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Structure. Thursday September 22, 2016

When I was hospitalised in July, big emphasis was on structure and routine. Everyday, there was a set program to be followed as part of their 'get well' plan. At first I whimpered, grumbled and protested; I wanted to be left alone in the depths of my despair. However, as my stay lengthened I realised how very important a considered day with planned things 'to do' was.

These 'considered' and 'planned' things weren't world changing, just having a shower or eating breakfast, lunch and/or dinner were achievements that made me feel stronger.

Knowing that I would have a considerable amount of time off from work to recover after my discharge and therefore a lot of 'me' time, I carried forward this idea of structure and routine because, for me, tedium equals rumination and rumination can and often does lead to a downward spiral.

So everyday I plan. I am learning to appreciate my day as blocks of time, morning, afternoon, evening and night. Inside these four chunks of time I know there are four essential things that make me feel human, a shower in the morning, breakfast, lunch in the afternoon and dinner in the evening. Around my four essentials I build in one or two tasks, errands or things to do which might include some self-care, going for a coffee with a friend, reading a book, writing for a blog, a trip to the supermarket, tidying up at home etc. Things, that in my recovery are not hugely overwhelming but are acknowledgeable to me as achievements.

As an extra jolt, every morning I start my day with what's called 'Behavioural Activation'... in other words, and as a very famous sports company put it, a 'just do it' approach to get myself out of bed, push myself to have that shower, to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and so on and so forth.

Every task throughout my day if it seems a struggle I say internally to myself, 5,4,3,2,1 I've got this...

A Moodscope member.

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

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the room above the garage Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 6:19am

This is great! You've not taken it lying down but fought back with great determination...of the right kind. I feel proud of your Herculean achievement even though i've never met you! Love ratg x.

Leah Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 6:51am

what a simple idea that is not at all simple. thanks for sharing your journey. You should be very proud of your achievements.\
I love the routine of my shop. I open , I work, I close. People think it is funny I don't like being away from my shop but I miss the structure. I hope we see more of your writing as you continue of your journey.
Leah x

Belinda Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 7:23am

Hi Martha, great. You put into words what I do but I hadn't realised it. With achievers all round me, I have tended to compare myself with them. You have described in a nutshell how you are doing.
You have overcome such a lot. May you continue with your upward journey. Thank you for your blog.
Love Belinda x

DAVE Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 7:24am

I've spoken many times on this site how vital order in every facet of our lives gives purpose to all we undertake, it creates within the inner Peace and inner Hapiness which I personally find brings self confidence and destroys negative emotions which is the cause of 90% of our depression.

For example, A friend of mine spends a lot of wasted time procrastinating.

He went in holiday for two weeks, came back and started to cut his lawn. He said during conversation, that his lawnmower had smoked and caught fire. He had to buy a new lawnmower, he said to me quote "why do I seem to get more than my share of adversity" ?
I said "did you cut the grass before you went away" ? No he said, "how high was it when you went away" ? "about 3".
"What sort of mower did you use", "Oh a rotary mower", he said.

"Well I said the grass must have grown taller whilst you were away, and it must have been very difficult to cut when you got back" ?
"Is it not surprising that your mower caught fire" ?

Martha, if you expand your planned routine, and incorporate this positive order in all other aspect of your life, Finances, Healt, family relationships, not allowing yourself to become offended, you'll witness your moodscope questionnaire rising to match your newfound positive attitude.

To add to this change in your life, spend more time in serving those whose 'hands are down', and you'll find yourself escaping the trap that so many Bipolar sufferers endure, self inflicted adversities, we become more extrovert 'forgetting ourselves in the service of those in need'.
God Bless


LP Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 7:30am

Hi Martha,
I really connected with your blog.
There have been times when I haven't had any structure and drifted, but it got harder to motivate myself to do anything and ended up eating something instant and unhealthy and felt lousy.
Having children or a pet to look after has forced me to do the basics when I've been low. I can remember the endless guilt of summer holidays, feeling like I needed to plan exciting things everyday for them to do. I knew that I didn't, the now and again things were good enough, but the feeling was still there. One year I actually wrote out a little structure for days off for my daughter, just to stop her asking me "what are we doing?" because I didn't know!

Bit by bit over the years I have tweaked things, so that I've got to a place where there are things that I want to do, rather than ought to. They do their bit and take care of their own things now, (more or less!) and make their own plans.
For me, if they are not around and I have time off, I like tea, shower, breakfast, potter ( I love the word potter, much nicer than task or chore!) nice walk, maybe to coffee shop with something to read) maybe nip into a shop for something nice to eat for later, nice walk back and so on.

