Saturday 4th April 2020

Women of Courage Series. #30. Jayde.19/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #30. Jayde. 19/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

Jayde, now 40 (she will probably hate me for that as she was 39 when she completed her information) is The Jayde Universe from Little Paper Lane I love that we have met in real life….how much fun is it catching up with someone you know on-line. However, we did not really connect even on-line until 2018 when Jayde too had done what we did in 2015, move from Sydney to the Central Coast. I knew of Little Paper Lane shop at Mona Vale and visited once from memory. Sadly, Jayde had to leave the shop and does what she can selling on-line AND amusing (or is it educating?) many of her Instagram followers. Jayde’s social media info is below. Here is more from her. Pink-haired, kindness personified and all round awesome human: Jayde.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Actually now I am presented with this question it’s quite a fair bit. As of recent, it’s probably been the closing of my shop and moving up the coast with my 2 kids and animals and going online with the business only. I have separated from my husband and we moved from our home to a completely new area. So it’s only been the last year and it’s fresh and new, but honestly with mental health issues for like 22 years and chronic pain, every day’s a party in my Universe hehe

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I think I have had to learn to be an adult. That sounds funny as a 39  40 year old woman with 2 kids and 7 animals, that I haven’t been an adult my whole adult life, but when you have a partner to help with life, it’s very confronting to have to take it all on alone when you already have a bunch of other issues with your brain and body. I think the support of my family, friends and online community and talking it out always has been the thing that helped. It’s so simple, but I have been saved by the humans in my life. And normally kids would make you more intense with your feelings, but my kids seem to be a safety net for my brain. Even though it’s exhausting doing everything alone because their dad lives quire far from them and he is 100% away the entire winter, I don’t get time off, but my kids don’t make it harder for me. The work around the house is hard, but the kids themselves really help me physically and more importantly mentally without even knowing it. It’s just their happy energy that uplifts me always. For someone with social anxiety it’s super weird that people are the ones that help me so much. Well MY people do.  

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I think just that you CAN. Even when you feel like its the end of the earth and you are hitting the bottom of the ocean, you can tread water, or you can swim?! It’s heavy in that water, its better to swim and lift yourself up on that boat and if someone has a hand to help you, take it. There is absolutely no shame in being supported. You can help them up on their boats too then you all get to have an awesome boat party together and it’s so much more fun when you are supporting and boat partying with each other. 

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Absolutely. We all have to. If you don’t take leaps sometimes and be brave, you just stay still and never move.  I am right in this low at the minute where my anxiety took over in a gripping way, and the only way to fix it was to fix it. So I chatted to my dr and I changed meds, and then the withdrawal from the first antidepressant was HELL FIRE for my body and mind, and because I have been down the dark deep holes before, I knew that to help myself I had to reach out to the places of light, like my family and online community and friends, and its helping me through in HUGE ways. If I did this alone I would be a mess more than I am. So I make sure I follow my my ‘c’s. Community, chatting, courage, coca-cola and cheese. Always 😉

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Sometimes courage is just breathing through each day. I think everyone mistakes courage for climbing huge mountains. It doesn’t have to be some Everest act.  Sometimes getting out of bed for me is like climbing Everest but I chose to be proud of myself for doing the hard things. They may not seem ‘hard’ to others but thats not what courage means. It’s about you and your own depths of bravery. No matter the level courage it is. Courage is Courage.

 

Thank you lovely Jayde. I know I was a bit cheeky about changing your age, but heck, we November babies can do that, right?

Denyse

 

Blog/Website: www.littlepaperlane.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LittlePaperLane

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/LittlePaperLane/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thejaydeuniverse/

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #29. Lorna Gordon.17/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #29. Lorna Gordon.17/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

Lorna Gordon, aged 47, and I met in a cafe that probably does not even exist now in Sydney’s Dee Why. Her services as a blog newsletter writer and more had been recommended by a mutual friend. We hit it off from the start and back in those days my blog DID have a regular newsletter that I eventually could put together. We remain friends more on-line these days but we know similar areas of Sydney’s west, where she and her husband and children now live. This year is a big one for Lorna. Her ‘baby’ started big school. Let’s get on to find out more of this woman’s story.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I moved from Scotland to Sydney in 2005 with my husband, knowing no-one and having nothing but the suitcases we could carry. That was a huge adventure and we never went back.

