The Moodscope Blog



Plotting some pleasure

Saturday May 23, 2020

I’ve had a lovely couple of days, pottering about in the garden, doing this and that, tidying up and weeding, of course. Trying to mend things and make things and just being generally happily grubby. And I thank whatever saints or fates or fortunes decreed that I’d be blessed with this little space of my own to play in.

I have spent a lot of today plotting some pleasure for next Spring. All the bulbs I grew in pots and troughs and planters have died off now and so, because I want those pots for my summer plants, they’ve all been tipped out, cleaned up and put into trays to finish drying off.

So, with half my mind I’ve been planning potting up the lovely fresh lettuces and tomatoes and peppers, runner beans and maybe even cucumbers, that I’m hoping to enjoy this summer, fingers crossed.

With the other half of my mind I’ve been visualising how I’ll replant the bulbs this Autumn, perhaps with some new purchases to fill gaps in colour, type or time. I’ve been daydreaming about how I’ll enjoy the glorious miracle that Spring bulbs are in those short days of February and March and April, when the sun’s light is low and a chilly bright day is as invigorating as a lick of a lemon sorbet.

So, for today, I’m not trapped in lockdown, in uncertainty or anxiety or resentment at the curtailment of my freedom. For today I’ve been in the future. I’ve been in a new year, dazzled by the glory of my Spring bulbs, with that low sun so bright in my eyes that I’m blinded by beauty.

A Moodscope member.

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




Friday May 22, 2020

I write this having read the blog by Lizzie (27 February 2020) detailing her experience of feeling suicidal.

I am a retired frontline paramedic having spent thirty plus years on frontline duties. I took early retirement due to post traumatic stress disorder for which I am currently having ongoing counselling.

During my thirty years I was involved with untold numbers of both attempted and successful suicides, some by traumatic means and some by drug overdoses. I understand the pain and anguish someone goes through to consider such an action. I hope this will help.

1. Taking your own life doesn't end the pain and anguish; it merely passes it on to your loved ones.

2. When you reach rock bottom, the only way is up. If you take your own life there is no chance of going up.

I hope this gives solace and food for thought.

A Moodscope member.

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



True Essentials

Thursday May 21, 2020

Governments around the world have restricted our movement and availability of services to the bare essentials. In some countries, e-commerce sites are selling only essential products, neighborhood shops selling non-essentials are shut down indefinitely. Feels like our days and choices are acutely restricted now. People across societies feel suffocated because of this lack of choices and options. Our news feeds are getting flooded with ideas of "things to do/learn/watch", so that we can get through this phase devoid of choices. Human life has indeed been stripped to its bare essentials. 

We all scrambled through the initial weeks of lockdown in a state of panic, trying to secure the basics - safety, well-being, supplies etc. Now that we are weeks/months into quarantine (based on each country's trajectory), we are finding ways to rebuild our lives with just the essentials. Is it such a bad thing though? Are we living a severely constrained life or an unadulterated version of it? There are days when I feel that I am living an absolutely no-frills version of my past life, filtered out of toxic distractions, meaningless pursuits and obligations. The other day I read the blog "Metamorphoses" by Lex, and it got me thinking. Is this a Chrysalis stage for me? "Everything Feels Out of Sorts, but in Motion. I Am Transforming from the Inside Out" yet again. 

It's as though life has given me a chance to declutter my head and give myself more space to breathe and just live. "Live" as in just be the human I am, not run endlessly, not do stuff because I must do something, not present a socially approved version of myself. Yes, these restrictions have forced us to depend only on the essentials. But it's also making me think hard about what truly are the essentials? Did I really need to spend time and money on everything I used to do in my past life? I seem to be surviving well enough now without so many of those things. What do I really need to live and what truly gives me joy and meaning?

• Losing access to malls and other shops has forced us to move away from the mindless cycle of consumption, albeit for a few months. It feels quite refreshing for a change, thinking less about "things I must have", not having to choose from so many options when I buy. In the next Amazon sale my only priorities are fresh linens and towels. Perhaps I'll allow myself the indulgence of peanut butter and coffee beans. I do love and want a few paperbacks from my Goodreads list. A smartphone upgrade? Eh, who needs that!

• Game nights and video calls are a pretty decent way to be in touch with once close but now long-distance friends. I have run out of all excuses of busyness!

• Home cooked food is actually cheaper and healthier than eating out. It took me a global pandemic to acknowledge that! And turns out cooking can be quite a calming activity too. I probably don't need craft beer to survive! Definitely can do with fewer happy hours and brunches.

• The need of the hour is to help our communities. But why does it have to be only now? Why have I not done that more often earlier, in whatever small way possible?

I do acknowledge that this crisis is only about pain and suffering for most people. It has been extremely challenging for vulnerable groups like the ailing, frontline workers, the elderly and more. Some of my friends with a history of mental illness are finding it harder to cope because they have lost access to their essential support system. I guess I can afford such musings only because I have the cocoon of safety and comfort. For some, the daily wage earners and employees in unorganized sectors, securing the essentials is a struggle in itself. 

