The Moodscope Blog



Sorry not Sorry Sunday July 14, 2019

I say sorry a lot. So does my husband. Sorry about that. We realised just how much we say it when one of our children started saying it all the time. "You've got nothing to say sorry for, darling" we said, but still she apologised.

So what? Sorry is a hugely valuable word. When we say it we lay ourselves at the feet of the recipient; acknowledging our error, misdemeanour or failing. It can soothe troubles between people and set ourselves jointly towards more positive paths. And for that it has an essential role.

But as someone who leans towards self deprecation and low self esteem, apologising (and over apologising) can push me further down. It reinforces feelings of inadequacy and failing, and in our household often manifests in a competition for who feels worse about things that didn't go to plan.

"Sorry I haven't put the dishwasher on yet"
Subtext: "I should have done"
Reality: "I've been flat out busy with other things"

"Sorry I finished the milk"
Subtext: "I should have put your needs before mine and saved some milk for you"
Reality: "I really needed that cuppa"

So now we're trying something new. Where we can (and we remember!) we're swapping "Sorry" for "Thank you".

"Thank you for doing the ironing when I didn't have time".

"Thank you for looking after the kids when I had to work late".

"Thank you for stepping to one side so I could walk past".

It's early days, but I think we all feel more positive and lighter.

So thank you for reading this blog, and maybe a similar swap may help some of you too.

With love

A Moodscope member.

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

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School is in Saturday July 13, 2019

Handed down to me, I now realise, were some lessons I'd rather not have been present for. Fear, inhibition, harsh self-criticism and judgements of others to name a few. Its not a great list. It took me a long while to realise that, although ingrained, deep down these words were not me. This inner conflict is perhaps part of my reason for struggling with my mental health.

If conflict exists within us it's no wonder our minds take a battering. Like an invisible tug of war we run from end to end trying to cover both bases. I'm having to distance myself from a person who has made me feel this way. (I notice I can't even describe to you who this is, such is the hold I still feel and guilt for breaking free.) And I cannot distance myself. They are a firm part of my life and impossible to set free from. But I can distance my mind.

I'm practising. Noticing when they judge and scowl and attempt to control with passive aggressive behaviour. Then I only have to counteract this with my internal recognition of the occasion and its done, I'm free to make up my own mind. My own feeling. My own response. I'm sorry that it took so long. But when we learn from others we have trusted, it takes quite a length of time to undo a lesson and write our own.

Very slowly I am re-writing myself. Its hard work, sometimes awful, but interesting. Each step is one closer to freedom. And it feels good, so I keep going. I fear there could be casualties along the way if I'm not ultra-cautious and so I tiptoe still trying to get through leaving everyone unscathed. Yes, hard work.

And you... might it possible you have learned a lesson or a behaviour which is not really you? Something which is no longer serving you and needs to change. Are you acting out a scene from someone else's book or are you sure you are living your own? It's a deep question. And worthy I think.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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TFP Part three Friday July 12, 2019

When I began my Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), the therapist asked me if I'd prefer a course of 12 months or 15 months. This was an agonising question for me: I felt so broken and damaged that I wanted the most help I could get; but I hate to be seen as grasping. I wrestled internally, then asked for 15.

TFP begins with a ten-week contracting phase. For me it was like being thrown to the lions. The therapist kept asking me what goals I wanted for the therapy. I was terrified and I pushed back against the terror. It's hard to imagine now why I found this so incredibly frightening. I can only think I felt I was being asked to do more than I could - to become a better person at a time when I had no inner resources at all.

The contracting phase is essential to the therapy so I was motivated to submit, but it was visceral. I often loathed the therapist. I thought she was trying to destroy me. How we got through it I don't know. I can't remember the goals now, but they weren't actually awful. By the time we actually set them, they were OK. It had felt like fighting lions but when the battle was over and I could see what was in front of me, there were no carcasses. I'd been fighting my shadow.

And so the therapy proceeded and although it was occasionally a visceral fight, it was easier, on the whole, than the first ten weeks. Though there was still a lot of crying in the car park. And a lot of sleeping when I got home.

TFP consists of noticing the interplay between therapist and client, and what that says about the ways of relating the client developed when growing up. Once the first ten weeks were over, I experienced my therapist as insightful and sympathetic with this. It wasn't abrasive, like the psychodynamic therapy I'd had in my early 20s.

As much as I cried and took to my bed, I began to notice serendipitous things happening in my life outside therapy. It was spooky, in a good way - as though I was getting messages from the universe that I was on the right track. For instance, just the right kind of support for a certain moment might present itself. Looking back I see that in therapy I was being rebuilt on a psycho-spiritual level and things around me were shifting because of that.

There were cataclysmically painful things too.

