know that I swim, but I don't do anything else in the least bit strenuous, and – meditation always seemed to demand time I would rather spend doing other things. So, this will honestly be a new experiment for me too.

I'm sure many of you have your own views. Many of you will have found strategies which work for you. Maybe I have missed something vital in my elements above. So – please do click through to the comments to make your point; you can do it anonymously if you like – I won't tell!

After all, we all know that body and mind are not separate – every one of us is a holistic unit.

I'll see you next week when I report in on nutrition.

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/mens-sana-in-corpore-sano-pars-una

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Sharing my journey.

I wrote this email below to my son, who is having trouble with his ability to cope with any additional stress in his life as he starts his second year at university and after several years of significant destabilising life events; but more than that he is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that he needs a plan for recovery. I shared with him part of my journey:

************

"I'm not sure if I've mentioned this site but I first started using Moodscope after I had counselling to help me overcome the grief after my best friends death. I watched the video on the website and used the score system several times a week for several years. More recently, I've only used the scoring system a couple of times a year.

What is interesting though is the emails that come through every day once enrolled. I mostly glance at them, but every now and then something catches my eye. I would not say that I have been feeling down for any length of time for ages, but we all get our blue days. However, what I realise though is that good mental health is like any health; you have to do exercise to maintain it.

Understanding that I'm not the only one who has struggled with their demons makes things easier and to read the blogs of others keeps the 'exercise' routine required for good mental health.

It takes some time to settle into other people's language of expression, explanation and recuperation, but almost all the blogs are helpful and positive in some way.

As I mentioned the other day, the first step on the road to recovery is to admit that you are unable to cope with your situation and that you need help. Don't be afraid of saying these things to yourself and to your loved ones. They will be ready support, with no judgment and with love.

As a start, go to Moodscope and see what you think."

**************

Shaun
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/sharing-my-journey

Monday, 13 November 2017

Forgive them - they haven't got a clue!

I was awake in the night, thinking about forgiveness. I don't know if you have the same issues I have, but my mind can really lock on to stuff I don't want to think about - especially when I want to go to sleep! I seem to have very little 'thought control'!

There were my thoughts skipping around the field of my mind, dwelling on negative people and experiences, and there was I desperately seeking snoozland.

Forgiveness is a challenge for all of us, because most of the time it is focused on a real offence or injury against us. It is emotionally charged, too, which makes the event powerfully significant as far as the brain is concerned. Anything with emotions attached is hard to forget.

My own breakthrough in the night was to think about this blog and how it might help.

So, here is an example to make my point. I'm going to ask you 4 questions - simple questions, which I'd like you to answer for me.

What number am I thinking of between 1 and 100?
What colour am I thinking of?
What girl's name?
What boy's name?

Before I reveal the answers, my point is that you are most unlikely to be a mind-reader.  If you cannot see through my eyes, you cannot see the world as I see it. Not exactly.

And if you cannot perceive the world in the way I see it, it's not fair for me to expect you to understand me. Not fully. This means that you could easily offend me without even knowing it because you don't relate to me in the way I relate to you! I've got different standards, different interpretations, different rules. No wonder relationships are complex!

I don't see through your eyes, you don't see through mine, so how can I accurately judge you based on my own perception? I can't. In fact...

You don't know what you're doing when it comes to understanding the world as I see it. You haven't got a clue!

Of course, I'm exaggerating to make my point. You have a got a clue. You and I have enough overlapping understanding to get along. It's just that the incompleteness of our perception leaves space for grace, a gap for forgiveness to slip on through. Because you don't know what you're doing when it comes to understanding me or even behaving towards me, I can forgive you... and you can forgive me.

I asked my partner Penelope those four questions this morning and even though she knows me better than anyone, she only got 1 out of the 4 correct.

[My choices were 37, Purple, Samantha, Samuel. How well did you read my mind?]

'Stuff' is going to happen over the coming week, stuff that could keep you awake at night until you master the art of forgiveness. I hope that you'll realise that nobody knows what they're really doing, they haven't got a clue... so let's forgive them, me and you, eh?

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/forgive-them-they-havent-got-a-clue

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The next big thing.

I recently heard a man talk of happiness versus fun.

He described happiness as being an inside feeling of ok. Things are ok. The rain is ok!  My cooking was ok. My children are ok. My writing is ok. My jumper is ok. (And of course, sometimes these things are fabulous.)