Publishing my first book took a lot of courage because you are exposing yourself in a very personal way, and once it’s out there you have no control over it. My next book is out this month (September 2019) and while I’m nervous, I’m really happy with it so I’m glad it will be out in the world for people to hopefully enjoy.

I think my most courageous thing was having my daughter. I had undiagnosed PTSD and PND from the birth of my son and I fell pregnant when he was only 9 months old. The fear I faced with that pregnancy was extreme, but I was lucky that the hospital recognized my mental health was an issue, and I was referred to an excellent facility who helped my through my distress.

I went on to give birth on my own, as the hospital didn’t tell my husband I was in labour when they contacted him, so he brought our son with him! What had begun as a thing that scared the life out of me, turned into a very empowering, healing moment.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The birth of my son left physical and mental scars, both of which are healing. People may try to dismiss how you feel, but your feelings are valid, even if they don’t agree with them. Over six years on I still have triggers, but I cope much better these days.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Find others who have gone through the same experience as you. If you have had an illness, or difficult experience, speak to others who have had it too, while everyone is different, shared experiences can normalise it for you.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t let anything hold me back, I’m quite fearless! I’m not sure if that is my age or just me, but if I want to do something I go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You fail at a project? Someone says no? If it doesn’t work you pick yourself up and try again.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

If it’s a project or job then go for it, what’s the worst that could happen? If you are facing an illness or health problem, get external support. Your energy is best channeled into getting better or coping with treatment.

Adding: Lorna recommends seeing your G.P., Hospital Midwife and Community Health Nurse for any issues you may have post-birth and when pregnant if there are any questions or when something is not going as it might. I agree and thank you so much for your sharing this too.

Thank you my friend. I hope the year 2020 treats you well.

Denyse.

Social Media:

Blog/Website: www.legordonwriter.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/legordonwriter

Instagram: @legordonwriter

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends .

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Changes For The Good: Head & Neck Cancer & Me: Eating. 15/2020.

Changes For The Good: Head & Neck Cancer & Me: Eating. 15/2020.

Next week, I have been asked to be a patient-participant in a video being made for Beyond Five on nutrition. As many of you know I have been a Community Ambassador for Beyond Five – the Face of Head and Neck Cancer – since late 2018.

Announcement of My Ambassador Role.

I was enthusiastic to take part in this video initially…then had a small crisis of confidence (for the want of a better expression) and began doubting my relevance. I was, and still am, firmly encouraged by both the CEO of Beyond Five and my husband that I do have that quality! Thank you.

There is a back-story to this and I am going to share it briefly before making my points about the GOOD that has come for me in terms of changes from a diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer.

Denyse and eating…before Head and Neck Cancer. 

From early days in my teens and twenties I would self-soothe with lollies, chocolate and whilst I did not over-eat significantly, I did establish a pattern of eating for comfort. None of this was ever really a secret (certainly I did not have any kind of eating disorder, for which I am grateful) but it still was something I would not admit to doing (except me) and then over time, it probably began the life-time (decades rather than all of my life!) of eating for reasons other than hunger or to nourish myself. The bigger picture (pun intended) was first written about here and then, as I became more accountable for my past behaviours around eating, I updated here. Blogging is so good for this!

The above posts show that I acknowledged my eating and what it was doing to my appearance, general well-being and health. Yet, the ‘same amount of weight’ that would come off over a few decades (3 times at least) would also go back on.

What was I missing?

  1. Probably other ways in which to see food.
  2. Or maybe the maturity (even though I was mature in years) to see through the hard yards.
  3. But maybe none of this.
  4. I think as a serial dieter/eater/non exerciser and one who ate emotionally I just did what I did.

A Breakthrough of Sorts: Not Great Though.

From 2013 onwards, I acknowledge how serious my weight had become as a result of eating and less movement when my GP challenged me to try to reduced weight or she would be sending me for a Glucose Tolerance Test as I was becoming pre-Diabetic 2 in my test results. I managed to do as asked and my weight reduced enough to see progress. Yay.

Then from 2014, my anxiety ramped up (we were about to sell our house to pay out the mortgage as I needed to stop work at almost 65), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome re-entered my life after a few decades absence. From then I found I literally could not eat as I did before without the effects of mostly explosive diarrhoea. Yes. Unpleasant and socially restrictive.