A Moodscope member.

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



Making Sense of the Senseless

Wednesday May 20, 2020

I remember as a child, the lavatory in my grandparents’ house was outside. Not quite outside; there was another door before you reached the open air, but beyond the scullery – outside the house proper. I didn’t like to use it, but sometimes I had to. It had a high seat which I needed a stool to reach and then a pull chain with an overhead cistern that made a terrifying noise and flushed with the whirlpool power of Corryvrecken.

Sitting there – sometimes for ages – I would look at the lino on the floor and find faces in the random splodges; dark grey on light grey, with dashes of navy and occasional dots of darkest Carmine. There was a poodle, and an Eighteenth-Century lady with a high powdered wig. There was an old man brandishing a stick and a pig with a wiggly tail. Finding these familiar objects in the chaos of the floor covering gave me comfort in that cold isolation.

Many of us do this. In fact, it’s so common it has a name, pareidolia.

I think it can be taken further than this, however. We humans seek pattern in everything. If there is a pattern, then we can create a structure. If there is structure, we can predict what might happen and begin to find some rules. If we have rules, then we have the illusion of control.

Since our earliest times, humankind has sought these patterns and rules. We created gods out of the natural world and made sacrifices; praying for a good harvest or rain, or healing, or good fortune. We still have the country sayings: a heavy crop of holly berries means it will be a hard winter; rain on St Swithin’s day means another 40 days of inclement weather; things always come in threes.

Last year there was an excellent crop of holly berries, but we had a mild winter; 15th July 2019 was sunny, but rain set in before the end of the week; yesterday I spilled my coffee only twice.

If you have watched the film Forrest Gump, you will have noticed that his content in life comes from a simple acceptance of how things are. He does not judge his conditions or try to make sense of them: he just accepts things the way they are.

It is the job of medical statisticians to make sense of this virus named Covid 19. The high-level mathematics involved is beyond the comprehension of most of us and changes every day with improved and increased data. We ordinary people cannot predict or make sense of it.

I am not saying that we should shrug our shoulders and accept everything fatalistically – because I think we should certainly exercise our power wherever and whenever we can. But there are things in the world which are random or beyond our understanding, and we must accept this. Doing anything else is a recipe for madness.

Sometimes we must let be what will be.

A Moodscope member.

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



The Trolley Part 2

Tuesday May 19, 2020

Remember my blog about the trolley? Well, it ended up working out. However, only after three prior failures. At one point I wanted to take a chainsaw to it – I was that fed up. I don't know if there is a moral to this story. Don't give up perhaps? Don't always see that things are your fault – it's often trial and error this art lark. Don't take it personally. Don't feel like a failure. I felt like all of these things at one point, all vying for top dog in my head. The beat-up bitch inside me was strong. She wanted to win. But she didn't. And I succeeded.

What did I learn.... that 3 ply napkins (peeled off to reveal only 1 ply) don't work on diamond embossed metal unless you really like that sort of thing... the reindeers I used just weren't having it and wrinkled and tore and although the effect was interesting, it just wasn't right. Then I tried some beautiful Marilyn Monroe style wallpaper (which was put at the back of some lovely second-hand cabinets) so I thought to myself nice matchy-matchy. More like messy-uppy. I can't tell my husband I have ruined the remainder of the last part roll. So then I got some metallic sticky strips in 10 different colours... we worked out that I had enough to do about three quarters of one tray. Two more trays to go and online it's not available. So I picked up two colouring books, one on Audubon's birds and one on kew garden botanical illustrations of flowers. One side black and white and the other colour. The paper is perfect for sticking to my bloody awkward old fashioned trolley. And I love it.

I've gone off on a bit of tangent about decoupage disasters but I can now see it as a positive. I came through it better off by just cutting myself some slack. Next time I attempt something I will try and learn from this. I guess what I am saying is keep trying. Keep getting back up. Don't stay down too long.

I learnt to be patient with my own failures which ended up being a good learning process. I'm not as good as I thought I was at craft, or rather some craft, purely because I didn't consider all the potential pitfalls. I just went ahead blindly and stumbled along. Next time I will be a little more prepared but still able to potentially free fall into something and for it to either be good enough or a disaster to remodel into a success, on my terms. It's not perfect but it's perfect for me and it will definitely do.

Sometimes your best is the very best and if you are at your worst, you can't forgive yourself for those little mistakes. I scrubbed out what I did not once, twice but three times and then on the fourth attempt I succeeded. And I couldn't be happier with my weird little three-tiered old-fashioned but very individual trolley.

A Moodscope member.

