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The power of memories. Saturday September 19, 2015

We know how debilitating painful memories can be, and for many people memories of past traumas take years to deal with. I suspect that we often become "experts" in reliving painful memories in all their gory details.

Lying awake in the early hours of the morning tortured by such memories I have been grappling with how to deal with them. Add to that the present daily struggle of living with one severely depressed offspring and with darling hubby who suffers regular black moods and you will understand the sleeplessness – which as we all know impacts on our own moods and can adversely affect the quality of daily life.

So, how to deal with it all?

Much is written these days about mindfulness, which I have yet to achieve. So my current strategy is to harvest the positive memories. Unable to sleep a few days ago, despite all the usual tricks (drink of water, reading, listening to soothing music, relaxation breathing exercises etc. etc.) I finally opted for reliving moments from our recent holiday.

I took myself back to the lake we had canoed on, and pictured the trip from start to finish; I remembered getting into the canoe, how it wobbled as I got in, the way the paddle felt in my hands and the sound it made through the water; the cows coming down to drink at the lake and how they watched us glide by; the way the canoe drifted gently along; so peacefully; the feel of the sun on my face; the water trickling down my arms... and I could feel the tension and anxiety leaving me, my face relaxing into a smile and I drifted off to sleep.

It's like looking at a mental photo album or video clip (which in themselves can be great mood lifters).

So, I invite you to harvest a positive memory today; recreate the scene from the beginning;

What can you see? A mountain? A lake? A woodland clearing? A roaring log fire? What can you hear? The sound of water? The sound of children playing? Birds singing? Waves rolling the shingle up and down the beach? The crackling of logs? What can you feel? The sun on your face? The wind in your hair? Warm and cosy?


A Moodscope member.

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

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Jen Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 7:25am

Morning Frankie.I am so happy to see this post today of all day as yesterday I sent a possible blog to Caroline on sleeplessness no less! Something that has plagued me my adult life on/off. Recently I have found some of the stuff you mentioned as not helpful has aided me(such is the variety among folk)and I'm writing because I specifically recall when my mind was still this week WANTING to think of positive memories, and I found it so hard. I remember feeling so sad in the darkness that wonderful memorues with my sons are so thin on the ground in my mind.....yet they are so abundant in reality. Thankyou Frankie. I really want to tain my brain in this skill. This pratical set of questions helps LOADS. Sorry to go on a bit! x

Debs Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 7:28am

Thank you Frankie, a lovely reminder of how powerful it can be to lose ourselves in our positive memories. Our brains seem so good at keeping the bad stuff and throwing away the good don't they? I'm going to be doing your technique so thank you for sharing xxx

Zareen Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 7:37am

Thanks for the blog Frankie. for the past 13 months I have been learning mindfulness techniques through the Headspace website. It is like going on a journey for me. Slow but increasingly steady. The first 10 days are free. You could access it on You may like to try it. What you said entirely resonated with me. All the best

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 8:05am

Ah Frankie, I thankee! Been awake on and off through the night.
Kept thinking of things that shouldn't matter,
Of my sewing club and knit and natter!

Should I get up now and do the ironing?
Get it out the way or start on the gardening?
Too dark to go out, warm and cosy in bed,
So I stayed there procrastinating and worrying instead!

Oh Frankie, how can we be so hard on ourselves. But then life throws us cruel things to deal with - I do hope your offspring can find some comforting blogs to look at on Moodscope that may help. Its one of the saddest things to see our children suffering with any ill health...hubby too by the sounds of things :(

It's very hard when you wake in the middle of the night and can't switch your brain I'm gong to try your suggestions when it happens again, and remember the sights, sounds and feelings of a happy time on holiday. Just reading yours made me feel a warm and fuzzy bear! Thank you!

Jen, do you have photos of your son that you could keep a couple of your favourite ones by your bed and sneak a peak at them when you need to?

Ironing done, off to tackle dead bedding plants! Have a goodly day all!
Bear x x x

Frankie Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 9:32am

Morning all!

Jen, lovely to hear you "going on a bit"; feel free!
Glad it helps and good luck.

Debs, I can be an expert at keeping the bad stuff and forgetting the good ... I am slowly reversing that trend - enjoy your memories!

Zareen thank-you for that; other Moodscopers have mentioned this; thank-you for reminding me.

And thank-you, clever Bear! (love the poem!) Yes, venturing out of my comfort zone ("it must all be my fault, therefore up to me to fix it") is challenging, but worth it.
And the procrastinating ...! Actually, that should be "venturing out of my uncomfortable yet familiar zone"!


Petal Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 9:36am

I'll definately try that if I have a wakeful night too Frankie. My memory would be sitting in the corner of the patio in the precious window of time when that spot catches the sun first thing in the morning and I know it's summer! Tea. The warm sun on my face. The moment of peace and quiet that I treat myself to before seizing the day! Bliss! Thanks Frankie! :)

Mary Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 9:48am

I think sleeplessness plagues many of us (it is a common symptom of depression after all). I am lucky in that I have all my stories in my head and characters I can go and play with. Last night, at 2.30am when I couldn't sleep, I wrote a new scene in my head for my novel - a scene which has been bothering me as I couldn't see where it needed to go. But now I do, and I'm just about to write it now. Sleeplessness is not always a bad thing!