Over the time of our move to the Central Coast, and some of my emotionally challenging times to adapt to life’s transitions, this continued to be a pattern and without ‘any real effort’ my weight slowly reduced.

I did, however, raise with my doctors, that I might have had cancer. I did look pretty gaunt. No, they said. OK. I did feel anxious almost all the time.

My Diagnosis of a Rare Oral Cancer: 17 May 2017, and How That Changed Me.

My story is told here on this page: Head and Neck Cancer.

This is a little reminder for me of what I went through back then. I was told on 18 May 2017 that where my cancer was located (upper gums and under top lip) I would require a compete removal of the top half of my mouth. THAT took a while for me to get over, in terms of the shock. Then I went home with my husband and thoughts raced in my mind. One was, if this is making me stressed, then how can I self-soothe or calm if my well-ingrained practices had been to eat something sweet, salty, crunchy or whatever. It was a rhetorical question. I had 7 weeks to wait for surgery and I was so anxious, eating was not high on my list.

Early Days And Getting Hangry! 

Following my 11 hour surgery, 3 days in ICU I was transferred to a room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and added to the regime of drips was, via my naso-gastric tube,  some nutrition. The liquid kind. It was, for me, yucky but in one way that was my aversion to milk-type drinks. However, as each feed slowly dripped into my very, very empty stomach I had to change my attitude towards this feed. I started by telling myself “it is healing me and nourishing me” as I get well. I know I was going well as each time my professional team dropped by, they told me so. BUT…even when I finally got to try to oh so good nectar of WATER orally, I began to feel hangry (cranky when hungry!). By Day 8 I was allowed some clear fluids. Hallelujah. Broth, jelly, and then over time until my day of departure: Day 10 a few more soft food choices. No teeth, except for 8 bottom ones AND a very stitch-filled mouth!

And then I Came Home. Lots of Eating Ahead? Maybe.

Before I left hospital I was visited by the dietitian who was incredibly helpful with guidelines for me, and offers of samples of food-in-a-bottle and that she would follow up my progress at home via phone calls. I remember her words “now, you need to put on weight”. WHAT? No-one ever had told me that. It was a complete revolution in terms of instruction. I now know that yes, head and neck cancer patients need to keep weight on but no-one has ever really revealed why. Note to self: ask at next visit to my team.

My return to eating caused a great deal of distress in me because diarrhoea came back with fury as my emptied stomach  rebelled with a strong anti-biotic inside. I did not, as I thought I had to do, follow the dietitian’s advice but that of my local GP who had already seen me through diagnosis and now post-operatively. His words were “eat what you are up to and can keep you going.” Drink water as much as you can. With that, I did share the news with the dietitian when she called and I appreciated her services on offer but has to do this ‘my way.’

What I Did Then. 

My mouth did restrict my intake of food but I learned to adapt and seek foods that were both nourishing and pleasurable in texture/ taste. Mind you, my reconstructed mouth was quite a barrier to a variety of tastes but it was important for me psychologically to eat normal food. But also the words from the dietitian echoed and to “add value to food”. This meant a tiny lemon cupcake would have some dairy added to it: yoghurt, custard, ice cream. I became well-versed in the inner conversations re “fun to eat but also eat to heal”.

None of this food preparation or meal decisions came really easily and it required patience on my behalf as I was normally the meal-maker and my right leg’s giving up of its fibula, skin and flesh for my mouth, meant I could not stand for long…nor did I have much energy. But, my patient husband (and then full-time carer including grocery shopper) would help me as he could. I might not have been able to bite into some vegemite toast but I could savour the flavour and add some slices of avocado for nourishment. There are posts here, and  here about eating in those days.

Before I became affected by the anti-biotic, this was what I ‘could’ eat. Soft, slippery and full fat foods.

And Over Time, I Made Changes as My Mouth Healed. 

From July 2017 until August 2018 I had only 8 teeth in my mouth. It is amazing however, that humans can adapt! Mind you, I also add, THIS human had to become creative in her eating as boredom set in quickly and a sense of resentment about what head and neck cancer brought to my now lifestyle. I did make the effort to feel more grateful and appreciative of all that had been done for me. There were 3 more surgeries too, inside my mouth, to prepare it for an upper prosthesis of teeth.

