The Moodscope Blog

28

July


As a child, I loved the books by Noel Streatfield. I suppose Ballet Shoes is her best-known work, but my favourite is White Boots, a story about skating.

The book starts, “Even when the last of the medicine bottles had been put away and she was supposed to have “had” convalescence, Harriet did not get well.”

I have felt like that, over the past weeks.

February 2017, I finally accepted my bipolar disorder was becoming worse, and my family was suffering. I sought help and was put on mood stabilising medication. This medication has managed the highs, but the lows have still occurred, although much less than before. In December, I had a three-week depressive episode, and in May I dipped again. The colour leached from the world, the soft pedal went down, and reality retreated to the far horizon, leaving me stranded like a starfish abandoned by the tide.

This time, the “down” was longer and deeper. I came up again on 1st July.

Except, I didn’t. The world came back into focus, the sound came back, I could feel again but I was still depressed. My Moodscope buddies all told me my scores had been wobbly ever since Christmas and they did not feel I was well.

Normally, when I come out of a depression, I am immediately back to my bouncy, energetic, optimistic self. This time, and in December, not so much.

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful GP. She is warm, understanding, compassionate, and happy to work with me, rather than for me, to control this condition. I had spoken to her in the middle of the dip, when it became worryingly deep, and she rang me two weeks later to check up on me. I know I am exceptionally fortunate to have this level of service from the overworked NHS and am profoundly grateful.

The upshot, and the point of this blog, was that we adjusted my medication and added in an additional anti-depressant. Ten days later, normality is restored, and my energy levels are back.

Perhaps it is the effect of Lockdown; my GP wryly joked she felt it would be beneficial to put antidepressants in the national water supply, just as we have fluoride. Perhaps it is something else. Whatever has caused this additional depression, I am enormously grateful for the medication.

Perhaps you feel your own medication is not working as well as it did. Perhaps you have been struggling on without medication, as I did for so many years. If you are, I would urge you to seek help. Sometimes you need to try several different drugs before you find the right one or the right mix for you, but it is so worth doing.

I hope your GP and any psychiatrist are understanding, knowledgeable and ready to work with you.

Depression and bipolar are medical conditions, just like any other, and the right medication can relieve the symptoms and make life liveable again.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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


27

July

Flashback

Tuesday July 27, 2021


Anyone who has joined Moodscope since the summer of 2017 will not know that I lost a child to an accidental drug overdose. They were in their mid twenties. We had had two children living abroad and our fair share of emergency phone calls.

Now that I think about it, it is about 7 years since another child had a psychotic breakdown whilst living abroad, necessitating last minute emergency flights out and hospital visits. A highly anxious time for all concerned.

Then this week my little dog found and ate a chicken bone, resulting in a very bad tummy ache, dehydration and two nights in vet emergency care. He is fine now, but the episode brought back echoes of previous hospital trauma.

Thus I find myself with a tight knot in my stomach, lead in my limbs and fog in my brain.

I find it extraordinary how the body can subconsciously produce these symptoms. I find myself biting my lip and my shoulders tight. I know this will pass, but we still have to get past the anniversary of my child dying.  It is sapping my energy and, life for a while becomes a case of just one foot in front of the other and treating myself gently for a while.

I wish all Moodscopers well  and that we can ‘cope’ with these ‘moods’.

Love

AS xx
A Moodscope member.

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


26

July

Diving for Pearls

Monday July 26, 2021


[To listen to an audio version of this blog post please click here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1396123/8914917]

We go through Life paddling, swimming, or diving. I awoke today realising I would benefit from reading some of a friend’s work on Motivation. I didn’t want to read a whole book – diving deep into this important topic. Am I lazy? It would’ve been more convenient for me to swim a bit in the content – perhaps watching some videos instead. Less time, less effort but also less reward.

I’m the same about many matters in Life… even those skills and areas I really care about. Take guitar, for example, I’ve been playing for 50 years! In truth, I’ve been swimming for 50 years – using the same skills over and over for 45 years in all likelihood. I’m OK, but I could be so much better. I do enough to (usually) get by and enjoy it. Software is the same – I’ll learn enough to get the result I want, but rarely will I dive deeper.

Here’s the real shocker: I’m a swimmer when it comes to mental wellbeing. I started to dive into a course with Kings College but it wasn’t water I enjoyed diving in.