He described fun as often what we do when we crave happiness. We try to block out any other feelings around by having fun. In response to not feeling ok, some people will party hard, having lots of 'fun'. Eat many doughnuts having lots of 'fun'. Have another drink because they're having 'fun'. But can we feel the difference?

Are you filling up on fun and forgetting that the quest may be impeding your happiness? Happiness lies beneath. It's a small feeling that needs very little to power it. It's not a trail blazer, more a trail that has been there from the start. It is persistent and it doesn't give up on you.

Perhaps today you might think of what is 'fun' in your life and what brings you a smaller, more contented feeling requiring very little to power it.

Go small. It's the next big thing.

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/the-next-big-thing

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lest We Forget.

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: http://bit.ly/2hOWE2s]

"There's no right or wrong way to wear your poppy," said the immaculately uniformed young woman, as she helped me pin on my brave red paper flower, "Just so long as you wear it with pride."

So, I'm happy to wear my poppy with pride. Not to support in any way the brutality and inhumanity of war, but in gratitude to those who served their country; who lost their lives or their health in our defence.

Larry, a member of my Bipolar Group, has two sons at home. Both have served in the Army. Both have been deployed in Afghanistan. Both have come home with their bodies intact, but their minds shattered. Larry says he feels they have been forgotten by the Army: there is no help there.

I have written before on the specific mental health problems experienced by our Armed Forces. My hope is that, in future, as much attention and funds will be given to the minds of our servicemen and women as to their bodies; that we will not forget those who sacrificed their mental health for their country.

"But – why are we all here?" asked Ash, in that meeting. "Are we here to gain support from each other; to know that we are not alone?"

There were various answers around the room. Some of us feel we are gradually making friends around the table. Those of us who are well enough attend social gatherings every other month enjoy those evenings. One of my fellow members is the husband of a business friend. She and I get along very well and the bi-polar connection is another point of contact. Her Barry, recently diagnosed, is responding well to medication and has even been able to return to paid employment, although not at anywhere near the salary or position he held before.

"I don't want to forget," I said, in my turn. "I have been so well since I started this new medication in February. I am more stable than I have ever been before. But I don't want to forget what it was like."

And I don't.

I know that, for many sufferers with Bi-polar, they get to a stage where they feel so well, they think they can do without the medication. So, they stop taking it – with disastrous results. This is not helped by all the well-meaning folk out there who shake their heads and point out that it can't be healthy to put all these chemicals into your body. Huh! Do they say that to diabetics, I wonder?

So, I don't want to forget the jealous rages, and unreasonable passions; the time I pushed away my dearest friend and nearly lost him. I don't want to forget the months spent shaking on the sofa, unable to leave the house. I don't want to forget the seductive and dangerous call of the river.

I am well now but I don't want to forget.

Any more than I want to forget those my poppy calls me to remember.

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/lest-we-forget

Friday, 10 November 2017

If.

When I was younger my dad asked me, what is the longest word in the English language, I was so excited and said the answer was smiles as there is a mile between first s and last s. He was not convinced and told me "If" was the longest word. My seven-year-old mind thought that must have been a joke as how could a 2-letter word be longest word and be longer than my mile word.

As I grew older I kept thinking about what he had said and saw how powerful the word is as it had so many possibilities. If I had done this, If this happens, if this had not happened.

I notice two phrases using if, 'What if' and 'If only' are creeping into my own vocabulary as well as into other's everyday language.

I use 'What if' when I am imagining what might happen or what could have happened. I use 'If only' when I am annoyed I could have done something better or tried harder.

I asked some friends about how they use what if and if only.

One friend told me "I can waste an awful lot of life catastrophizing when I say 'What if', so I avoid using it."

A customer told me "What if - could mean anything. I think I naturally tend to say 'What if' to everything and used to hate it as I believed it made me susceptible to anxiety and depression.

A neighbour explained that "What if is more like being able to imagine all sorts of different scenarios, and feeling which one I want best. It helps to visualise my goals and options in my life and then try to strive towards them.

Like - what if things turn out ok? What would I want to do?

What if my fears are true? What would I do? But what if they aren't?"

A neighbour said "It is the imagining I think that can lead to the best experiences (...as well as the most paralysing fears.)"

Some people felt that 'If only' is wishing the past or present were different, and doesn't encourage action as much. It mostly leaves you focused on what you lack, rather than what you have.

My cousin explained to me that 'What if' maybe a natural defence mechanism to stop us repeating our mistakes.

What do the expressions 'What if' and 'If only' mean to you?

