Thursday, 29 September 2016

A sense of perspective.

One of the hardest things to hear when I am at the bottom of the pit being smothered by the Black Dog is that 'things could be worse' – when that well meaning friend tries to make me feel better by saying that elsewhere someone is probably having a tougher life than me. Logically, they are right. Intellectually, I totally understand. But when I'm down there, in that dark pit, where the pain is not physical, yet is intensely full of pain, where normal feelings are dulled, yet somehow there is this other acute feeling of tragic despair that seems to curl around my body and soul like a snake, defying all attempts to break free by squeezing tight around my chest, binding my legs together so it's almost impossible to move, squirming through my thoughts ensuring the light can't get in – what could possibly be worse than that? I mean really?? They have no idea...

But of course they do have a point. It's just that another thing that the Dog (or Snake, or whatever image we may like to use for our depression) manages to achieve is to remove completely any sense of proportion and perspective that we otherwise might have: Nobody loves us. Everybody hates us. Nothing is right with our lives.

The only way I find to restore that sense of perspective is to experience others' trials myself, to learn about others' lives and to do whatever I can to help. Last weekend, I took part in two separate activities which helped re-calibrate my perspectives. I ran a charity auction for a friend of a friend, raising money for an organisation which provides support to babies and children suffering from terminal illnesses. The parents, aged 18 and 21, had just lost their baby. Ouf. Where do you start?

And then on Sunday I volunteered in a play group for children affected by bereavement - children who had all lost their Mum, Dad or a Grandparent to cancer. Ouf again.

I know that the next time I experience a depressive episode, the lives of these brave brave people will be furthest from my conscious mind. But I also know that such re-calibration activity does give me strength, when I am well. Strength to appreciate what I have, and hopefully strength to keep the dogs and snakes at bay for a little longer.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

When The Going Gets Tough...

Moral Fibre.

Hmmm – sounds like something you might add to your breakfast cereal, doesn't it? The type of thing that has to be smothered with seasonal fresh fruit, yoghurt and a drizzle of honey before it is even remotely palatable and, even then, is vaguely reminiscent of eating carpet tiles. But it's good for you, isn't it!

Some people call it having spine. Some call it grit. Some call it courage. But it's not the courage to step out of an aeroplane with just a backpack containing several metres of silk and technological hope. This is a different type of courage.

All of us face unpleasant tasks. Anyone who has cared for a young child, an elderly person, an invalid, a sick animal, becomes used to those duties connected with incontinence and gastric instability. After a while one becomes inured.

Then there are unpleasant tasks which involve inflicting pain on others. I remember a friend sitting at my kitchen table weeping. He had, that day, made two people redundant. But he had done it with compassion and honesty.

I heard a while back that some people working for a large company had received notification of their redundancies by text. There was public outrage at this; I think, quite rightly. "They didn't even have the decency to tell them face to face!" was the opinion.

Because it takes courage to deliver bad news face to face. Unless, of course, one is a sadist.

"Oh Mary, I have to do a horrible thing!" a friend texted a few days ago. I have no idea what it was he had to do. Given his line of work, I know I cannot ask.

 "Then don't think about it," I texted back. "Just do it. Then move on. Don't dwell on it."

And that's the trick, I think. Like the old Nike slogan, "Just do it." But don't underestimate it, or yourself.

Because it takes courage to visit the dying. It takes courage to visit the bereaved and betrayed. It takes courage to visit a friend who is behind bars. Especially if he is rightly behind those bars.

More than this, it takes courage to endure the unendurable over time; to nurse day by day by day, an ungrateful patient, knowing only death will bring release. It takes spine to do a stressful and uncongenial job every day to the best of your ability. It takes every bit of grit you've got to stay in a painful family situation providing love and stability for your children.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Billy Ocean sang. And, for some things requiring physical courage, I can quite see he's right. I see my friend who does Mudathons actually relishing the challenge.

Faced with moral challenges, I think that when the going gets tough, then the tough just tough it out.

And damn well force ourselves to eat those carpet tiles! Because it's the right thing to do.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Talk about a dream.


I love photographs and, in the days of old, when they were stored either in a packet or an album, I remember telling a friend that mine were so disorganised it was driving me crazy.  The task of sorting the packets into date order, and noting on the back the story behind each one, was huge! He gave me sound advice – "Don't try to fix the ones you already have, just start with the next packet".

Can we take this advice into our next battle against our mood?

How good would it feel to wipe clean our slate? Ignore what we already have and begin again. We can. There is nothing to stop us. For this moment, let's just drop the thought that we ever had depression or bi-polar or whatever drags us down. How would we live if it was not there? I would marry Bruce Springsteen of course. But we must remain realistic (sob!).