I’ve got a friend called Oli who is a Diver. I think you know him! He dives for pearls. When we discuss mental wellbeing here in this blog, it is clear that he has dived deep into what makes us tick and continues to dive. It’s like it’s his vocation – his mission, his passion. And, like many other divers in this community, he brings up pearls from the deep to show and tell. Oh, and he’s a pretty ace guitarist.

Do I want to, “Be More Oli,”? Nope… I like Oli like he is, but I don’t want to be him. I want to be more me… with added twist of diligence for zest. I want to choose one or, at the most, two areas to go diving into. Am I lazy? I think I have been. So now the choice is to get less lazy and do the work necessary to go diving… but where?

The answer is almost irrelevant because this blog was secretly about you – secretly until now, that is! You can’t go diving all the time, so I’m certain you spend your life paddling, swimming, and occasionally diving. I’d like to know two things: where have you dived in the past (= in which areas are you an expert), and more exciting, where would you like to go diving in future? What would you like to explore in depth? Not necessarily for fame, fortune, or a career but because it would delight your soul to discover pearls in that place?

It’s OK to paddle and swim along most of the River of Life, but when that River reaches the Ocean, and you want the deeper rewards, you’ve got to dive for pearls.

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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


25

July


My youngest daughter acquired her first boyfriend some months ago.  She’s almost 17.  He is one year older.  He arrived in a way I felt cautious about. Having my own leftover (and undealt with) feelings of a sexual assault around that age, I felt every hair on my body stand up in alert and, in all honesty, I felt primed to attack. Not literally of course, but in myself. I’m ashamed of that but yes, I felt it. My eldest daughter had her first boyfriend around the same age, and I didn’t feel this then, but it came around in a much more organic way - they’d been friends for a long, long time beforehand. 
 
Anyway, this boyfriend has sat on benches outside in the park, countless times, in sub-zero temperatures, for hours at a time. He would bring them a blanket. Later, it would include walking her home. Un-naturally I was annoyed he now knew where we lived. Later still, he visited the house. I was very polite, even smiley sometimes, but distanced. I was not hugely welcoming of anybody because the pandemic made me shutter-in and that’s hard to lose even when abiding by rules. He would visit in the afternoon and go home at tea-time.   
 
Eventually, he’d stay a bit longer at weekends, eat with us, and his dad would pick him up - he doesn’t live anywhere remotely near. Before term ended, my daughter had been in a class with a positive case and had to isolate for ten days. She cried over FaceTime to the boyfriend (note to me: she’s comfortable crying in front of him), mainly with shock at the situation and with fear her test may be positive (it was negative). He not only listened but, a couple of days later, crept up to the doorstep after midnight (and enrolled a parent to assist by car) and left a gorgeous bunch of flowers, chocolates, and the most beautifully worded, handwritten, jotter paper letter I’ve ever read.   
 
The relationship has grown in a kind, gentle, fun, beautiful way. I couldn’t have dreamt of a lovelier time for her. And even if it halts tomorrow, its good enough, it has given her a very important marker.   
 
My head got it wrong. And my heart began to thaw. Now, months on from reliving my own traumas and attempting to exorcise some ghosts, I realise he is the very best thing that could have come into her life at this point. I am sorrowful that he will leave town to go hundreds of miles away to University in September. I am preparing for my sorrow, as well as hers. 
 
What can be my message today after all this heart-rambling?  It is that whatever we think is the case, is not always the case. That we must stay open, stay fresh in our minds and be willing to be wrong. About people, about situations, and mostly about our own historical baggage muddying the present. 
 
Keep striving for today. No matter how you arrive into it. Let it thrive. 
 
Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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


24

July


Meditation works and is free of risks and adverse side effects, except for a numb leg and a sore bottom!

Meditation is easy: Just sit still and shut up. (Don’t look around; don’t stare. Sit upright). You do it for as long as you can, preferably for 2x20 minutes.

Meditation is a sort of psychotherapy without a therapist. You sit quietly and watch your thoughts pass by. Sitting like a mountain; thoughts are like clouds, they come and go. You don’t make them linger.

There is a Zen school in Japan; I forgot its name, which says that by practicing Zazen, the sitting meditation, long enough you will reach enlightenment almost automatically. It has not happened to me, yet. Or I just haven’t noticed.

By watching your thoughts you may recognize recurring patterns. What, if…? Will I be…? Why did I …? At the time when… After some time these thoughts may fade away. Or you greet them like old acquaintances: Oh, it’s you again.
Then you are on the way.

In my case the thoughts usually start fading away during the second session; during the first one I am too occupied by what is going on in my mind. But then the peace and quiet is enjoyable. It may last for quite a while, until I switch the telly on or make a phone call.