Creativity included:

  • value adding to sweet foods like small cakes which were easy to swallow AND made me feel less deprived
  • making up some small plates of foods that would have me feeling like I was not missing out
  • inventing dishes for me: crustless pies, taco-less tacos
  • finding more and more ways with mince. Thank you to my A/Prof who advised mince would be a good food and my iron levels did slightly improve
  • allowing foods like small pieces of milk chocolate to melt on my tongue
  • iceblocks and paddlepops eaten with a spoon – my mouth did and still does love cold

Weight Was Good  Healthy…. Then I Got Teeth!

Notice my crossing out of good.

This is a judgement I have made like many over many years about eating. I now see, and have learned to see that my weight can be HEALTHY even if the numbers have increased. I was incredibly excited to get the upper prosthesis attached permanently to the abutments in my jaw. I remember fantasising about crunching food, chewing food and more. Well….that is what it was… a fantasy.

A reconstructed mouth is a blessing alright in terms of appearance and function for sure. But it does not do all that my mouth could do, so again, I have needed to adapt.

Adaptation took some tearful routes where my disappointment in not being able to eat something was palpable. I know I tried various foods including crunchy chips and they were/are a huge disappointment as they sting inside my newly re-skinned mouth and I could not swallow them. Onward to crunching into a piece of apple. Actually no. But I can eat small pieces or even better if I grate it.

I could add many more adaptations and they will form a new post in the future.

What I want to write about now is my weight, self-images and stories that can be untrue.

Changes in Me For the Good. Health and Head and Neck Cancer.

From August 2018 until February 2019 my weight from the rather steady figure of around 69kg increased by around 5 kg. I could feel it but I also LOVED feeling well and having more food choices. I was somewhat disappointed for a bit that some of my clothes were more snug…then I said to myself “that was because you could not eat much nor as well as you can now”. It was to be an on-going inner conversation (of self-judgement) for a while.

When I realised what I looked like (one aspect of me) was HEALTHY I began to accept that this was a good thing.

  • In fact, I knew it was. I did however let the old weight-centred thoughts creep back.
  • I started to believe I might get back to the much more heavy person I had been in 2013-14.
  • I was scared but the clothes and the scales did not lie. I stayed around the same.
  • For many months, and now it’s a year. It has not happened.
  • In fact, I am a little less on the scales than a year ago.
  • I use my clothes now as a measure of how I am going.
  • Very steadily and the scales are used rarely but they are telling me what I feel it true. So, no more stories!

My Appearance on the Beyond Five Video on Nutrition.

I now look forward to helping present the patient’s perspective on what I have learned personally about nutrition and how to nourish my soul as well as my stomach and mouth. I can honestly say I eat for both pleasure and health yet in a different way from any other time in my life.

This is why I am grateful for my diagnosis of head and neck cancer.

I have learned to sooth myself through meditation, talking with my husband, using my journal, art and going out for coffee. This is one important strategy in my every day self care. In fact, the more I self care, the less I even think of a need to soothe with food. How grateful I am for that.

Each time I go out, or plan a meal or snack at home I often have to re-think from the old familiar paths of pre- head and neck cancer.

  • Quantities are very different. That’s fine.
  • I make mall dishes I can freeze.
  • I carry small packs of biscuits in my bag to have with a coffee.
  • I know too that I can manage certain soft sweet foods with my coffee and will often ask for a bag to take half home.
  • I have still not ventured out for a ‘real meal’ but neither of us are that interested.
  • We had had lunch with family and entertained here.
  • I am less self-conscious of my eating these days.
  • I do always have a small bottle of water nearby.

 

I Am Going Well! 

This is my stock standard answer when I am asked how I am. It’s true. I am indeed. I am glad to have seen the good that head and neck cancer has been for me and my eating. This is me on Thursday 20 February enjoying being back near the water after attending the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Group Meeting..and catching a treat of a small iced cupcake with a coffee on the way home.

There will be some updates after the making of this video but already, just writing out what was making me feel less than my normal confident has done me good.

Onward!

Denyse.

 

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week!

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*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 8/51 Unusual 23/2/2020

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Women of Courage Series. #27. Sandra Kelly.12/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #27. Sandra Kelly.12/2020.

