Thursday, 17 August 2017

Panic Attacks.

I suffered my first panic attack when I was coming up for 21 years old. This was my worst one I think, because I didn't know what the hell was happening to me.

I was in a night club. I remember standing on the edge of the dance floor watching everyone enjoying themselves. There were a lot of flashing lights and I felt peculiar.

All of a sudden, I knew I had to get out of there. I was so scared. I asked a girl standing next to me if she would come outside with me as I felt unwell. I did not even know her, but she was the first person I could see.

She helped me down the stairs, as I felt like I was going to collapse and I very nearly asked the staff to call an ambulance. However, I managed to get outside and sit on a wall. I felt sick and I started to shake and to cry.

Then it passed, I felt better, but shaken and shocked. I thanked my helper and got myself home. I was so upset, I remember telling the cab driver what had happened to me.

I was lucky enough not to experience another panic attack again for many years... I mean, yes, I had times of feeling anxious and nervous, even to the extent where (for example) I could not hold a drink in my hand (rather annoying when you want a sip of your tea or a sip of wine).

Then in my forties, they came back with a vengeance.

I found myself questioning why, but I cannot see much logic in it. I went through enough stress in those twenty years whilst I was free of a panic attack.

Shops became the worst culprit. I had to leave them very quickly and once I literally collapsed in a supermarket. I have experienced one on a plane (after which I actually wrote most of this blog), in a car, in a theatre, at a funeral service (I had to leave in the middle of it, slightly embarrassing) but I once even had one at home.

Thankfully, they seem to have left me again now and it has been a while since my last one.  Hopefully another twenty years...

Has anyone else experienced full blown panic attacks?

The only way I can describe them is the feeling that I was going to die. They actually only last a few minutes and I had to learn to breathe, by taking small sharp breaths and by sipping water. If I have to leave the house now (rare) I always take water.

I'm not saying this is the answer (far from it), but I read a book called 'Making friends with Anxiety' and the last time I thought I was going to have a panic attack, I told myself "it is ok, this beast is not going to harm you, it is just popping by to say hello".

It actually helped and the feeling passed...

A doctor once questioned me on whether I knew what a panic attack was. I went rather blank. He liked to maintain that he knew a lot about mental health but he didn't know much at all. He went on to tell me that a panic attack was something that happened when being confronted with a lion or a tiger. Silly man!

He has retired now and I sometimes wonder if it was on his bucket list to visit a zoo.

Molly
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/panic-attacks

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Strongly Anthemic.

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: http://bit.ly/2vXd2X8]

Ellie hears her husband's feet on the stairs. He has come in from work, scooped up the cat and gone straight to shower and shave before he even greets her with a kiss. He wants to wash his job away before he comes to her. He wants to greet her as the man he is, instead of the man he has to be at work.

But he is happy: he is singing. Tonight, from The Mikado. "Defer, defer to the Lord High Executioner," he sings to the ragged-eared bundle in his arms. Ellie doesn't think Mundungus defers to anyone. He is a cat and thinks everyone should defer to him.

It's not always Gilbert and Sullivan. Sometimes Jeremy sings songs from the musicals, sometimes rousing hymns, but always something with a strong tune; something he can get his fine baritone behind.

When he is unhappy, he is silent, and then Ellie is unhappy too, because a happy marriage is only as happy as the unhappiest partner.

You won't meet Jeremy and Ellie in real life: they are characters in one of my novels, but Jeremy's habit of singing when he is happy comes from a school friend of my daughter. Peter changed schools in his fourth year. His mother said that she had not realised how miserable he had been until he began to sing again. She had not realised that his music had stopped.

If we sing when we are happy, then can we make ourselves happy by singing?

At a recent meeting of my bi-polar support group, we discussed ways of coping, of lifting our spirits when depressed. Singing came up several times. I like the discipline of church choral music, my neighbour likes singing with the rock choir. The leader of our group likes singing along to eighties pop music.