It wasn't linear. The magical and the shocking happened at the same time. I left my husband, and was essentially homeless and penniless. I cannot now work out how I got through all the challenges that followed. I have no family this end of the country, but friends were amazing. I learnt to accept help because I had no choice.

I got through all the basics of setting up a new life, and after therapy things continued to improve for me. The therapy set off a chain of improvements. Which isn't to say I haven't worked at them too. The therapy was like magic at times, but I made Herculean efforts to use it and continue what I'd learnt. So I'm proud. And eternally grateful to my therapist who was incredibly skilled and experienced. The last time I saw her was my final therapy session, but what she did for me is constantly playing out in my life.

A Moodscope member.

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TFP part two Thursday July 11, 2019

If you read my last blog (14.5.2019), you'll know I'm trying to convey my experience of having Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) on the NHS, and how it changed everything for me, for the better.

TFP is a psychodynamic therapy and I was extremely wary of that when it was suggested to me as an option. In my early twenties I had a taste of this branch of therapy and found it abrasive, almost traumatic. And there didn't seem to be much benefit to outweigh that.

Through my mid-twenties and my thirties I moved around the country, and everywhere I went, GPs suggested Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I had four courses, two quite long. You've got to wonder why they kept suggesting it when the benefit wasn't lasting ... I think they were offering what was most readily available and I wasn't very assertive. I didn't know what else I could have, and I trusted them to be offering what best matched my symptoms.

In my early 40s I had a major mental health breakdown. There was a 'perfect storm' of events that precipitated it, against the background of being in a marriage in which I felt I couldn't be myself. It was during this breakdown that people started to realise CBT had not worked for me and another approach was needed, and urgently. I had two small children so the stakes were high. My health visitor was the person who realised most strongly that I had to get down to the roots of my issues. She was instrumental in getting me referred to the Specialist Psychotherapy Service covering my area, though my GP was excellent too. While I was on the waiting list, they regularly contacted the service to remind them how much I needed to be assessed.

The leaflet from the psychotherapy service outlined the four types of therapy it offered, one of which was TFP. I had heard of it, because at that time I was convinced I had traits of Borderline Personality Disorder, though psychiatrists didn't really agree with me. On websites I'd consulted, TFP had been mentioned as having been developed for that illness.

The period between referral to the psychotherapy service and assessment for therapy was such a bad time for me that I struggle to remember what order things happened in. Twice I was under the care of the Home Based Treatment Team of my local hospital. The second time I was referred to the Community Mental Health Team when I was discharged. This was intended to keep me safe until the therapy started and to support me during therapy.

Finally I was assessed. And I was offered the dreaded TFP. I was terrified but I knew, I absolutely knew, it was what I needed. I asked to have 24 hours to decide. I had nightmares that night but it was my fear of TFP that convinced me it was the right thing. I said yes the next day.

Continued tomorrow...

A Moodscope member.

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Self-Loathing Wednesday July 10, 2019

I couldn't find the file; the one with the copies of my uncle's death certificates. Without those precious bits of paper, I could not transfer some shares; shares which should have been transferred on his death, six years ago.

I had turned the loft upside down; I had hunted in all the places it might be and several where it couldn't possibly be. I had lost that file and I wasn't fit to live in a world with decent people who could organise things and file things properly and who would never, ever lose such a valuable object. I was a worthless lump of dirt; worst than dirt: I was less than nothing.

I'm doing some therapy right now. I seem to have been "in therapy" on and off for the past thirty years – but, as I'm still here – I guess it must be working. This area is just the latest thing I am dealing with.

There have been a few times in the past couple of years when something has happened to spiral me down to a point of utter self-loathing, where I feel that I am literally unworthy to live.

The thing itself can be insignificant. This time it was losing (as I thought) my uncle's death certificate.

So, confession time (and this is where anyone who knows me will be rolling around with laughter): I'm not very good with admin. Dates move themselves round in my diary so I get double booked; my systems need to be not just belt-and-braces but must include a bit of string too. My brain has gaps the size of that black hole in the milky way, so that simple tasks like phoning the plumber get forgotten while I'm engaged in some creative project which seems frivolous to those around me.

Inevitably things go wrong and when they do I am filled with the deepest of shame.

My therapist has enabled me to see that, growing up, creativity was not valued in my puritanical grandfather's house. Being able to draw; paint; write; act; dance, was viewed as deeply suspicious and likely to lead to "immorality". I've always felt unworthy, because I am creative – which may be why I became an accountant; for fifteen miserable years!

So, my reaction to failures in logic, organisation and administration is out of proportion: I criticize myself so harshly, any other criticism from outside is unnoticeable. It's self-protection gone too far; so far it becomes destructive itself.

So, now I must catch myself doing it – and have pity on that little girl who loves to create beautiful things and to write wonderful words, and be kind to her.

