HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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For anyone out there who is like me, awake, excited and wanting to wake everyone up in the house, plus all the neighbours, … Happy Christmas!

And for those in different time zones, Happy Almost Christmas and Happy Boxing Day!

Have a wonderful day, and may it be full of love.

Katie xx

CBT … Stopping the Negative Thoughts.

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Good habits, bad habits, they’re a part of us.

I spend my life trying to halt the bad habits in their tracks with a large stop sign and a smattering of self control. I usually fail, dismally.

The limited good habits that I have and I am scrabbling around trying to think of what indeed they actually are, I am unbearably smug about. Ah yes, I don’t like dark chocolate at all and therefore I don’t eat it. Filthy stuff. So when offered some, I say with a sweet self-congratulatory and faintly superior smile, “Oh no, thank you, but I’ll pass this time!” as though I have some exorbitant levels of self control and treat my body like the proverbial temple. I don’t. I am effectively lying. I just don’t like dark chocolate. Oh God, I’m a fraud.

However, back to the point; stopping the negative thoughts. Do you have a habit of thinking about something vaguely depressing or negative (usually about the past) that within minutes can be blown out of all proportion? And one’s musings seem to slide downwards into the dark murky waters of depression? Well, in the wonderful world of CBT there is a name for this:

RUMINATION.

Now, when these negative thoughts start to take over, there are 3 points to ask:

1). Have I made any progress towards solving the problem?

2). Do I have a better understanding about this problem now that I’ve been thinking about it? And finally,

3). Am I feeling better or less depressed than before I started thinking about this?

If the answer is a clear NO, then yup, you’re ruminating.

Thinking about something and trying to find a solution is completely different and not to be confused with rumination. Trying to find a solution is positive. Rumination is not. Rumination is a habit, of the bad, disgusting dark chocolate variety.

How to stop it

The CBT experts will give you a load of chit chat about bringing yourself back to the present as rumination is so often about the past, I however need less of the chit and none of the chat. I need answers and solutions in what to do. So cutting through it all, the answer is this:

As soon as you have asked yourself those 3 questions above, recognised that yes, you are ruminating, immediately GET UP AND DO AN ACTIVITY. Um, yes it’s actually that simple but as with so many things, distraction is a powerful tool.

A pleasurable activity is of course the easiest way. Baby steps and all that. But in simple terms, find something, anything that ensures that your brain is totally and utterly focussed.

Despite some claiming to be able to multitask, it is impossible to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. Perhaps that is why rubbing your tummy and patting your head is so difficult, but maybe that’s just me. Whether this activity is turning on the television and cleaning out a cupboard, blogging, cooking, whatever floats your boat … it simply doesn’t matter. It’s just a case of stopping ‘feeding the beast’ and bringing an end to this self destructive habit called rumination.

Every time it happens again, repeat the process. Yes, your cupboards will be incredibly clean and you will have devoured the entire Game of Thrones series, but you will be learning how to stop the habit. And eventually, ‘the beast’ will wither and die. The habit will go and less effort will be required. You may become a serial cleaner with a penchant for trashy tv but hey … does it matter?

To me, this makes a lot of sense, and yes, I’m doing it. And yes, it works.

To summarise for those who haven’t read the above:

. Recognise it and act on it.

Give it a go … you have absolutely nothing to lose, but a happy and peaceful life to gain.

Katie xx

Do you ruminate? Do you let it lead you into the depths of despair or do you try and break the cycle?

NO! NO! NO!

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Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.

Issue 1

I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.

Issue 2

I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.

And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.

I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.

So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.

And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.

As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:

Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)

Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),

Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)

Again, I hope you get the gist.

There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”

I can’t say No!

So the question is twofold:

1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and

2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.

All answers, suggestions welcomed ….

Katie xx

Mirror Mirror On The Wall …

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When I look into a mirror, it is usually with trepidation. I never quite know what I shall see. The majority of the time I can see only the flaws, and yet just occasionally when the light is low and soft and I am at peace with the world, then what I see makes me content.

Beauty is a funny old business. What one person finds attractive, another finds repellent. But what do I see in the mirror?

