The Moodscope Blog



Man-child Sunday November 4, 2018

As I cooked, I looked over at The Boy. The wee lad. Now leaning above me (which will never be admitted on my part), he'd been playing football and walking up the hills which grow on the edge of our town. I couldn't bring myself to berate him over being glued to his phone. He'd been healthy, outdoors and hadn't had any phone at all in 24 hours (due to a replacement), unheard of in these modern times!

As I stirred and ladled, ladled and turned, my magic word appeared. PERSPECTIVE. I rarely capitalise. Even my moniker is signed completely in lower case. But this is a big word for me. A major tool. Deserving of different treatment.

The wee lad will be gone one day. I watched his man-child body lying on the rug, freshly showered, clean bed shorts and t-shirt, looking fine, smelling fine, relaxed in his skin and made only of bones and I was glad. Glad I can have perspective. Glad I can see a time he will hug another in the envelope he wraps around me and be glad for soaking in every moment I have him.

That perspective grows into my mental health battle. I'm now glad I raise my three children alone because these insignificant times serve me as major mental health wins. It's taken a long time to grow perspective. But it's here and I'm not giving it up for anyone or any thing.

Life has not always been good. Far, far from that. Life often still throws me a storm. But tonight, it's ok. It's even good. And I'm keeping that. Find perspective and hold on tight. I'm rooting for you.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Act Your Age Saturday November 3, 2018

How often when I was young did someone admonish me with those words. "Act your age." What did that actually mean? It always seemed to mean that I was being childish or immature and should be more sensible. But, when you're 10 or 15, well, you are often childish and immature. Why should that not be allowed?

You're only as old as you feel. Well, yes, but some days I feel ancient. Other days I'm a spring chicken!

These days I think a lot about my age. Not because of wrinkles and white hair. I'm not vain enough to care too much if I look my age at 60. But, as friends have observed, and I feel it too, when we are with our very elderly parents we have to be the young, energetic ones.

We do their shopping, organise various workmen, lug rollators into the boot of the car when once we lugged buggies. We help with TV and IT problems over the phone, patiently trying to explain passwords and routers, even though we know much less about all that than the young people in our lives. We try and be there for hospital appointments and ring doctors, dentists and opticians to try and make their lives go more smoothly, all the while being careful not to make them feel they are losing control.

When we are with our children – now young adults – we have to be energetic enough to cook meals, make up beds and make home feel as welcoming as possible. We can still give them lifts to the train station or pick them up from airports. Hopefully we listen and give advice when needed, but also listen quietly when they talk about their worlds of work and lives of which we are only a small part.

I am half way between my mother and parents-in-law who are all 90 - and my eldest son – just over 30. I suppose I am part of the 'sandwich generation' and I am lucky that I have my health and am still more able to give support than to need it.

On the one hand, I have to keep going with my own interests, hobbies and fitness regimes so that I can stave off the day when I need lifts to the doctor and dentist. On the other hand, I need to be able to drop everything if there's an emergency with any of our elderly parents. Or to help with the myriad administrative tasks that my young people don't have time for during their busy working lives.

Each day is a fresh challenge. And I don't even have grandchildren yet.

I hope that my mental and physical health will remain robust enough to be the stabilising fulcrum in the lives of my elderly relatives and my adult children.

How old do you feel? And does that change from day to day, depending on who you're with and what you're doing?

If we "act our age" let's not rely on the mirror to give us a clue as to what that means!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please leave a comment below.

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Why isn't mental health taken more seriously? Friday November 2, 2018

It may be 2018, but the level of stigma that those with mental health issues face still shockingly remains at an all-time high.

Considering that 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with some sort of mental health problem at some point in their lives, it seems bewildering to say the least that the judgement and adversities that mental health sufferers continue to face is still so prominent. Not to mention the overwhelming and increasing pressure so many people face today to 'fit in' with ever-changing societal norms, as well as the fact that there's a monumental strain on the resources and services available to mental health sufferers.

It can often feel like there's nowhere to turn, and that the weight of the problem makes things seem even more hopeless than they already are. It's frustrating to think that still, even today, mental health is striving to be taken as seriously as physical and educational welfare. A person's mental health is arguably even more pivotal to the human existence than physical health.

As important as it is to maintain physical wellbeing, arguably one's mental health can deteriorate much faster, and cause much longer-lasting damage if it is neglected or detrimented than, say, not taking part in regular physical exercise from an early age - so why isn't mental health taken more seriously?

It's a prevalent question whose debate will most likely continue for an indeterminate amount of time yet. Ignorance breeds ignorance, and fear; people will continue to fear and ignore what they don't understand. Despite this, it's important that in the meantime, more is done to put a stop to the stigma and the negligence of poor mental health, starting with wider acceptance and awareness.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Beautiful Scars Thursday November 1, 2018

After reading Rosemary's wonderfully reassuring blog recently, called "Smile, you're the best you've ever been..."