At the funeral of my favourite aunt last week, we sang to music supplied by guitars and drums. The hymns, although traditional, were played in a way that made your feet tap and your body sway and, if you are of the Pentecostal tradition, wave your hands in the air. (I am an Anglican: my hands stayed firmly anchored to the service sheet!) Afterwards, my cousin asked me if I had enjoyed the hymns.

"Very much," I replied.

"We thought we'd like some hymns that, even if you couldn't sing, you could shout along," she said. "Mum couldn't sing a note, but she did rather like to shout!"

That funeral was not sad, but a joyous celebration of a life well lived.

Singing doesn't work for me when I am sunk into the deepest depression, swallowed whole by the dirty grey Leviathan, but it does cheer me up when I am feeling glum. Even if I start with something gentle, like Abide with Me, I can gradually work up to Vivaldi's Gloria. And sometimes, my latest rock favourite, Whatever it Takes, by Imagine Dragons.

So, what do you sing along to, when you do?

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/strongly-anthemic

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Where shall I start?

The past twenty years have involved a lot of hard work, trying to work out why I got very ill with postnatal depression after the birth of my third baby but not before.

I was working hard as a probation officer looking after other people and helping to solve their problems but I couldn't solve my own. I tried the stiff upper lip, medication, herbal remedies, other antidepressant medication and all different types of vitamins.

I handed my notice in and was persuaded to stay and changed my working hours to better suit my children and my family. I got pregnant again and suffered a miscarriage and then, after five years of trying to sort myself out, I admitted defeat.

I spent years reading self help books, trying to change the way I think about people and stuff and trying to change myself because I felt like a failure. The result of this is that I feel like I know myself inside out and upside down.

Has it helped?

Well I am not mentally ill any more but really was I ever? Or was I just a hormonally challenged, overworked mother of three lacking in support and trying to cope?

So next time you feel low and and depressed before you label yourself a failure just consider whether you are in fact just surrounded by people who, although they love you, have no idea what you are going through or how to support you, through no fault of their own and then find your tribe whether it be other Moodscopers or someone else who is not afraid of emotions.

It will make all the difference to how long you will travel down the lonely road of depression before turning the corner.

Wishing everyone good luck in their mental health ventures.

Romy
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/where-shall-i-start

Monday, 14 August 2017

How You See People Changes What Happens Next.

If you'd like to see my first reaction to the main video I'd love to share today, here's me in the car: https://youtu.be/L3cIzpqKByM

If you don't have the time or the access to YouTube, it won't spoil the 'Aha!' moment.

I'd like to share an experiment run by Canon Cameras in Australia.

I began to think about this in the context of every single relationship I have: the way you and I 'see' others prejudices and affects where our relationships go next! Thus, if you want different results, change the way you see everything!

I really hope you can get to watch this video. I'm going to explain what it shows anyway, but much better for you to see it for yourself. It's stunning.

https://youtu.be/F-TyPfYMDK8

In the video, six different photographers are asked to take portrait photographs of the same model. The catch is that they are each told a different story about the model's background. One is told he saved someone's life, another is briefed on the model being a psychic, a third is told that the subject is a multi-millionaire, another that he is a recovered alcoholic, and, finally, that he is an ex-offender.

The result, if you didn't get to watch the video, is that each photographer portrayed the portrait in a different way. The results looked like six different people.

As a Father, I see my sons differently to the way you will see them. As a partner, I see Penelope in a totally different light to what others see in her. We all see "through a lens".  Now, given that changing the lens changes the results we get, I wonder if it is time for you, just like me, to change the way we see some people?

Hit pause on your day right now and list the 3 most significant people in your life:

Their name................................................

Their name................................................

Their name................................................

Great! Now for each one, answer this question:

"If I was to see them in a more favourable fashion, in what way would I see them now?"

That photography video really touched me.

So, my 'Moodscope Monday' thought is:

"How do I see myself?"

"How do you see yourself?"

