Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing with unhelpful thoughts

negative thoughts


We had a discussion about unwanted and intrusive thoughts and how they can be very overwhelming, causing fear, shame and guilt. We talked about how much energy is required to battle such thoughts.  People spoke about what can help; Safe cards, being aware that they are just thoughts, and the mindfulness practise of ‘Thought Surfing’.  We are going to do some more work on how to overcome obsessive thoughts next week.

We looked at how people cope when they feel in such a bad place that getting out of bed or leaving the house can be such a challenge. It says a lot about group members that while they often have to wrestle with these feelings they still make the effort to attend the group.

At today’s meeting some group members gave feedback from a conference they had attended.  There, they were reminded how helpful it is to get in touch with gratitude and  each day to make a list of three things they were grateful for.  For example, even if someone was annoying you to still think of three things you were thankful for about them.  They also talked about expressing gratitude and saying ‘thank-you’.  For example, say thank-you to the bus driver.  We feel better when we say thank- you and it can often elicit a good response.  They had also attended a session on stress control which they found extremely useful and we may invite the speaker as a guest to the group.  It is good to hear that many people are sharing the same messages about finding hope, strength and gratitude as solid ways of managing mental illness.  At the conference they were also reminded of the five ways to well being: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice,Keep Learning and Give.

Below is a poem that resonated with the group.

Depression Days

I am going deeper down inside, I am losing a battle and I can’t hide….

Going too slow, the pains starting to grow, it covers my head, staying in bed

No chance to recover needing a break, heading for a different stake, where things are a mess, and I don’t want to dress

My life’s a mistake, the nerves they will break staying at home and feeling alone

(Vincent Johnson from Reflections – An Anthology of Scottish Bipolar Writing)

Posted in Weekly Blog

On Eagle’s wings

eagles 2

We had a really productive group today looking at various topics.

Group members have been  showing enormous courage to push through challenges and achieve new things.  This has been made possible by learning to be more self-aware.  This began a discussion about how we can have control over our own emotions and responses. We recognised that we cannot control other people or situations and therefore cannot let these overwhelm our emotional state.  We talked about learning to control our emotional responses to external things, thereby having an internal command centre.  We will do more work on this in a couple of weeks.

We also had a discussion about why it’s good to talk with trusted people, we arrived at three reasons.

1. Talking breaks the isolation.

2. Talking breaks the power of negative thoughts.

3. Talking breaks confusion as it helps to order and structure our    thoughts and hear another perspective.

A big part of the group’s message is using social media tools to reach out to support others.  We are also aware that social media can be used detrimentally by some people.  Today we looked at five things you can do to stay safe on-line:

1. You can block people whose posts upset or offend you.

2. You can report abuse or spam.

3. You can minimise how much personal information you share.

4. Check out the privacy settings in social media tools.

5. If you are unsure about how someone is contacting you, the information they are giving or asking for, ask a trusted friend for support.

Given that our meeting was on the day of the Scottish Referendum, we acknowledged that, regardless of political opinion, people can have feelings of anticipation and anxiety, excitement and fear which can occur due to change.

People deal with different circumstances in life.  Having previously considered lessons from geese (on which the group’s ethos is based), we considered how eagles deal with the storms of life from an extract from Anne Graham Lotz, from her book called ‘Why?’

” What bad thing, what storm of suffering, has swept into your life, rendering you helpless?  The storm of death? divorce? disease? debt?…

Has…a feud erupted in your family? a betrayal occurred in your marriage? a rebellion challenged your parenting? an untimely end come to your pregnancy? a severance taken you from your job? a military deployment deprived you of your loved one?

Besides feeling totally helpless, what has been your reaction to the storm? Are you defiantly standing in the mist of the swirling circumstances, yelling in your spirit, why did you let this bad thing happen? or maybe you are withdrawing into a shell of denial and depression, hoping the storm won’t get any worse.

Even smaller storms of stress can be overwhelming when clustered together, becoming one large, collective storm of suffering.  Within a period of eighteen months, I went through just such a cluster of storms that left me emotionally gasping for breath.  From Hurricane Fran which downed 102 trees in our garden, to the fire that consumed my husband’s dental surgery, to [my son’s] cancer and surgery, to my parents increasingly fragile health that has included multiple hospital stays, to a home remodelling project that involved a contractor who took our money but refused to do the work, I reeled from one emergency or crisis to another.  On top of these stresses, we celebrated the joyful but exhausting weddings of all three of our children within eight months of each other!  In the whirlwind, I found myself wanting to withdraw from the aching pain and burdensome demands and frenzied activities and unending responsibilities.  I wanted to run and hide from friends and family who felt ignored or slighted, misunderstanding my busyness and preoccupation for indifference or arrogance.  I crouched in my spirit from the verbal cheerleaders who exhorted me to be strong,  or from the analytical critics who concluded it was my fault.  I wanted to escape the hurt.