Trigger warning: content: as advised by Sandra.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

 

 

 

 

Image credit: https://m.facebook.com/RhondaLockerPhotography/

If there is one place where I know I can find some care and support on-line it’s with Sandra Kelly who is 53. No, we have never met, but you can bet that if we did, there would be an instant rapport and a LOT of chatting together. This lady, known to me first via her blog, and now as a facebook friend has QUITE a story and it was she who asked for a trigger warning. I am in awe of Sandra and here she is, with her dear husband, with a photo taken as a memory of where they lived for quite some time before moving for family and medical reasons. What a great idea to capture the familiar for the future.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

First of all I’ll let you in on a little secret… I don’t see myself as courageous at all (no disrespect intended to those who do).

Whether I’ve been tackling my fear of heights to absorb a breathtaking view, or staring boggle eyed at a bloody big needle about to be shoved into my boob, I’ve felt nothing but fear, anxiety, doubt, sometimes terror and many times hot stinging tears – but I have certainly not felt like a woman of courage.

You might say I fit the mould quite snuggly of Denyse’s musings that gave birth to this series – “We women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives”.

Yep, that’s me alright!

I guess I haven’t seen myself as a courageous person throughout our many years of adversity as a family because life in the face of adversity becomes… well… just life!  You get out of bed in the morning and get on with it because ‘it just is’.

It’s not always done with a smile or without a tear or fear, you just do ‘your normal’ that can appear so ‘abnormal’ to those on the outside looking in.

I’ve been married to the most courageous man for the past 32 years.  When I think of any courage I may have needed to tap into over time, it pales in comparison to the courage he displays each and every day.

My husband has severe Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis, among other ailments, and has been in a wheelchair as a result for about 25 years now.  Infections, joint replacements, pneumonia’s, heart failure, countless hospital admissions and so much more has been our everyday life… our normal.

I’ve had to battle my own shyness and demons to best support and advocate for him and my family over the years.  It hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else doing anything else.

I’m right where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing.

 

On the days where it feels all-consuming, for us both, I trust in that little mantra and its undeniable truths.

Around 15 years ago our niece came to live with us permanently (she and her two brothers would come to stay every holiday since they were very young).  Around 12 months later the two boys joined us permanently as well.  They were aged eight, twelve and fourteen at the time.

We had a fourteen year old of our own, granny up the end of the verandah, hurricane Nikki the Labrador, Bing the allergy ridden Shih Tzu itchy dog, two cats, one bird and welcomed the boys two pet rats into the swelling family as well (yes, you read that correctly, two rats).

We certainly were packed to the rafters.  A full house but with much room in our hearts.

I’m in awe of the courage and intestinal fortitude my family showed during those early months and years of adjustment as all our lives changed shape. So much vulnerability at its best and its worst has woven a safety net of respect, love and connectedness that cradles us with its indestructible strength.  It is a privilege to call them all my family.

In early 2013 I was diagnosed with triple negative invasive breast cancer and under went surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  It was cruel.  Not only for me but for everyone around me.

Treatment wiped me out – physically and mentally.  I was a mess. In and out of hospital with infections and zero immune system fighting capabilities took its toll.

By September of that year I was a shell of my former self weighing in at only 38 kilos and not a logical thought colliding anywhere in my brain.  I was done.

I still shake my head and marvel at how I found the strength to crawl out of that hole and head space.  I think I used up a huge chunk of everyone else’s courage because mine was missing in action.

In 2015 I had a piece of my right lung removed because of suspected breast cancer spread.  Thankfully the lesion was not cancerous.

These few years were horrendous. My depression and anxiety were off the scale. I’m not ashamed to admit that I suffered two breakdowns in a three year period.

Thanks to the unconditional love and support of family and friends I survived it all.  Every cell of my being could not hold one ounce more of appreciation, gratitude and love for those very special people I have in my life.  Even that sentence falls way short in describing their dedication.  They fought for my existence in this world when I no longer had the will.

Recently we called on all our reserves of strength to sell our beloved home in a beautiful country town in Gippsland Victoria to move closer to health services and family.

We miss our lovely little community and our gorgeous mountain views and wildlife terribly but being closer to support services in ‘rural suburbia’ has been necessary and so worth it.

Being closer to family has brought us much pleasure as well and has enriched our lives for the better.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

My life experiences have changed me in many ways.  Some for the better and some for the worse.