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



Playing Tag

Monday May 18, 2020

[To listen to an audio version of this blog post, please click here:

I’m told it is Mental Health Awareness Week. I smile at this because for me every week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Perhaps they’ll begin selling Greetings Cards.
Putting my cynical self to one side for a moment, anything that raises awareness of the most enduring plague ever to afflict humanity is welcome. Most welcome. Maybe there's some relief to be had.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to hear a presentation from Kay Harrington – a Rapid Transformational Therapist. She mentioned the metaphor of tagging, where our younger selves have uncritically accepted the tags people have placed on our personality and performance and potential over the formative years – 0-7 years of age.
I have a vision of a child in a formerly beautiful duffle coat, now covered with tags that say things far worse than, “Please look after this bear.”
They say foolish and inaccurate things like, “Lazy,” and “Ugly,” and “Stupid.” I know, this doesn’t sound like a positive blog but it really will become one! Stay with me!
You and I, without our knowing consent, have accepted a whole plethora of tags in our most suggestible years. Many of these tags were ‘gifted’ to us like ‘gift tags’ from the best of intentions. Nevertheless, they were inaccurate and unhelpful. After all, the only people who can really know and define ourselves are… well, ourselves.
The well-meaning authority-figure who innocently suggested we’d make a great nurse, or fireman, or counsellor, or accountant, or teacher, or bricklayer, or surgeon… knew very little of what we’d really be great at.
Thus today, as we enter Mental Health Awareness Week, I offer you a pair of spiritual scissors. With these scissors, I offer a suggestion: “Feel free to snip the strings holding any tags to your beautiful and delightful duffle coat!
Am I lazy? (“Snip!”) – no, I’m one of the hardest working creatives I know.

Am I ugly? (“Snip!”) – no, I have a beautifully repaired soul, brought back to wholeness through the golden threads of kindness and unconditional love knitting me back together (‘Kindness’ being the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.)
Am I stupid? (“Snip!”)  Are you serious? I think about everything! If the unexamined life is not worth living, my life is most definitely worth living! I could be the most considered soul in history!!!
Take the scissors to the strings that still hold your own limiting tags and labels in place.
Sever them.

And share with us the limiting programmes and beliefs you are becoming free from.
My favourite ridiculous belief is wasting my life waiting for ‘the One’ – that soulmate who completes me – heals my loneliness. What a crock of sh…
Instead, I’m now enjoying those friends who kind of partially get me! No one could ever understand this level of complexity!

Snip and be free my friends!

A Moodscope member.

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



We are not in the same boat

Sunday May 17, 2020

I read this piece online. It moved me and I would like to share it with you:

I heard that we are all in the same boat, *but it’s not* like that. 

We are in the *same storm*, but not in the same boat. 

Your ship could be *shipwrecked* and mine might not be, or vice versa. 

For *some*, quarantine is optimal – a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. 

For *others* – this is a desperate financial & family crisis. 

For some that *live alone* they’re facing endless loneliness. 

While for others it is *peace, rest & time* with their mother, father, sons & daughters. 

Some are bringing in *more money* to their households. 

Others are working more hours for *less money* due to pay cuts or loss in sales. 

For some, not getting on with family, *domestic abuse* is rife – we never know what goes on behind closed doors. 

Some were concerned about getting a certain *candy* for Easter while others were concerned *if* there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend. 

Some want to go back to work because they *don’t qualify* for unemployment and are running out of money. 

Others want to kill those who break the quarantine. 

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday. 

Some have experienced the *near death* of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. 

Others *don’t believe* this is a big deal. 

Some have *faith* in God and expect miracles during this 2020. 

Others say the worst *is yet* to come. 

So, friends, we are *not* in the same boat. 

We are going through a time when our *perceptions and needs* are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, *in our own way*, from this storm. 

It is very important to see *beyond* what is seen at first glance. 

Not just looking, actually seeing. 

We are all on *different ships* during this storm experiencing a very different journey. 

Please *Realise* that and be kind. 

Question is *what boat* are you in?

A Moodscope member.

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



"Doing the work"

Saturday May 16, 2020

A few years ago, I was bereaved by suicide.

Four things got me through that terrible time: God, dogs, my friends and Sertraline.

I joined a local group that supports people bereaved in this way, and found it hugely helpful. I was introduced to Moodscope. I attended a seminar on dealing with guilt, delivered by a fantastic counsellor. He talked about there being work to do when a loved one dies, in order to recover from the bereavement.

There have been estrangements from family, financial worries and health scares, but now, I'm in a happier situation than I have been for many years. I am fortunate: I do not feel guilt about the bereavement and I don't feel obliged to remain dutifully bereaved. I have moved on with my life. What is past cannot be changed. No amount of effort on my part will undo the death. No focusing of my thoughts on what happened will make any difference.

But – and here's the thing – I have to keep "doing the work". Some part of me is inclined to take my focus back to the suicide, the police, the legalities, the relationship before the death. But I can identify that this is what's happening, and "do the work" with myself to get back to now. I'm still here. I still have God. I have my dogs. I still have my friends, and I don't need the Sertraline.

The media recently reported the death by suicide of a well-known TV personality. It's a tragedy, and I suspect I know what it's like for her family and friends. But in the same week, a young man was killed in the storms. That's a terrible tragedy for his family and friends. Both of those deaths are very sad, and (arguably) could have been avoided. But they're not my tragedies. I don't need to ruminate over them. I don't need to give them my focus and my emotion. I can "do the work" to recognise the good things in my life. I invite you to do the same.