I wonder what things make you feel worthless and if they might also have their roots in your childhood. Where do you need to have pity on yourself and be kind?

Oh, and that file? I asked my sister about it. She said, "Oh, don't you remember? The accountants still have it: they must have forgotten to give it back!"

A Moodscope member.

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The Pangs of Grief Tuesday July 9, 2019

There will be some regular Moodscopers who will have seen a post on 13/8/17. "At sea without a compass", concerning my late daughter.

I know, from reading blogs and comments, that many of us have been bereaved in recent years. Everyone feels their grief differently and I find it curious how random things can bring back the pangs. I belong to a church choir. I don't necessarily consider myself as particularly religious, but I love the singing and the sense of community.

The other day the choir were requested to sing at a wedding. The bride and groom were not regular attenders, so I did not recognise the name. As I watched the lovely, young bride walk up the aisle with her father, I recognised the man. When the vicar said the bride's name I realised that she had been a primary school classmate of my late daughter.

I experienced that awful catch in the throat, and at times I was hardly able to sing, my mouth moved but no words came out. Here was a lovely young woman, so happy to be getting married and yet my late daughter had been unable to overcome her difficulties and settle down with the caring young man with whom she had lived for a few years. Oh, the heartache...

On a brighter note, I have been pretty well recently, scores above average. The other daughter with health issues is much better. She has a job she loves and will soon move into her own place.

My OH and I are in the early stages of selling our house and hope to find the right place in the same village as the church where we have rung bells and sung hymns for many years - so that we can truly become part of the village community.

I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life.

Take care fellow Moodscopers.

Another Sally xx
A Moodscope member.

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Fighting Mental Health Challenges Like the Romans Monday July 8, 2019

The kindness of some people brings me pleasure on a daily basis. Accompanying me to many meetings is a tiny, hand-painted model of a Roman Testudo (Latin for 'Tortoise') made for me by a friend's husband.

The Testudo is a military formation made famous by the Romans. Groups of soldiers would band together in a coordinated way to form a shield wall to the front and to the sides, whilst other soldiers would hold shields over their own and the heads of their companions.

The result was like an overturned box with holes in to see through, offering a very effective defence against arrows and other missiles.

Here's the best part. For the system to work, you only had to cover a couple of buddies - often only one other. My model looks like some of the legionaries had two shields – one to cover to the front or sides and one for the top. If you looked after just two of your fellow members in the unit, everyone was covered. Whatever the maths, it was all about looking after at least one other person.

This strikes me as being one of the secrets to the success of the buddy system in Moodscope. As long as we all have a couple of buddies to cover us (and I would suggest that we are buddies to two others ourselves to return the favour), everyone is protected from outside forces. This thought made me pause and feel grateful for those buddies who have watched over me. Today would be a great day to say thank you to them again.

The biggest danger to the unit was bizarrely from an inside member who decided to poke their sword in their neighbour! With this in mind, let's make sure we're kind to one another and remember we're here to help one another. The 'enemy' is outside, not inside.

I make my shield available to protect the Moodscope members nearest to me in the formation, but we all have to band together for the magic to work.

A Moodscope member.

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

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What have I learned? Sunday July 7, 2019

A couple of milestones have recently occurred:

I've just turned 64 - remember the Beatles track?!

And I've been a member of Moodscope for 10 years!

I was amazed to notice I joined on 10th April 2009 after reading about Moodscope in The Times. I seem to remember that John gave an interview. I've been a part of this amazing website since.

What have I learned? How has it helped me? How does recording my moods fit in to my life?

So many questions and so many answers.

Before I reveal my answers perhaps I could ask you about the above and get you thinking today about your responses...

I will follow up with another blog soon and tell you what I discovered about myself since being a member of this wonderful online community.

Tell us all your experiences - funny, sad or whatever and let's get a discussion going!

All the best.

A Moodscope member.

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

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When I was 7... Saturday July 6, 2019

I have just been watching the latest instalment of that great program 7 Up which filmed children from all different backgrounds and social class, then every 7 years he interviewed them again. Michael Apted, the director, wanted to test the quotation by Aristotle:

"Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man."

I think I first saw the program when the children were 14 and shy awkward teenagers, a contrast to the outgoing lively 7-year-olds.

This program has always fascinated me as the children were only a few years older and by the time I saw the programs I was a similar age to them and going through some of the same life experiences.

Some of the original children have dropped out, some dropped out and then back in, as the interviews, every 7 years, can be overwhelming in their lives and are an intrusion at times.

Some of the now adults like to have a record of their lives and agree to still be part of the program even though it is quite tiring.

I was thinking what were Moodscopers like at 7 and if I saw them being filmed and interviewed would they be much different to how they see themselves now.

When I was 7, I was in year 2 at a local infant's school. I loved school and would not miss a day unless I was very ill.