Do you use them often, or not much?

Do you use one expression more than the other?

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/if

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Active and Afraid.

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 Active and Ashamed cards.

Active

A Moodscope red card meaning a good thing. Lex put himself into the 'Activist' preference (the four preferences being Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist and Reflector). He pointed us towards his favoured variant - proactivity - as being a deliberate application of action and energy towards a desired goal.

I think of Active in a slightly different way. We are all guilty of doing what that Simon and Garfunkel song said, "hearing without listening". It's important for ourselves and our loved ones that we use Active listening: really paying attention.

Very often today we are told that Mindfulness is what we need – well that's really a state of paying Active attention on the present. For me Active is often concerned with being physical. Physical activity is what often helps me personally to pull through periods of despair.

Bear in mind that you may be a morning person or a night person – we all pretty well know which type we are. So how we score ourselves on the Active card may well be different depending upon our body clock and when we do our Moodscope test.

Being Active becomes really positive when we do something because we WANT to do it rather than because of fear or to prove our capability to ourselves or others. You can do things that can help you towards a better Active score: for me that's mostly exercise or doing something that helps others.

Afraid

Feeling frightened, having fear... Lex told us that fear needs to be faced, never ignored.  By facing fear we test its validity. If, having been faced, the fear reveals a true danger then the danger can be tackled.

Being afraid – having fear – is a powerful and primitive human emotion. It has two stages, biochemical and emotional. The biochemical stage is universal whilst the emotional response depends very much on the individual. Some of us are of course very afraid, it may be an exaggerated feeling of fear but that doesn't make the fear less real. Lex suggested that if we drag our fear into the light of full inspection we can have confidence that it will pass.

Personally I always seem to use "a little" as my score on this card. I always am a little afraid, often totally unable to rationalise why that is the case which in turn makes it hard for me to do the Lex thing of dragging it into the light of full inspection. Maybe your Afraid is greater than mine, maybe if you really closely examine your fear you will find that you are even a little addicted to fear, in the way that the "adrenaline junkies" often are.

There's nothing wrong with being afraid, it's what sometimes helps to keep us alive. Choose your score with thought: face your fear.

Do you have any tips, insights ideas or advice to share on these two first cards?

David
A Moodscope member

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/active-and-afraid

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dealing with Frustration.

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

"We regret that the pool is closed," said the sign and I hit the roof!

It was day 8 of the pool being unavailable and I like to swim at least three times a week – more if I can fit it in. I understand that there are sometimes circumstances beyond control which can mean that the pool is unavailable for my use, but – honestly – day 8 of the chlorine levels being too high?

All the poor receptionist could do was stand there, apologising and clinging to the desk for support, while the waves of my anger washed over her.

And – yes – I did make sure she knew it wasn't personal and that my attack was not aimed at her. She quite understood and mine was not the first enraged reaction she had dealt with this morning. I would imagine it was not the last.

Having got it out of my system I went to use the shower facilities and reflected that at least I had gained an extra hour of morning and extra time is always a gift.

But this lead me to examine how we deal with frustration and upset.

We all get frustrated at times. It has been suggested there are only three causes of upset: disappointed expectations, frustrated intentions and undelivered communication. You can see that this morning contained all three – as the person I really wanted to yell at was not the receptionist.

The start of dealing with any upset is to realise what's going on; to analyse it. I expected the pool to be open (especially after eight days) and it wasn't, so I was disappointed; I intended to swim and was frustrated in that ambition. I wanted to yell at the manager or the pool engineer and had to settle for the receptionist – poor girl – so I have an undelivered communication.

Of course, that analysis does involve taking a step back and drawing in a deep breath, but that's always beneficial. Apart from anything else, it allows you to choose your words for maximum annihilating effect!

Analysing the upset also helps us see it in proportion. Was my day really ruined by my being unable to swim? What were the consequences? Well, my fitness levels and blood pressure will not improve today, but they won't noticeably be affected by a week or so of not swimming. I won't be able to meditate and write while I swim up and down (you didn't know that most writing occurs "off the page", did you?), but I can meditate at home and I can write at home too. The only thing which cannot be completely replaced is that wonderful sensation of having stretched one's body and relaxed one's mind. Maybe if I did yoga or running I could duplicate it – but I don't do either of those: I swim.

So, yes – I'm still a little annoyed, but I've put it perspective. And – I had that extra hour of time.

I spent it writing this blog.

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/dealing-with-frustration