Mrs H
A Moodscope member.

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



What is your new normal?

Friday May 15, 2020

There was a radio show that had a segment for many years called the new normal.

It was about new customs, new ways of doing things and people would ring up and share a new custom they had observed or ask questions why.

Now I have heard our leaders here talk about the new normal in relation to coronavirus.

The idea is we must get used to a new way of behaving. We no longer shake hands no hugs. We are stopped from socialising in groups, but we are encouraged to stay home.

I think in our own lives that the new normal may having another meaning. I remember when I was first diagnosed with bipolar, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had wild mood swings, but I just wanted to go back to my old life.

When I finally decided to get help after ruining my life in many ways, my new normal meant being quite subdued and stable and taking medication which I had resisted for years.

After a big change in one's life it can be very difficult to come to terms with how things have changed, especially if, like me, you keep wanting to go back to how things were.

Sometimes with grief and loss it means adapting, living your life without a loved one in a physical sense while still including them as part of your thoughts.

I would like you to share what your new normal is or what you have observed in the way changes are happening. You can talk about a new normal before the virus or after.

I am interested in how you have adapted to new circumstances.

So, tell me about the new normal and what it means for you.

A Moodscope member.

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



Locked Down in Depression

Thursday May 14, 2020

About six years ago I experienced my first big bout of depression. There was no functioning through this one, it was one I couldn’t hide by smiling through and getting on with my day to day. It was so debilitating that I spent my days sitting on my living room floor, with daytime TV on in front of me and a lit fire in the hearth to the side of me, watching one and half listening to the other. In the mornings I would walk my children to school with tears rolling down my cheeks that they would silently wipe away. In the evenings I was present but so consumed with pain that I wasn’t able to fully interact. I can’t remember much of this period. I remember though that my head just wasn’t able to work properly, my whole body was consumed by the mental illness and there was little room for the usual day to day.

Now that we’re in lockdown I can see some similarities, I’m not in one of those deep bouts of depression and my mind is functioning but there are many similarities....

1. Confined to the house, only go out for essentials 

2. There is no socialising face to face 

3. Counsellor appointments (now by phone call) are a lifeline 

4. Days are reduced to basic tasks 

5. More time is spent sitting in the garden or in front of the TV 

6. Doing basic craft tasks or colouring to keep my hands busy 

7. There is an underlying anxiety to every day 

8. When will this end? 

9. Mindfulness and breathing techniques keep us calm and in the present 

10. Going out for a walk is hugely beneficial 

11. There are worries that can’t be explained 

12. People send kind words and thoughts 

13. What day is it?! 

14. Sleeping more 

15. It’s the basics that have come to the, drink, sleep 

16. Demands from the outside world diminish 

17. There are many emotions that can be hard to interpret 

18. Underlying fear of mortality 

19. The world is still outside the front door 

20. Family and friends are precious

To anyone who is on their own through this time and struggling through a bout of debilitating depression, sending you lots of love and strength and please know that this will all pass.

A Moodscope member.

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



New Lamps for Old

Wednesday May 13, 2020

I was grumpy this morning. I lay in bed fuming. I was furious with my husband, who I knew would blame me for his bad night’s sleep; I was angry at my daughters, who wouldn’t get up until lunchtime. I was angry with my husband again, when he didn’t come down to breakfast in time and his scrambled eggs and toast had gone cold and his tea was stewed. I was angry that I had forgotten to put the laundry in the wash yesterday evening. I was furious with myself for not noticing the frost last night: the guinea-pigs – out in their garden hutch for the summer – could have frozen to death, poor things.

All that anger – and for nothing.

My husband can catch up on his sleep tonight; my daughters were both up by 10am; the breakfast was still edible, and the tea was only strong, not stewed. The clothes were washed, and the guinea-pigs are fine.

Nothing was worth being angry about.

But then, really, I wasn’t angry about anything I thought I was angry about. My husband, my daughters, me; all just innocent bystanders hit by the shrapnel of the anger explosion.

The last couple of days, I had missed my morning walk and meditation time. It seems to make a great difference. Each day I walk the same woodland path and absorb the peace of nature. Each day it is the same walk and each day it is different as I notice different things and as nature changes day by day.

This morning, in the wood, I realised. I wasn’t angry with my family; I was angry with the whole situation nationwide.

I had become used to the lockdown and comfortable with it. I had worked out ways to cope and to thrive. I felt safe. Now the rules were being relaxed and I felt just as scared as I had been at the beginning when it was new. I no longer felt safe.

We humans just don’t like change, do we!

There is no point in being angry at something you can’t change; even if that something is change itself. The only thing you can change is your own response.

So, I used the walk to centre myself again and find that peace. I phoned a good friend who always has words of sane and sensible advice and who always makes me smile. I thought about the new habits I have developed during this time and which I shall take with me as my country and the world becomes free again.

These new habits are precious. I have spent more time at home and in the garden and have loved it. I have found pleasure in virtual living: zoom parties and coffee chats. I have separated my working office from my family life and have walked away from the screen at the end of the day.

These new habits are worth keeping. I won’t be taking back the old ones.