I was a very serious and pessimistic child and used to think about things other seven-year olds didn't. I was often told to smile and be happy and be grateful.

I had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did have a fantasy world where I was the head of an orphanage and I could speak many languages and had many imaginary friends.

People described me as an unusual child. I was not popular.

Am I basically the same 7-year-old, in some ways yes, in some ways no.

Your turn wonderful Moodscopers. Can you please complete when I was 7 in as many sentences or as few as you feel comfortable sharing?

Are you basically the same 7-year-old now as an adult or are you very different?

A Moodscope member.

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Breadmakers Friday July 5, 2019

I have just put all the ingredients into the breadmaker and as I write this blog, I can hear them all being mixed together and in approximately three hours I shall have a lovely healthy, seeded, nutty loaf of bread to look forward to.

Which do you think is the most important part of the equipment?

Initially, I thought it was the paddle, the smallest separate part that is handled (excluding the tiny parts in the electronics not seen to the eye). Put all the ingredients into the tin, forget to insert the paddle and you will not have a loaf of bread and the ingredients will be wasted. My conclusion therefore is that all of this chunky, large piece of metal is in fact absolutely useless without this very small, easy to lose, part.

Not so however, as equally the paddle has no function whatsoever on its own without all the metal equipment, seen or unseen. Therefore, one can only conclude that the breadmaker only works because each and every single part of it has been designed to work together, with I might add, the owner of the equipment - forget to put the yeast in with the mix and you have a strange scone! How do I know this...?

It's easy for us to forget how we fit into the whole so to speak, but I hope this demonstrates that we absolutely do. Without us, things simply do not function, or if they do, not as smoothly or as well.

We are all equally invaluable threads, interwoven in the great fabric of life. Please never tell yourself you have nothing to offer, that no-one would miss you if you weren't around, etc. This is not true.

I have spent most of my working life backstage – literally (although it's a lovely metaphor too) – watching the stars of the show receive the audience applause, feeling unimportant despite my very "important" job which contributed enormously to the overall production. I knew it did, but I did not feel that it did. I thought I did not matter, what I did, did not matter, the show would go on without me, and of course it would, but it wouldn't be the same.

Whether we are seen or not seen, we are all very much part of the whole. Behind every red carpet frock is a team of highly skilled individuals, contributing to it's existence. Behind every "star" performance or player, is a huge team of people making it happen. They rarely get seen let alone applauded. Every industry has its equivalent.

A moment to reflect that we are all part of the fabric of life and without us, there would be tears. Both types, as in watery tears from the eyes and a tear as in a slash or rip of torn material. Every fibre of our being has its rightful and equal place.

Now how is my bread doing?

A Moodscope member.

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My debt to Moodscope Thursday July 4, 2019

Does anybody remember The Times newspaper when the front page was all advertisements? Often anonymous entries 'Grateful Thanks to Saint Jude' (Saint of Lost Causes and those in despair). I think Moodscope must have been spawned by St Jude. This is not cynicism because over the years it appears that those suffering from long-term depression are a 'lost cause'. The medical profession cannot cope. The state has neither money nor personnel. Medication would seem necessary, but never seen on these pages anybody who has been cured, or found medications which do not cause extra problems, side effects or stopping them. Many people have had counselling, again, not a cure, a comfort and a prop, but you need money! And so often depression has impeded on working life, relationships, and provoked money problems.

I have often said I 'use and abuse' Moodscope, my wailing wall, comfort blanket, prop and stay over 5 hard years. Help has now come from a totally unthought-of direction, decision making. I had a blog on 11th June on weather effects on depression. The first half of June was wet and cold, and everybody was fed up. The SAD syndrome was also mentioned. The only bad weather I like is walking along a beach in stormy conditions – boiling sea with white spume, violet or black sky, beating against the wind. But that's only OK if there's a nice warm pub at the end of it.

The replies set me to seriously looking at my situation. It came down, quite simply, to a too large house and the only windows face North and high walls of neighbours opposite. So. One solution, try to earn money staying put in order to be able to go away in the winter. Commerce not viable. Straight after the blog I got a letting agency in to consider that possibility. Impossible, it would cost too much to bring the house up to letting standards required by law. French law is strongly pro-tenant, so one could be prevented from selling or moving. Bad or non-paying tenants would cause un-wanted extra stress. Solution, to move.

I have found the 'perfect' house. Just cross the road yet again. It's an ex-bar, in an awful mess. But it tick's loads of boxes: west facing windows. Small walled garden would be a sun trap. One third the size of current abode. Right in centre of town (a prime concern, no change doctor, pharmacy, bread shop etc.) I would not need to buy anything, only pay for work.