There are some useful tricks to reach stillness: Count your out-breath. Watch your breathing movements. Breathe in, breathe out, and pause. You don’t breathe, it breathes you. (If that makes sense to you).

I used to meditate in a group once a week; have been doing this since 1997 or so. But due to Covid-19 this is not possible any more. So I do it by myself. But I am still in contact with the group.

JohnWalker
A Moodscope member.

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


23

July

How did it happen?

Friday July 23, 2021


It started slowly.

At first in my 30s it was a few familiar words - “Because I said so”, “Only boring people are bored”, and in reply to a child saying, “I feel like an ice cream” replying “You don’t look like one.”

In my 40s I noticed I was saving a handbag for best.

In my 50s once trying to work out if I could find a use for a paper bag that was torn and had a hole. 

It was definite, I had turned into my mother!

I had always said I would not use sayings like my mum did, but I had. I would not put away good items and never use them as I was “saving them for best.” yet I did. Would not turn into a hoarder like mum mum yet I was starting to.
 
What was happening to me, was I turning into my mother.?

I never felt I was like my mother in any way because everyone said I was just like my dad. I remember about six months after he died one of my children asked me to try not to channel her Pop at a family gathering. I think she was very politely telling me do not be pedantic and correct people and tell embarrassing stories. Of course I was not aware I was gradually taking on my dad’s mannerisms.
 
I wonder, if we get on with our parents, why we fear turning into them. Does it mean we worried we are getting old, or did we always want to avoid some of their traits?

Can you describe a moment where you became aware you maybe be turning in to one of your parents? How did you feel?

Have you found yourself starting a trait of your parent’s that you do not like?Do you think it is a cyclical thing that we turn into our parents, so it is inevitable?

Leah
A Moodscope member.

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


22

July

Regrets

Thursday July 22, 2021


I’ve just read ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig. It is a beautiful book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Reading it felt a little like being wrapped up in a warm hug.

It looks at regret, and the energy we can waste on it. It also looks at the idea of a ‘perfect’ life vs a real life with all its ups and downs and imperfections. It highlights the importance of exploring the small things that make life worth living. Recognising the difference we make to the people around us who we don’t necessarily see or notice. Focusing on the relationships that support us, and learning to appreciate them – even though they may sometimes be challenging or feel like they are not enough.

It looks at big dreams, and what they might feel like if they are achieved, and then at what life could have been like in different, parallel universes – the one where you ended that relationship, chose a different job or moved to a different place.

What are your regrets? What are the decisions/choices that still get stuck in your head – the ‘what if’s”. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had not stayed in the relationship I am in (almost 30 years now)… or if I had taken up good therapy much earlier… or stayed in employment and not started my own business.

I’m fairly good at not getting too stuck and just looking with idle curiosity but I know others who do get stuck – spending huge chunks of time ruminating on what might have been, or regretting choices made long since. Where do you sit on that spectrum? What could you let go of?

Sarah
A Moodscope member.

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


21

July

Comfort Blanket

Wednesday July 21, 2021


Yes, it’s 29 degrees in the shade here in Cambridgeshire and I’m writing about blankets.

You see, I’m a great believer in the power of a restorative nap. When I lay down this afternoon it was far too warm to snuggle under the duvet, so I just lay on top. After about five minutes of uncomfortable wriggling, I realised I could not relax without something over me; I felt too exposed. I found a lightweight fleece blanket, draped that over me, and immediately fell sleep.

What is it about blankets?

• Blankets make great toys. Did you ever make a blanket fort as a child? An old-fashioned clothes horse, a kitchen chair and a draped blanket made a wonderful den or smuggler’s cave or lion’s lair.

• Blankets bring comfort. My cousin had his “Blankie.” It was a piece of the blanket from his cot, and it had a satin edge. He would suck his thumb and rub his nose with the shiny material. I think the blanket had once been blue but repeated rubbings and washings had turned it a faded grey. He loved it and would not be parted from it.

• Blankets can be decorative. The Christmas before I went to university, I was given a blanket with picture of a tiger on it. That blanket covered my bed all through university and I still have it now, 40 years later. I love that tiger.

• Blankets can be worn. I have a fleece-lined hooded blanket patterned with mystical lamplit bookshelves. I wore it to a carol concert in a chilly Hereford Cathedral and gained admiring comments from some teenagers hanging around outside. The idea of curling up inside my own warm library is wonderful.

• Blankets can be used for therapy. I have seen advertisements for a “weighted” blanket which can help people suffering from anxiety. It makes their immediate environment feel safe and solid.