A Moodscope member.

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



The Trolley

Tuesday May 12, 2020

Yes this blog is about a trolley but it's more than that. Literally my would-be fantastic drinks trolley is a representation of spectacular and unremitting artistic failure as I attempted decoupage, then cutting wallpaper and finally sticking glitter tape on it. The decoupage didn't work as I used napkins on an embossed metal diamond patterned surface... really challenging.

The really cool wallpaper was cut wrongly again and again (a rounded oblong) and now the glitter tape has been done in stripes... but it is easily removable. I won't have enough though so although the concept is good, it can't be completed.

So, I have learnt that perhaps the final attempt may just work. Take the badly cut wallpaper and decoupage with that as it's stronger or continue with the tape. When it is completed I shall look back on this lockdown and remember that.

Yesterday I was looking forward to my day off. Took the dog for a walk in the woods and he was a nightmare with other dogs, although alone harmless and charming as normal. Then I attempted work inside with said trolley. Hours of failure with no end in sight. Then I watched a very visceral drama on Netflix and later, Coronation Street with its awful domestic abuse storyline. I should have known better.

My mood spiralled down again after a bad dip on Saturday night and subsequent up. In the background to this, my beloved stepdaughter has not been well and is still in pain, in and out of hospital and so far away with no resolution as yet of her issue, so young to be having this and in the back of our minds, we are terrified in case something bad happens as surgery may be the next step.

She is getting fobbed off though but bravely soldiering on. I turned down a part-time job offered to me as I know I cannot cope with the challenges, ironically applied for when self employment was non-existent and then picked up, before the virus hit and shut things down again. I crashed again spectacularly in my head and thought I was doing well and resilient.

Another potential opportunity is bubbling in the background but I have become obsessive with it and as a control freak, cannot do anything about it yet and it is driving me mad not knowing the outcome. Wanting something so badly to happen and now not happy right where I am yet also because of my self employment (taking funeral services), realising that life is short and thinking again... how much time have I got left?

The next service I do is for someone just 13 years older than me. How much time has anyone got left... and overthinking becomes the enemy. And it all started with a simple trolley... I don't know what I have to learn from this except to be resilient, grateful and patient... and all the rest... but it's so easier said than done.

My head feels like a slow-motion car crash at times and I am the great pretender to all who view my endeavours.

A Moodscope member.

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



The Blessed Blackdrop

Monday May 11, 2020

[To listen to an audio version of this blog post, please click here:]
In one of the function rooms at the Solent Hotel in Hampshire, England, there is a backdrop. It is like a black curtain that goes almost the full length of one wall. Blackdrop was a spelling mistake but one I like.
I like the spelling mistake because this black backdrop – this blackdrop – conceals a secret.
At the flick of a switch, this blackdrop becomes lit by 10,000 stars. It is an LED curtain, and it looks like the sky at night when powered up.
Photographing and videoing members of my network against the blackdrop was ideal. The contrast made them seem brighter and bolder. This got me thinking.
The natural state of the universe is not visible light but rather darkness. I am told there is a backdrop of microwave radiation everywhere, but I don’t understand this nor can I see it. What I do see is a blackdrop punctuated by billions of beautiful stars.
My spiritual friends tell me that, “Darkness is just the absence of Light.” If this is so, it is Darkness, not Light, that is the canvas upon which Light paints its patterns. Darkness is the norm. Darkness is the dominant state.
I’ve wasted decades agonising over how Life ‘ought’ to be. Life ought to be fair, just, kind, full of love. Whilst that would be great, it’s not been my experience, nor, when I listen to the lessons of history, has it been the dominant experience for the majority of humans throughout time. Nature, herself, though beautiful, is also violent, dangerous, cruel and capricious.
This is good news… if we use it to revise our expectations.
The truth is that Darkness is the canvas. Struggle, disappointment, setbacks, sickness, strife, dissatisfaction, and suffering aren’t ‘wrong’ because they ‘shouldn’t’ be there. They are the norm. They just ‘are’. Once I let go of a sense of entitlement to a good life – one where everything ‘goes right’ – one devoid of trouble - I discover something even more wonderful than the transformation of the Solent’s Blackdrop into a Starscape. I discover new dimensions of gratitude and joy.
Given that all of us are born into a life that will know suffering, every cup of coffee becomes a joy. Every sunny day. Every rainy day. Every kind word. Every act of kindness. Every experience of the shower. Every flower. Every glass of wine. Every olive. Every slice of toast.
Walk this way for a week and then a new transformation will appear. It's like flicking a switch.
The backdrop to your life and my life will become not Darkness but Gratitude. Gratitude becomes the canvas upon which moments of joy decorate our day.
What are you grateful for today?

A Moodscope member.

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



Fear and anxiety

Sunday May 10, 2020

At the moment, my anxiety levels are within normal-for-me parameters. It is Spring, and Spring is a good, positive and energetic time as far as my body and mind are concerned, unlike some other times of year. I have learnt and accepted, (after all I'll be 68 in a month's time!! ) that I must not make important decisions when in a state of anxiety. That might seem like a statement of the ruddy obvious, but believe you me, for me, it isn't! You might agree that when distorted reality becomes your everyday, decisions are harder to make sensibly!