I remembered something that registered with me at the time and then forgotten.

I'd seen a woman on TV who had learned to embrace the large scar on her body, so that rather than seeing herself as being 'disfigured' she saw the scar as a part of who she is, having been through what she had and healed, a scar to be worn with pride.

It may not work for everyone, or it may take a long time to see things so differently, but it did give me hope that there might be another way to see what pains me, one that feels so much better.

I got to wondering about the equivalent, emotionally.

If I could move from carrying this angry raw wound, to it being an emotional scar, that no longer hurt when it's poked and prodded, just thick scar tissue with no sensation, wouldn't that be great?!

Once again, I've managed to arrange some short term counselling. I've tried it before and haven't managed to get to those deep wounds. I daren't hope after all this time that this could be the beginning of freedom.

Maybe this time, I'll discover what needs to happen.

Maybe I'll emerge having allowed the healing to begin, so that all that remains is the part of me that is as loveable as the rest, the scarring that I can wear with pride, because this time I made it!

I endured the pain until I managed to allow it to be touched. Handled and sealed. Then plenty of time allowed for healing.

Beautiful scars reminding me that I made it.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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This is my Graph. Wednesday October 31, 2018

On Wednesday 10th October, I wrote about why it might be a good idea to do your score even when you know you are going to get a score you don't like.

So, here is my graph. Seven years' worth of hard data...

If you're on the free version of Moodscope, then I know you don't have access to your whole history. At the end of this blog, I hope you will see the benefit of spending the price of a couple of cappuccinos a month on getting the full version.

For those of you who have not known me for all those seven years, a quick introduction. You can find it on Friday 24th May 2013, "Hello – I'm Mary and I'm Bipolar", but I joined Moodscope much earlier, on Saturday 14th May 2011.

In those days Jon was still writing all the blogs, and I signed up to Moodscope on the back of a Radio 4 programme. It was my therapist who said, "I've just listened to this, and I think it's just the thing for you." She was right: Moodscope has been my lifeline ever since.

How I wish Moodscope had been available all my life! My first episode of severe (bi-polar) depression occurred when I was seven years old and it has affected me all my life since; although I was only diagnosed at age 43, thirteen years ago. But, just the last seven years' data is useful, as I think you can see.

We don't really know what we are like. In my mind I had a cycle. Every two years I would get depressed. Every four years I would get VERY depressed. At least, that was the pattern I had come up with in the mental health assessment clinic. It was the best I could remember.

But our memory is unreliable at best and a bloody liar at worst.

You can see for the first two and a half years I measured, things weren't too bad. I had some downs, but they were short-lived. The highs were manageable. After January 2014 things started to get worse.

But – without this graph, I wouldn't have known how much worse.

Oh – I was still in denial, until October 2016. That "high" nearly cost me my dearest friend. I am still not sure if we have yet totally recovered. The crash was costly too. My poor family, of course, suffered most.

It was that episode which sent me back to the psychiatrist and to accept medication. The graph shows the effect of that medication. (I ought to explain that I have recalibrated from May this year: on my old system of measurement those most recent numbers would have been much tighter.)

This is my graph. It is what my GP and psychiatrist and therapist need to see. It is how my buddies keep track. It is what I need to see.

It is not anecdotal evidence. It is hard data.

The numbers speak for themselves.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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My perfect (2nd) cousin Tuesday October 30, 2018

Today I did the unthinkable. I submitted a piece online for a fiction writing course which was totally true! About my perfect second cousin.

It brought back painful memories. She is the reason I dyed my hair "goddess" blonde. The event I recalled, at the tender age of 15, was going round to a local village disco, my brother accompanied by my crush Steve plus a gaggle of friends. She turned up with her pushy Essex mother, crazy father and unassuming brother. Holding up two sets of shoes, she enquiref which ones she should wear... the sky-high strappy white stilettoes or the slightly lower ones. Like a b**ch, I suggest the lower ones.

It wouldn't have made a difference. As my mother was to remark at another visit to their house to me "You can't compete". No one has ever said three words that have cut my heart in two more than those. Like I didn't know. Me with my mousey hair, spotty complexion and average bust compared to this Amazonian Southend goddess. And her clothes were bang-on current. So bang-on that her own mother remarked in later times as she looked down at my white Cowboy ankle boots "Oh Lorraine had a pair of those last year". Ouch.

Was it co-incidence that I was surrounded by a nest of vipers. Except this.

