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Do it Your Way. Wednesday July 12, 2017

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I have heard, from some source or another, that Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way" is the most popular choice of song for funerals; especially those funerals not held in church. Apparently, it beats, by a short head, Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

But this is not a blog about funerals, but about life and how to make it better.

We were all sitting around the table, as we do every first Wednesday of the month; the bipolar group to which I belong.

We had just finished a spirited discussion on medication. As most of us hold to the opinion that bipolar disorder is a physical condition with mental symptoms, most of us are on medication of one sort or another.

"But we cannot rely just on medication, can we?" said the leader of our group, in his velvety and deliciously accented voice (I could listen to that man talk all day, I tell you). "What do we do on those days when we wake up but do not want to get up and face the day? What do we do to help us stay healthy?"

Of course, there were as many answers as folk around the table, multiplied many times. Some of our answers were duplicated and no doubt we just touched the tip of the possible answers out there.

"I write a list," said Shelley. "When I've done anything – even just had a shower – I tick it off my list, and draw little flowers around it. That makes me feel I have achieved something."

"I go out into the garden," said Peter. "I walk round and see what's growing. I do some weeding and make it tidy. That makes me feel better."

"I sing," said Lynne. "I sing with a choir when I am well enough. But when I am not well enough to go and join my choir, then I sing in my living room. I turn the music up loud and I dance and I sing – and to hell with the neighbours!"

"I like my 80's rock music," said Ash, in that voice. "The louder the better."

"And Wagner for me," I said, in my turn. "I agree, loud is good."

"I paint."

"I make birdboxes in my shed."

"I write."

"I go for long walks, whatever the weather."

What was clear is that there is no one size fits all method of coping with the black dog. Each of us responds differently to his presence and each of us has a different method of coping. But each of us gained much from listening to the ideas of others.

So, my invitation to you today, is please, even if you do not normally comment, click through with your suggestions or experiences. What works for you, if anything? Because sometimes we know it gets so bad that all you can do is to hang on.

But if you can water your hanging baskets while there, that's great.

A Moodscope member.

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

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Linda Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:01am

I stare out of the window! It really worries my family but I look at all I have achieved in the garden, & I watch the birds which I feed & give me great joy; if I have enough energy which sometimes I don't, I fill up the bird food, thinking that I am helping these little creatures ( if if not helping myself)
I also play spider solitaire it keeps my brain moving when my body is dead! I try not to beat myself up -take ttiny baby steps with jobs & things, do a bit then rest a lot!!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:09am

Thank you Linda. I like watching the birds too.

Anne Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:05am

Thanks for the blog Mary, some great ideas that I might 'steal' on the next difficult day... For me I have a morning routine that I do even when it starts later in the day/ takes longer or I'm not interested in any of it... It's a must do ritual that goes;

Get up
Hot water and lemon drink
Read a quote for the day book
Write in my journal thoughts to the reading
Pick a tarot card for the day
Do a tarot reading for the day
Ask my inner child a question and wait for a response/advice on what they might want for the day (they're better at being kind than I am)

It's not that I always want to do these things, but I do know they do connect me to things in myself that matter

I look forward to reading what others do, thanks for sharing x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:10am

Thank you for sharing your routine with us. We all have a different one, but that we have a routine is vital.

carol Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:03am

I was meant to read this today as I am struggling after having a good couple of days Thank you for sharing your story Mary To help me through a bad period i do a mental gratitude list of the small things that we can all take for the Mine are I give thanks for having a lovely comfy bed My home that keeps me safe and is my haven For all those who have stood by my side and help me And for coffee especially the first one of the day Love and blessings to you all ? ? ? ? ?

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:12pm

Indeed. Gratitude is important. We may be I'll but we are also blessed.

Annette Mon, Jul 17th 2017 @ 8:17pm

I had a really bad episode through 2015-2016 and only since this spring have I felt my brain is somewhat back on an even keel. When my cognitive functioning was preety minimal I rediscovered television, gravitating from attention span of 1 or 2 programs up to several months when I was watching it all day and progressing from funny video programs on to NICS and then I found Monkey World . . . .and that series began to spark my brain up and I began to manage out to the shops etc. I also slowly started looking at Facebook and gradually took more interest in what my friends were doing. This way I began to realise I really did have friends and plucked up courage to message them and even put up some posts. All this really helped me improve. Now last week I went by train 150 mile trip to Dorset to say a sort of thank you to those rescued primates who helped rescue me!