Cons? Oh yes. I have to sell this house, it took four years to sell the other. I have to dispose of more than half my possessions, clutter of 65 years, could be tough, but the man at dump is my mate. The biggest stumbling block is no neighbours. I'm only on 'bon jour' terms with current ones. But nobody lives over shops, I'd have to go for sophisticated security. Has anybody made serious decisions following a blog?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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A Job Half-Done. Wednesday July 3, 2019

It was Christmas at the farm.

We children had grown and flown, but we all came back every Christmas. And like all family Christmases, it was a trial.

No matter how much you love your family, they usually infuriate you and this time it was my turn to infuriate my sister.

"Everywhere I go," she cried in frustration, "there's a half-finished job of yours! Why can't you just finish one thing before you start another?"

Guiltily, I stopped laying the table (half-way through) and went back to finish peeling the potatoes.

I thought of that yesterday, as I came home and parked on my half-weeded driveway. But I no longer feel in anyway guilty. And I have the Flylady to thank for this.

I wrote about the Flylady on 5th June. She is an American woman who has made a career out of coaching people how to get out of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She helps us break that chaos down into manageable ten or fifteen-minute tasks.

She sends me daily emails with suggested routines for the day. I rarely do what she suggests on the days she suggests them, but somehow, things get done.

One of the things she preaches against is perfectionism. Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination, she says. I see a dusty surface and think, "Oh, I haven't got time to dust properly today," and I leave it. The same layer of dust will annoy me tomorrow and the day after – and I still don't have time to dust properly.

But now I will just dust that bit. When I'm in the bathroom I will just run the cloth around the sink to remove his beard scum (yes, nasty, right?). I don't have time to clean the whole bathroom, but I'll just do that little bit. That annoying smear on the mirror? Yes, I'll just get that.

So, a week ago I had just ten minutes to weed the drive: nowhere near enough. But I started it – and left it unfinished. Yesterday, I drove in and noticed it was half weeded, so I did the other half: another ten minutes – although I didn't have time to weed the path. That will be another ten minutes – sometime.

Of course, there are jobs which, once started, must be completed: I strongly suggest that you do not leave chips half cooked in the pan and go off to do something else. Sometimes there are jobs which need a level of mental concentration: if that concentration is once lost, the thoughts cannot be recaptured, and the task must be started over.

But most tasks are not like that. Most can be done a little at a time.

You just need to get over your need to complete it; your need for perfection, and to start.

For, as Aristotle says, "Well begun is half done." You can do the other half another day.

Although I think my sister would quite like to have words with Aristotle!

A Moodscope member.

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Sick Note Tuesday July 2, 2019

There used to be a GP in my area who was highly regarded by all his patients. A very caring man, he ended up in the national press and television. He was called before a disciplinary hearing, because he was refusing to conform to the rules regarding sick notes. If patients had mental illness, needing time off work, he was omitting details. Experience had taught him that employers were unlikely to be sympathetic, and at that time people could be "let go" quite easily. He was putting things like "exhaustion" or "Acute pain". He refused to back down, and faced suspension.

His patients rallied round him, but by that time he was thoroughly disillusioned with the whole system, and went on to become a writer and broadcaster.

I found myself thinking of him recently when I was ill.

Two nasty viruses striking within days left my partner and I more weak than either of us could ever recall. He started to improve before I did, and I became angry with myself for still feeling dreadful. There was only one thing for it - I wrote myself a sick note. There was no need for discretion, I could openly declare my illness - "Norovirus and Influenza"

When depression strikes, I know I should rest and protect my health, but guilt makes it impossible to relax. This was different, I had a "proper illness". I would never feel able to email someone to say "Sorry I can't deal with this right now, I have not slept for 2 weeks and I am half mad with nameless fears." However "Sorry, I've got flu." is perfectly acceptable. The responses were instantly sympathetic. "Oh you poor thing, I had that last month, get lots of rest, don't worry about anything."

The days passed. I could stagger downstairs, matted hair, past the unopened post, ignoring the dust and muddy floor. No guilt, it was not my fault. Back in bed, too confused to concentrate on a book, I just lay there. Three days on just biscuits dunked in coffee, sod the 5 a day, no counting daily steps taken. I was ill, and had a sick note to prove it.

Having signed myself off for a week, I returned to part-time life. After one day I was too knackered to move. After a consultation with Dr.Google I extended my sick leave "Post-viral fatigue".

When by week three I started to feel a bit better, I was still careful not to overdo things. When depression illness starts to lift, I go into overdrive, get manic, rush around catching up, get exhausted, can't sleep, and the whole miserable cycle starts up again. "Don't do too much" said a local shopkeeper "My husband had that bug, went back to work too soon, now he's in hospital." Now what does that remind me of? Suffering from mental illness is no more a sign of a weak and inadequate character than catching a virus, I know that and tell it to others, but deep down I feel I should be able to fight it off.