Lorraine was lovely. Why wouldn't she be though? In later years I was to hear my dad (and this is creepy as **** to recall) to his friend saying "A 16 year old with a 40 inch chest Ian"... his reply back was even worse. Lucky me with such nice people in my life eh? I can forgive myself slightly as I was at that delicate age of kissing pillows, being a wallflower but only getting asked to dance by the ugly ones!

Cut to the getting ready. She dons a partly-see through blouse (it was the 80s so it was all "New Romantic") the not through bits tantalisingly covering her huge chest. Scarlet red knickerbockers over perfect skin. The blonde bob curled under to perfection. One of the guys asks her "Are you the age of consent?" My brother's diary entry was succinct and to the point of "Gorgeous looking but expensive to keep" (told you I was sinful).

I ended up going outside with Steve as I was feeling so awkward as the cousin was surrounded by ogling men... and I was being ignored by every single one of them. He was surprisingly sympathetic. In later years I was to visit her, and she had married a highly unremarkable but rich man and had the perfect "taupe" house and the beautiful grey car in the driveway. She remarked that it was dull when I complimented her.

I was obsessed with her back then because if anyone had said to me, you can be her, I would have swapped in a heartbeat. I'd love to see her now. My ugly duckling has turned into a fairly sassy swan... but the scars remain...

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Drink Me! Monday October 29, 2018

"Drink Me," were the words on a label around a bottle. In the story, Alice found this when seeking to get to a most beautiful garden in what we come to know as Wonderland. Her access was temporarily denied because she was too tall for the tunnel that opened onto the garden. Drinking the liquid in the bottle shrunk her down to ten inches tall – the perfect height to get into the garden.

Alice in Wonderland is a children's story that has enchanted generations. It is also a story with lots of lessons for those who like to think about her adventures. Alice faces many challenges, and always finds a way to overcome them – though not always without tears and rarely without help.

I write this blog for those of us facing difficulties. We need a solution, like Alice. As life gets harder, we can revise our expectations of what to hope for – expectations that become smaller – like Alice did. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Most of us reduce the scale of our hopes and expectations so that we feel less disappointed when 'Life' doesn't deliver the fairy tale happiness we are fed by some advertisers and storytellers.

This reduction, though, can be flipped to our advantage. Now that my own expectations are tiny, I have found a friend in being grateful for tiny things. I have drunk from the bottle labelled 'Drink Me' and shrunk my world. Like Alice, I have moved forward looking for ways to make Life work. And what pleasures there are in tiny things!

May I share some examples?

This morning, a single Acer leaf – ripe apple red – catching the first light of the morning – lit up like a burning bush. The other day, after working through the day without eating sensibly, a friend gave me a beer. That first tiny mouthful was the best tasting beer – ever.

Last Saturday, I caught the scent of one of the most beautiful perfumes I had ever experienced. Soon, I found the person wearing it – someone I only formerly knew in passing. I commented on how wonderful the perfume was, and she and another friend and I had a joyful discussion about the right perfume for each person's chemistry. More importantly, this lady 'glowed' with the recognition and appreciation I had shown her.

The 'gossip' of the sparrows in the hedge is not so tiny – they make quite a noise – but I love it. The comfort of the pillow tucked under my tummy when I need to snuggle to sleep also is a simple pleasure – a tiny victory to be grateful for.

For me, and I believe for you, gratitude is fuel to energise our onward journey. Whilst, honestly, I am not at all grateful for the way Life is turning out, I have set my will to celebrate with gratitude the tiny gems that sparkle in each day.

Would you share some of those tiny gems of gratitude that lift your spirit? What tiny things are you grateful for?

May I also invite you to drink from the bottle that says, "Drink Me!"? I promise it is safe, and in the midst of tiny moments of gratitude you may also begin, like Alice, to enjoy the loveliest garden you ever saw...

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Thumbs up! Sunday October 28, 2018

Thank you to the cyclist. You made my day. Really you did.

6am is a troubled time for me. Ask me then if I'd prefer snowdrops or marshmallows (two of the most gentle things I can think of right now) and I'll outline a case for death row. And I'm against the death penalty! The 6am me is a right old tough nut. Snarly. Despondent. Desperate. Depressed.

The 11am me can be more upbeat. Still depressed. Always, but in varying degrees and it is those I work with. The 11am me has been kneaded one hundred times and today was no exception. I'm a bit big on manners, even through depression. I growl (albeit internally) at doors un-held, shoulders bumped, a missing 'please' and look where 'thank you' once entered. I feel like an undercover agent when 'please' and 'thank you' and doors held are shared, and when eye contact and smiles are exchanged. Inside I nod the nod of togetherness and my heart swells.

Today I waited back in my car to let a cyclist through the traffic. He had been waiting patiently. He gave me a 'thumbs up' as he sped through. Top manners my friend. And you made my day.