I like the term behavioural activation. Towards the end of a tiring day, when there's one more household "task" to do before the end of the day, I find myself saying " right then" ( short for " right then let's go." Or "right then, just do that one thing then I can call it a day". as if something's going to happen! It must be a little behavioural activation phrase!
Thanks for a great blog Martha, I'm glad you were able to take the structure from your stay forward.
Love to all LPxx

Rupert Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 8:26am

Good blog Martha. I agree with everything you say. I find that the worst part of the day is waking up feeling crushed plus the thought of having to get up and face the day and all the stresses and concerns involved in the job. However the routine of the job and having to be at my desk early and the fact that it would be noticed if I wasn't forces me to connect and to "rejoin" society. Rupert

Frankie Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 1:25pm

Great to see you again Rupert - how's life? Frankie

Jul Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 8:50am

It's so good Martha that you are feeling better and have incorporated the things you learnt in hospital into your daily life now you are back home. I strongly believe in routine as a life saver. The thought of it when I'm away from my normal routine, instantly makes me feel grounded. I used to think that chaos in my life was exciting and interesting and me and when a therapist once told me to include some routine in my life, like emptying wastepaper baskets (!) I took one look at her and thought how boring, get me out of here quick,I am never going to be like you. I wonder if it is to do with youth or personality or that fact that life used to be quite boring. It doesn't matter actually. I know what makes me feel grounded and safe and that is a structure to my day, most days anyway. And the knowledge when my days are out of my control that I can get back to that safety soon. A great blog Martha and I know we all wish you well. Jul xx

Frankie Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 1:29pm

Hi Jul; I wonder whether age brings an understanding and acceptance of the concept of "contentment" rather than the endless search for "happiness"? Yes, this might mean for boring days sometime, but there's a lot to be said for them! (said from the heart as we shuttle between clearing my mother's house, my aunt's flat, moving younger daughter and coping with alcoholic sister ...) Oh, and I was worried that retirement would be boring! Frankie xx

Chris Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 9:18am

Thank you so much, your blog today is so timely for me. Moodscope is keeping me going at the moment- great adversity whilst advocating for a loved one who has had a series of strokes- difficult to see the wood from the trees and what is the best thing to do and when. Thank you again for your really helpful blog.

Frankie Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 1:38pm

Hi Chris - really glad to hear Moodscope is helping; it helps loads of us. I feel for you, having gone through my mother-in-law's strokes a few years ago, and this year having gone through deteriorating health of mum and aunt (both died this summer). Something that helped me was the notion of "sleep on it" - which gave me permission to put off making an instant decision until I was feeling fresher, and more able to think clearly. As events unfolded, and discussions of various options continued, I would find that if I "let it go" for a while, then the right course of action would become clear - not immediately but in time. Giving myself permission to wait and see was a huge help. That and talking to lots of people (anyone who would listen, actually!) Oh, and tea; lots of it ... Good luck with it all - strength is given when we need it, and in time, also peace of mind and heart. Frankie

Orangeblossom Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 9:44am

Thanks Martha for your blog. Applying head knowledge into everyday life I find extremely difficult. However, your determination & the perseverance is an example to me.

Andrew Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 10:59am

Great blog Martha - and some key messages...I like the idea of breaking the day up into 'bite sized chunks'...After all, sometimes the day ahead can look like a huge, heavy, thick, immobile grey storm cloud - impossible to shift out of the way, and totally content to sit in the road, blocking out light and sapping energy...
But up close, it is but a series of droplets, and bit by bit, droplet by refreshing droplet, its weight disperses and light starts to shine through....bit by bit.
I was advised once to do away with 'To Do' lists - too depressing sometimes - and to replace with 'Already Done' lists, activities and achievements, however small, to be listed at the end of the day, once satisfying if not more so than crossing off things on a to do list...
Keep going, and stay are an example to us all.

The Gardener Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 11:43am

Thanks Martha, most thought-provoking. 'Bite sized chunks' has been a vital bit of my planning over the decades - trouble, most of the 'chunks' turned out indigestible! I'm not clinically depressed, but mornings are classic. Don't want to get up, day ahead looks too awful. Nights when I've been up a lot feel ragged anyway. Mr. G can start a litany of moans from 6.30, some start with the alarm. So, jump out of bed, dress, prepare for the nurse, make sure Mr G warm and comfortable, turn radio on. Flee downstairs - tea, shutters read mails go to breadshop and have kitchen cheerful, warming and a welcoming breakfast when Mr G arrives. Also turn on Radio 4 - excellent diversion, and Mr G's grumbles are a sort of Greek chorus. Then have list of day, routine, must do's, would like to do. Those that take the most energy, shopping, must come first. Lunch time break in terrace with flowers, sun, a kir, sandwich and puzzle book. Cat-nap if allowed. Feed into programme - don't get too tired to cope with Mr G in the evening, his worst time. Mix reading to him, again Radio 4, excellent from 4 p.m. Or just sit and knit quietly - curiously the movement of my hands seems to calm him - because he knows it's me (he doesn't sometimes) and he watches my hands move. Keep dinner as easy as possible - if he's impossible I get him to bed, with the radio, and an attractive meal on a tray. So, Martha, your 'routine' is the pattern of my day - hoping that keeping within my capabilities will keep me calm and hysterics at bay. Reply to Andrew - 'to do' lists are vital, to me, but, like a business, up-dated, prioritized, and never allowed to provoke despair, guilt or failure.

Frankie Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 1:41pm

Thanks for sharing your story Martha - well done for your progress! I also find routine helpful; to quote Hopeful One (are you ok HO?) "Action leads to motivation". I also like your counting mantra which I will use ... Frankie

Graeme Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 3:41pm

Good on you, Martha! One step at a time.

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 @ 3:50pm

Yes - structure is vital. Thank you. Excellent post.

Lex Fri, Sep 23rd 2016 @ 12:35pm

What a brilliant blog
Thank you

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