Orangeblossom Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:10am

Hi Mary, thanks for the blog. if I am feeling at rock bottom, usually after a bout of sickness like a bad cough, I stay indoors, read a novel from my pile on the bedside, go on my headspace journey,( a mindfulness package that I registered on a while ago) & try not to push myself too much. At such times I am frequently attacked by the 'decision monster'. Today is one such time.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:13am

Hello Orange Blossom. I like the sound of your decision monster. What does he loom like? Where does he live? And what does he do? While I'm sure living with him is horrible, it's always good to visualise these monsters. They lose power when they lose their cloak of invisibilty.

Sally Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:29am

Hello Mary, thanks for an interesting blog. Like Linda, I look outside. The birds at the bird feeder inspire me.
I potter round the garden too and pick a flower of two, or a leaf. Which I might draw.
I tidy a drawer, or search for a favourite song to play on YouTube. It takes on renewed interest.
I play Solitaire.

Ginny Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:49am

Haven't played solitaire since I was a child. Good idea, I will have to get one. I play scrabble on the computer. I think you can play solitaire on there too, but I try not to be on the computer too much

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:10am

Tidying. Yes - what a great idea!

Ginny Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:46am

Hello Mary. I read Moodscope every day and have seen your name pop up from time to time, and always enjoy what you write. Thank you for reminding me that bipolar is a physical illness with mental symptoms. I tend to forget that. I haven't been depressed for a long time, my Medes keep me fairly stable. I am lucky that I don't get any side effects, apart from feeling a bit dizzy and sick sometimes, but that might be due to something else. My problem is that I tend to overdo it, so I am working on that by writing down my daily maintenance plan, and things that I need to do for myself to keep well, instead of a to do list of things I feel I ought to. It is very difficult isn't it. I let go of trying to be perfect a long time ago. I think a lot of the things that people have suggested are things that I do, but it is good to be reminded of them. I try to get out every day in the fresh air, being with nature is so therapeutic. Singing, dancing to music is near the top of the list, not so easy now as my hubby is semi-retired, but I go out in the car on my own and listen to music. Seeing friends for coffee is another good one. So, thank you everyone for sharing what you do, it is very helpful. Sorry long blog, I am usually a bit hyper. Just need to make sure I don't get too high, relax and make sure I look after myself. It always sounds very selfish, but we all know it is the only way to keep well

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:15am

Hello Ginny. Yes - when we feel well it is tempting to overdo it. I was warned by my psychiatrist that my medication would stop the depressions and ameliorate the worst of the highs but that I would still feel very energised and creative. He was right. But - I recently worked (delivered classes) three days running, in spite of all my colleagues telling me never to deliver two days consecutively and certainly not three, as the amount of energy they demand is too taxing. Guess who was utterly exhausted on the fourth day? Lesson learned!

Paula Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:48am

I never comment but here I am! I run. Running has got me through so many difficult times in my life. The simple act of putting on my running shoes and getting out there in whatever weather (sometimes the worst weather is the most helpful) always gives me a huge boost and helps me cope.

Ginny Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:52am

Well done for commenting Paula. Running is good, as is any exercise. I walk and swim sometimes. Hard trying to fit swimming in

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:17am

Runming- yuk! But swimming now..... good point - we need those endorphins. My daughter goes running! She's up to 5k from nowhere 6 months ago.

Geoff Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:05pm

Running always does me the world of good, no matter how I'm feeling. Singing, too, lifts my mood.

Eva Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 7:55am

Painting, reading having naps with my cat. :)

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:17am

Cats. For Me, an absolute necessity!

Rupert Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 8:22am

Hi Mary interesting blog and I love the comments but is it just me that feels he doesn't have the luxury of taking time out to do anything therapeutic. Every morning my thoughts are filled with darkness and that crushing kind of feeling but I have to shove them in the drawer marked depression and open the others marked urgent business concerns and issues! I am probably approaching it all in the wrong way but it seems to be the only way I operate or have time to operate is probably nearer the truth. Rupert

LP Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:05am

Hi Rupert, It's not just you. It's not easy if you have busy commitments. The oxygen mask thing is so true though. Just some small self care things here and there make a difference.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:30am

Lovely to see you again, Rupert. I often think of you. I see you as the quintessential Englishman with your stiff upper life and your dogged persistence in getting through life. Do you work in a city with an art gallery? When used to work in Hull, I would go to the Ferens Art Gallery in my lunchtime and just look at the art.

The painter Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 8:25am

I ground myself and meditate every day to balance my energies. It has made a huge difference to my health.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:43am

Meditation. I keep telling myself I must do that!