Negative phases and low moods occur and develop insidiously where I am concerned, so that the morphing distorts my reality. I will make comments that contradict what my OH has heard me proclaim. So it's very confusing for him, understandably! (I know it would drive me crackers if HE did that!!) I am fortunate, indeed blessed, that he is long-suffering and grounded in reality, and not given to the impulsive behaviour which is then my everyday!

Fear, abject fear, I have experienced, but luckily, not for years. It is something that springs from a deranged mind... or else from real threat of danger. The danger I felt way back in the bad years was the fear of annihilation, of the "Me" disintegrating, of just not being able to ever cope with life's challenges. Attacked by my own negative thoughts and the harmful critic in my head, I could imagine no escape. Ever. All hope extinguished.
Fortunately, I recovered, brittle, but little by little I rebuilt myself.

What are, or have been your fears and anxieties?

Abject fear: have you known it?

And did you end up recognising it for what it was: False Evidence Appearing Real (=F.E.A.R.) I like to remind myself of that acronym from time to time.

Best to you this morning,

A Moodscope member.

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



Blogger’s block

Saturday May 9, 2020

When lockdown began I had a few ideas about ways to keep occupied. High on the list was more blogs for Moodscope. Many ideas have come and gone over the weeks. I wake in the night, have an idea and vow to get it down in writing first thing, and sent off to Caroline before breakfast. Then I get up, decide I need some tea, and  wait until later. I go out for my daily permitted exercise, a brilliant idea comes to me. All fired up I get home, put the kettle on for a coffee to take up to the office, then I notice the stainless steel microwave is covered in smears. Out comes the white vinegar. Soon the whole kitchen is gleaming, and it will shortly be time to prepare lunch... and so on.
I could say it is down to my need for perfection in all that I do, that my anxiety is holding me back in case I fail. The fact dear reader is that I simply can’t be arsed. I read the other blogs, and mean to comment. I know how much this can mean to a blogger, but again I leave it too late. Sorry, there have been some great blogs.
This lockdown has forced me to admit that I am not built for the long haul. God knows how people in WW2 coped. I would have been moaning and asking “When will this end” by the first Christmas. I can be brave, but in short, instinctive ways. Life in the trenches , waiting, would not have suited me. Even worse would have been stuck at home, desperate for news of loved-ones. Maybe I would have surprised myself, you never can tell. I was amazed to hear my mother came over from Ireland to drive a crane in a munitions factory. For so many reasons that is impossible, scary in fact, to imagine.
I suspect that soon charity shops will be filled with craft materials, exercise equipment, tools, all unused. All those wasted hours. I set myself modest aims, and I have failed to fulfil them. I am at heart a lazy, shallow person. It’s a beautiful day, I should get out to do some gardening, but that would involve getting out of my pyjamas. I am watching the clock, wishing my life away, waiting for 6pm. Today is pizza delivery day, with an extra topping of Prozac.  
Have you filled your days with new hobbies, caught up with your reading, learnt a new language? Bully for you! I would like to think there are some out there who have wrestled with their inner slob, and lost.  
However you are passing time, I send love and hugs to you all dear friends.x
A Moodscope member.

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Friday May 8, 2020

75 years ago

I must be truthful and say that I do not remember 8th May 1945. I think there was a bonfire on the village green. I would have been at school, and more worried about the 11+ (‘scholarship’) then, which I took before I was 10, and went to Grammar School that year. The ‘prompt’ to write this came from a French TV programme last night, on Berlin in 1945. We would no longer have been frightened, survived the blitz (I watched London burn from the front step of our bungalow, to my mother’s horror). A bomb in the field behind us blew the windows in. We were well fed (efficient rationing, school meals, free milk), survived doodle-bugs, and the more scary V2 rockets. So 8th May was a signing day, very different to the end of WW1 where fighting continued to the last minute.

The UK never celebrated VE (Victory in Europe Day), except for this year, celebrations ironically scuppered. The French always have, big day, parade to the War Memorial, veterans with the banners of their villages, mass, then, of course, drinkies in the Town Hall. Then all out to lunch.

But just before the end of the war pictures were etched on my memory which have lasted a lifetime. Last night, with due warning, we were shown pictures of the discovery of Belsen Concentration camp which I had never seen before, and even more horrific. My mother tried to hide newspapers from me (my father was in the Marines, but never in danger). She left the one with pictures of Belsen on the table. Even the mention of Fascism or persecution of Jews (also, often forgotten, of homosexuals and gypsies) can bring back that memory.

