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What do you say next? Friday November 20, 2015

I finally made it to my 40th high school reunion after many months of indecision. I had prepared by arranging to go with a few friends so I would not enter the cafe alone; I had a plan to go outside and walk outside if I felt overwhelmed and I even contacted former classmates on FB before hand. Ok, I did change my outfits about a dozen times but that was more about warmth than fashion or nerves.

I had just arrived and hadn't even put my coat down when I heard someone ask me "what have you done with your life?"

I took a deep breath while my legs wobbled, and I felt hot and uncomfortable. Why hadn't I prepared for this obvious question?

Do I say flippantly "Do you want 40 years in 40 words, in 40 secs, or 40 mins (OK I realised this wasn't an option!)

If I knew who the person was asking me the question that would have made the reply easier, but I couldnt read the small font on her name tag and I didnt recognise her.

Do just go for the safe domestic details, children, where I live or do I talk about my shop?

Bipolar has been a major part of my last 40 years but do people want to hear that here or do I want to tell someone whose name I can't remember. Will I be known as that woman with bipolar. The silence seemed to last for hours but it was probably only a few seconds when I put on my happy face and chatted about my shop briefly then asked her about her life.

During the night, I probably used all of the answers above depending to whom I was speaking.

I know I think way too much and over-analyse conversations and social situations. In the past I have avoided reunions or large parties so I was pleased that I took a big step to attend the reunion. I was pleased I managed to chat to people and listen to the amazing variety of life stories other women told.

It made me think of how we respond to questions and how much or little we choose to reveal about ourselves in social situations.

When someone asks "What have you done since school?", or even "How are you?", what do you say next?

A Moodscope member.

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

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Anonymous Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 5:37am

Thank you Leah for sharing your reunion experience! Good for you that you were able to go to your reunion! Now that the holidays are upon us and with it more social occasions, your question is so urgently relevant. I have a 25 year history of depression and still struggle with it daily. Those basic social questions have always been a cause for social anxiety for me. I am still unsure about what to say next before I can turn the tables and ask questions myself. I wish I could be as honest answering those questions in social situations as I am in the comments section of this blog.

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:27am

Anon thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I also try to ask questions so I don't have to answer them. This gets tricky if both people chatting want to ask and not answer!! That is so true about being honest in comments and blogs but not in real life social situations. I suppose we are not known here and we don't have a long history with each other. I wish I had an answer. Thanks again for making me think.

the room above the garage Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 6:32am

Hello Leah, are you glad you went? I didn't go to mine. I thoroughly agree...having to sum up 40 years is an undertaking. Mine too is bullet pointed with depression and that admission itself is too hot to handle. For me I avoid social ocassions and when I do go I think the only way through is to practice the replies like an Oscar worthy actress. Thanks for the blog and morning all! Xx

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:31am

RATG, Lovely to see your reply. I do think of you and how you are going. I went to the 20th and 40th so missed the 10th and the 30th.Think I may go to the 60th if I am still alive!! Who knows. When I think of the Oscars, I think of people thanking everyone they can think of!! Take care and keep up your unique way of viewing life.

Nick Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 6:35am

For me Leah, it all depends who's asking. xx

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:32am

that is a good answer. As I said it really does depend on who is asking so you know how much detail or effort to go into.

LillyPet Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:09am

Morning Leah, you've done so well to go to the reinions in the first place, then to survive them so well!
I avoid most social gatherings these days, I havent lost my confidence, I just weigh it up and opt out! The hardest part for me is not about being there, it's the pressure I feel not to let people down and the guilt of doing so. I think people kind of understand and bless them for still inviting me!
I kind of feel it's just where I am at the moment though, my day to day life is so hectic and busy that I try not to fit too much else in!
Thanks for a blog that's made me think about shaking it up a little! I might just go to the next one ( if the peeps are nice, or strangers! Not bothering with stressy peeps! ;))
If I'm asked those questions I'm usually honest in some way, very brief and socially positive with oeople I dont know well, or to fit the situation, but dont go into it unless the person is in a similar boat and wants to have a good ole discussion!
Sometimes, I have to think about boundaries more. I sometimes need protect myself from being drawn in too much, or becoming too intense myself.... Once I'm on a roll!!!! :))
You've inspired me Leah, thanks again and hugs to all! LP xxx

