Uncharted territory indeed

My readers will be aware that I use the online do-it-yourself mood monitoring tool Moodscope which I find invaluable in helping manage my mood swings and lifestyle.  Another welcome feature for subscribers to Moodscope is the daily inspiring email from Jon (Cousins) the founder of Moodscope and diagnosed bi-polar depressive. I always read his email and often wonder how he manages to come up with something different each day. Respect. The trick to these emails however is not just to read them, but to take his comments on board and try to act on them. It’s all to do with being proactive and positive and in taking the initiative, you will reap the benefits of your efforts. Like me today.

Yesterday (21 September), Jon’s email was entitled “Uncharted territory” .  I read this Blog post and it dawned on me that, unusually, I haven’t spoken to anyone new for quite a while. As someone who does a lot of travelling on the train and has responsibility for several different offices across the UK, I realised that I had settled into a “comfort zone” which accompanied my recent downturn in mood and desire to withdraw from the world.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I am always happy to make positive connections where I think they exist. Today, I was presented with lots of opportunities to speak with and work with “new” people and found it amazingly refreshing, exciting and I learnt a lot. Hurrah! Change, development, initiative, ideas, learning and creativity is what I thrive on and I feel that I have emerged from my self-imposed cocoon at last. At work I have “new” colleagues to work with over the next few months and I’m looking forward to it. The change is good and has inspired me to focus on what I do best with renewed energy.

This attitude and positivity also spilled over into my train journey home when I met a delightful young Somalian girl dressed in hijab and abaya who was travelling from Glasgow to  Leicester to help her Doctor husband pack his case and move up to Scotland. All she did was ask me, in broken english but with an endearing smile, which train she needed to catch from Birmingham New Street to Leicester. I explained that I was going that way myself and I would help her.

Over the next hour, we found the right train, some seats and found out a lot about each other. She told me that she has been in the UK (Glasgow) for 4 years and is learning how to speak English at Glasgow College. She also happened to mention that she was struggling to understand her tutor this year (a Glaswegian) whereas last year she had no such problems when she had a tutor from London.  At this I started to laugh and explained that if she can learn to speak English in Glasgow she’s brilliant! Although her English was broken, she made every effort to speak with me and made use of the vocabulary she had. No, it wasn’t perfect but she made herself understood and we “chatted” for an hour between Birmingham and Leicester.

She told me that she misses Somalia because she could go out in the warm weather with no shoes on whereas in Scotland it is cold all the time and shoes are always needed. She asked me if it ever stops raining and what is Buckingham Palace like? She wanted to know about my gold jewellery (obviously not European) and asked whether I had been to Africa. She will never go back to Somalia because “They are killing each other” and she will always look after her mum. She is the youngest of seven children and when someone gets married she does the beautiful henna hand paintings. All this and more with limited vocabulary.

 When we got to Leicester, I showed her the exit and where her husband would be waiting. Giving me a hug she said “Thank you so much. You have been very kind and it has been nice meeting you”.

Who needs Reddybrek for a warm glow? Not me.

Her name?

No idea 😦

I am blessed

I am truly lucky to have a small band of very loyal and thoughtful friends who seem to know the right time to appear to provide support and encouragement just when I need it, even when I don’t realise it.  It’s always nice when someone goes that extra mile to brighten the day and reinstall my faith in humanity.

This week has been a brilliant week for friends on many levels. Firstly, I discovered a fellow spirit and made a new friend on Tuesday when I met the lovely Katie. We sat and talked for quite a while over an early lunch and when I kept breaking into laughter, Katie would ask what was so amusing. What was so funny was that I could have been talking to myself. The same interests,a  similar outlook on life and shared experiences meant that I connected with this feisty, sensitive girl straight away. Even more spooky is the fact that we share a birthday. It was clearly meant to be.

Secondly, Sue came along and painted me a picture. A watercolour of my beloved orange poppies arrived through the post, beautifully framed and wrapped. Clearly a labour of love.  This is already a much treasured gift from someone I have known for a mere two months but whom I feel will be a friend for life. In the beginning I helped her realise that she isn’t on her own, and that some people really do understand. Now, the relationship has developed to such an extent that she is one of my few confidantes and being a “typical” Brummie, we get on like the proverbial house on fire. Thank you Sue.

Then, along comes the indomitable Colleen and announces that she has finally bagged her man! She is engaged to the wonderful Philip who loves her with every bone in his body. They deserve each other. They are a fantastic couple and deserve every ounce of happiness that life throws at them. For those who don’t know, Colleen has early onset Parkinson’s Disease but you would never know. She deals with this illness with immense dignity, humour and an amazing zest for life which leaves even the fittest of people breathless and exhausted. Go Colleen and I’m so looking forward to the epic party in April 2012. London Olympics? Your party will be the real place to be and the golden ticket to have next year! (Don’t forget to invite me!)

My cousin Julianne has continued to supply me with information and photos about my family which is so very welcome and is helping me to piece together the jigsaw that was my early life. This has made such a difference to me that I can’t thank her and her mum enough for spending the time in doing this. I am happier and more secure of my being as a result and it is not too dramatic to say that I feel a different person as a result of finding my family.