For the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, 1994, I wrote a book in homage to the sufferings in the village where we had our first house. I presented it to the Mayor in front of the War Memorial. Before the ceremony, his brother had asked me ‘Will you wear one of your hats, please?’ I did, of course. I had interviewed many people who had really suffered, lack of food, men forced to work in Germany (I live in the area under German occupation, not ‘Vichy’ France). But under the bitterness (families put up against walls and shot as reprisals for sabotage) there were some lovely stories of bamboozling the Germans. Precious Calvados and Armagnac hidden in wells, photos of 8 year old children working in fields. I had found and listed virtually every man who had lost his life in conflict; revolution, Napoleonic wars and the two World Wars. My husband set them out beautifully on pages of tribute. The Countess of the local castle was furious because German high command took it over and scrubbed her precious Versailles parquet with rough soap. Another noble lady acted as interpreter for the Americans when the Germans were being chased out. A bomb went off, and left her permanently deaf in one ear.

Now, so sad, could there be a greater irony than another ‘enemy’ is preventing us from going out into the streets and cheering? Hope they ring the church bells.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

* The picture is a 14th July party, the lady in the mackintosh was the one deafened by a bomb.

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Choose your own adventure

Thursday May 7, 2020

The first time I had this thought it came in a very basic form. Discussing someone with a colleague I said, “Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books?” These were books where the story could end in different ways depending what actions you took and what pages you turned to. I went on to describe someone who if her life was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure you’d want to know why the book was so short. She lived like she had only a few options to choose from and they each led to the same predictable ending. Whatever life threw at her she did the same things over and over.

If someone walked into the room and fired a gun you would startle and immediately focus on escape. You have a narrow repertoire of responses and only specialist training gives you more options. For me, if a spider scurried into view I had few options. I would startle and immediately focus on escaping the stimulus by safely removing the spider. It is possible to change spider phobia by repeated exposure to the stimulus and learning different responses. You have to be willing to experience unpleasant feelings in order to learn how to gain a larger repertoire of more flexible responses.

It’s sometimes a lot less obvious that being verbal exposes us to different sorts of stimuli which also produce behaviour from limited response options. If you notice a flutter in your chest it’s a physical sensation. But what if your mind links that sensation to a memory of a panic attack? Or perhaps you know someone who recently went into hospital with a heart problem. What if your mind focuses on these verbal stimuli and powerfully connects them to feelings of danger? You’ve had a brief physical sensation but language has a special ability to create terror. Gunshots and spiders are on the outside but language lets us create them on the inside. It’s not just fear either; it’s any yucky feeling like depression, OCD, focus on food, focus on alcohol/ drugs/ gambling. Our mind can do it 24/7 pausing only for sleep, or numbing, or other escape.

This brings me back to where I started this piece with the person living in her half-written Choose Your Own Adventure book. Her real life had few choices because fear limited her options. We don’t get to control our stimuli, and it’s very difficult to control a startle response. But consider that one can learn different responses to other stimuli which exert control over us. Like spiders — and actually all those other sorts of yucky stimuli.

What I’m offering here is a perspective. When we have only a limited repertoire of responses then our Adventure book can seem like it’s not working out for us. One idea, perhaps, is to consider what it might imply if psychological health could be thought of as having a flexible repertoire of responses. This idea of getting unstuck by learning new responses guides me.

A Moodscope member.

PS. I've recorded a short YouTube video to clarify my blog:

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I write this on the eve of my fifty-seventh birthday.

“Mummy, you’re nearly sixty!” proclaimed my younger daughter, with brutal frankness. You don’t seem to realise how old you are!

But I don’t feel old: I still feel young!

Because none of us actually feel “old”. I am sure Colonel Tom, now 100, does not feel old. I, only just over half his age, certainly do not feel “old;” yet the last few weeks have made me realise that, while my mind may be in denial, my body is becoming older. It is getting tired.

Every Monday, from the beginning of the lockdown, I have gone shopping for my own family, for my mother and for a friend who is self-isolating.

I am used to shopping for the family, but I have found that shopping for three families totally exhausts me. By the time I have got everything home, put my own shopping away, calculated how much everyone owes me and delivered it to them, I have no energy left. The stamina I used to take for granted has left me – and I didn’t notice it go – until I needed it and it wasn’t there.

I am lucky enough to have skin that doesn’t show many lines and have, no grey hairs – but I have noticed, when I am tired, my face looks older too. Vanity, perhaps, but I grieve for that loss.

A friend posted on Facebook, “What things on your bucket list do you now realise will never happen? What dreams have you let go?”

That hit hard.

I had always loved the idea of an African safari on horseback. I have not, however, mounted a horse since falling off and breaking my ankle in February 2016, and the safari organisers state that you should be used to riding for seven or eight hours a day. Realistically, you could only do that if you have your own horse – and, while I might be able to talk my brother into letting me keep a horse on his farm – no, it’s not going to happen. And – the budget isn’t there and is unlikely ever to be there.

Walking around the South West Peninsular coastal path, though? I can still do that. When I first thought of it, some 25 years ago, I planned to camp and carry everything on my back. When I think of it now, I rather fancy walking from B&B to B&B and having someone else transfer my luggage for me.

It would be nice to do it while I still can. I don’t want to wait too long.

I think Colonel Tom has done magnificently, and he certainly proves you are never too old to make a difference. But I should prefer to walk the real coastal path, rather than walking the same distance around my garden with my wheeled walker when I am 99.

