Wednesday 8th April 2020

Will You Share Your Woman of Courage Story? 29/2020.

Will You Share Your Woman of Courage Story? 29/2020.

 

 

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

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 ‘why’ behind my decision to begin inviting women to share their stories of courage.

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.

I did get some instant responses after my initial invitations went out to women I knew personally or on-line:

  • Almost everyone said, “Thank you for asking, yes I will share.” “Not everyone” did return the responses because “life” it gets in the way and of course I get that.
  • Some surprised me with a flat “no, I am not a woman of courage” and yes, even though I may have seen something of courage in them, no remained as was that person’s wish.
  • Some took a middle road. Maybe…can I get back to you? Sure I would say. I admit, I never wanted anyone to miss out if they wanted to share but sometimes it took a few more communications from me to get the definitive Yes or No…or another date to be determined.

The first person asked was the lovely Sam, The Annoyed Thyroid , her post can be found here. I admit I wrote one about an instance of courage of mine as well but Sam was #1 in the series.

I also know that perhaps my dates of publication did not work well for those who had shared their stories. This meant the interactivity I may have envisioned by comments to readers did not occur. But, as always, I understood the why. Life. Again.

Not everyone shared their name and that was for a reason. I also understand though, from comments returned to me privately, that those people found the writing of the story helpful AND the comments and support from readers gave them quite a life.

Thank you all for sharing!

Now, who is up for sharing their story now? Many who read and link up already have but there are plenty I see who may like to conribute but have been a bit shy. Here are the questions that I ask….there are 5.

Questions from Denyse:

  • What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?
  • How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.
  • Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?
  • Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?
  • Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

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

I also ask, if you wish to share, for any social media you would like to promote that is a link to you and a photo if you are prepared to share one.

That is it. I have received short and to the point responses, some which are prose set by the person not actually answering the questions directly and others are long. And for a good reason.

Please consider sending me an email here: denyse@ozemail.com.au and tell me you would like to share your story. Thank you in advance!

And, to the over 45 women who have shared already: not all are live till later in the next few months..I am very thankful for you too. Just some of the women here who have shared their stories. Catch up here for more.

In this awful period around the world as COVID19 pandemic continues, I send you all my healing thoughts and that you all stay well and connected on-line while we are all self-isolating.

Easter will be different of course. However, it is still happening. May yours be peaceful and may the Easter bunny find you.

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.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #31. Cathy. 21/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #31. Cathy. 21/2020.

 

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.

 

Like other women who chose to take part in this series after I sent through a request, Cathy is someone I know “virtually”. She’s been a blogger, on social media and a writer. We have one common bond too. I was born in the city where she now lives. Cathy, I thank you for deciding to be able to share your story here and honour the way in which you drew on courage to do so. Here is Cathy, aged 48, answering the now familiar questions as part of the response to being a Woman of Courage.

 

image by: https://www.instagram.com/jam.on.your.collar.photography/

 

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

When my grandparents died. It was a sudden and traumatic time in everyone’s lives. We got that phone call at about 1am to tell my mum that her parents had died in a tragic car accident. I was 18. My parents at the time were running their own business and at 1am in the morning in the early 90s there were no mobile phones and no way of contacting anyone else to run the shop. They had a newsagency and at the time there was a legal requirement that every day that a newspaper was printed the newsagency had to be open. So this meant that I along with my brother had to stay at home and run the shop until we could locate someone to do it for us. The hardest thing I have ever had to do is put my parents in a car and say goodbye to them knowing my grand parents had died in a car accident. At the time we didn’t know when we would see mum & dad again. We joined them on the Saturday.

 

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

This forever changed me. I found a strength that I didn’t know I had. I knew that if I could do that I could face anything in the future and that as it turns out was a courage I would need time and again throughout the next few years and beyond.