Nicolas continues to read my Blog and provide intelligent and sensitive comments on my posts. I truly appreciate this and again feel that although we have never met, we connect on many levels and in respect of various topics. In return, I love reading his weekly Blog which provides a quality of eloquent writing and deep understanding of his topic rarely seen in the professional arena, let alone in a Blog written as a hobby.

Judith has yet again come up trumps with her information on colour inhalation. As an alternative health practitioner she is able to tune in to my emotional state of mind without effort. She always provides simple and easy to follow alternative solutions to my agitated and confused persona and to me it all makes perfect sense. I now understand why I changed my Blog to “blue” and with a butterfly as my latest logo. Yes, I do wish to be calm and yes, I am ready for change.

So, along with Andrew, Caroline, Steve, Ian, Glen, Mand and Jenny may I take this opportunity to thank all my friends who make a difference.


Meet Milly the daisy-cropping Dalmatian Diva

Milly lives next door and she is a Diva of a Dalmatian.  Two years old and in the throes of adolescent attention seeking, Milly demands and commands your undivided attention whenever she hears you in the garden. Barking just loud enough to let you know that she is there, she waits for you to look over the fence and welcomes your presence with a very waggy tail and soppy-lopsided grin. Milly is gorgeous and she knows just how to show off her black and white spots to perfection. A red collar, adorned with a bone-shaped name tag is perfect and she wears it with the confidence of a fashion model.

Milly is at that age when the  long-limbs are finally coming under control and she is turning into a graceful and lithe dog yet she is still playful and can be gauche at times. Like all dogs, Milly has a character of her own and no more so than when she is cropping the daisies on the lawn. I have never seen a dog hoover up daisy flower heads like Milly and it is funny to watch as she goes round eating them like they are the latest dog-delicacy.

Milly- you are a star!

Thinking Day

For all you ex-Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, you may remember that 22 February is Thinking Day. Today was chosen as it was the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell and his wife Olave, who founded the Scouting movement.

You don’t have to be associated with Guides or Scouts to “think” and I for one will be thinking of friends and family at home today.

One of my closest and most special friends will be seeing their psychologist for the first time today. I will be thinking of them and wish them well with the appointment.  I so hope that it provides the support needed and recovery is speeded up as a result. “Good Luck *******”.  I may be thousands of miles across the world but I’m with you in spirit.

BIG hugs!

Stop worrying by Patrick Lindsay

Separate the anxiety from the problem
If you can’t change things,
worrying about them won’t help.
Allow things to take their course.
Options will open up.
Work out what you can do,
then do it.
When you stop worrying,
you think clearly.

What’s something you never believed until you experienced it?

I never believed that I’d find my soul-mate but I have. It has taken a while but the experience is worth waiting for and I feel complete. The last piece of the jigsaw slotted into place.

So what’s a soul-mate for me? It’s a person with whom I have an immediate connection the moment we communicate. A connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before.  My soul-mate understands and connects with me  in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when I am in touch.  And when I am not around them, I am all the more aware of the harshness of life and how bonding with them is a really important part of my life. It is an affinity which you can’t explain but never take for granted.  A soul- mate makes you more aware of the beauty in life and because I have been given a great gift I will always be thankful.

Hurry Down Sunshine

I have read many books about depression but I have never read such a wonderfully written, poignant and honest account of this illness which focuses on the effects of bi-polar depression on the family of the patient, Michael’s daughter Sally,  rather than the patient themselves. That is not so say that Sally, her symptoms and recovery, are overlooked, and reading this book as a parent myself, I felt every sympathy for Michael. I come from a family which has been affected by depression for generations and I live in constant fear that my 15 year old son will present symptoms at some point. I hope not, and so far so good. But how would you cope if your child went mad overnight, which is what seemingly happened to Sally Greenberg, Michael’s teenage daughter.

Michael and his family suddenly have to deal with Sally’s apparent swift descent into manic depression and her extreme highs and lows. Behaviour which they had previously thought of as typically adolescent.  This all changed when Sally was brought home by the police one evening after she had run into a busy road thinking she could stop the traffic. Sally was subsequently admitted for inpatient psychiatric care  and then come the real battles. The family experience the prejudice and the stigma towards mental illness, the heart breaking affect of the strong anti-depressant and mood stabilising drugs that Sally had to take to get her back on the road to recovery and the overwhelming feeling of guilt that they should have spotted the early signs of psychosis earlier and somehow prevented the breakdown. Frightening stuff and Michael does not shy away from the problems experienced by the whole family as they come to terms with Sally’s illness and the realisation that she will never be the same.

Although I found this book to be a positive and intimate account of  Michael’s experiences, don’t expect a happy ending. Bi-polar depression doesn’t go away overnight and the book ends with a summary of Sally’s troubled life to date which gives the reader an indication of the hard work, perseverance and self-awareness that people like Sally have to demonstrate just to lead a life. It is energy sapping just to read about it, but hopefully, this heart-warming story of survival will help people understand a little more about mental illness and it’s effect on everyone concerned and perhaps make them want to learn more.

A great read-*****

Michael and Sally talk to The Times March 2009