I see a vibrant woman full of life with hopes and dreams. I see gentle creases from a life lived with laughter and joy. I see a strong, proud body that has carried children and hands, arms and legs that have worked tirelessly and with vigour throughout.

And yet sometimes I still see the little girl crying, needing, wanting her mother. I see the lost look in her pale eyes as she craves the security of love. I see a tired face lined from the incessant ravages of life and the vacant stare at the fear of facing the future.

With minimal effort we can show the world one face, and yet hiding behind the shield may be something remarkably different. Or perhaps we simply change like the tides, depending on what life or perhaps God throws at us.

Yes, beauty is a funny old business.

Katie xx

How do you see yourself? What do you see in the mirror?

Happy Days

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The other day I thought I was a bit down … a bit depressed. A few things have been going on lately that I thought had triggered Betty the depressive demon out of the garage to pay me a visit.

Wrong.

I was so filled with self pity that I had a little wallow in the gloopy soup of misery. What however I failed to recognise, is that it’s ok to sometimes just be a bit blue. That’s life. That’s normal. What however is not normal is how I dealt with it. I wasn’t quite hiding in the understairs cupboard with a vat of wine and a twin packet of ginger nuts, but it was looking rather appealing.

So, with a gentle nudge from the Colonel, my long suffering husband, I took to cleaning his pride and joy, the car. It was due to be sold so this was the moment.

Now, to explain, this is a car that should I leave hair bands, hand creams, spare water, emergency biscuits in, they are removed by my husband with a grimace whilst holding his breath. This is the car that should I accidentally put a grubby finger on the windscreen, causes a reaction in said husband that is somewhat akin to what I assume would be being tasered. It renders him speechless and incapacitated for a few moments, and finally as the shock wears off he disappears with considerable haste into the boot to find cloths and cleaning products. Strangely he doesn’t find my stifled guffaws of laughter and snorting giggles of apology help the situation.

So a few days ago, I took my blue mood out to the car and cleaned.

I spent seven hours cleaning that car. Yes.

I washed, polished, waxed, buffed and buffed again. I cleaned under the bonnet, inside the door frames, inside the petrol cap. I hoovered and sucked and sprayed. I used every single bottle from the vast array in his car cleaning box and then went and bought more. I replaced dust caps that I had lost when puffing up the tyres, I tried (and failed) to clean up the teensy scrapes along the alloys (ok, darn big chunks were missing). All in all, that car hadn’t looked that good since we bought it (bar the alloys).

A day in the autumn sun being busy, active, chatting to random strangers who passed by the house, and not only was a left with a sparkling car, but my mood was completely and utterly rectified. I felt marvellous.

The Colonel returned from a hard day of doing whatever it is that he actually does, and it was a ‘taser moment’ all over again. He was speechless and just stood staring. I grinned and squealed rather a lot, hopping up and down with crossed legs in excitement at his wonderful reaction.

After showing him every inch of the car, he emptied the garage and insisted that it stay inside protected until any potential buyers came to view it. Suffice to say, we have sold it to the first person at asking price but sadly my dear husband has now delegated any car cleaning duties in the future to yours truly. Not every cloud has a silver lining.

Katie x

Do you have a car and who cleans it?? Do you love or loathe the job? Or is it some kind of therapy?

Not Far Now …

Well, I’m nearing the end of what can only be described as an extraordinary 26 days.

I have 7 left and short of Claude (my bicycle) and I completely running out of steam or getting squashed by a truck, we’re almost there. Being the eternal pessimist however, yet always full of hope (and no I don’t know how that works), I’m never one to count my chickens and it certainly ain’t over till the fat lady sings as they say.

Most of what has happened will be in ‘the book’, but suffice to say I have enough material to write a trilogy.

I have laughed until I tears have streamed from my eyes, I have cried, wailed, howled in pain and in fear, and screamed at myself to dig deep, not just once, but almost daily.

And the outcome? I have found a strength not just physically but mentally that I never knew existed. I have been alone and sometimes desperately lonely … and sometimes just simply desperate. I have lain in a tiny tent being battered by storms for 48 hours, convinced that at any moment in the darkest of nights it was all over.