I would put myself to the top of the list and do yoga every single day, with a plan to train as a teacher later. I would invite friends to eat food, cooked by me, in my house. I would book on to the photography course (the one I left because I could not talk in front of everyone to introduce myself, and I was so ashamed and embarrassed).

Why can I not start any of this today? Of course I can! I can start with 15 minutes of yoga every day instead of an hour once in a while. I can invite one friend. I can pick up my camera and self-teach until my confidence eeks out from under its shell.

It is these things, and only these things, which will stop my depression from crushing me. Are you willing to fight the crush? It can begin today. Bruce wrote "Talk about a dream, try to make it real".

Let's hear it, tell me your dream...

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

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Monday, 26 September 2016

See Hear Say.

The three wise monkeys are famous:

"See no evil; Hear no evil; Say no evil..."

Except a) they are monkeys, and b) they are wrong.

It's actually poor psychology to concentrate on what you don't want. Try, for example, not thinking about a penguin wearing a tutu and ice-skating. Thought so.

It is better psychology to think about the alternative - what you would prefer instead of the "don't" - the negative? So the three wise humans would say,

"See all good; Hear all good; Speak all good!"

Wow! I think I just changed the World. (Well, my World anyway!)

How many times have I listened to some tasty morsel of poisonous gossip - 'cos it tasted so good. Funny how gossip is rarely about the good stuff, isn't it?

Well transformation - a dramatic metamorphosis - can happen when we change the way we think. I'm going to change, and you can join me, if you want to.

The most common setback to free flowing, happy relationships is insufficient and ineffective communication.

Privacy prevents me from citing specific cases by name but I've been building a business membership community for many years now and I know for a fact that the number one most frequently cited reason for not doing a second business venture with someone is 'poor communication'. I'm not talking about business ventures that have gone sour. I'm talking about financially successful joint ventures.

Even though these joint ventures have been a success, the poor communication has become a deal-breaker.

You and I can create joy in our relationships by purposing to over-communicate.

Booked a meeting via email? Call the person! How many times have you thought, "Job done!" once you've pressed the 'send' button? How many times have you not received an email that someone claims they sent you?

How about this for an amazingly poignant quote from George Bernard Shaw?

"The biggest single problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

I say, "Guilty as charged, your Honour!"

Now, I'm more than happy to own up to my own ongoing failures in this area because
a) I'm taking action to change the habits that keep me missing the mark,
b) I'm putting back-up systems in place to support my good intentions, and
c) I only know of one person who's brilliant at this! (Thank you Stephen for being such a shining example of what is possible!)

If we adopt the wisdom of the three wise humans in relationships, we can do three amazing things to create magic:

· See the best in our partner, our friends, and our family at all times - assume the best!
· Hear the best about them - which means stopping people in their tracks if they are keen to gossip.
· Say only good things about others. Period.

None of the above negates the sensible need to do extensive due diligence on anyone you let into your circle of influence - that includes Facebook and LinkedIn invitations!

I decide firmly that I will embark on the good habits of see, hear, say only the best in and of people I know and meet.

I decide firmly to over-communicate - to confirm and reconfirm - just as I resolve, right here, right now to back-up my computer!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Will it be okay?

"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." John Lennon.

I wish I was more optimistic and that I could believe the quotation all the time. I suppose I get impatient and if things don't work out within a reasonable time. I can't wait for the end.

I also have a problem with the word 'Everything'. I can understand some things being alright but by using the word 'everything' it seems so grand and a huge generalization.  Maybe if we see 'everything' as being a small section of our lives, then it may be reasonable that that small part may work out .

I think this quotation became popular when it was used in the feel good movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Maybe it is not meant to be scrutinized very closely. Of course we all want to believe that our troubles will all be worked out eventually.

If it's not okay it's not the end - I suppose I have the most difficulty with this sentence. Who decides what not okay means?

Sometimes people search for a "happy ever after" when what they have is really okay but they keep aiming for something that may be unattainable.

I wonder why does everything always have to turn out well in the end. The reality is that for some people things never seem to work out but somehow people learn to cope. I know the optimists will tell me we need to believe things will work out in the end so we have hope.

What do you think of this quotation?

Do you believe in its message and has it helped you?

Are you a bit like me and have trouble with some of the words?

A Moodscope member

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Is decision making driven by emotion?

Decision-making isn't logical, it's emotional, according to the latest findings in neuroscience.

A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery. He studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they seemed normal, except that they were not able to feel emotions. But they all had something peculiar in common: they couldn't make decisions. They could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, yet they found it very difficult to make even simple decisions, such as what to eat. Many decisions have pros and cons on both sides — shall I have the chicken or the turkey? With no rational way to decide, these test subjects were unable to arrive at a decision.

So at the point of decision, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.

What are the implications for us? Would being aware of our emotions as we decide help?

What do you think?


The Moodscope team.

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Life as a 'Pure Manic'.