• A blanket of snow softens the hard edges of the landscape beneath. I sometimes refer to my mood stabilising mediation as my snow blanket: it doesn’t prevent the ups and downs, but it softens them and blunts the extremes.

• Blankets can even save you from annihilation. In his short story, Ghost V, Robert Sheckley introduces a hallucinogenic gas which causes the imagined monsters from the protagonists’ childhood to become real. Most of the monsters can be defeated using remembered strategies from their youth, but “The Grabber” was designed to be invincible. They are just on the point of being eaten, WHEN — they remember! ANY monster can be defeated by hiding your head under the blankets!

So, here’s a big thank you to all the blankets which have served us over the years. A blanket is a hug without arms. They have comforted us in times of misery, decorated our beds and sofas, created hiding places, become stylish cloaks, protected us from monsters and even kept us warm.

It may be nearing 30 degrees out there, but we all still need our blanket.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

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


20

July

Red Letter Day

Tuesday July 20, 2021


I’m 62 soon, a red letter day.

The NHS was formed in 1948*, then life expectancy, for men was 65 and for women was 70. Improvements in medicine mean, today it’s for men 79 and 83 for women. It’s risen every year since 1948.

I have Bipolar, therefore I am on the Serious Mental Illness Register. For over a decade, the NHS has recognised that people on the SMI have shortened life expectancy**. Nationally it’s estimated to be 15-20 years shorter. Locally the average age of death for someone on the SMI is 57 for men and 62 for woman. So, my life expectancy is still worse than it was in 1948.

My feelings are very mixed. First there is anger, that Bipolar, that has taken so much from me, may indirectly take my life. Even that, confuses me, as I have so many times contemplated my own death by suicide, so why do I fear it now? I feel guilty that I don’t keep my self in good physical heath, thus am complicit, as poor physical health is likely to kill me. I feel betrayed by the health service that, I haven’t benefited from its improvements. I feel anxious, that my own death may be fast approaching. But mostly, I feel REALLY ANGRY, yet there is little I can do, and acceptance is hard. I can’t help feeling within days I shall be living on borrowed time. I promise you though, I will live each of those days to the fullest and celebrate them all.

Karen
A Moodscope member.

*The history of the NHS in charts - BBC News
**NHS England » Achieving more for people with severe mental illness


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


19

July

This too shall…

Monday July 19, 2021


[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please click here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1396123/8877805 and to watch the video, please click here: https://youtu.be/ZQxYlvU4NCM]

What leapt to mind as your brain sought to finish that phrase? “This too shall…” For most of us, it would be “This too shall pass.”

That’s a great thought, and it can really help build resilience in the moment. But it’s not what I’ve got in mind today though… and it’s not how I want to live my life. It feels like, “this too shall pass,” means we are waiting… waiting for something better to come along to relieve us of the current distress or discomfort. I’d like to learn how to thrive in the here and now, not wait for the now and then.

Let’s add to the ‘This Too’ sayings.

Here’s my additional ‘This Too’ saying, “This too shall serve me.”

One of my sons has had a tough, few years. I remember his confusion and pain as, having been ‘let go’ from one position, (illegally, I might add), he could not find acceptance from another employer for over a year. The torment dragged on and on, but in the meantime, he pursued his passion for learning through academic studies. Eventually he found employment, then Covid hit. The resulting furlough gave him more time for his passion – paid time for his passion - more study. Then he was ‘let go’ again. Now, he’s doing a job that fits his strengths – that gives him purpose - and he’s engaging in even more study. The difficult time did pass but, on reflection, it also served him well. Add in the bonus of quality time with his young, growing family and you have to wonder whether it was a ‘bad’ time after all.

If he’d had the luxury of seeing his times of trial from his current position of prosperity, he would have breathed a sigh of relief… and would have been able to say with confidence, “This too shall pass.” But he would also have been able to say, “This too shall serve me.”

OK, let’s dispense with the naivety. Sometimes Life utterly crushes us and we don’t come out better on the ‘other side’ of the challenges. I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about the majority of times where we do come through the hassle and we can look back with a perspective enriched by more information, more experience, and, crucially, an awareness of how we’ve used the difficult time to our advantage – we’ve made it serve us.

Today’s message is no more than this: to boldly assert in the face of difficult circumstances, “This, too, shall serve me.”

When we do this, we leave space for a shift in perception. Our awareness will begin to lock on to any evidence that the setback or suffering could serve us in the longer term. We make it work for us.