We who are depressed, and we who feel depressed, can get such a lift from small things. And you Mr Cyclist lifted me. You have no idea. Thank you. I'll take one and pass it on. Seek out these little things, it really helps.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Can you say goodbye to being ashamed? Saturday October 27, 2018

At 16 I was ashamed and felt I had no future. I had been diagnosed with manic depression as bipolar was called then. I could not get myself to school, the whole thought seemed impossible. After two weeks of being at home and four days of driving me, I looked at the sad puzzled look in my tired dad's eyes. I tried so hard to get out of the car. I looked at all the girls with smiling faces and shiny hair and felt my greasy hair stuck like liquorice to my head. I was stuck to the seat and could not move. I felt my life would not get better. I felt so ashamed I could not make my dad happy by getting out of the car and I felt so silly I could not smile like all the other girls.

No one knew what it was not even the doctors. People told me I was not ill just lazy. They said I was too young and too fat to be depressed as people believed only old people with no appetite became depressed. My grandfather told my mother there was no mental illness on his side of the family. No wonder I was in denial for the next 16 years.

I was often made to feel ashamed, people used to whisper around me and treat me with kid gloves in case I did something strange!!

After many years of feeling embarrassed I decided to become a volunteer speaker for an organisation. I was surprised that after my first speech people came up and thanked me for sharing my story.

For the first time, I felt my voice was worthwhile and would be listened to.

I also joined moodscope a few years ago and found by reading blogs and comments I could learn a lot about other people's experiences. I also felt so proud when my first blog was online and I still get surprised when people take the effort to reply to my blogs.

After being ashamed on having a mental illness for a lot of my life I now would like to tell that sad girl in the car her life will get better and one day she will not be ashamed but proud enough to share her story with others.

If you have stopped feeling ashamed of having a mental illness, what made you stop?

If you feel ashamed or embarrassed, what would it take to stop feeling like that.

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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I am an addict... Friday October 26, 2018

The day a local homeless schizophrenic asked me loudly to give him a ride to Saskatchewan in a rowboat made everyone within earshot smile ruefully. Had I not had my own issue with mental health I might have found it amusing also; although as a trained healthcare professional I don't believe anyone asks to be afflicted with disease. Not even hypochondriacs; which in itself is still a form of suffering!

Joke: what is the difference between a drunk and an alcoholic? (Drunks don't have to go to all those meetings).

Society has made it okay to be an alcoholic or a drug addict; in Alberta there is such provision for those addicted. Another disease. I have said it before and I will say it again; "Alcohol and drugs seem to get all the glory." So why then, I wonder, does mental illness still have such a stigma to this day?! Especially when so many addictions have their roots in mental disease and the sufferer is in fact, self-medicating.

It has taken me a lifetime to realize I am an addict and have a mental illness. Dr. Phil says: "You cannot change what you do not acknowledge." And while mental illness may never be curable, it is certainly treatable.

Moodscope has helped me tremendously and I thank you all for being part of my journey. So often someone else says what I am experiencing so well it lends me strength for one more day. No one is alone unless they really want to be.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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This old house Thursday October 25, 2018

Twenty five years ago I walked through my front door for the first time. I had come to view, with very low expectations. We were only moving because anti-social noisy neighbours made life intolerable. It had come close to fisticuffs, so we felt we had no choice. I felt bitterly resentful, scared of change. I lived there by myself for a time, it was low-maintenance, bills were just about affordable if-ever the optimist - I ended up alone again.

None of the houses I had viewed already came up to expectations, and I was pessimistic about finding somewhere in our price range that felt right. This house was round the corner, walked past many times. The position is lovely, on a footpath, a fantastic view, overlooking allotments built on land given to the town by Henry V111. The house itself, built in 1890, looked OK, nothing more.

The first thing that caught my eye was the William Morris fireplace shown in the photo, the original from when the house was built. I know one is supposed to be non-committal when buying, say little, but I could not keep my big mouth shut. As we moved around, I was giving cries of delight "A coal fire in the main bedroom, how lovely " "Oh I love those old sash windows".

When we sat down for a chat I was welling up. "Please promise you won't sell to anyone but me" I called out to the bemused vendor, as I reluctantly left 'my' house. In case you're wondering, I don't play poker, it never appealed to me!

I rang the agent with an 'offer' i.e.the asking price. She said the vendor had phoned already, saying they might hear from "a lovely but rather excitable lady".

That first night, exhausted from the move, sitting in bed with a massive pizza and champagne is one of my best memories.

The years since then have seen the best of times, and the worst of times. The sofa opposite the fireplace has found me sitting contentedly, snuggled up with the dogs. It has also seen me stretched out sobbing, punching and tearing at the cushions in utter despair. The bright cheery kitchen, where many meals have been cooked, with the afternoon play or The Archers playing in the background, also bore witness on the day I decided that stoving my head in against the yellow walls was the only escape from the horror show going on inside.