 

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

Ask for help. Put your hand up and tell people what you are going through and that you need your friends. Anyone can face anything if you have people you love alongside you. It is part of the human condition to want to be there for others but as is the nature of our lives today we are both more connected (through the socials) yet more disconnected than ever before. So people will stand back and wait to be asked when I believe a generation ago they would have just arrived on the doorstep.

 

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

Absolutely. I have had to more times than I would like since then be courageous and each time it gets a little bit easier. I know that I survived the last time so I know I can get through this next time. I have learned to be much better at asking for help too. Asking is not a sign of weakness it is a recognition that with others around you it is easier to get through.

 

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

That you absolutely do not have to do it along. You will be surprised at how much love and support you have around you. We all think we are Robinson Crusoe and doing it alone but we simply don’t have to be. People want to be there for you but as is part of life today they will stand back and wait until you ask or invite them in. Don’t leave it so long that it is awkward or has become too hard to ask.

 

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

I live by sharing my story because I have learnt that the more we share the less alone we feel. So share your story. As I say “don’t be afraid of your story, it will inspire others.”

 

Thank you. What great words to end this story…I too agree with Cathy about sharing our stories.

Denyse

 

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website: lifethroughthehaze.com

Twitter: @lifehazey

Facebook Page : facebook.com/lifethroughthehaze

Instagram: instagram.com/lifethroughthehaze

 

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. #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. #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. #26. Maureen Jansen.10/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #26. Maureen Jansen. 10/2020.

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.

I am so pleased to introduce Maureen Jansen who is 73. We have ‘only’  met via social media thanks to us living on opposite sides of the Tasman Sea. Maureen is a New Zealander. We ‘met’ in mid 2018 via our common connection: Head and Neck Cancer. I suspect, even without this between us, the teaching and ‘grandmothering’ along with outdoor photography would also connect us!  Maureen tells her story. It is one of amazing resilience and testament to her strength of character and will. The best bit…is that in June 2020 we have plans to meet! More on that another time. 

Thanks Maureen for sharing your story today as a Woman of Courage: 2020.

 

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

I’ve had to dig deep four times after receiving cancer diagnoses. My first diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer was in 1996 and I decided to be brave to protect my children who were then 13, 17 and 19. The youngest was living at home and I was more scared of traumatizing him than of anything else. I’ll always remember a fellow patient in my ward saying that the first thing she said when the doctor told her she had cancer was “My kids”, as tears poured down her cheeks.  I now think that my reaction was too stoic and not open enough with my youngest son. And by the way, that advanced cancer diagnosis proved to be of a type of ovarian cancer which usually responds well to treatment. I was well and truly cured but the repression of emotions initially, followed by a complete turnaround in prognosis later, led to a very mixed up and depressed me when I returned to work after it was all over. The vagaries of the human heart!

 

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

The ovarian cancer diagnosis and later the head and neck cancer diagnoses changed me a lot. I had counselling and anti-depressants which both helped me deal a little bit better with my former anxieties, funnily enough. I have had to make a conscious decision to get over fear of needles and other painful procedures because I know that they will be part of my life now although I am currently very well. I’m not as scared of physical pain as I was, and even had two fillings the other day without an anaesthetic. I’ve learnt to chant a little rhyme in my head when needles and drills do their thing. It’s usually only for a short time. My proudest moment was when I had some clips out in a wrist wound five years ago. The nurse was struggling and each time she used the clip removing device, there was a surge of pain. I did my deep breathing and we talked and laughed as we went through each one. It was a strangely uplifting moment.

 

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

I really think that learning some specific coping strategies from a psychologist is invaluable. I have found many mindfulness tools excellent. Mindfulness, walking, taking photographs of nature and posting them online … These things have helped me as well as trying to live a productive life with plenty of service to others. I’m not good at self care but we should all do it!

 

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

In terms of my health I think I will be braver but other situations like dealing with conflict and communicating with others are situations I find take the most courage, honesty and wisdom. I’m still learning.