What I’d love to know is about the times in your own life when a setback turned into a strength – even a springboard or a stepping stone, when a stumbling block became a blessing.

Where you, too, could say…

“This, too, has served me.”

Lex
A Moodscope member.

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


18

July


As you’ll possibly know (since it’s all I seem to be able to write about) I’ve been wading through treacle, waist high, for some weeks. It has been my experience in the past that the end of the school year can mince me! But, since ‘normality’ has been held in suspended animation for some time, I more expected to cruise through into summer. There is the key word – expectation. 
 
Somewhere after Easter, and well before the end of the summer term, I fell into a ditch when I had expected to dance around it wearing flowers in my hair! If we are to have half a chance of having the upper hand with our state of mind, then perhaps expectation must be ditched.  Expectation (not to be confused with hope or aims) can give us a false sense of ourselves, a mark to fall short of.   
 
This week I knew the tank was going into the red. All usual attempts, over countless weeks, at lifting myself out of the ditch had failed. So I had a go at punching my way out. Sink or swim. I did two days of hard labour clearing a garden with my dad. It has been scorching sunshine and it might have been bordering on stupid. But the slot was there, and the rain was not. My body feels its labours! It turns out depression didn’t like it one bit. I swam. Seems I now have that iron shadow by the throat. It’s not over but I certainly claimed a stake. 
 
They say every day is a school day. I learned that I had more in the tank than I expected.    
 
Love from

The room above the garage 
A Moodscope member.
 
p.s. Thank you for holding on to me this spell. I know I’ve met none of you, but your calm presence has been both strong and powerful. 

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


17

July


I have a basket of beach findings curated over many years, far and wide, I love to look over. Every treasure tells a story. Of its history and journey. And what it means to the person who uncovers it. For me beach combing, one of life’s simplest and free pleasures, shows me the uniqueness of pebbles and shells. That, like people, not one is the same. Suddenly seeing pebbles in one place the myriad hues of grey stand out. Who knew so many colours could exist outside of those fancy paint swatch cards? The smoothness. The roughness. How for some the granite really glints in the sun like precious gems. The joy of finding that stone that is kind of heart shaped and if, like your own heart, you choose to keep it or give it away. I gave my last one away, but will now be carefully guarding the latest replacement. That perfectly smooth oval pebble that has the potential of becoming a pretty painted paperweight or doorstop. A satisfying flat slate that makes the perfect skimming stone and with it the challenge to break your personal best record. For me a ‘9’ on Brean Downs beach in 2016.

Then there are the shells. Again so many types. Even in England alone. The excitement at finding a mussel shell whose two halves remain connected and the fragility of this mirroring the preciousness of our own personal connections. That pretty petrol iridescence of the inside of this common mussel shell. How that acts as a reminder to me not to judge someone by their ordinary looking outer shell and how great beauty lies inside of us all. The crab shell that has had its lifeblood pecked clean from the soaring seagulls overhead and a rogue random lonely claw poking menacingly atop the sand like some bizarre sandcastle flag. The great scallop shell that to this very day still holds all my earrings on my dressing table that I found as a small girl on a family holiday in Devon. The conch from more exotic climes that I can so clearly hear the swooshing of the sea in at my ear. A memory of my first holiday abroad, which, if I close my eyes I am transported back to that baking hot summer and broken attempts at speaking the language. 

But the finest treasure of all for me is the prized sea glass. Smooth and translucent and worn by the sea’s constant caresses. I take this from the basket and rub it in my palm to calm me when I feel anxious, like a meditative crystal, or a Catholic praying on the rosary. 

Another precious, less pretty, treasure was acquired from Portobello Beach in the summer of 2018 and brings me hope and positivity. It is a cockle shell with three barnacles clinging on for dear life - and now in death - demonstrating their sheer resilience. I look at this now in a time of great personal difficulties and draw strength from it, knowing that I too can cling on and come out the other side. 

This tradition of beach combing, like all good traditions, has continued, and now my son aged eight accompanies me as we scour the shorelines in search of our booty to add to this basket like land locked pirates. 

Sue
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


16

July


When is an apology a non-apology or an ifpology? 

I call myself the queen of sorry as I am always saying sorry whether things are my fault or not. Years ago I wrote a blog about saying sorry.

What about people who never apologise as they think they are right all the time or who only apologise because they must apologise.

We have heard politicians and PR people telling us “I'm sorry you feel that way" or “I am sorry you took offence to my words which were never intended to offend” This is a non-apology apology. It does not admit there was anything wrong with the remarks or behaviour.