If I was needing to shine a light on just one of those ways it would that I am definitely a much more patient person than I was in the earlier years of navigating all this ‘stuff’.

People need the gift of time and empathy to heal wounds and find their way, without judgement. I’m much better at gifting myself that same time and empathy now… well, most days.

I desire to live a slower quiet life.  Sure there are things I’d like to tick off my bucket list but I won’t be regretful on my death bed if they are left unchecked. I love the sense of safety that my home, friends and family bring me and I’m quite okay with pottering around home spending time with them.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Do the best you can and be okay with that. Try hard not to lament over how you think you should  be doing life in the face of your challenges.

Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself is a sure way to smother your courage and chip away at your spirit. I’m living proof of that.  Be kind to yourself, okay?!

Laugh at the absurdity of it all, cry your eyes out, go for a walk, pull the doona over your head for a day. What I’m trying to say is, the courage to get through your every moment comes in many different forms to every different person and requires acknowledgment of your individual needs to feed your internal resources.

Do what you need to build your resilience stores in your own way.

Do ‘you’ without shame.

Having said that I also need to say this:

 

“We are all angels with one wing, the only way to fly, therefore, is to embrace one another”.

There are a few versions of this Luciano De Crescenzo quote floating around and it’s been a long time favourite of mine. We are nothing without those who will quietly wrap their wings around us as we sit in the dark and still hold tight as we take flight towards the light.

Gather your angels… courage ought not be a solitary practise.

 

And finally, nurture your mental and emotional health.  At two in the morning when it’s just you and your thoughts you’ll be wanting to turn up the volume on your voice of reason to drown out that persistent fear monster and his incessant mouth flapping.  Explore ways that will work for you.

 

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I believe I’m less fearful in dealing with situations now that require me to find my voice and advocate for my loved ones, or indeed myself.  Being fundamentally shy I have to draw deep on my strength for this to happen.

I found that not speaking my truth was far more crippling and detrimental than the actual fear of doing so – even if my voice trembled.  Experiencing the fragility of life through various filters, like feeling the loss of your own power and control over what’s happening, feeds a need to be heard and understood.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I wish I had some profound, concise statement that I could wrap up in a nugget of gold for you to take away… but I don’t.

I’m still stumbling through life grasping hold of people to break my fall and trying to do my best for myself and those around me on any given day.

However, I do believe it’s very important to remind ourselves that courage is not defined by a puffed-out chest and an almighty roar striding head on with sure footed fearless steps in the face of fear or pain.  Thank you Hollywood for those illusions.

It’s more often than not a tentative negotiation of the stepping stones of life trying not to fall off and get stuck in the mud at the bottom… and that’s okay.

 

In the words of the amazing Kelly Exeter “Wobbly courage is still courage”.

 

Wobbly courage sits well with me. I identify with it and it speaks my language.

It just may work for you too.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”  Alfred D. Souza

Please don’t wait for life to begin on the other side of crappy times like I have done in the past.  These obstacles are your life at the moment – look for the splashes of joy in each day and live the now with as much purpose and meaning as your circumstances may afford you, in whatever shape that takes and serves you best.

I wish the gift of love and strength for you all.

 

What a heart-felt and wonderful story you shared so courageously Sandra. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.sandrakelly.me

Instagram:  @sandrakellywhatlieswithin

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists’ Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

The posts are returning each Wednesday from now…and I have posts waiting ‘in drafts’ for publication until April 2020. Do tell me in the comments if you would like to be part of this series. Already 27 women (including  Jane and I ) have shared their stories.

 

 

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

Introducing Jane Caro A.M.

Many of you may have seen Jane speak and give commentary on TV shows like The Drum and on Morning T.V. Jane’s voice, particularly in terms of Public Education has been remarkable. She went to a N.S.W. Public High School – Forest High and I went to another local Northern Beaches public high school too. Jane is younger than I but we share some common elements in our upbringing in new-ish suburbs that now command million dollar prices. I knew of Jane’s career in advertising (she has appeared on Gruen) from her first book and she has written others. Find them here. Jane generously took time to complete the same questions I asked others, and like others who I call “Women of Courage” she does not see herself that way. Enough from me, thank you Jane Caro.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

People often say they admire my courage, but I don’t really feel that I am courageous. Reason being, I am not afraid. Courage, to me, means doing something you are genuinely afraid to do and – th thing that most people see as courageous – speaking my mind – privately or publicly – is not something I am afraid of. It seems it is something many others are afraid to do – hence they mistakenly ascribe courage to me. I find this terribly sad. We ought to live in a society and at a time where being straightforward and candid is applauded, not punished. For many, especially many women, the opposite seems to be true.