I am going to try to take this lesson to heart. When mental illness strikes I doubt if I will ever be able to be totally honest with most people. I could however say I am a bit run down, an old health problem has flared up again. If they have any sensitivity they won't ask for details. I will tell myself that the "infection" will clear up, but the recovery will require me to go on sick leave. Maybe it would help to say I have got a nasty dose of depression, come down with the anxiety bug that is doing the rounds. I wonder if "fighting personal demons" would count as an illness?

A Moodscope member.

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Get to the Point Monday July 1, 2019

I do mix with some very fascinating people. One of them, Sam Dyer, is an expert in a set of techniques that promise much to enhance our mental health. WHAT it is (NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming) is not as important to me as WHO Sam is.

I know Sam. I like Sam. I trust Sam.

Sam has recently undergone the training required to run fire-walking sessions, as well as walking across broken glass, bending steel bars, breaking boards, and shattering the shaft of an arrow with one's bare throat! So what? Good point!

Because I know, like, and trust Sam, I agreed to have a go at breaking an arrow with my bare and unprotected throat. Yes folks, this is one you really don't do at home!

I thought it was likely to be a bit of a con. Perhaps the shaft was weak, the arrow-point blunt, the exercise 'fixed' in some way. I was wrong. The arrow was real. There was no trick. I felt the point. It left a temporary mark to remind me it was real. There wasn't an audience either, so it wasn't a Show.

Justin my friend, and I drew closer to Sam to find out more about the purpose of breaking arrows. Sam explained we all face 'impossible' situations in our lives from time to time. Some of these situations benefit from a shift in the way we perceive them. They respond to pushing in to a breakthrough. That shift can be a choice, or it can come from good direction from someone who knows a little more about what is realistic and what can be achieved with the right help and guidance.

Justin and I were encouraged to write on the shaft of the arrow a problem that we wanted to overcome. Then Sam modelled how to break the arrow with just your throat pushing the arrow against a wall. Yes, it's as reckless as it sounds.

My problems are real. The arrow is real. The point was sharp. My neck was soft. I felt the point. But I broke the arrow.

Whilst I am most certainly suggesting that the only circumstances you should try this for yourself is under the guidance of a trained expert, you can still get the point! Sam got me to write out the problem and then to focus on that problem as I watched it shatter, break, and dissipate before my very eyes (which were wearing protective goggles!)

Not everything can change for you, but some things can. There are some barriers out there that you'll never break through – we need to pick our barriers and battles carefully BUT I did breakthrough with an 'impossible' exercise. It got me thinking about what battle to pick next and where to push through to victory.

May we all have the wisdom to realise what we can't change, the insight to recognise what we can change, and the courage to have a bash at breaking through one barrier at a time.

It's not all impossible, it just looks and feels like it. May you find a Sam to inspire you too.

A Moodscope member.

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

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How full is your tank? Sunday June 30, 2019

I'm not the most mechanically minded but having just been on holiday I have had to ensure the car was full of petrol, tyres pumped and water topped up.

Surely this is what we do when we complete the Moodscope cards? We are assessing our mood. After leaving it a week or so I have been feeling a bit blue this weekend and couldn't work out why so decided to re-take the test.

Depending on our personality we gain our energy from being on our own or being with others. So on reflection it's not surprising that my fuel tank is low.

I've had a busy and sociable week immediately after a week away with the kids. And anyone who has been 'on holiday' as a single parent knows it ain't much of a break.

I have had the kids all weekend and have spent a huge amount of time chivvying, nagging and exhorting the eldest to do her homework.

My fuel tank feels low. So how am I going to top it up?

This afternoon I have read and slept in bed. A funny book which made me laugh. I have a double billing of great TV: one recorded from last night to watch. I have a nice dinner to cook and Pilates tomorrow to challenge and relax the body.

The week still has its work challenges but I know these days what I need to regain my strength.

How full is your tank? And what can you do today and in the coming week to top it up? '

A Moodscope member.

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

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Your cup is not mine Saturday June 29, 2019

It's the start of hell week and my psoriasis is as agitated as my students. The formula is simple: test is equal to stress felt by the entire system including my scalp. The pressure comes from different sources, all blowing in multuple directions. My students have been complaining of stress and anxiety as I receive more requests to sit down with them and listen. Each has a different withholding power, capacity or threshold. And in this diversity, I sometimes find myself inundated, knowing there are standards to be reached and expectations to be met.

In the midst of this I find that we adults, (at least in my community) seem to forget of the nuances of stress threshold - that each person has an emotional or mental cup and that one's cup may be bigger or smaller than the others'.