The expression “Mistakes were made” " is often used where a speaker admits an incident was handled incorrectly but seeks to sidestep any responsibility by talking in the passive voice. The declaration of "mistakes" is framed in a vague way with no actual naming of the person.

When people say things like “I am sorry if I offended anyone”, “I am sorry if people were offended by my joke when I was being funny”. This is an ifpology.

I think many of us know people who have apologised without really apologising. Years ago, for family harmony I said, “I am sorry if you took offence from my words.”
so I could end an in-law ignoring me and making family functions awkward.

Do you think people who say sorry too much or people who never say sorry, can learn to change their behaviour or is it too hard?

How do you cope with people you know who never apologise or who use an no apology or an ifpology?

Leah
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


15

July

Laughter

Thursday July 15, 2021


Five hundred words about laughter. You must be joking! It could be either 10 jokes each about 50 words long or 50 one liners.

Actually what I would like to do is explore how laughter can help with your mental health. Before I start I would like to send a message to the person who recently stole my box of anti-depressants “ I hope you are happy now!”

It is well known that laughter is the best medicine (thanks to HO for his reminders). In fact someone said 3 minutes of laughter is as good as 30 minutes of jogging. So recently I have taken to sitting on a park bench and laughing as the joggers go by.

Laughter is closely linked to your sense of humour. Having a good SOH is useful and I remember discussing it many years ago on a management training course about working relationships. We were asked what we considered to be the most important personality trait and SOH got the most votes. Fortunately I have a similar SOH to my OH and to my therapist.

I know from personal experience that a world without laughter is bad place. For a few weeks after last years breakdown I did not laugh and it took several sessions with my therapist before I even smiled.

We are social animals and we love to laugh with others. Laughter is a joyful emotion best shared. If we associate with other happy minded people then this lifts our spirits. Laughing is infectious so if you can associate with the right people then the need for social distancing diminishes (subject to Covid restrictions). If you are alone it is still possible to laugh at yourself taking care with your self esteem.

I suggest a laughter awareness day (there was a “global belly laugh day” in January 2017 but I’m not sure it has continued). For one day gather all the information you can about when, why and how you have experienced laughter. This story may help:

It concerns a mother with eight young sons. The press officer from the local newspaper rings her suggesting he does a piece for the paper about her family. She invites him round and when he arrives all the family are playing in the back garden. After introducing himself to the mother he says “Who is the young fair headed boy on the swing“. She replies “ Kevin”. “Who is one riding the bike?.” “That’s Kevin “ she replies. “What about the dark haired one with the cricket bat “ “That’s Kevin!” “Are they all called Kevin?” “Yes they are” “ Isn’t that confusing?” “No, its very useful because when I want them all in the house for a meal I just shout Kevin”. “What about if you want to speak to just one of your sons?” “Oh I have to use surnames then!”

The psychological and physiological benefits of laughter have been well researched and documented and there appears to be a specific section of the brain that improves your mood when you laugh. Apparently there are short term and long term benefits.

A day without laughter is a day wasted? Do you agree?

Teg
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


14

July

Judging You, Judging Me

Wednesday July 14, 2021


“What will people think?”

“What will the neighbours say?”

“Appearances matter.”

Like it or like it not, we live in a judgemental world. We are programmed to make decisions based on evidence presented to us. When we lived in caves, this was vital. Was that rustle in the grass just the wind or was it a sabre tooth tiger ready to pounce? Was the armed stranger coming towards you with bared teeth smiling or snarling?

We carry on this instant decision-making into our modern world, where it is no longer a matter of life or death. In some ways, my profession depends on it. I teach my clients how to present themselves visually so people will make the “right” judgement about them. It is not about dressing to impress, however, but how to express themselves with authenticity and joy. It allows them to make an accurate impression.

Then there is our judgement on people’s behaviour. We condemn those who steal, who cheat, who lie, and we do it because those actions harm the society we live in. Going back to those cavemen days, our tribe was our safety; to live in isolation was a death sentence. The wellbeing of the tribe was fundamental.

But then that judgement starts to get toxic. What do we think when we pass that house with the overgrown garden and peeling paint on the door? What about the family whose daughter has “gone off the rails” and the morbidly obese man in the supermarket who has loaded his trolley with baked goods and chocolate bars?

The phrase, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” always seems to me to be harsh and scary. Far better is a sermon I once heard: “Judge not – because it’s not your job, and you haven’t got all the information.” We can never know the all the circumstances that have led to the overgrown garden; the daughter’s rebellious behaviour; or why that man is eating himself to death.
And, what about our own fear of judgement?