Yet I have never lost the sense of goodness that resides here. A friend said she always wants to take off her shoes when visiting, because it feels like entering a temple. That's not down to me, it is the house, and the imprint of those who went before me. I discovered that one of the earliest residents was the town nurse, and that the house doubled up as an informal A&E for years. People went there to be mended, patched up. Maybe that's what I hoped for. How I would love to travel back in time to see the previous owners, how they lived. As to the future, if I ever have to leave, I will do my utmost to see that the house goes to someone who will take proper care of it. Maybe someone who can't stop smiling and crying when they come to view. It deserves nothing less.

Is your home your favourite place, or maybe just somewhere to hang your hat? Whatever, I hope you feel safe there today.

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Sometimes, things take longer. Wednesday October 24, 2018

Last night I fired up an old computer, looking for a file I hoped to recover.

Yes, learn from my mistakes: never trust just one back-up!

So, I did manage to recover an old mystery dinner party. I was able to dust it off, add a couple of extra characters, jiggle it around a little and send it off to a friend of mine for her birthday party.

Then my eye was caught by an old blog I had written for Moodscope. It was published on Wednesday 28th January 2015: As the Daffodils Fade. I opened it and began to read.

In it I talk, as so often, about my feelings of futility and difficulties in setting goals when I can never achieve them. I talked of three very specific goals I hoped to achieve by Easter 2015.

I wanted to:
• Lose 20lb of the 35lb I needed to lose to get to a healthy weight.
• Finish (start) my second novel.
• Book a flight to see my dear friend who had moved to the Georgia, USA, five years previously.

I don't think I achieved any of these by Easter 2015. I am sure I felt a failure and totally inadequate – as I so often do. I probably didn't hit them by Easter 2016.

But, as I read those words last night, I realised something.

It's now October 2018, and I have:

• Lost 25lbs: I am only 10lbs away from the top of my healthy weight range.
• Finished that second novel and am halfway through the third.
• Just come back from visiting my friend for the second time. The first time was Georgia; this time, Washington DC.

So, I didn't get these things done by April 2015 – it took three and a half years longer; and I am grateful to have been given those extra three and a half years – but I did them.

There is power in writing down goals and putting them out there, so others can see what you intend.

My team leader is number one in my company. She attributes her success to a number of things, but one of them is setting goals - she wanted to be the best, and now she is.

She shared the "secrets of her success" with us at the recent company conference. But it was that she sets goals which struck me - let's be honest, every "successful" person says they set goals – it was her next words.

"It doesn't matter if you fail!" she said, passion in her voice. "What matters is that you're nearer to the goal than you would have been if you hadn't set in the first place!"
She's right.

So, I have some new goals. I may not reach them in the time-frame I want. But – I will get there.

And you will too. What do you want to do?

For me: I want to get to that healthy weight, finish the series of five novels and - Australia, here I come!

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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It's like riding a bike... How to manage the cycle of depression Tuesday October 23, 2018

"It's just like riding a bike". That's what people say about things that are meant to be easy to pick up and totally achievable for the average person. For me, riding a bike is hard and a constant struggle against my poor co-ordination and balance. That's why I like this saying as a metaphor for living with depression, because it's a bit like a cycle and really tough to manage well without falling off and getting hurt. The similarity, however, is that when we do fall off we have to pull ourselves off the ground, brush off the dirt and attend to our injuries, and keep on riding.

How do we do this though, when we are figuratively lying in a crumpled heap on the roadside while others rush past us, too busy with their daily lives to pick us up and make sure we're OK? Well, one way is to establish a support network, or even a single person to keep us upright and moving forward. Sometimes we just need a guiding hand and the encouragement to get back on the bike, and someone to stick around and make sure we don't fall straight back off again – basically performing the same function as stabilisers.

When we have things in balance, and we're cruising along with (relative) ease it's easy to ignore the fact that our bike has a slightly dodgy wheel, or worn out brakes that will cause us to fall again, but unless we take steps to fix those broken bits, or at least find a decent repair place/therapist we'll find ourselves in that same, familiar crumpled heap on the pavement. This is the best time to put things in place to ensure that if/when we stumble and fall again we'll be picked up and helped back in the saddle.

Your repair place or stabilisers might take the form of a relative, a friend, your GP or mental health services. Knowing those facilities are there for you can make it easier to ask for help when you're dealing with a figurative scraped knee or twisted ankle. We can also do some preventative maintenance on our bikes to make sure everything is working properly. If we're aware of the signs that our chain is about to come loose, or that our gears are about to lock up then we can take action before things get too bad and we're thrown off again.