First off, by diagnosis, I bear the label 'Unipolar Affective Disorder (Hypomania)', with pride. No stigma for me, no ma'am!

I'll introduce my world view with a short message, sent to a gal-pal enjoying the early stages of mania, but worried that she was 'too happy' and worried about the fall in to depression that would follow. (Her peaks of the high - falling off the mountain, to her lows - the foothills).

I will paraphrase slightly, to preserve anonymity.

"Fear of happiness is the most insidious trap of all, don't fall for it amiga.
We are highlanders, we touch the sky, to grasp the horizon.
The foothills are the pay-off, don't begrudge yourself the view."

This seemed to help her to continue enjoying her increased creativity (she is an artist) and she allowed herself the happiness.

As a result - no peak, no depression, just (if I may extend the mountaneering metaphor) some nice hill walking, with some fell running thrown in, for good measure.

Back to my point, because I am immune to depression (I've never cried, even as a baby and throughout my life, my only tears have been of joy or rage), I am unafraid of scaling that mountain, knowing that I won't fall, I'll climb back down myself, with a little help from my meds, both for prophylaxis and for short-term, acute stabilisation.

I don't intend the above to be helpful, because I know pure manics are as rare as hen's teeth, rather I hope to offer a little insight for those (beautiful) bipolar people who have wondered what pure mania would be like.

I'm happy to answer any questions if you'd like to know more...

Stay safe.

A Moodscope member. 

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Thursday, 22 September 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.

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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

What Doesn't Kill Us...

That which does not kill us makes us stronger, goes the old adage. Actually, it was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said it.

Huh. I prefer the one which goes, "That which does not kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humour." I think a lot of us can relate to that one.

Besides which, the first does not seem to be true. That which does not actually kill us, may leave us weaker, not stronger. Death by a thousand cuts is still a death. People who have defeated cancer more than once will tell you the second time is harder. Survivors of torture know that the second and subsequent beatings are more difficult to endure because you know the pain that is to come.

So how can we be stronger for a traumatic event? How can going through the darkness of depression make us stronger? How can we be stronger after surviving, say, a suicide attempt?

Apparently, studies have shown that some trauma survivors report positive changes and enhanced personal development, called post traumatic growth (PTG). PTG refers to any beneficial change resulting from a major life crisis or traumatic event, but people most commonly experience a positive shift by having a renewed appreciation for life; adopting a new world view with new possibilities for themselves; feeling more personal strength; feeling more satisfied spiritually, and/or their relationships improve.

Hmmm, do you hear that? Yes – that's the sound of my deep scepticism...

But maybe I need to rethink.

Because I know that I am stronger, more resilient, more compassionate and less judgemental as a result of my times of darkness. My relationships are rich and loving (mostly) because I am more accepting of how people actually are, instead of trying to make them into my idea of what they should be. And that's because I have to accept myself as I am.

I accept my condition. I have bi-polar; it's as simple as that. If I try to deny it, or hide it or fight against it, I sentence myself to more trauma.

Accepting isn't the same as condoning or approving. To accept means to stop resisting or struggling against what is because to do so causes pain and suffering. Acceptance means to surrender to the moment as it is. Not to give up.

So no, I'm not giving up. I accept that I will probably go down into the pit again and yet again, but I'm keeping my eye open all the time for new medicines and new practices that might reduce the depth of the pit or enable me to avoid it. Because yes, I'd love to be well. I'd love to be delivered from this condition.

And I'd love to know how easy you find this acceptance, and if you feel you are stronger for having depression.

A Moodscope member 

NB – parts of this post have been taken from a blog post by Debbie Hampton in The Best Brain Possible.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Take flight.

Months had passed and each one had been turbulent. I felt I was in a disaster film, unsure of which particular crisis would take centre stage next. Having a holiday was the last thing on my mind, not to mention the effort of packing us all away there. My attendance hung firmly in doubt.

My parents joined forces and knitted an invisible mattress which ran underneath me, and up each side, and it protected me as I bumped along. I managed to go on the holiday.

More turbulence rocked the boat during and after the holiday.  

But. Today. I found myself needing to go to the big bookshop across town. Not the clinical one with the heart made of pretty perfect pink plastic, where I can park easily and be the next customer in line, but the interesting one with the messy, fleshy heart, where I'm welcomed like a new pupil at Hogwarts.

The weather was conducive and I let my feet decide... they did not return me to the car or the bus but instead asked that they might lead. I walked for miles. Early morning, after my 3 rush hours had passed and before my other stuff kicked in, I walked alongside all kinds of people still battling with their rush hours. And it was so relaxing. My morning stresses melted away as I felt the skin on my back grow damp with sweat.

Once again, nothing has changed. But my attitude has been spruced up. (How I love the words 'spruced up'.) And once again I will jump on its back and ride with it for as long as I can.

May you find space today to hear something your body is saying.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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