Mary Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 9:49am

Oh, and I meant to say - great blog Frankie. Thank you!

Silvia Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 11:18am

thanks Frankie, your happy memory brought a tear to my eye, so lovely! It's also really good that you look after your son and darling hubby, I wish you many content moments in the knownledge that you are doing your level best and contributing to the good vibes in this world. It's important. It counts, even if it sometimes doesn't feel like it. Thanks again.

Frankie Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 11:37am

Hi Petal
Oh yes, tea, always tea!
And what a difference sitting in the sun, savouring can make ...

Morning Mary, thank-you.
Nice twist - sleeplessness needn't be a bad thing ...

And Silvia
Too right, often it doesn't feel like I am getting anywhere!
Thank-you for your encouragement - so reassuring;
I need to remember this!


Dawn Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 11:42am

That's brilliant Frankie. I sometimes think I need to have a list of things that are lovely to think about, I too have many, but not enough stored in my mind. The bad stuff always gets there first. I did something similar recently and went to sleep smiling just like you did.
Happy sleepy smiles :D

the room above the garage Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 11:57am

Hello Frankie, how good to see you back, I really enjoyed your blog today! I feel I need a mental blanket this morning and your blog is exactly that. I am going to try this this afternoon. Love ratg x.

The Gardener Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 12:24pm

You've jerked me out of my despond, Frankie. I've just put up a superb exhibition on church vestments - the achievement clouded by non-stop miseries of my husband, I really feel that I'm sinking under the weight. And I can ONLY remember the bad times with him now - yet life HAS been good - and still IS. But, memories. Often on my own, not because there were not good memories 'a deux' but there were no distractions. The bay of Taranto, a particular blue, in December, driving alone to Sicily - the great curve of the bay - with orange trees in full fruit, and snow covered mountains beyond, magic. January in Sicily, marigolds and barbary iris, and the silence and beauty of the hills. Calabria - dizzy views 500 metres down to the Mediterranean, passing through forest of conifers and oaks in Autumn dress. Tea plantations in Java, with the schoolchildren emerging in impeccable uniforms from unimaginable hovels. The 'ring of fire' in Bali, white herons flying in in thousands, waiting for our banana pancakes. One awful memory, the starkness of internal Viet-nam after Agent Orange. The starkness of the sides of the volcano Krakatoa, a strange beauty. Dolphins and huge jelly fish following our special cruise ship between Java and Sumatra. Singing sand dunes in Qatar. Indian children (total outcasts) throwing petals over us during our golden wedding celebrations. I could go on for pages - thank you again, Frankie, I needed a good kick up the whats-it.

Frankie Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 12:25pm

Hi Dawn; oh it's so easy to ruminate over the bad stuff ...
The phrase "if only ..." should be completely banned!
Thanks RATG - good luck!
Sometimes a piece of music or song can also help stimulate the positive memories ...


Frankie Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 12:31pm

Hello Gardener
Wow, what wonderful scenes you paint...
And what a tough time you are having of it at the moment ...
Can you get any support? Time off - even if only half an hour?
Don't be too hard on yourself (easier said than done, I know) Your achievements day by day are huge!

Julia Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 1:21pm

Hello Frankie. I have problems sleeping well, to put it mildly, and last night, lying awake yet again, I tried to focus on certain scenes in my life, like a bike ride, a trip down the river, our French garden. It did work for a while but my mind kept going all over the place and I didn't find myself drifting off, sadly. I will try to look back and recreate nice memories tonight. I really identified with Jen's comment above where she says that her mind sees what was actually in reality a good time but in her mind, it wasn't that good. It all depends on how we are feeling on the day;that's what determines my take on a day. It shouldn't be like this though. We should accept that when objectively an occasion goes well, everyone says it did and clearly everyone was enjoying it, just because we found it hard to connect at the time, it doesn't mean everyone else noticed and that we ruined their enjoyment too! But Frankie, I am sorry to read that one of your children has depression. Hopefully he or she will grow out of it. It's good you are aware of it at this early stage and hopefully, life will take a turn for the better for your child in totally unexpected and unanticipated ways.
Your blog today is a good reminder of a way to get us insomniacs off to sleep.

Frankie Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 2:01pm

Hello Julia!

I wonder whether when you focus on, say, a bike ride, it would help to imagine describing it to someone else? This might help you distance yourself from how you were feeling at the time, and to be more objective and focussed on the details of the scene.
Just a thought ...

Yes, we watch her carefully; she is in a better place now than a while back (when I wrote this blog) and she works hard on functioning week by week; I am actually very proud of the way she does cope ... but it can be hard to see her during her bad periods ...

LOVE the "totally unexpected and unanticipated ways" - a timely reminder to me to step back and let her be and grow in her own way. We mums just love to organise and sort things out don't we?!!!

Frankie xx

Julia Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 2:11pm

Thank you Frankie. I'll do this. Good idea. You must be very proud of your daughter. Yes it's hard to let go when we think we know the solutions and love them so much.

Sal Sat, Sep 19th 2015 @ 9:43pm

Lovely blog Frankie, a great suggestion, and an uplifting read. Many thanks.

Frankie Sun, Sep 20th 2015 @ 2:09pm

Thanks for the feedback Sal; glad it helps!

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