...because the way we see ourselves will have the most profound impact on how today will unfold. May you see yourself in the best light, and find the best lens through which to see all those you engage with today.

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/how-you-see-people-changes-what-happens-next

Sunday, 13 August 2017

At Sea Without a Compass.

Members that regularly comment on the blog will have seen that I had a funeral for my youngest daughter this week. We do not know the cause of death and have to wait weeks for the post mortem results.

She had lived in the antipodes for the past eight and a half years and at some point was diagnosed with BPD/Emotional instability. She never understood how beautiful and talented she was.

She was at times a self harmer and to escape her mental problems she turned to drugs.

Earlier this year she returned home to the UK, as she was too ill to look after herself and her partner could not cope any more.

She had two older sisters. One of my other daughters also had some health issues and she too had to return home when her mental health deteriorated.

It was a very difficult time and I wrote this poem:

At Sea without a Compass

Fred and I are cast adrift, at sea without a compass
When I heard of my child, in the clinic again
My emotions shut down, cos I can't take the pain
My younger child too, in pain and unable
To even share a meal with us at the table.
I feel strange and estranged, sometimes deranged
To whom can I go, when we all hurt so?
Coda:
But now she is gone and we still go on
I can take heart at least, that now she's at peace

When I wrote to ask for hugs I had a wonderful response from the regular contributors. Thank you for all the hugs that helped my tears to flow. It is so heartening to feel the love and support of an online community, who have some experience of the vagaries of mental health.

Thank you for listening.

Another Sally
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/at-sea-without-a-compass

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Finding my home.

Are you worried that books and bookshops are an endangered species?" asked a customer, clutching a Kindle.

I knew a place where books were treasured not threatened.

Books had always been a love of mine, I was always reading at least one and had one in my bag. As a 21st birthday present, I was given a beautifully illustrated book about books, bookshops and book collectors. The story that fascinated me the most was about a town in Wales, Hay-on-Wye, that was full of bookshops.

The more I learned about the man and the town, the more I wanted to go and visit the place, but life happened – marriage, three children, divorce, elderly parents, and small business. It wasn't until a hot summer's day in July a few years ago this year that I finally made it to Hay-on-Wye.

As soon as saw all the bookshops on my arrival, I felt at home. I had never really felt like I fitted in anywhere but in this town, smelling of old books and knowledge I felt wrapped in a comforting welcome blanket.

The first place I visited was the shop Richard Booth opened in 1962 but no longer owns, the Cinema Bookshop, which is by far the biggest bookshop I have ever seen with close to 200,000 books.

There was a book centre with 20 different dealers selling a wide variety of books, including many antiquarian ones. Old leather books inhabited the shelves, their famous and lesser known writers beckoning me to examine forgotten works.

It was hard to know where to start. After perusing the abundant shelves, I sat down with a stack of books, smelling the beauty of the knowledge surrounding me.

"Kindles banned in this shop," a banner proudly proclaimed. This was my town, a place where books were honoured and respected, not vulnerable and disappearing.

"Books are not an endangered species, I have 40kg worth of books to prove it," I answered, smiling at the memory of my trip to Hay-on-Wye.

Have you found a place, or a group of people, that you feel at home with. A place or a community where you can be yourself?

If you have not found this place or community yet, can you describe what it would be like?

Is there something you always wanted to do, always wanted to visit, always wanted to experience and you finally achieved that plan?

What was it like - did it leave up to your expectations?

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/finding-my-home

Friday, 11 August 2017

Get a Life.

[To hear an audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2utFkbH]

I think it was Sir Terry Pratchett who said (although it might not be, because I can't find this quote with Google, which must mean it can't exist – right?), when challenged to "get a life", that he felt he was living six lives already.

Those of us who have seen that image of him writing, surrounded by his six monitors; who have read his Disc World Series, or are writers themselves, understand.

But, just recently, I was challenged to "get a life."