I am fifty-seven tomorrow and I will walk at least some of that path before I am sixty.

I’d better start planning now.

A Moodscope member.

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Hearing the infrasounds

Tuesday May 5, 2020

The elephants who hear the thunderstorms 500 kilometres away. Or the sound of approaching tsunami an hour before its arrival. Who rumble and call with infrasounds... As do the mammoths of the ocean deeps, the Whales, call across the miles...

I awoke this morning a little early aching and feeling heavy and a bit reluctant to move, yet unable to get comfortable. At 6s and 7s with the dawning. Yet no particular signals said flu or stomach upset, no arthritis grumbling from knees hips or spine... so why did I feel so "ugh"?

I felt gingerly around in my achy brain... there was tension somewhere. But where and what from? How could I clear it if I couldn't find the source?

I lay quiet, and remembering the Moodscope scale, I started an internal scan to look at those 20 words... Anger pain sorrow loss grief uncomfortable acceptance rejection fear flight fight... Wait a minute, something's becoming apparent... I want to... cry?? I weep tears which relieve these feelings. I am feeling too acutely the infrasounds of a planet in jeopardy... I can't carry all this pain. The release of tears, like pouring off the overfilled kettle.

The planet still cries but now I am more balanced. Now I can listen to the wind and the occasional police or ambulance siren and puss who is vocalising his breakfast needs. Munching muesli I have a "bingo" moment. I am getting too pulled in to the tv and radio and getting overloaded with stress from all the coverage about Covid '19. Hmmmm, yes I really know; I think I should, possibly, explore adjusting my meds a bit!

For the first time ever I voluntarily contact my community psychiatric team and get some sensible advice and oh boy that's a relief. My management plan allows for me to adjust my meds and 4 days on with a withdrawal from the tv and media I am pleasantly surprised that I feel a bit calmer.

I feel in control again and now two and half weeks later I am coping better with lock down.

I have concentrated on more phone calls to friends and giggling when I can't work out how to unmute what's app videos... a friend and I were in tears of laughter and my goodness that chased the blues away.

I'm figuring out which supermarket near me has the safest routines and the quietest times to go, and reminding myself I have a freezer of food to eat. And neighbours who I didn't really know before but who have now offered to fetch groceries.

It is a different world outside... I don't have an elephant to hear the "storms" coming but as I grow calmer and more accepting I can focus more on the joy of my garden and (for goodness sake Ach, you're big enough now to admit you don't bake), I have a cookery project... in my cupboard are 2 packets of brownie mix. There are two little girls next door - I wonder if I can make some brownies for them :-)

May your day go well Moodscopers.

Ach xx
A Moodscope member.

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Chapter 1, In Which I am an Egg
            I Am at Peace
            I Am Oblivious to both The Horrors and Happiness of Living ‘Out There’
Chapter 2, In Which I Become a Caterpillar
            I Live in Fear
But the Leaves Taste Magical
I Forget My Fear in the Joy of the Moments
Chapter 3, In Which I Embrace the Chrysalis Stage
            I Am Hidden, in the Secret Place
            Everything Feels Out of Sorts
            But in Motion
            I Am Transforming from the Inside Out
Chapter 4, In Which (Allegedly) I Will Finally Become the Imago
            I’ll Push, Push Free
            I’ll Fly Free
            I’ll Feed... On Nectar
            I’ll Fly High Above My Former Circumstance
            I’ll Find Love
I know, what’s that all about?


I’m such a fan of metamorphosis.

Just because we humans don’t go through so many very obvious changes as a butterfly or frog or dragonfly doesn’t mean that our own transformations are any less ‘miraculous’.
As a child, I was blissfully ignorant of the harsh realities of this world – at least for a few months.  Then I started to crawl.
Growing up, my Ugly Caterpillar phase, I spent most of the time in fear, hiding from the bullies – the predators, but there were amazing things too.  For me, it was pond life – an adoration of Newts and Great Diving Beetles, of Sticklebacks and Water Boatmen. In those moments of awe of the Natural World, I forgot all troubles and fears.
What captured your imagination growing up?
I’ve been in the Chrysalis phase for years. My tummy is constantly churning. It feels like all my organs are finding new places – because they are currently out of place. My inward being is ‘soup’ – mushy.
As I slowly sort myself out, I discover that The Way of the Caterpillar with its juvenile tastes, worldview, and limiting beliefs, no longer appeal or suits me. They served me for a while, but that time has long gone.
I also uncover a whole ton of non-sense installed in my brain from parents and teachers, media and musings, siblings and peers. None of it invited or asked for or welcome. Turns out none of them was quite the authority on all the subjects they purported to be.
In my soup-state, I am learning to rethink, to challenge, to re-invent.
I am revolting!
Rumour has it there is something beyond this chaos. A time when I can break free and fly.
A time when I can become the best version of ‘me’ I was ‘meant’ to be.
Some say there is love out there too. 
Me, I’m cynical, sceptical, unbelieving.
But maybe, just maybe…

A Moodscope member.

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