LP Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 8:59am

Hi Mary,
I have positive routine things to do in bed as soon as I wake up, as that has been the most difficult time.
I have a small kettle for making a lemon honey and detox herb tea, so I get that going. It hydrates and refreshes and is delicious which is a lift.
I check in on Moodscope, it takes me out of my head and always adds something positive to my start of the day.
Dry contravertially I flick on good morning TG in the background, I know there are a lot of reasons that it is t a great choice, but it's purely for the distraction from my own negative thinking.
This little routine wakes me up connects me to the world and my day and gets me going.
Later in the day if I get anxious or find myself overthinking unpleasantries (!) I do a mental stop and get back to the here and now.
I liked your mention of over doing it. I had been putting off sorting out some storage, so tackled it and pushed myself. Bit of an upheaval and clutter left to deal with lying around. What with trying to deal with negatives at work, it's not surprising that I'm not in the best place but am heading in the direction I want.
Thanks for an uplifting blog Mary, I haven't had the best start, even though I slept and think it's physically internal but feels like low mood. It's not that bad so will hopefully pass. Grey in London, but still warm.
It's good to read about others strategies, thank you Mary.
Warm wishes to you and all LP xx

LP Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:01am

No idea where " Dry" came from when I was typing! :)

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:44am

Well, better a lemon tea to start the day than gin! So dry is good!

LP Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 5:41pm

:)) xx

Jenny Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:10am

I think having a list of coping strategies is incredibly helpful. When we're in a dark place it can feel impossible to figure out what might be helpful but having a tried and tested list gives us a resource we can at least try, even if at that point we don't believe it could possibly work.

Exercise is definitely my go to, I try to build it into my life so that is is just part of the routine. If I thought about whether I actually wanted to do exercise I would probably never get to the gym, or get out on my bike! I'm lucky in that I can go to the gym in my lunch hour so it works to both get me away from my work desk and give me a mid-day endorphin boost. Cycling, whether road or mountain biking, gives me a focus, a sense of achievement, a connection with nature. It allows me to be on my own, or to be with friends in a way that doesn't demand a huge amount of interaction. I inevitably feel calmer after a blast on a bike. Mindfulness is another useful tool, though I find 'doing' things mindfully more helpful than the 'being' exercises (such as body scan).

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:46am

See next comment

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:15pm

Well, I moved out of WiFi area on a day's hiking around Windermere so lost the comment. Yes - I lost myself in walking: the rhythm, the sounds, the feel of the breeze, the smells (wild garlic and moss and water). Doing things mindfully is a great help.

Belgian Car Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 9:52am

For sluggishness I throw something away, which gently eases me towards a better place. For 'too many neurones firing' I draw a picture of my own feet, which shuts out noisy thoughts. Nobody knows this, so if my kids ever come across my notebook of foot sketches they might be puzzled!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:12am

Brilliant! I have just been reading a blog on minimalism and am inspired!

Little Black Cat Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:00am

I hold the hand of my son. He was 11 when I starting doing this we were going through bad times with my daughter. He is 17 now and has suffered too in the past 2 years, I still hold his hand and tell him I will always be there for him. There's a magical connection between us when we touch, no words can help, just touch.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:13am

That is lovely!

Christine Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:02am

I can't stay in and go out driving - sometimes not knowing where I am going.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:13am

That's a great idea. Sometimes you can find delicious surprises that way.

Antonella Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:22am

I listen to music that gives me energy.
I write my thoughts ( so I give a place to my darkest thought).
I read. I try to do what is needed, for my children.
At the moment, I am under the impression that there is nothing I can do to avoid the depressive mood when it arrives. However I can try and keep in mind that it arrived a lot of times, and went away a lot of times, it is just a question of surviving it and it will pass. The night will be over.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:17pm

I have been in that place so many times. It does get better. But sometimes we just have to hang on s remind ourselves.

Sally Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 10:36am

When I am in a good place I have a regular morning routine of writing my journal; 8 brocade qigong; 5 Tibetan healing exercises, small weight training, Alexander technique semi supine, meditation and walking my dogs. Eating healthily, working, reading, crafts, art, theatre trip, voluntary work, book club; meeting friends etc. Oh and taking my medication regularly. When I am not in a good place I try to remember what I do when I am well and do as much as I can until I get back to my routine again. It's taken me a long time to accept this is how it will be for me. Up and down, light and dark, yin and yang. I tell myself I am a work in progress.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:19pm

Sally, you do much!!!! If you are a work in progress your finished self will dazzle us all. Yes, do as much as you can and remember to be gentle with yourself and not beat yourself up for not doing more.