And yet, I have found kindness and generosity, laughter and warmth. I have been propositioned by men both younger and about forty years older than me and have also discovered that camping au naturiste doesn’t mean a beautifully natural site in the pine forests, at all … I have been given a standing ovation, snarled at, snapped at and had to deal with handfuls of drunkards. And that’s only scratching the surface.

And for what you might well ask? Why would any sane person put them self through this? A personal challenge? A midlife crisis? Or perhaps simply a woman looking to find where the girl in her had gone. The girl who was once fearless and strong but somewhere through that inevitable process called life, became lost, became frightened of everything but most of all, became frightened of the negative voices in her head, the unutterably foul, burdensome and oppressive voice of a demon called Betty.

Katie xx

Has your past restricted your future? And how do you intend to remedy this?

Ps. If any of you have got this far with my drivel, you mightn’t believe me if I told you that I’m in a bar and La Vie en Rose is playing … I’m in heaven.

Is a Lack of Moderation Simply a Lack of Self-Control?

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I am one of those strange creatures in life who doesn’t just have a minor deficiency when it comes to the trait of moderation; rather, it doesn’t exist whatsoever.

On a positive note, as obviously there has to be one, (I am nothing if not eternally hopeful) what it does mean is that we non-moderators are full of passion. We are ones of extremes. There is no soft diffusing button, melting polars into each other. It is one or the other.

When we love, it is with intensity. God help those on the receiving end. They should be given a manual on how to cope. But when we hate, we loathe with an intensity second to none. I’m beginning to understand why as a little girl I found finding friends so difficult.

Whatever relationship we have, be it with another human being or even something as simple as food or drink, (yes I’m going there), it is extreme.

For example a fellow blogger (you know who you are) has a complete passion for ice cream, a certain flavoured ice cream I seem to recall, my love however is ginger nut biscuits. Put a packet in front of me and whoosh! They’re gone. The problem is that being so crunchy, it’s not something that can be quietly nibbled on whilst watching the telly. Unless, like in the cinema you wait until there’s a particularly noisy scene and then munch like crazy before it all goes suddenly quiet again and you’re caught out with a mouthful of half crunched crisps or biscuits going slightly soggy in your mouth but determined not to ruin everyones viewing within six feet. Tricky.

Sadly, I have little self control in this area. If I am on my own and therefore decorum can be eased somewhat, I don’t nibble delicately, I guzzle. Not ladylike I am fully aware, but I can promise you that I will never do this in your company.

But is this just a lack of self control? Of discipline? How did we miss out on this important piece of learning? (Clearly I was smoking in the woods at school during this particular lesson.). If we had an ounce more restraint perhaps. A little composure and grace.

After all, let’s throw a little philosophy into the mix to enhance the point, isn’t temperance one of the four cardinal virtues? In ‘The Republic’ Plato (bear with me here …) narrates a discussion of the character of a good city which included temperance which he said was ‘common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen and with animal appetites to whom no special virtue was assigned.’ Does he mean that we craftsmen with animal appetites have temperance or simply need to have it … If Pluto speaks of it, then it must be true. How extraordinary though! Am I a ‘producing class’ ie ‘working class’? From reading Jilly Cooper’s book ‘Class’, I would very much have put myself down as middle class, so I’m now rather torn between believing Plato or Jilly. What a conundrum.

May I continue? Drinking … Once I developed a taste for it, frankly it was all over. Thankfully it wasn’t (apart from my totally off-the-rails stage late teens) until I was in my mid-forties that alcohol became less of a friend and more of a naughty, somewhat addictive lover. Again, rather less Jane Austin’s even raciest moments, and more Fifty Shades of Grey.

But of course somewhat predictably, I always take things to the farthermost point and suddenly discovered what had previously been a way of relaxing the body and mind at the end of the day, had become a serious problem. I suspect some of you can relate to that. By that stage of course there is a fairly acute issue to deal with.

Smoking … I’m not even going to bother going there .. It’s a constant and pathetically boring battle of mine of always wanting, but never allowed. I shall continue to stamp my feet and have a tantrum.

Happiness and/or sadness. No, that’s much too vanilla for the likes of us. It’s either pure unadulterated, unmitigated and all-consuming ecstasy or I’m researching how painful it is to die in various ‘formats’ and googling Dignitas. I write not with humour at this point.