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:30am

Lilypet, Thanks for opening up and show us your vulnerability. I can relate to that. I can go to the 40th reunion but going to a monthly meeting for a local group is so hard for me so I usually avoid it.Take care.

danielle Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:43am

Hi Leah, well done you for going. I am a bit of a hermit crab and enjoy the warmth of my sofa and company of the cat and OH so avoid outings - when i go out i always enjoy myself though. I find it hard when people ask 'how are you' - most of the time it is not a genuine question but more of a greeting. do people actually mean it? Nick has summed it up - depends who is asking. when Mum calls and half way through the conversation asks - she wants to know exactly how I am, is the week flying by and going well or is each second a drag and I have no idea how I will make it to the end of the week. My colleague I meet in the kitchen whilst making a cuppa is not asking for this reason. Sometimes I do find it helpful though, as I usually say 'yes im good thanks and how are you' (even when the world is falling apart) which sparks some conversation about little things, but more often than not it is a nice distraction and refocus from my anxiety. I am quite happy that very few people in my life know of my anxiety and I choose not to discuss it with many people - because then most people just act normally which is so helpful at

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:34am

Danielle, Thanks so much for sharing your feelings. You have developed a strategy that works for you. Thanks again.

LillyPet Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:59pm

Hi Danielle, thanks for your post to me yesterday :) I replied a bit late, this morning! LP xx

Anonymous Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:43am

My response very much depends on how I am feeling (good day or bad). I know I zone in on this too much, am obsessed with whether I am having a good (lighthearted day) or bad ( heavy tired, no humour except sarcasm) day. So if I am bubbly, I will probably say "oh my goodness,where do i begin? ha ha" and in a way brush off nicely the person asking with no details, just generalisations with a few references to things I've done. If as is likely, I am feeling low, I will probably take the question very seriously and say boring stuff like my situation, married, not working now..I definitely would not talk about my depression and insomnia until I felt close enough to someone and if they suffered too and spoke about it. Reunions are unique experiences, like nothing else in life and all the past playground allegiances, alien groups and minor bullying pupils always surface in my mind and in the room, so I am reduced to being that school girl again. But it is a social situation, albeit a unique one, and that's how I would respond in a social situation. It all depends on my mood of the day!

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:38am

Anon thanks for taking time to think about the question and reply in a thoughtful way.You have made some interesting points that I will consider. I think one's mood is important when one is asked a difficult question.

Anonymous Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:44am

Above Anonymous is Jul.

The Gardener Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:50am

Like Leah - Impossible to encapsulate a 'life' into a precis for somebody you were at school with and may never meet again. If one was, for instance, a teacher (doctor, any professional) who did not like holidays and stayed near the family home it would be'University, 40 years work, gold watch, charity works and the grandchildren'. There may be people who fit straight into that mould. Moodscopers will know that our life has been 'bizarre' indescribable, certainly unable to package - driven by emotions - period of bi-polar - other than moving to France (positive) everything else has been 'events driven'. Money shortages, frequent, found us both with talents we'd never dreamed we had. As the house I was born in is under the M3 and the one our children were born in is under the M25 we had to move - into near-derelict house - brought out my latent passion for interior decor (making a 'home' out of nothing) and each time a 'new' garden. So faced with same question as Leah I could NOT answer. Only one sure fire subject. At a big dinner party, my neighbours always want to know about 'dramas' in our lives - always gets round to snakes. However quietly I talk the whole table stops. Some people have never seen one outside a zoo - so meeting them in the wild turns one into an instant celebrity (and, with my abiding terror of the things, it certainly is 'Get me out of here!)

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:01am

Gardener, I would say the table would stop to listen to you no matter what the subject. You sound like someone who would have an answer to any question asked. I envy that. PS Snakes here are bigger and more dangerous than most places.

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:45am

TG and Leah....would love to have you both to dinner to hear your stories :) and would listen intently, Bear

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:12pm

Bear, Thanks. I think everyone on moodscope would make a fascinating dinner guest- thats a thought that would make a wonderful dinner party with so many stories, so many lived experiences and so much wisdom.

Hopeful One Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:50am

Hi Leah- great post.One can cause paralysis by too much analysis.I would say - Just do it.That may sound daunting but every time you do it successfully it will boost your self esteem,self worth and self confidence. Take on every occasion to go. Write down in a diary how you felt before you went on a scale of 1 to 10. Write down how you actually felt having gone. I bet you after a few times it will become apparent you that your fears were unfounded.