Sure, many people (usually men) try to shut me down by insults, sneers, mockery, threats and general nastiness but I long ago realized they only have the power to hurt me if I give them that power, otherwise their weapons shrivel and die because I will not respond the way they want me to. No doubt being forthright has cost me work, promotion and opportunities, but it has also delivered all of those (well, except promotion, we only want lily-livered leaders apparently) and, best of all, it has delivered self-respect.

Was I born this way? Certainly not. I was hyper-sensitive as a child and young person about what people thought of me and I knew they did not think well of me. What is bearable in an old lady is unbearable in a young one, I think, which is why so many of my younger feminist friends cop so much more abuse than I do. I suffered from an anxiety neurosis as a young woman and it was in overcoming that that I feel I did something that required actual courage.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The neurosis was so debilitating and intense that it forced me to seek help via a variety of therapists, some more helpful than others. I learnt an enormous amount about myself and about people in general in the process of that therapy that has served me well ever since. Not least how to hang on to my own power in the face of criticism, abuse and bullying.

I think women are trained to seek approval and that is why we so fear conflict or unpleasantness or find it so hard to express ourselves without fear. This training makes sense when you are a member of a subordinate group. It can be dangerous not to be approved of and to be excluded. As a result of my therapy, I gave up seeking approval. All I try to do now is be as much myself as I can.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

After about 15 years of mental tribulation – I functioned fine, I just felt like shit – I finally overcame my anxiety neurosis (some may feel I have over-corrected). It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, just dwindled away slowly until I no longer suffered from anxiety at all. The dwindling began after I faced real danger (I have lived a very protected life) when my first child was born premature, caught an infection, stopped breathing in my arms and almost died.

She was so sick she got the last available neo-natal intensive care bed available that night in NSW. She eventually stopped breathing at least 4 times and had to be intubated. The next morning, I asked for help (as going to therapy had taught me to do) and spoke to neo-natologist and grief counsellor Dr Peter Barr. He said these three sentences to me that began to crack the carapace of anxiety I had been living behind. “There’s nothing special about you, there’s nothing special about Polly (my daughter). Terrible things can happen, and they can happen to anyone. Safety is an illusion, danger is reality.”

Sounds brutal but it was just what I needed. What he was saying to me was that I could not control what happened which, as it turns out, was what my anxiety neurosis was all about. I was both thinking of all the terrible things that might happen as a sort of spell to stop them happening, while at the same time fearing that by thinking about them, I was conjuring them up. Of course, I had no such power – none of us do. As a result of Polly’s near death (she survived with no ill effects) I began to let go of the illusion of control and with it came a loss of fear. If I can’t control my own or anyone else’s safety – no matter how much I love them – no point worrying about danger until it happens.

If I can’t control how you will react to what I say, to what you think of me on TV or when I give a speech, I shall just put my energy into controlling what I can – my research and preparation for the task and let your reaction be yours. I shall not worry about whether you like or approve of me because doing so makes no difference to whether you do or not. I finally learnt the truth and power of what we call ‘boundaries’ – simply where I stop and you start. Once you know what you can control (inputs) and what you can’t (outcomes) life gets much easier and you don’t actually need courage.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t know and -with respect – I don’t really care.

For the situations that may await me I will do no preparation or worrying. I will deal with them as they appear and I will deal with them as I need to which may be with courage or may be with full on weeping, whining and falling apart. I have learnt to trust my emotions rather than fear them or try to control them. Sometimes the strongest thing to be is not strong – but honestly vulnerable and needy. I don’t need to be better, nicer, smarter or more courageous than I am. I just need to be as I am.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Be yourself. Accept and celebrate your messy, needy, unwieldy bits – they’re the best and most genuine part of you.

Don’t pretend, especially don’t pretend to yourself.

Don’t strive, just be.

Have fun and never,ever,ever feel guilty about that.

Know where you stop and others start.

And stop seeking approval. You are fine just the way you are, you just need to believe it.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

Life is short, stop trying so hard.