We all have our own triggers and signs that things might be about to take a turn for the worst so we can use this knowledge to build an operational checklist. If we engage in preventative self maintenance when we see the signs that things are going south then we can go to the repair shop, or fit our stabilisers back on before we're chucked off the cycle of depression. It's much easier to recover from this place than from that metaphorical gutter.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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First and Last Monday October 22, 2018

First thing this morning the stars were the brightest, clearest, and most numerous I can ever remember seeing... at least since my childhood. That was the start of my day – the first thing. It was magical, inspiring, energising.

Last night, after a hard day's physical work, we collapsed in front of a good film with a delicious Chinese take-away. That was the end of the day before – the last thing. It was satisfying, refreshing, replenishing.

Unsurprisingly, I had a good night's sleep – physical tiredness plus positive final experiences to close the day paved the way for just what I needed. The start to the day took a twinkle from the stars and put it in my eyes.

My point is one borne out by psychological research: our first and last moments have a disproportionate effect upon us. We remember more of, and pay more heed to, what happens first and what happens last in any time frame. Our first day on a new job, or at a new school... even our first kiss! These firsts have the most power. Lasts are powerful too.

When you and I are low on energy, it is essential for us to understand where best to invest our limited resources. Paying attention to what we do first, and what we do last, pays off. My recommendation is that we plan something good and pleasant to start every day. Let's not defer our 'treat' until we've earned it. Instead, let's have something to look forward to just for getting out of bed.

Secondly, let's make sure every day – good or bad – finishes with a treat – something we want to do, be, experience, have...

The results can be as satisfying as a better night's sleep, with better dreams, and an energising (rather than exhausting) start to the day.

This principle works for any time-frame. The first and last moments of any meeting have similar power to affect a better result. If you're in work, your first four minutes when you arrive, and your last four minutes before you leave are worth extra focus. Your first four minutes when you get home set the scene for the hours that follow.

Finally, if you are willing to be creative, you can have a lot of fun with this. In what imaginative ways could you start your day? How about the closing moments of the day, the meeting, the journey...???

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Angelica Waits Sunday October 21, 2018

I have heard it said many times that men returning home after World War 1, very rarely spoke about their experiences. I expect that there are some sights, sounds, smells and sensations that cannot be conveyed adequately with words.

My father, now in his 80s, living with dementia, would, every year, as a member of the Territorial Army, go on a fortnight Summer camp to Germany or France leaving me at home with my mother and I used to miss him terribly; inevitably becoming ill with anxiety. I would count the days until his return and wait, patiently, until the key turned in the door latch, or, I would see him alighting from the bus that stopped at the end of our road; and I would tremble with excitement at his imminent return.

Some years ago I wanted to conflate these two ideas - using written words to convey something important, and, breathing some life in to my experiences of loss and anxiety.

To this end I wrote the following poem, called Angelica Waits, which has been sitting on my hard drive.

Inspired by Lex's more recent blog, I thought I'd share it with you.

Do you have strong childhood memories that could grow in the light of day?

Angelica waits

Her tiny face pressed hard against a frosted window,
Angelica waits for her father to return home from the war.
A silent vigil marked only by the tick of time.

Her swollen liquid eyes mirage his form,
Like a watercolour in the rain.
Her vapour breath revealing his image on the cold glass.

Outside, in the snow laden air, the ghosts of Ypres
Tumble like feathers on the landscape of her dreams.
Each gossamer crystal flake falling like a slow motion death.

In a trench filled with mud and fear Angelica's father,
With her photograph welded to his hand,
Brushes away his salty tears from roughened cheeks.

Her form masked by cigarette and mortar smoke,
He whispers into the rotting darkness, his voice a trembling oasis,
'Angelica, Oh Angelica how I miss you.'

In Autumnal sunlight with long dark fingers of winter pointing north,
Angelica's face, crumpled like a telegram, looks towards the sky,
'Don't be long,' she whispers, 'I don't belong.'

A Moodscope member.

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Aftermath Saturday October 20, 2018

This evening, I did 'stand at the grave and weep'. Many people must have felt this, the shock of death, even if expected, the form filling, funeral organisation, travelling arrangements, feeding people. Then, the anti-climax, it sinks in.

I'd been up to the cemetery 2/3 times, and just stood, or sat in the sun. But tonight, the finality struck home. Then I started wondering about a person's 'legacy'. A lady died in the care home two days after my husband. She'd come from a long stay in hospital. She was in one of the main rooms, a wraith, and silent, attached to drips. Her husband was there, lost. I think he was frightened of being alone with her in her own room. Then he realised he knew us, and came and sat next to me, I addressed him by name, he looked so relieved in a world which had become strange.