Here is one reunion that lead to an unexpected result.(Joke)

Four lady friends meet 30 years after school at a reunion.....
One Lay goes to take food and drink orders while the other three start to talk about how successful their sons became.
The first lady says her son studied economics, became a banker and is so rich; he gave his best friend a Ferrari.
The second lady says her son became a pilot, started his own airline became so rich; he gave his best friend a jet.
The third lady says her son became an engineer, started his own development company became so rich, he built his best friend a castle.
The fourth lady comes back after organising the drink and food orders and askes what the buzz is about.

They tell her they were talking about how successful their sons became and asked her about her son.

She says her son is gay and he works in a Gay Bar.
The other three say she must be very disappointed with her son for not becoming successful.
" Oh no !! " said the fourth lady, he is doing good. "
Last week on his birthday he got a Ferrari, a jet and a castle from three of his boyfriends..."

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:05am

Hopeful One, I like the idea of writing down in a diary how you felt before hand. I wrote down what I was afraid of and how I would cope and that helped. Thanks for the joke. I think it is the way you tell it.

Mary Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:19am

Brilliant HO - best joke of the week!

Frankie Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:04am

Yes, brilliant HO; thank-you! Frankie

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:47am

Ah, HO, Lolilol is this Bear x

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:14pm

Hopeful one, Read it to my partner( I am no good at telling jokes, always forget or mess up the punch line!) and he laughed- he rarely laughs at jokes I try to tell him. Thanks

Mary Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:27am

Always a challenging question - what have you done with your life? I hope I could say "Made a lot of mistakes and stuck with them for far too long." Made some lovely friends, I've had some health issues and I'm now writing, which is probably what I should have been doing all along... I always refer to the bi-polar as "health issues" and if someone I feel is unsympathetic enquires further I usually say "long and boring story. We'll save it until you've got two years to listen and the only other option is watching some paint dry." I think the thing to remember is that nobody ever feels successful themselves and we all view others as being more successful (or at least happier) than we are ourselves. But then - hey - I didn't bother with my school reunion, so I can't talk.

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:16am

Mary, I think I am not worried about appearing less successful than my lawyer, doctor, actor,business, physiotherapist and academic former school friends, more I wanted to be honest without being self indulgent. I like the "made a lot of mistakes and stuck with them for far too long, " and would add even married a few of them!! Thanks for your comments that always give me something more to ponder.

Mr A non Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:30am

I am BP for about 35 yrs and your letter shares very many similarities with me. I find it worse when i am invited to a social gathering (Wedding,Birthday etc )many months or even years in advance of the BIG day.The countdown then begins and you have all that time to think. Who will be there? Oh no, so and so will definately be there, that's it then i can't go. But what excuse can i give as i dont know what's happening next week let alone next year. Plus there is the other concern of what will my state of mind be like by then? If i am in the depressed state i will be extremely anxious and would be fretting over it for weeks,probably Quite a few sleepless nights.On the other hand if i am feeling in a better frame of mind then it certainly would'nt be such a problem, i might even find myself looking forward to it.
As Jul said it all depends on your mood at the time.

Frankie Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:03am

Welcome Mr A non ... love the name! I wonder whether a possible strategy is to put it in the diary, with the thought "I can always pull out at the last minute" - and then refuse to think about it (easier said than done, I (know). One of darling hubby's more annoying phrases is "I can't think about that now" - usually just before heading for bed and snoring throughout the night - meanwhile yours truly would lie awake worrying away at whatever the problem was - getting nowhere and feeling rubbish the next day ... I am slowly learning that by giving ourselves permission "not to think about that now" what we actually do is to allow our intuition to flourish, and our intuition does know what is best for us - we simply (or not so simply!) have to let it flower in its own good time ... oh and trust that it is doing just that. Not sure if I am making sense this morning ... Morning everyone! Frankie

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:22am

Mr A non Thanks for your thoughtful reply.I had about 10 months notice for the reunion and did not confirm till about a week before! So I can identify with your situation. I am glad I amde the effort. It does depend on your mood but also there ways we can try to be in a better mood. I also found writing down all the worst possible scenarios I could think of or what I was afraid of happening- standing alone and having no one to talk to, feeling sad when every one was happy and having a great time. Thanks again for commenting.