Oh, not as bluntly as that: it was posed as a question and addressed it to many of us. A question which is utterly valid, even if it did make me (and others) say "Ouch!" at the time.

That question is, do we spend so much time concentrating on our own symptoms, our own condition, that we fail to live life as fully as we might?

I am deeply ashamed to say that I reacted violently. I promptly retaliated in the comments (see what you miss out on if you don't click through to the comments!) with a full run-down of my life and commitments; because I'm quite a busy girl – most of the time – when I'm not sitting shaking on the sofa in the darkness, that is.

But then I started to think.

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental health had no relevance and was of no interest to me. Now it is one of the few areas of health about which I am passionate.

If it were not for Moodscope however, I think I would still feel rather embarrassed about my condition. I would not want to talk about it; I would not want to think about it. I would still take my tablets and be grateful, but I would probably still want to hide my condition under a cloak of "normality." Because I would feel ashamed.

Moodscope has allowed me to see that I am not alone and that I have no reason to be ashamed. Further, it has given me a platform on which to stand, to take understanding forward, to send the light of knowledge and compassion further into the world.

We've all heard the saying, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Well, for me, Moodscope is that candle. I am proud to hold that candle high and to be seen by everyone to hold that candle.

It doesn't mean it's the only candle I hold, or even the brightest candle. But – just maybe – it's the most important candle, because I believe Moodscope can give hope to many more people than other areas of my busy life.

So, in answer to the question, should I stop thinking about my condition and get a life? The answer is, by thinking about it, by writing about it, by supporting Moodscope; I hope I am helping many other sufferers with this condition to "get a life".

Which is what it's all about, really.

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/get-a-life

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Friendship with self.

Being a friend to oneself is so important and so often forgotten in a crisis. We look to other people to provide company and encouragement and solutions and often allow our inner selves to keep up a barrage of criticism that undermines and withers our enjoyment of being who we are, right now, in this place.

Sometimes this constant commentary is so familiar we don't consciously know it's there but when you tune in to it the realisation of the self-condemnation and the language used to express it, can be shocking. The antidote is to develop the inner companion; the one who doesn't berate you for lying in bed too long but gently suggests that now may be a good time to rise and make some plans, who encourages and recognises steps, however small, as a continual part of a journey to change. The one who is alongside, with you, rather than sitting in judgement.

I am battling with alcohol at the moment; not a dramatic, technicolour, falling in the gutter kind of battle, but the habit of drinking more wine each evening than is good for me. My aim is to have more evenings without alcohol than with. Sometimes I win and wake the next morning feeling still tired but pleased with my strength of will. However, when I fail and down a bottle, my tendency is to veer towards self-hatred, despair and an over-arching idea of my life as failure. That can take hold and perpetuate depression and a paralysis.

My current approach is to be kinder and gentler as I would towards a friend and, without being permissive, to say to myself " Ok. That happened, but it doesn't have to keep happening and the overall trajectory is better than it was. Well done for that and we'll keep trying.". To hold on to progress and to be compassionate about the opposite. To pick myself up, as one would help and hug a miserable toddler and move towards a different state of mind. This takes regular conscious practice as does learning any new skill.

Real friends are great but not always available and not always up to date with our own script. The person best placed to give one what one needs, in terms of understanding and will power, is often living inside us. Then we can enjoy other people in all their glorious array, without the expectation that they can complete or rescue us. Or us them.

Hilary
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/friendship-with-self

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lions and Bears, Wolves and Dolphins.

I sometimes think that every bad decision I have ever made has been after 10pm.

It's as if a switch has been clicked. Before ten o'clock I am (mostly) reasonable and level-headed, disciplined and responsible. At one minute past, that all changes.

I have sent far too many long and emotional texts to friends after midnight. I have drunk too much wine and eaten junk food by the cartload. True, I have written reams, but in the clear light of morning much of it needed heavy editing.

But just recently, I have discovered why this is. It is because I am a lion.