I don't think many people will be aware that this couple, small in stature, seeking no recognition, were ardent workers for the church and the charities of Secours Catholique and St Vincent de Paul. Our priests are new, the congregation declining, the couple old, the church magazine defunct, so no public words of thanks are likely. No Legion of Honour for them. The Catholic Church does have a medal for 'outstanding achievement'; I do not know how many are handed out.

The picture epitomises my husband's legacy, and it will have gone round the world. He did receive the Outstanding Award for service to his own industry. But you cannot turn this picture into a tombstone. Explanations needed. For at least ten years I planned a scheme and planted containers and baskets for the whole façade of this historic house, every year different. Mr G diligently kept the lot watered, and it was an onerous (and athletic) task. It is a tourist area, and photos of the flowers must exist round the world (especially in Japan).

We had to wait to go in the front door once because a couple were sitting on the step to be photographed. It was also very social, as he got to know fresh generations of kids and their mums going to the school just down the road. One of the nuns in the convent opposite said her day was made as she opened her window on to the flowers each morning. One lady going home at lunchtime would make a detour to see them. People would ask what next year's colour scheme would be. People's unseen legacies abound. For 20+ years Mr G pedalled round town distributing posters for the little music festival. He designed covers for the church magazine.

I am sure most of us have 'unsung heroes', working diligently, and, so important, reliably, for their community. So valuable are those who can organise and galvanise groups to pick up litter, clean canals, pressurise the local council.

Who would you award a medal to?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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SF Botanical Garden Friday October 19, 2018

A few years ago I was suffering from intense anxiety when I nervously boarded a plane to visit my friend Sara in San Francisco. When I got there, I was depressed and didn't want to leave her home.

One day, Sara asked me if I wanted to see any sights in the city. I Said I'd like to visit the De Young Museum. She drove us there; I was relieved we didn't need to take public transportation as we could hop into her car and leave if I got too anxious. After arriving at Golden Gate Park though, Sara couldn't find a place to park and went home leaving me there.

Before Sara left, she gave me instructions on how to take the Muni home. I got out of the car, and it was freezing cold. I walked down the sidewalk, and I was ready to go home. The line at the museum was too long and I didn't want to queue. I then saw I was near the Botanical Garden. I went in to the gift shop there and struck up a conversation with the ladies in the shop about the cold weather. One was a member of the garden and gave me a free ticket.

With the ticket, I went into the garden intending only to stay for a few minutes close to the entrance. That way I could easily exit and go home. I started by looking at the black bamboo, and I walked a little further. Soon, I was in another section of the garden, looking at the tall redwoods. I was shocked that the trees can survive and thrive in the middle of a city.

I continued walking and went into a section with many herbs and different aromas. I learned that San Francisco's prior name was Buena Yerba or Good Herb. My curiosity overtook me and I forgot about my anxiety. I walked further still into an area with plants from Australia. By the time I exited the garden, I had seen sixty percent of it.

By taking the step to leave the house in the first place, I had taken the first step in challenging my anxiety. My thoughts said, "What if I have a panic attack? What if..."

During a trying year when it was hard to leave my home due to extreme anxiety, I had flown an hour to San Francisco, and I had left my friend's home. I was anxious when Sara went home because she was my crutch. I thought we'd be spending the day together. I thought she'd comfort me if I had a panic attack and drive me home.

One step led to another and soon my fear disappeared and I saw and smelled the different fragrances of the garden. From funky Australian fauna to tall redwoods, I saw most of the vast Botanical Garden and learned about different plants. On that day in San Francisco, I conquered a part of my anxiety. This willingness to go out and explore would help me alleviate more anxiety in the months ahead.

A Moodscope member.

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Receiving/transmitting Thursday October 18, 2018

I have often thought how easy it would be to switch off from others needs at times.

I am a carer for my partner with middle stage Alzheimer's, a dad to a newly qualified teacher setting out in her career and I work part time, look after the family spaniel etc...

You get the drift...

Always aware of others needs and wants sometimes wears me down, I am human and get tired and irritable.

Part of my nature is to be in tune to those close by, to receive their mood and act appropriately around it.

If I could only transmit and switch off from receiving for a spell...

Or getting a balance between receiving and sending would surely be better?

Would that change me as a person?

Having empathy is to me a part of being human and looking after those in need close by is instinctual and so rewarding.

I go to work to switch off from my home work, then sometimes wake up in the night in a swirl of thoughts of things to do, what ifs etc... trying to manage all aspects of life, then in clear moments I realise that whatever happens in the future is mainly out of my control and I can only prepare as best as I can.

These five words mean so much:

One day at a time.

Now if I could transmit my brain activity into physical exercise I would surely be at my target weight too.

What do you wish for?