 

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

It can well up in you when you least expect it. Often things are not as bad when you are IN them as they look to an outsider. When your back is against the wall, some sort of survival instinct seems to kick in. If it doesn’t and you feel frightened, you have every right to be. Psychological help makes a huge difference when fear and anxiety become too much to bear. Seek help!

 

Thank you so much Maureen. For sharing and for being here to tell the story. What a story! I have so much admiration for you. Looking forward to catching up “in real life” as they say. Meanwhile, I am adding below something about the facebook group.

Denyse.

Social Media: follow Maureen here.

Blog/Website: hncmaureen.com

Twitter: @HNCMaureen

Instagram: @birdlikeme

 

 

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

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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Women Of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Mental Illness.

 

 

Woman of Courage #25  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

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.

I do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space.

 

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

In the recent past, I was a victim of family violence. (Not of the intimate partner variety, but of the extended family variety – I’ve learnt a lot since it happened, and one of the things that I’ve learnt is that if you’re related in any way, it’s still classified as family violence.)

It was a single terrifying incident, although with the benefit of hindsight I can see the years of conditioning and gaslighting that preceded it. There were two perpetrators, and my children and I were the targets. I had to be courageous in the moment, even as my mind refused to believe what was happening. And I have had to be courageous since, making decisions to protect us and taking actions that I knew might lose us other family members and friends who refused to hear about what happened.

 

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

In the moment, I learnt that the fight, flight or freeze response isn’t an either/or scenario. My initial response was to freeze. My mind could not accept what my eyes, ears and skin were telling me. A scream from my children flicked the switch to fight (though not of a physical variety – I instead said what I thought the perpetrators wanted to hear) until I could create a path to my children and then onwards with them to flight.

In terms of diagnoses, this incident changed me by bringing the terms anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into my life. It also brought imposter syndrome back into my life. In the past, it had usually been related to career success; this time, it was feeling that my one little incident wasn’t ‘worthy’ of PTSD. How dare I compare myself and my itty-bitty incident to a returned soldier’s experiences of combat?

In terms of practicalities, well… I’m still working through it all. I went through the stages of grief, which is to be expected. But I spent so long in denial that I did not accept the truth and depth of the incident and its effect on me for months. It took me a long time to accept my experience as traumatic. It took me longer still to recognise and accept that there was no shame in the experience, and no shame in the label of traumatic.

The incident broke my trust. With the perpetrators, of course, but also with others. With everyone, at first. I’d been conditioned to doubt myself around the perpetrators, and that continued. My brain constantly told me everyone was on their side, everyone thought I was overreacting, everyone was going to set up another ambush, everyone was against me, and wasn’t that fair enough? Wasn’t I overreacting? Did I really remember everything correctly? I had to rebuild my trust in people who had never done anything to deserve losing it in the first place.

Other changes? Fundamental beliefs and truths I held – such as my belief in the inherent goodness in all people – were shattered. (I’m working toward believing it again one day. I’m just not there yet.) Meanwhile, my belief that everyone has a right to freedom and safety has been strengthened. It might be truer to say it was created: I had simply taken it for granted previously.

 

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

The things I’ve learnt are not fun, so I apologise to anyone not ready to hear these things. But here are the main things I’ve learnt (or things I knew that are now cemented):

  • ‘Family’ is not an excuse for violent behaviour. (In fact, it should be a promise for good.)
  • You don’t owe violent people anything. Your time, your regrets, mediation, compromise, placation, forgiveness. Anything.
  • There is no such thing as neutrality in violence. If someone says they want to remain neutral, or don’t want to get involved or pick sides, it’s too late. Whether consciously or not, they’ve already picked a side. And it’s not the victim’s.
  • You can’t control what people think about you. If people want to believe the worst of you without even speaking to you, based on nothing more than the lies of the perpetrators, that’s on them, not you. It still hurts, but you’re better off without such people in your life.
  • Anyone who expects you to compromise your safety for them isn’t worth it.
  • There is no excuse for violence.