Miles Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 11:05am

Hi Mary, Another interesting, thoughtful and helpful blog thank you. The more experienced I get in dealing with depression the more I notice just how much "fixed mind" plays a big part in contributing and maintaining it for me. Those day when I wake up "knowing" with 100% certainty that no matter what I do nothing will shift it are the very days I now try and notice and catch that "fixed" thought and see it as just that an inflexible and unhelpful response that I can choose to ignore. This can be very challenging as my fixed mind is very certain and very stubborn! So currently the best I can manage is to notice it and get on with whatever routine I have planned for the day and to do my best at doing so as mindfully as I can-which varies enormously from ok to very poorly! I find that if I can manage it, interacting and connecting with others in some way either electronically or preferably via speaking or being with people helps move things on sometimes surprisingly so to my "fixed mind" which loves to tell me "I told you so" whenever it's right. On those days I love to show my fixed mind it isn't always right!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:22pm

Thank you for your comment, Miles. For me the fixed mind is the bleakness of despair. I know it lies, but it seems impossible to believe anything else on those dark days. It does help to connect electronically to others. Great comment, thanks

Vickie Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 12:35pm

Hi Mary,
Great blog to get remind us that with effort "this too shall pass". Things I do when the lows hit:
exercise - walk, yoga, pilates
Write in my journal
Read positive quotes
Listen to positive podcosts, Ted talks
Pick a tarot card and reflect on how it applies to me on that day
Connect with my adult children
Listen to music
Throw out clutter from a closet or drawer
Visit my favorite coffee shop
Walk in one my favorite walking trails

Some days one thing will help pull me up and other days the only thing that helps is telling myself that at least I tried and that tomorrow is a new day.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:22pm

Great list, thank you.

Janet Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 1:15pm

Mary I am definitely into 'this too will pass' but as i live near a london common I know that if i take my self by my hand and walk to the pond i can feed the ducks and seagulls (!) see other people and their dogs and exchange smiles (i have cats) and moving really shifts energy in me and lets a little light in. I know I can walk, one foot after the other, even if I cannot do anything else and it that connects me to nature and people in a way that helps.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:23pm

Dog walkers and their dogs are a real mood-lifter!

The Gardener Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 2:20pm

Like Carol, way above, I had a couple of good days, then Wham! I cannot get past Mr G's behaviour which gets worse daily - there's always some gleam, missing today - dull market day, can't sit on pavement - saw a few people but the jealousy which goes with the illness has stopped all communication, personal or phone. He says 'you're always talking'. He asks for me every 2 minutes, if I don't answer straightaway (against some deafness and the radio) he calls for help. Sorry about this - trying to do any of the above - exciting project for my shop - bedevilled by dependency, possessiveness, having to climb ladders - usually I cling to whatever little I accomplish is satisfactory - but nothing done today - another yell for attention - will put head down, as if into a driving wind, and DO things - I get scared when my 'spring' goes, might not be able to repair it

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:25pm

Just putting your head down and walking into that driving wind. I will pray for you as you do battle with those bitter forces.

Freya Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 2:48pm

If my head is running way too fast, dog training. As I have to concentrate on the dog, the rest of the noise has to be turned down. When I was very poorly, I knew that if I trained twice a week, I had at least 2 hours when there was a temporary respite.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm

Brilliant idea! Anything that takes you out of your own head!

Marian Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 2:52pm

When I recognise I'm finding things rather too tough, I make myself list ten good things about my life and my situation. They can be tiny - someone's small courtesy, blue sky, birdsong; or more significant - my health, my freedom to walk my dogs in the fields, my job. By the time I've listed ten things, I've somehow shifted my mental seesaw the other way, and demonstrated to myself that life isn't unremittingly bad. I sometimes find I can sail past the ten - then I feel really uplifted.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:26pm

Like a gratitude diary. Great idea.

Wyvern Thu, Jul 13th 2017 @ 12:32pm

I have a 'good things' book which I use when I'm in a low place. I try and record three good things per day. Simple things. Took a walk, saw a wren, chatted with (someone) on the phone. That kind of thing.

David Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 3:37pm

Hi Mary interesting that so many in your group found help in music. As I grow old and start finding myself forgetting things, I have set myself the task of remembering a piece of music: in this case a very easy arrangement of Moon River. The best way to do this is away from the piano, running it through your mind making sure you are using the right notes & harmonies. Then one day I found myself turning to this little task at a moment of crisis and found, pretty much by accident, that it was really, really helping. Music means so much to me and I'm so glad it helps other people as well

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 4:28pm

For my friend Raz too. Especially if you are a real musician and speak the language of music fluently.

Adrian Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 5:38pm

Hi Mary – thanks for this – I have 2 things I do when I'm really down – the first thing is to retreat into story – reading books by my favourite authors.. The other one is to watch good quality cartoons – my inner little boy feels greatly comforted by things like Disney's Tangled…

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 12th 2017 @ 5:43pm

I retreat into favourite stories too! Film is not really my genre of choice, but I can Dee the allure of Tangled!

silvia Thu, Jul 13th 2017 @ 3:36pm

I go to the dog shelter and have myself cuddled by the dogs - it works wonders

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