Have you prepared for life's inevitable outcomes?

Then all that can be done is to enjoy the moment and savour special time together.

A Moodscope member.

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Action Stations! Wednesday October 17, 2018

Yes, I do love my system.

I love my system of scrappy bits of paper and a box to put them in. I know that nothing will get forgotten because it's corralled in the box. Everything is written down.

I love my two-box system – one is today/this week, and one is longer term projects.


Yes, there is a huge BUT.

There is still the problem that there is too much to do. Both boxes are overflowing, and I feel I am drowning in paperwork again. I just can't do it all. I feel overwhelmed and panicky.

So, yesterday, I emptied both boxes out onto the table and went through those scrappy bits of paper and made a list.

In some ways that list was even more daunting, as it covered two and a half sides of my A4 lined paper. It did mean however, that I could start going through those tasks with my coloured pens.

Some of those tasks are urgent and important: writing this blog, for instance. Some are important and fairly urgent, like getting a couple of tax returns in by the end of the month. Some are important because they contribute to my business goals: tasks like going through all the bounced emails from my newsletter and following those up.

And some of them... Well, as my husband would say, "Who will die if you don't do that?"

Sometimes we make work for ourselves. My daughter has an old tablet she no longer uses because it stopped working for her. On my list of things to do is to charge it up and perform a factory reset. But – she got a new phone for her birthday: she uses that phone for everything now. The tablet could sit in my in-tray for ever more and nobody in this family would miss it.

So, I've created another box. A box I've called, imaginatively, "My-can't-face-throwing-it-out-yet-but-it-can-wait-for-three-months" box.

That box has gone under my desk. Right at the back. And I've made a note in my diary to get it out again in three months. It's sealed up at present. And in three months it may well just go in the bin.

It might not, of course. In three months, January 16th, I might have time to reset that Kindle Fire and to watch that free DVD on selling techniques for small businesses. I might. Perhaps.

In the meantime – I looked at those items on my list marked in orange and red and started on them. I've written this blog now: that's one thing I can cross off the list. Even crossing off just one thing feels good.

Writing things down somehow imprisons the fear into those words. The list itself is long, but each task is manageable – even if it's not doable today.

Next is that tax return for my mother. It's a big job and I need to allocate time for it, but I can do it next week. On Tuesday.

Phew! I feel a lot better now.

A Moodscope member.

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Keys to the Kingdom... of Kindness Tuesday October 16, 2018

Liz's recent post about being kind to oneself and Mirjam's on aiming to increase the "pride" card, made me think...

When I first took on a new position as the nurse in an out-patient clinic, I was given a set of keys on a key chain. At the end of my first day, I accidentally took it home. They were keys for a linen cupboard, blanket warmer, and a row of wheelchairs and would be needed in the morning. It was evening and I was tired, but I had to drive back to the hospital to return them. But I wasn't alone: a voice accompanied me the whole way: "You are so careless... how could you be so forgetful?" and so on - you get the idea - all the way there and back home.

Unbelievably, a month or two later - oops, I did it again. (Thank you, Britney Spears.) After work, I swung my knapsack onto the kitchen counter and heard the little tinkle of metal keys. In my hurry to leave at the end of my shift, I hadn't taken the time to put them in their place. Once again, late at night, I had to drive back to the hospital to return the keys, these for lockers where our patients put their belongings during treatments. They wouldn't be able to get their clothes, which would surely add to their stress, plus the nurses would grumble about the inconvenience I'd caused. Embarrassed, I snuck in, returned the keys, and slunk back out.

Perhaps you won't be surprised to learn that recently, even after more than a year at this job, I did it again. What is it about keys? I know I'm capable and responsible: I've been a safe nurse for 36 years. (I am proud of that.) But about relatively trivial things, my mind drifts away, gets loose and sloppy. Alert and "on" and then I shift into dream mode, and go "off."

But I also know is that my ingrained, always-at-the ready negative self-talk makes any problem worse. When I'm anxious, I get distracted or preoccupied with worries. When I'm depressed, I don't have the energy to be organized or attend to small details.

So I decided a new decision. I can't always avoid making little mistakes, but one thing I can change is the way I treat myself when I slip-up. I'll try to stop the negative self-talk and find something to be proud of in these situation. Thank you Liz, and Mirjam.

Maybe those darn keys can unlock a new path toward letting go of self-recrimination. One day, keys for opening locks will probably be obsolete, but there will undoubtedly be new opportunities to lose or misplace things. My plan is to remind myself that I have a choice to put the key in whichever door I choose. The portal to self-recrimination or the one to self-love. The first has been my go-to, familiar, default stance for many years. The second is exciting and new, but I think, with practice, I can learn it.

Nurse Tilda
A Moodscope member.

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