Sport. We don’t do a gentle jog around the park, a lighthearted game of tennis or a cycle ride for twenty minutes in the middle gears. Pah! Of course not. We push ourselves to our utmost and ultimate limits. We need and feed off that feeling of intensity. So, that gentle jog results in marathons being completed, a course of tennis lessons ends in daily three hour practice sessions followed by competitions, and a bit of a cycle pootle results in foolhardy trips from north to southern France (I had to get that in didn’t I …)

The list however is endless and a lack of moderation seeps into every aspect of our lives. From levels of anxiety and depression, to anger, OCD, to social media and how we deal or don’t deal with it … on and on and bloody on.

For we non-moderators, life exists at each end of the spectrum and then some. Our minds are frenetic and often filled with dozens of thoughts racing around and we struggle to find which ones to put into action and which to ignore … It’s like running from the North Pole to the South, daily. Sparkly and glittering one day, damp, dark and depressing the next. And because we put our heart, soul and body into everything we do and think and say, perhaps it is hardly surprising that we feel the need for acknowledgment and even praise for our extreme efforts. Therefore we can be needy and demanding. Attractive qualities? No, probably not. It is however completely and utterly exhausting.

But where we lack middle ground, we make up for in other ways. You could never find a better friend. You could never find a person with more dedication for their chosen subject, person or sport. You will be loved with intensity and if you are married to us, then we will make love to you with unsurpassed passion. We are filled with the utmost emotions of joy, excitement, laughter and love.

Fear not, it is just our way. And if, if you should find us not too strange, unhinged, a little too erratic, and choose to accept us for the extraordinary creatures that we are, (perhaps sometimes very gently reminding us to be calm) and return our love, you would be hard pushed to find a more grateful, more loving recipient.

Katie xx

Do you know anyone like this, or is it in fact you?

Mental Health or Mental Illness?

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I dislike the terms ‘Mental Heath’ and/or ‘Mental Illness’. Actually that’s a bit of an understatement.

For me, simply using the word ‘mental’ immediately brings images to my mind of the mental asylums of old, with padded cells, beds with wide leather straps and children being torn from the arms of their mothers. The film industry frankly hasn’t helped either. The pictures of a wife or husband being dragged away screaming, out of control, desperate. (As an aside …. And they wonder why we still hide our true feelings and thoughts?!)

I’d go as far as to say that I find it distressing. It brings fear into my mind. Fear that only a few generations ago, this could have been any one of us taken away by the men in white coats and having every element of control of ourselves and our lives taken away. And the realisation that in fact an understanding of this disease is so very recent. If we had been born a little earlier, we too could have been locked up, with no likelihood of ever seeing the light of day again. A prison.

I have been searching within the old grey matter for some time now for a softer phrase. A kinder term and finally I came across a fellow blogger (Lynda Estacio) who recently described her mental health as her emotional health.

My search is over.

I have thanked her, because for me, it describes the illness without any upsetting connotations.

My life is one filled with emotion. I am a person whose days historically have been ones filled with a zigzag of extreme highs and extreme lows. If I was happy, I was overexcitable and faintly manic. If I loved, I loved with an intensity almost beyond reason and with obsessive undertones. If I hated, I loathed with intensity. If I was sad, I was distraught and simply unable to understand it or come to terms with it. Grief from a death or the devastating effects of a divorce therefore almost destroyed me. Essentially, my emotions were too extreme. As per usual, there was no moderation, and never any ability to control them or even understand them.

Now, thankfully there is less of a zigzag of emotion day after day, and more of a smooth curving of ups and downs. And that is good. That gives me the space and ability to deal with the natural ups and downs of life. Sure I have my blips. We all do. I have my insecurities and that is acceptable and normal, completely normal. Yes, it is normal and good to have emotion.

But in excess, it is exhausting.

In excess, it is frightening.

But in moderation, as with most things, emotion is truly wonderful and completely natural.

So, thank you therefore WordPress once again for introducing me to a blogger who has given me a new way to think about this illness, this disease. I just have to care for my body and my emotional heath.

Emotional Health. I like it … very much.

Katie xx

How do you describe your depression and/or anxiety? Do you mind ‘Mental Illness’ or is it just me!