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:16pm

Frankie, Thanks for your reply- it makes so much sense as do all your comments and blogs. I have been trying to give myself permission not to think about things now, as the more I try to relax, meditate, and focus, the more stressed I become.

The Gardener Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:04am

Best snake story for Leah and give frissons to others. Son and grand-sons were having a great time in the sea at Denmark (South of West Australia). I went up to the car for something - quite a lot of steps. Going down again, a snake, medium size, was sunning itself. A family was coming up, teenage boy barefoot. I said, not yelling in case I made the thing leap upwards, there's a sn-sn-snake on the path. The lad banged his sneakers on the steps and the snake legged it. But how many more in the undergrowth? The girl, about 7, looked at the quivering wreck above her. Scathingly, 'that's not dangerous'. Then she added 'not very'. How do you take that, it will just paralise your toes, or kill you slowly and without too much pain?

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:25am

Gardener, Some people are afraid of snakes as they are of talking in social situations and some may light of snakes and social conversations. If you are used to snakes as I am you are comfortable(to a certain extent) and you realise only a few are harmful.Large social gatherings can be scary but the more we learn about the them the more we can cope, if we chose too. Knowledge gives us choice.

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:51am

Oh the snakes.....if my husband sees a programme with snakes in it, I am guaranteed he will be having a flaming nightmare and thrashing about like a good ' sets off his night terrors...and not pleasant for me either...darned snakes! Bear x

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:43pm

Bear, Sorry Bear didn't mean to bring up bad thoughts about snakes. Sleep well.

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:47pm

You didn't and husband won't be looking in at this!! Bear x x x

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 11:59am

Dear Leah, thank you for this...I wrote about my anxiety about going to a meeting, back in August I think. It's the not knowing what will happen; not really knowing the people there and as much as I would like to go to a school reunion, it probably won't happen as I lost touch with all but one of my school friends, which I'm not worried about. I think deep down, we are all worrying inside, wondering if we will be accepted for who we are and what we have done.

I think it transfers into HO's joke quite splendidly as, let's face it, if we aren't talking about our grown-up selves, then we talk about our children and how well, or not, they are doing. The grass often seems greener elsewhere, but often it's full of weeds just like our own patch of lawn!!

I liked your response that knowledge gives us choice...they say it also gives us power...the power to do what WE need for ourselves, maybe.
Have a goodly day, Leah.
Bear x

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:47pm

Bear, I remember your blog about going to the moodscope meeting. What I learn from the replies to this blog and other blogs is that many people share worries about school reunions and other social gatherings and they deal with it in their own way that suits them. Sometime sit is to avoid and that can be the best options at the time and others use strategies to cope. Also thought Hopeful's joke tied in well with the blog. Night bear

Mr A non Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 1:49pm

Hello again i havent posted for quite a while,health issues, and when i did it was under another name. Anyway H.O. i like your saying Over analysis leads to paralysis i will remember this and hopefully put it into practice. Thanks Frankie Meatloaf once sang the line "Let me sleep on it, i'll give you an answer in the morning" which is alright if you are able to sleep.If not you're left pondering in the darkness thoughts churning over and over.Anyway bye for now Wishing everyone a good day

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 2:05pm

Hi Mr A non, I like the reference to Meatloaf's song...and yes, if you can sleep, it's a great tactic to think and sleep on it! Glad you are back and well enough to contribute again. Bear x

Anonymous Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 3:03pm

Hello Mr A non. You and I seem alike. I am in a low mood and anxious, over analytical when I don't sleep and how I respond in social situations depends on my mood so I think I'll call myself Mrs A Non in future. (jul)

Frankie Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 3:41pm

This is great Mr. A non ... and HO ... Over analysis leads to paralysis ... Thank-you both. Frankie

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:51pm

Mr A non, Over Analysis, leads to paralysis, that is true for me sometimes and at others leads to confusion- not sure which is worse! I too share the problem with churning and not sleeping despite all my attempts at relaxing and mindfulness.I really have appreciated your contributions today and hope to hear more form you,

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:54pm

Bear and A non sometimes I find when I don't try to sleep or relax, and just go with the churning and the over thinking, a solution will present itself, but only sometimes!