I have recently returned to work after a break of over a month. In that time, the garden has become overgrown and the bindwind is running rampant. My clients normally enter my studio through the garden but – well – it’s physically impossible right now.

I was so worried about it. I try to make the physical environment for my clients clean, uncluttered and welcoming. What would they think about the encroaching jungle outside?

As it happened, they didn’t even notice; other than to exclaim about the abundance of roses. My relief was overwhelming.

I think we could relax around the whole area of judgement. Yes, there are times we might need to act to protect the vulnerable, and that requires a decision; but the rest of the time, compassion is easier than judgement.

And, when we fear the judgment of others, it’s useful to remember that most people are far too worried about their own business and insecurities to be bothered with yours.

Mary
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


13

July

Empathy

Tuesday July 13, 2021


There has been several times over the last 2-3 years when I’ve thought about writing a blog for Moodscope. At least one of those times I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on a draft before deciding the writing isn’t for the public domain. What’s different about this time? As a survivor of several bouts of depression over the past 30 plus years, I often have to hit rock bottom before I contemplate doing something that will scare me, like putting my writing out there. This time is different; it’s not me at rock bottom but a friend, let’s call her Simone, who suffers from complex PTSD.

Think of some of the worst things life can throw and she lives with several. To name a few… years of sexual abuse as a child, perpetrators not stopped or punished; an autoimmune response leading to her hair falling out and never growing back; a sister (her best friend), who recently cut her and her nieces out of her life. My emotions about the circumstances she finds herself in can be difficult to cope with. Disbelief, anger, sadness, fatigue and helplessness make consistent appearances on the phone calls since that have replaced face to face meet ups since the beginning of the first lockdown last year.

I’ve always been highly sensitive to the emotions of others. Luckily, unlike Simone, I have a loving husband plus a small circle of close friends I can turn to when my emotions are running high. Which brings me to my question: what coping strategies have you found helpful when dealing with strong emotions in the face of someone else’s suffering? Are they the same or different from those you use when the suffering comes from within? Thoughts on a postcard… or a blog…

The furtive scribbler
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


12

July


[To watch a video version of this blog post please click here: https://youtu.be/D_MIeMKC9os and to listen to an audio version, please click here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1396123/8844952]

I realised the other week that I seem to be addicted to anxiety. If there is nothing to worry about, I worry about there being nothing to worry about, or I invent things to worry about.

Being addicted to a behaviour is less easy to recognise than substance abuse… and yet, here I am being abused by a repeated pattern of thinking. A tiny amount of research reveals that there is a vast range of addictions on offer. You and I can even become addicted to exercise… allegedly!

I wondered if there was anything to learn from the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous model. It was surprisingly spiritual, which may make it unsuitable for Moodscope. However, it is clear that acknowledging the problem and having peer support are really important elements – as is the regularity of the meetings.

These strike me as elements already existing in the Moodscope Model (if there is one we can formalise.) We all acknowledge an issue, we have peer support via the buddies, blogs, and comments, and we can get support on a daily basis.

What fascinates me is the ‘ecology’ of any addiction. There is a positive gain that needs to remain even if the path to it is changed. I worry because it keeps me safe and makes sense of an often confusing and uncertain world. If I ask myself, “What would I rather have?” the answer is, “Peace of mind, and confidence in the future.” The quest thus becomes finding a more delightful path to peace of mind and future confidence (or hope!)

I’ve called out the problem and decided to change. I have a new goal – to seek peace and hope. I’ve got you here to support – and I occasionally get professional help. Is there anything else that can be done? I think there is: don’t feed the wolf.

I remembered that wonderful story of the Indian brave who was struggling with behaviour too. He asked his grandfather how he coped. His grandfather confessed he still had trouble with the very same behaviours. He said there were two wolves fighting inside him – one seeking a better set of behaviours and the other hell-bent on self-destruction.

“Which one is winning?” the young Brave asked.

“The one I feed,” answered his grandfather.

I hope this is helping others too. For me, I need to cut down on any stimulus – including company - that feeds the anxiety. Then, with your support, maybe peace will prevail.