It is at this period that I also nudge myself to remember very well of the diverse perspectives I face on a daily basis. Coming from an institution that values productivity, it has been my mission to crush the ubiquitous drawbacks of the capitalist mindset we have been brainwashed to believe.

My students seem to still be taken aback when they hear these...

'I feel you. There's a lot on your plate.'

'Your cup is not mine.'

'It's okay to vent.'

For we have been programmed to believe that 'everybody should fit the mould'.

It should not just be a counselor's job (my job) to bring this awareness, I know. We are all humans - colourful, unique and special in our own ways. In this fast paced corner of the world, we all need to recognise this and support each other. And wouldn't it be lovely to know that someone's holding your hand as you walk in hell weeks like this.


A Moodscope member.

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

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Anxiety in my life Friday June 28, 2019

I suppose I was always a bit of a worrier growing up. I was always nervous about going back to school after the holidays or how I was going to perform in the end-of-term exams. But as uneasy as those events often made me, any worry I felt about them was gone once they passed. I settled back into the daily school routine and I finished my exams and I could breathe easy again as if nothing had happened in the first place.

Anxiety however, is much more than that. According to Medical News Today, "Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnoses that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension and worry." Applying this definition to my daily life, it is easy for me to see just how pervading anxiety has become. Exams are no longer merely a source of panic building up to the day. Worry and unease torture me to the point of perspiration as the supervisor hands me my paper, I open it up and I lose my sense of self-belief that I can get a good score. Even afterwards, anxiety continues to rear its ugly, monstrous head. I think to myself, "Did I write enough for that answer?" Did I calculate those figures correctly?" "Will the examiner be able to read my writing?" As unhelpful as I know deep down this process of post-mortem analysis to be, there is just something in my very core that is preventing that rational response and is fostering the most irrational one instead.

Academics aside, I would say that anxiety has also affected my working life as well. It causes me to believe that I am doing a bad job, even if my supervisors have assured me otherwise. Every little mistake gets built up to Olympian levels in my mind. Every time I see a hanger turned the wrong way around; anxiety. Every time I see a customer complaining to my superior; anxiety. It also results in me asking "silly" questions that I ought to know the answer to; in fact, I have probably already heard this answer multiple times before I ask again. But anxiety has implanted in my brain that I must ask these questions. I just have to be sure; I need that reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. Of course, this mentality usually leads to my supervisor questioning why I'm taking so long to learn a new task; I learned it, I know it I just don't believe I can do it.

Finally, I must briefly acknowledge how anxiety has affected my social life. I recently turned 24 and (as they often do) societal norms would have me believe that I must attend nightclubs and festivals to be happy. But this is far from the case. I have come to associate these stimuli with fear, panic attacks and just a general feeling of not wanting to be there. Locations like gyms, cafes, bars and even my once beloved library have become emotional prisons; places where I want to be comfortable, but I can't. For if I try to, there will be a nagging voice in my head telling me how to react. Comfort will become panic, happiness will become sadness, and determination will become fear.

And at the back of it all, anxiety remains.

A Moodscope member.

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

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From Grief to Giggling Thursday June 27, 2019

Driving a schoolbus paid very little monetarily speaking and could at times be as stressful as rewarding...

I remember middle schoolers hurling hard candy at my head during the Christmas season while driving. I told them, while I appreciate the seasonal gesture... "I can't drive with you doing that." When that didn't work I parked in the middle of the street, rose to face them and began a long slow tedious speech... "so... who needs to get home to hockey practice... piano lessons? Game boy? Ballet? X-box?" Soon they were all elbowing each other and hissing; "Stop it or we'll never get home."

Then there was a kid named Mitchell who had lost half his leg to an illness and refused to use a wheelchair or even a crutch. I gave him whatfor one day for opening his window in December: "If that window freezes open that will be YOUR seat for the rest of winter!" His face lit up. Maybe for having been treated like a normal kid and not mollycoddled.

Another handicapped student with a shrill voice nearly took my neck off hugging me goodbye after school.

Years earlier I had been just torn with grief over losing my uterus to some medical reason I couldn't pronounce. That took away my ability to choose to have more children - not that I wanted more. It took away my only link to my first pregnancy - lost to a miscarriage and trip to the emergency room.

So ten years later in a different province I am sitting in my schoolbus doing a pre-trip and noted the passenger capacity on my paperwork: 72.

It dawned on me then that twice a day I could have 72 more kids! Without a pregnancy; swelled ankles, morning sickness, stretchmarks, or labour pains. I drove the route that day with a stupid grin on my face I think. Hopefully no one noticed...

Not that I would ever tell a woman unable to have children or sufffering miscarriage to go drive a bus or; "You can always adopt." I don't know why one feels so strongly compelled to "Say the right thing," to the bereaved. Grief is overwhelming at the time and those hurting need simplicity, comfort, and silence. A gentle touch and a listen, if anything.