These don’t sound like tips for courage, but knowing these things – not just logically knowing these things, but truly believing these things deep in my bones – are what eventually gave me the courage to take legal action.

One other thing I’ve learnt: lean on your support network. (You might have to wait until you’ve relearnt to trust your support network.) Many see the development of courage as a solo endeavour, but in my case it was a team sport. With my wonderful husband as captain and coach.

 

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

I don’t think it’s a case of being more courageous. It’s a case of knowing what otherwise dormant courage I already have, knowing what I will and won’t stand for, and recognising it sooner. Violence toward or in front of me and my children grants you an instant dismissal from our lives, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And when I say violence, I now mean violence in all of its forms, including manipulative, controlling and coercive behaviour.

I do think I’d have the courage to take legal action sooner if something like this happened again. Courage borne from knowing that seeing the perpetrators in court a few times is preferable to not knowing if they’ll pop up anytime, anywhere and constantly living with the fear of that happening.

 

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

Courage isn’t a steely resolve. Courage isn’t determination or steadfastness. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I felt the fear. I felt the anxiety, the panic attacks, the self-doubt. And, eventually, with great support and understanding from the people I love and had relearnt to trust, I did it anyway.

And if I ever have to, I’ll do it again.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Please note: these numbers:

https://www.respect.gov.au/services/ Emergency: 000 or 1800 RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #24. Grace Titioka.110/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #24. Grace Titioka. 110/2019.

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.

I am so pleased to introduce Grace Titioka who is 47. We first met in 2011 as members of the early Australian blogging community and hit it off. Grace also helped me through some blog changes and social media when I was first starting to ‘get myself’ more media and on-line ready. Grace and I may not see each other as much now I have moved from Sydney but we connect on-line. Grace has a pretty powerful life story and she touches on aspects of it here. Here’s to G from D. With Love and Gratitude. 

 

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

I don’t think there’s been one particular life event where I was consciously being courageous.

People have said that setting up a life in Japan completely on my own for almost a decade was a brave act. Others tell me that having a high risk twin pregnancy would’ve surely seen me at my most courageous.

But to be honest, I don’t think there’s been one particular life event where I was consciously being courageous. In fact, lately I’ve discovered that it’s our vulnerabilities and the ability to openly express them- as raw and real as possible, no matter how uncomfortable or undignified it makes us feel, that’s where courage truly shines.

 

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

Maybe growing up as a migrant child, there was always a shield, protecting myself and my family from racism and being treated unfairly by Australian society. This led to anger and frustration, even causing me to leave Australia but it never truly resolved my issues. Only allowed me to run away from them.

Over time, especially since being married to a patient, caring husband,  I’ve learned that a tough exterior can only hurt the ones who love you unconditionally and truly help you.

He always says, he’d rather see me at my most vulnerable instead of just being grumpy and silent.

And when we’ve had a disagreement, there’s always two words he’s more than happy to hear from the stubborn me: “I’m sorry”

 

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

To have courage is to believe in yourself and surrounding yourself with those you can trust implicitly.  We all have very different sides to our complex characters – some traits we’re proud of, others not so much. But if we work to claiming all these components and seeing them for what they with a non-judgmental, gentle approach, we can find comfort, contentment and our own version of courage.

 

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

I like to think so but we never know what curve ball life throws at us. I just know now that I will allow myself to feel all those raw feelings, observe them but not let them define me. A situation is only as bad as how we react to it.

 

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

Be gentle with yourself. Being courageous doesn’t mean you have to deal with life with heavy force and resistance. More often than not, courage is the exact opposite.

 

I like the way you did explore some of the aspects of your life where you have been and continue to be courageous. Thank you for sharing and for being a caring friend, especially through my early days as a cancer patient. Always nice to know who is there for me.
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 © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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