Lex
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


11

July

It’s not my birthday 

Sunday July 11, 2021


It’s not my birthday but this is about my birthday. It was written a long while back when I was writing only for myself to flush out a feeling, rather than writing to inspire or about a specific point. I never intended to use it. But I’m stuck in a spell of not feeling my best.  Depression is standing over me, flushing my head down the toilet pan, and I have not much writing capacity. So I leaned back and plucked this grumpy blog out of bag 101…  
 
“I’m tired of people telling me I don’t like birthdays. It’s not true. I enjoy other people enjoying their birthdays, very much. I enjoy finding ways to surprise my children on their birthdays. I don’t enjoy feeling pressure to make my birthday into something that helps other people tick a box. I enjoy no fuss. I enjoy eating poached eggs in a cafe. I enjoy a walk along a beach. I’d enjoy someone telling me they’d chucked a fiver into the donation box of my favourite venue struggling to survive the pandemic. I’d enjoy somebody helping me get out to go on the walk. I’d enjoy somebody noticing that the laundry needed hung out. I’d enjoy somebody knowing what I’d enjoy.

It’s my birthday. I treated myself to two cross tears. And now I’m sitting in the sunny bit looking through a gardening catalogue with a cup of hot, black coffee. And I’m enjoying that.”

My apologies for no cheery blog. It’s one of those tough times and this is what I had. 
 
I still send it to you with love.

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


10

July

Managing the mind

Saturday July 10, 2021


Do you know that song by Nick Drake: “Been smoking too long”? A very good song by a tormented singer. In it you hear the destructive energy which is probably recognisable to a lot of us. That downwards spiralling. You can replace the smoking by drinking, buying, having sex, doing sports… or thinking. The latter is the case with me.

Ever since I was a little kid I‘ve been thinking a lot. I also felt a lot and inside my head I started to make stories out of it. Not always positive stories. I remember when I was nine I was sitting in a classroom and looked at a woman who was in a kitchen opposite the school. I had thoughts about the meaning of the life of that woman, about life in general and also the lack of meaning. A kind of emptiness. The first thought generated the next and so it went on. My teacher called me a dreamer.

When I was 14 it got worse. I had even more thoughts and they started to move in circles. They didn’t take me any further, on the contrary, they did me harm. I then discovered that when I was doing sports I could break the circle. And with it I could manage my mind in a positive way. I did cycling everyday and while sitting on my bike I found that it was impossible to maintain the nervewracking cycle of thoughts (also called ruminating).

For many years sports helped me, and still nowadays it does. But I also experienced depressing episodes in which I had a lot of thoughts and was hardly able to move. Especially when I was lying in my bed, in the early morning, thoughts would come up and generate a lot of fear. They would almost destroy me. I was sometimes referring to my brain as a nuclear power plant.

When I was 40 I got into zen training and later Buddhism. This new way of managing my mind first made me aware of how much I was thinking. And how there was no space between me and my thoughts. I was my thoughts! With the training and the awareness I was able to look at my thoughts and let them go. Which was not always easy. My mind sometimes felt like a huge amplifier.

I recently found out that ‘meditation in motion’ really helps. It is a combination of everything I did up till now. Three years ago I started Zhineng Qigong and to me this is now my ultimate ‘mind managing tool’. You might know it from China, where you see people exercising it together on squares and in parks. The Chinese see qi as the basis of everything. Everything is made out of qi. Also your mind and your body (which to them are not separated). So by practicing Qigong you feed your mind and body in a positive way. And you let go of things you don’t need anymore.

Like thoughts…

Walter
A Moodscope member.


Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


9

July


I am sure I have mentioned this before that I really like quizzes. I like doing personality quizzes, trivia quizzes, general knowledge, and everything in between. When I am stressed I find the rhythm of a quiz with people answering questions to be soothing and interesting.

On Mastermind they have a section called your special subject so you can study up on it. People choose an amazing variety of topics and I suppose the list is endless. There are literary topics, film, television, history, famous people, singers’ actors’ artists comedians, events, philosophies and so much more.
 
I always have trouble thinking what my special topic would be as I am interested in a bit on a lot of different topics.
 
I had an idea, to find out a topic that you have a special interest in. Now, this is for fun, so it does not have to be a serious topic or a topic suitable for Mastermind. Think about your knowledge and what you know a lot about. It could be something in your family, you know people’s birthdays, or you are the keeper of dates, or statistics. You may have a knack of getting people to tell you things or laugh. You may know words to ads, you may know the words to songs, or you may be able to spell words backwards without thinking or given words longer than 7 letters and tell instantly how many letters are in word after hearing it once.

So, this is a Moodscope mastermind, no prizes just lots of interest and appreciation.
 
So have a think about what your specialist topic would be, your time starts now!!

Leah
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above, please feel free to post a comment below.


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