Healing and timing was perfectly aligned for me to realize the bus capacity and relate the responsibility of my job to childbearing. With a giggle and memory of a time when I couldn't have imagined ever feeling this good again.


A Moodscope member.

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

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Eating Right Wednesday June 26, 2019

I've been doing a lot of reading recently about diet and there are so many different messages out there!

"Sugar is as addictive as heroin!"

"But honey is good for you."

"Wheat is responsible for the diabetes epidemic in our society!"

"Wheat is fine if you stick to the whole grain varieties."

"Low carb, keto and paleo are the way to go!"

"Low fat is the way to go!"

I'm so confused.

There are several reasons to be concerned about diet.

Health is primary. Obesity is closely related to diabetes type two – which is closely related to Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, certain diets (using the word in its widest meaning) induce energy, clear-thinking and a sense of well-being – and who wouldn't want that? – Whereas others make us feel lethargic and bloated. Some diets claim to cure "brain fog" and to make us feel happier. Again – I'm all up for that!

My interest in diet was sparked at a recent business network meeting. Our speaker was a woman who radiated energy and passion. She is a nutritionist and she positively bounced as she spoke.

"How many of you here feel hungry and tired all the time?" she asked. I raised my hand. I had recently realised, while staying with friends abroad, that they did not need the constant refuelling that I did. It had become a joke as we wandered around the Belgian towns, "Hold on – it's been two hours since we fed Mary; where's the nearest eatery?" I discovered that frequent daytime naps are not a usual thing among my friends – even my Italian friends, who I thought, should do the siesta thing with aplomb.

This knowledgeable and passionate woman, who specialises in the treatment of diabetes type two, started to explain about the symptoms of "pre-diabetes" and I realised, with horror, that I ticked all the boxes.

We think that diabetes type two only occurs in people who are morbidly obese. But that is not the whole truth. People say I don't look overweight to them, but I know the scales tip on the cusp between overweight and obese – I just carry it well – and dress it better!

That's why I started to read.

I won't go into all the background and the scientific studies. I will just say that, at this point in my reading, I have thrown out all my low-fat yoghurts and low-fat spreads; all my diet sodas and ultra-lean meats. I have embraced natural fats, natural diary and all things unprocessed.

But I have cut sugar right out! And most of the carbohydrates that are readily processed into sugar.

The result is not a dramatic weight-loss (darn it! I was rather hoping, I must say), but a sense of increased energy. I no longer experience the feelings of exhaustion when the sugar crash hits. And I have not had cravings for bread or biscuits or chocolate – other than the 70% dark chocolate – and that is just a girl thing.

A girl thing – definitely!

A Moodscope member

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

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Let down by the Authorities Tuesday June 25, 2019

Following on from Jul's blog recently about the lack of mental health services, I wondered if anyone had experienced the detailed letters, after an assessment from mental health, sent to your GP and usually a copy to you. Often the content is inaccurate.

My first assessment, this time round, I asked for the letter not to be sent to me, as I had mentioned personal things in it from the past and didn't want my husband to read it.

Today I had another appointment, to which I thought was going to be the outcome of the treatment they were going to give me. It wasn't, I was told there wasn't enough information in my first assessment to know what they should be offering me, so it was to be another assessment with more questions.

I was told this time that they agreed I had borderline personality disorder but I was showing no traits or symptoms of it. I said I know I have it, and she said, yes you have it, but you are showing no signs of it. I wasn't sure what that meant.

She then said to me "You have tried to commit suicide haven't you?" I haven't, and I told her that before in the last assessment. She said to me twice, "Are you sure?". I said "Yes I am sure".

I am not lying! She made me feel like I am lying. I haven't, what is it they want to hear?

This is the best bit that has really upset me. She asked me if it was okay to send the detailed letter to my home address of today's assessment. I said yes it was fine and then I asked if she could give me a copy of the letter from my last assessment.

She did so in an envelope. I scanned the letter on the way home and hid it in my bag and worried for four hours.

The letter said that I had 'Wished I had married my ex'. Totally, totally untrue!

And it said that 'I had an affair four years ago and my husband didn't know about it'. What????? I have never been unfaithful to him!!!

I was so very worried about the content of this letter, and whether to tell him, in case he did not believe me, but I do not hide anything from him, so I made the decision to show him the letter.

He was very supportive and believed me. I do wonder though if there is a bit of doubt in his mind now. Wondering what I had said to begin with for this doctor to get it all mixed up about what I told her.

How can this be?

I had so much trouble getting there today due to my anxiety and now I am back in that place (not depression) but out of control about the authorities judging me and getting it all completely wrong.

I totally understand how people are tipped over the edge, when dealing with, and being let down by, the authorities.

Molly xx
A Moodscope member.

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

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