Dave Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 3:40pm

As we know there is so much stigma associated with mental illness....perhaps that is why each of us dealing with an illness are so hesitant to let people know how we really are...I am very selective in who I really share with and this may be part of the reason... but then I wonder perhaps I am not doing my part in overcoming that stigma by not being totally open with all people..another Catch 22 but for now I choose to play it safe

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 3:49pm

I agree, Dave...chicken and egg situation. Sometimes the peeps I really want to tell my liddle story to, have judged others with mental illnesses in a bad light, which then makes me pull away again and not tell them for fear of what they will really thnk of me and my problems. I hide it well - laugh and joke a lot, so most would never guess - there goes another Oscar-winning performance! With some, I think we have to play it safe! Bear :)

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 7:59pm

Dave, Thanks for your post. I agree it can be a catch 22. I suppose I have done booth. I have told my story to groups of strangers, written my story on a public website with my full name, written on facebook , spoken on the radio but then at places like the school reunion I decide what is appropriate. I find telling strangers or writing my story online in a public forum I feel will help overcome stigma and educate people. To people I hadn't seen for 40 years , I wondered how they would respond and more important how I would cope. The bottom line is we must do what we feel is best for our health and well being. Thanks again Dave for making an important point.

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:03pm

Bear, As I said to Dave, really we must look after ourselves and do what is right for us. When we feel supported and timing is right some of us will share. I agree it is hard when you listen to other make fun or say ill informed things about others with mental illness. Luckily for me most times when I tell strangers or friends they tell me about someone in their family or about their own experiences.

Mr A non Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 5:31pm

Mrs A non(Jul) I know you like and have an interest in music as we have communicated before. Possibly about a year ago, talking about Cat Stevens AKA Yusaf Islam but can not remember any more details.I can not remember the name i used back then either it may come back to me.Music can mostly get me thro bad times altho have had times when i cant stand it bye will speak soon take care xx

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:04pm

Mr A non ,I love Cat Stevens aka Yusaf Islam as I grew up with music and it does help to calm me.

Mrs Jul A Non Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 6:14pm

Hi Mr A Non. I vaguely remember the Cat Stevens comments. But don't worry about who you used to be. It's nice you have come back and remember me! I need to listen to music more. At the moment all I am doing is listening to and watching news about the dreadful Paris attacks. You take care too and have nice weekend. xx

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 9:57pm

Julia/the new Mrs A non...try to turn the tv off or switch channels...I cried for most of this last week every time I saw another image of beautiful Paris and those poor poor people who have gone through such terror. I don't mean turn off completely but be careful you don't get so absorbed with the horror that it takes you down further....think some happier thoughts and play Cat Steven. We saw a replay of some BBC programmes of singer songwriters and he was Brilliogs! Have a lovely weekend! Bear hugs x

The Gardener Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 6:56pm

Just got back from the shock of the day. Reading in bed two nights ago I closed my right eye for some reason and the left eye saw a blank page! Absolute panic. Anyway, more sense in morning, realised what it was - crystals growing on the transplanted lens after a cataract op. So just been laser zapped. A kind friend came and met me - in her 25 year old Merc. I found the drive a bit hairy - she's only 53 and admits not liking driving at night! Less scary driving myself, even with dilated pupils. So only just perused the later replies. HO joke a hoot. I was thinking of school reunions. 1st year at grammar school we had to vote for a form captain - we voted for the prettiest - she had confidence - I wonder if she is still confident, and if her prettiness lasted. Going in 'cold' to a crowded room does not faze me. What I hate is asking for favours (2 tonight) and selling - raffle tickets, poppies, my own knitting confections my own books. That's seriously weird

Leah Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 8:10pm

Gardener, another detailed comment full of wise words. My mum used to say it is a good thing we are all afraid of different things so we can help each other. I think many of us find asking for favours hard too. I sell things for a living but I much prefer to buy than to sell, which is way my shop is overstocked!! I am glad your eye is better. I like how you say she is only 53, made my day! My friend's mum is 98 and she talks about the young people in the retirement village who are 82! All relative. Sleep well,

Bearofliddlebrain Fri, Nov 20th 2015 @ 10:02pm

It IS all relative....I lolled at TG's ref to age!!! How amazing are these lovely peeps in their 90's and 80's!!!!! I'm sure I am a hundred and eleventy eleven and a mere youngster in their eyes!!! Leah, thus has been a good thread of help to everyone, thank you! Bear x x x

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