I understand that a turkey and an eagle react differently to the threat of a storm.  A turkey reacts by running under the barn, hoping the storm won’t come near.  On the other hand, an eagle leaves the security of its nest and spreads its wings to ride the air currents of the approaching storm, knowing they will carry it higher in the sky than it could soar on its own.  Based on your reaction to the storms of life, which are you?  A turkey or an eagle?

Its natural for me to be a turkey in my emotions, but I have chosen to be an eagle in my spirit.”

Posted in Weekly Blog

Building a supportive community

It was great to welcome a new member along to the group today. We are always happy to have new members in the group, they can bring a fresh outlook on things.

A lady who follows our blog emailed us some data from the USA about suicide.  We would like to thank her for this.

(This can be found on . We looked at it as a group and it led to a thought provoking discussion considering the fact that there are higher suicide rates in certain states and not others. Some group members wondered  if one of the reasons for a higher percentage of suicides in certain areas could be due to geographical reasons, where people in less populated areas can be more isolated, as with the rural areas in Scotland.  If isolation is a reason for a higher number of suicides, we considered the vital importance of a supportive community and good friends.  We discussed how this can make a really powerful difference.


We looked at our ‘Safe Cards’ for making plans to keep people grounded during those times of extremely painful feelings when people just want a way out:

Safe Card

Someone I can contact;



Things I can do to look after myself

What can I tell myself:

How would I respond to a friend who was in a similar situation:

A quote that helps me:

Something I am grateful for:

What is my long term vision of my future:

Looking at these safe cards prompted the group to discuss how to ask for help; both being able to, and who you might speak to.  For some this was a GP, for others, understanding friends and still others recognised that being part of this group helped people to feel someone was with them during difficult times even when no-one was physically present.





Posted in Weekly Blog

Exploring the myth around ‘Attention Seeking’


Today the group talked about some difficult issues but also managed to have some light relief with a fun game.   Group members felt that support from one another had been special at this difficult time.  While group members can sometimes struggle to make it to the group the support of others enables them to attend.

A group member commented on training given to new mental health workers, who were taught that when someone arrives at A&E having taken an overdose, to listen to them.  The group were in happy to hear that this advice had been given.

Group members suggested that people who have attempted suicide are not seeking attention but asking for help.  We think this brings us to a wider conversation about the sometimes dismissive comment about people who have attempted suicide is that they are ‘attention seeking’.  Choose Life would like to suggest that if a person seeks attention it is because they need attended to and this is why it is important that we listen to them.  Sometimes a person may not have the coping skills to deal with extremely traumatic thoughts and memories or the mental torment involved in the illness of depression.  A person seeking help requires help.  The help actually required may not be the help they have asked for, but through support, listening and learning to take responsibility they can grow desire and strength to make changes.

In Choose Life we are often privileged to see people journey with great courage and putting things in place to help themselves. These changes are made possible with the support of the group. Group members said how much they value the openness within the group to talk about how they feel.

As a group we look forward to continuing to make links with other organisations to take change forward.

We would like to share the following article from a website called

“Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. I only just heard the sad, sad news of Robin Williams’s death. My wife sent me a message to tell me he had died, and, when I asked her what he died from, she told me something that nobody in the news seems to be talking about.

When people die from cancer, their cause of death can be various horrible things – seizure, stroke, pneumonia – and when someone dies after battling cancer, and people ask “How did they die?”, you never hear anyone say “pulmonary embolism”, the answer is always “cancer”. A Pulmonary Embolism can be the final cause of death with some cancers, but when a friend of mine died from cancer, he died from cancer. That was it. And when I asked my wife what Robin Williams died from, she, very wisely, replied “Depression”.

The word “suicide” gives many people the impression that “it was his own decision,” or “he chose to die, whereas most people with cancer fight to live.” And, because Depression is still such a misunderstood condition, you can hardly blame people for not really understanding. Just a quick search on Twitter will show how many people have little sympathy for those who [take their own lives].

But,  just as a Pulmonary Embolism is a fatal symptom of cancer, suicide is a fatal symptom of Depression. Depression is an illness, not a choice of lifestyle. You can’t just “cheer up” with depression, just as you can’t choose not to have cancer. When someone [takes their own life] as a result of Depression, they die from Depression – an illness that kills millions each year. It is hard to know exactly how many people actually die from Depression each year because the figures and statistics only seem to show how many people die from “suicide” each year (and you don’t necessarily have to suffer Depression to [take your own life] it’s usually just implied).  But considering that one person [takes their own life] every 14 minutes in the US alone, we clearly need to do more to battle this illness, and the stigma that continues to surround it. Perhaps Depression might lose some of its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focusing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression*. It wasn’t his choice to suffer that.”

We need to talk more about depression. Please, share this with your friends. Help the world understand that depression is NOT a choice.”