 

I have read Jane’s words over and over and wish to take many of her messages on-board. The quote from the neo-natologist still blows me away. I too need to remember this.

With much gratitude Jane, for your time and advice. Love that you could share here too.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Jane Caro  on 26 January 2020 is found here.

Twitter: @janecaro

Bio: AM. Walkley award winner. Novelist (Just a Girl, Just a Queen, Just Flesh & Blood), author (Plain Speaking Jane, Stupid Country, F Word, Accidental Feminists)

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Remember This. 3/51 #LifeThisWeek. 5/2020.

Remember This. 3/51 #LifeThisWeek. 5/2020.

My plan for today’s post went back to the drafts when what I am sharing came through my social media. I want to remember this….how I have watched (via the internet) a person I’ve known as a blogger…as a young mum and wife…wend her way through the challenges of life that might for some be too much.

We share a love of photography, the beach, nature, kids, art, journalling and blogging.

Becky from here (do read her blog even though she has not updated for a while)  and also here on Instagram wrote this and I “wowed” and “woahed” my way through.

You see, I have taken an interest (from a distance literally) in Becky and her husband’s and family’s welfare for a while but moreso in the recent bushfires which were coming VERY close..too close to where they live on the far south coast and they needed to retreat to family in Canberra. I know they are home now and thankful their place is intact. The memories of what remains must be awful.

Becky and I, along with a few others in instagram, share our love for #1secondaday which is an app recording the month/year one second at a time. Becky was sharing hers and I saw what she wrote.

Remember this! Gratitude. Find it. Feel it. Be it. It’s part of Becky’s took to keep on keeping on through her mental health days and nights.

Like I said to her, “I am so proud of you”. I hope you too can remember this: Becky Found Gratitude Every Day.

 

2019’s 1SE. I had planned to say a lot when I shared it. About the year, about mental illness, about me having dropped all the balls that were once in the air. About people who are really there for you even when you’re not actively able to reach out to them- and those who disappear. About being seen as a ‘poster girl’ for mental illness, approached for tips and ideas for helping someone who is struggling but rarely being on the receiving end of those actions. About disappointing myself, stigma and toxic positivity.

There was a lot. It probably would have ended up as a blog post, I guess.
It’s all still very relevant to my situation, but I don’t have the energy to put it all together.

What I DO want to say though, is this; if you’re practising gratitude, focusing on those beautiful moments, acknowledging that you are blessed and you’re STILL suffering through the darkness of depression you are not broken. This thing I do everyday is part of remembering the good things (memory like a sieve), being so very thankful for this life, being in awe of these little people. But, I’m still not ok.

Being depressed doesn’t make you an ungrateful pessimist anymore than having a broken leg does.

Thank you so much Becky for sharing.

I hope too, that when you are up for writing a blog post again, you pop in here. Or, as I often recommend, link up an old post on a Monday. All are welcome!

 

So, I ask the question….as above….

And take care everyone.

Denyse.

I was inspired by Becky’s story, but I am also aware that mental health does not always treat us well.

If you need to chat confidentially to someone do call Lifeline 13 11 14.

 

Link Up #172. Life This Week.

Link Up #172. Life This Week.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week!

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 4/51 Australia 27.1.2020

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Click here to enter


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Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Here’s something to complement and build on the Good News post from Monday!

I thought that there have been so many positive reactions to the Good News here that it was timely to add an idea about:

G R A T I T U D E

and how making a connection with yourself, the world and your inner being, you can indeed seek good news in your life from the use of gratitude as a marker.

Being 15 January when this post goes live, I chose to make a challenge based on:

5

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!

10

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days

 

15

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days
  11. To find that I can bring myself calm inside as I do some art
  12. To have the best head and neck professional team caring for me since May 2017
  13. To hear the bellbirds as I drive on the Pacific Highway near the small waterways
  14. To know that I am loved by my husband
  15. To find gratitude in more and more as time goes on

 

This is something for readers to consider.

Maybe 5 is doable.

Maybe 10 is…

or you could s   t   r   e   t  c   h   to 15.

Whatever is what you can decide to do, will, I can guarantee bring a shift to your inner self.

Trust me! I was late to this but now I cannot NOT find gratitude around me.

Come on, give it a go.

Share the word on gratitude too.

Tell me in the comments, what are you grateful for right now!

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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