The Power of When, by Dr Michael Breus, has been an illumination. He is a "sleep doctor" and he divides people into the four types in the title of this blog. Lions wake up early and switch off early. Bears are the lucky ones who follow a normal sleep pattern. Wolves sleep late (very late) but are at their most productive after midnight. Dolphins are the hardcore insomniacs who will swear they have not slept a wink all night.

Discovering I am a lion has been a revelation. The need for a snooze function on the alarm always used to puzzle me. I've never understood this "waking up slow" business: lions come instantly awake, usually before 6am, raring to go and hungry for a big cooked breakfast. Lions do their best work before lunch, and certainly all their left brain work then. So, I am now making sure my day reflects this: analytical business work in the morning, writing in the afternoon, bed at ten sharp. It's helping my weight, saving my liver and I'm sleeping better too.

It's otherwise for Wolves. My son Tom is an extreme wolf. He likes to go to bed at 6am and get up at 4pm. When he lived with us recently, it was not unusual for him to share breakfast with us at 6.30am. Only for him, it was a snack before bedtime. It drove my poor husband (a very disciplined bear) crazy! Wolves work best in jobs where they don't have to clock in earlier than noon.

A close friend of mine is a dolphin. Dr Breus calls these people dolphins because (apparently) real dolphins only sleep with half their brain at once. The other half stays alert to watch out for danger and to deal with all that business of swimming and coming up into the air to breathe. Celia has never slept well, even when I knew her as a child, and now she understands why, and more importantly, has some techniques which help.

Lack of sleep or sleep dysfunction is a large part of depression, so anything which helps us understand it and to get more restful sleep is to be embraced.

You can take the test online here https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com/ to find out which animal you are, and you can find the book in all good bookshops. I'd recommend it.

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/lions-and-bears-wolves-and-dolphins

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Day Release.

It happened last Friday. It was a revelation, a single day.

Friday was a day with no pain and a day when I had no depression or anxiety. I cannot remember being able to function so well, to be able to think clearly and have mental acuity, to wake up rested and without pain in my body and my mind.

I was able to move from task to task without drowning in the muddy glue pit of indecision and inability to concentrate, without the constant neck and skull pain being dulled by medication but leaving me dithering. This is what it must be like to have a healthy brain, to be able to rise each day and complete tasks.

I felt relaxed, contented and happy.

I then realised how depressed I am, how bad my fibromyalgia is and that my smiles are but a mask where I valiantly strain to keep going. I see why my relationships (marriages and partners) have collapsed, partly due to my being unable to make decisions or tolerate irritations.
 
I have no special other in my life at present. It feels like too much to ask of another being to be with me. Yet I have so much love to give, so many talents as my distant family and friends tell me. My brain can't harness them it seems, and I have kept trying too hard, at once mourning the loss of potential and never quite accepting that I am too ill to manage by myself.

Those who loved me and cared for me saw my inner beauty and torment and wanted to give me a life of love. I insisted on battling. This illness and my feeling of disquiet and discontent have robbed me of times of ease. Like most of us, all I seek is inner peace and contentedness.

I had one day of peace, one day and then the pain restarted and the brain became deluged by noise. Twenty five years of pain and fluctuating depression and anxiety. I have had my probation at work extended because I am failing at tasks. I have to support myself so have to work.

Why did I have that amazing day? I meditate, have been having Reiki healing from my housemate every other day and had ear acupuncture the evening before.

Each time I have the acupuncture I do feel better. Does anyone else have acupuncture for depression? Does anyone else have significant pain with their depression and anxiety?

So what do I take from this? I see that my body and mind can heal, even if it is temporary. Perhaps I can negotiate work (I do two jobs) to reduce to four days a week. My finances will suffer, and I live quite frugally as it is, but my health is worth this and who knows there may be someone out there willing to be with a kind, gentle, loving, quirky woman who, at last, realises she is not to blame for being unwell.

Lesley
A Moodscope member

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

https://www.moodscope.com/blog/day-release