Wednesday 18th October 2017

15 Years Ago & Now. 2017.104.

15 Years Ago & Now. 2017.104.

Fifteen Years Ago.

As I have written before, and is part of my bio, I was a K-6 School Principal in a N.S.W. Public School from 1999-2003. Before then I had been a relieving principal in two schools from 1994-1998. In 1999 I was appointed, by merit selection, to this school. The brief, once I was appointed, from my boss, the District Superintendent was “Denyse, I want you to bring this school into the 21st Century.” He was correct in that. It certainly was stuck back in probably an era two decades earlier. When I began in January 1999, replacing the former principal who died in the September school holidays earlier, I literally had to start the school’s organisation and planning from scratch. Why? Because the person I replaced trusted no-one and kept all leadership matters to himself,  and died with all the school passwords and information for getting things up and running. I took over a mess.

But I love a challenge and there were some good people who wanted to come along on this journey into the century we were on the cusp of entering. The school executive team was keen and wanted to learn more and  I could definitely help them with this and we formed a good group. Until the end of that first year. It really was a change that I could not stop and is part of what happens in school systems anyway but it made my job more challenging for sure. The school was unique in the area at that time with: mainstream classes, a special education unit of 3 classes, 2 O.C. (gifted and talented) classes and an Autism Satellite Class. Two of the people who were part of the executive team sought and got promotions elsewhere. Yes. I would encourage that of course. However, it left a hole for a bit which I was able to carry myself until I could get some new staff appointed.

Over the next 2 years however, this plan started to waiver. I had appointed a person to an executive role who was not up to the role. I take responsibility for that but it was a most unpleasant time as his continued absence from school due to ‘illness’ meant I had parents (and some teachers) calling for action. In the end, my district superintendent moved this person on and I could fill the role internally. I was relieved for a little while but then my best and most competent person in my team had to leave to have her first child. This was lovely for her and her husband and I wished her well. The remaining executive member who was my age decided to take Long Service Leave for the remainder of the year.

This meant I had NO fully qualified person holding an executive role in my very busy and varied school community.  But what did I do? I appointed people who were staff members who said they would like to learn more about the role and support the school  by taking on relieving roles for the remainder of 2002. This worked in some ways but I needed to take on more of their responsibilities myself or guide them step by step. It was as if I was doing multiple roles. I could sense how much I had taken on in June that year when I ended up writing a casual teacher’s class reports!


I did not know what this was doing to my mental health although I probably should have read the signs. I sought time out from the school to attend meetings and to meet with colleagues but at NO TIME did I actually tell my boss what it was like for me. In fact, I had said farewell to the District Superintendent who’d appointed me at his retirement and he was replaced by someone in an acting position. And, it still is the same now, a principal is meant to handle anything and everything that comes up. Well. Maybe in 2017 there might be greater awareness of principals’ mental health but not when I was becoming unwell. Even though I did not know it. I can look back now and see I was quick to anger and showed my displeasure when people did not comply because of their own incompetencies or my ‘view’ of how they should behave in the role. This led to….the following:

On a September evening in 2002 I received a telephone call at home from one of my relieving executive staff. She told me that there would be a delegation of staff coming to me the next day to make a complaint about my manner and behaviour. She said they had contacted our union and that person would be at the school. She also said that there was a rumour it was because of me that the school population was declining and that as that would mean at least one staff member would have to be transferred then I needed to step up. I could and did dispute this as the reason as schools’ populations change for a variety of reasons but instead I reacted personally.

This sure was a bolt out of the blue. But then again, I actually could see how my behaviour had changed and recognised that I was fast losing my grip on being a leader. Within moments of the conversation ending, and letting my husband know what had occurred I broke down. In tears and physical distress I knew I had to protect my health/self and I could NOT face such a meeting. I could not reach my boss and had to wait till the next day. I did not sleep and went to my G.P. as soon as I could that morning. It was very unlike me not to continue to be at work.

That day, 4th September 2002, she declared that I was suffering from anxiety and depression  due to work overload and that she would start the process of a work cover application.

I never went back to that school, that role or saw anyone other than my boss and the local district HR staff again. It was final and I NEVER  could have seen me, a competent and dedicated teacher, finishing my career JUST.LIKE.THAT.


So much time has passed and yet this time of 15 years ago remains very clear. It is imprinted upon my mind as ‘the time when I failed to do the job I was appointed for‘. Then again  as was  the culture of the time it meant I could not share how I was managing with anyone. Mental health management  in the workplace is hopefully becoming more recognised but there is still a huge stigma attached and shame as well. My shame is decreasing each time I tell my story. It did take courage for me to start to tell my story a few years ago because I did not want to admit my so-called ‘failings‘ as a school principal. I am the one who labelled these, no-0ne else.

The upshot of what happened to me impacts me still in some ways. I did have the claim for workcover met and was paid accordingly. However, as in all workcover matters many steps need to be followed as the recipient and these include ‘return to work’ plans. I simply could not do that. My GP was adamant that I NEVER return to that school nor to the role of principal. Interestingly when I was first on leave I could not even attend my grandchild’s school without a great deal of fear and anxiety.

I was treated by more than my GP. I had to attend meetings with my employer and work cover and to see a psychiatrist and psychologist but what they all wanted me to do I could not. I could not even drive on the road that would lead me to my old school. I was scared!

If I knew what I know now about myself I think I may have been prepared to expose myself to the experience of coming to work at the local district office instead of refusing (avoiding) because I felt such fear and shame. I also think with the knowledge I have now about my mental toughness and resilience that I could have stayed employed.

But no, as I found in early 2003, I HAD to resign my role and give up any rights so that I could, hopefully gain my superannuation lump sum. I was in a scheme which did not medically retire (sadly I had taken myself out of that scheme when we were first married) so the action was to leave under circumstances that were never envisaged by me. Then came an even tougher time when the Superannuation people interrogated me and tested me and declared I was fit and able to return to work. This was disputed by my medical team and it took the lawyers from my union (free for me) to gain my benefit.

For all of 2003 I took time out to explore my creative side, I volunteered at the Smith Family and I met with friends for coffee. I had many appointments to continue my self-styled rehabilitation after I declined to take part in any more of the WorkCover requirements. In early 2004 I needed more. I needed to be with people again and to teach!

There was much more that was good to happen to me from May 2004 onwards which I did for myself by returning to a teaching role in friend’s school and having no executive responsibilities. I was happily engaged in that work from 2004-2009 and had to be careful to not take on too much as I was only to work part-time. But I got my sense of being a teacher again.

So why tell this story?

The stories relating to stress, work overload and anxiety in the workplace need to be shared widely. I now know my personality  type and management style is that I need to be sure of things and want things to be done well and correctly. This was not happening in 2002 but I also held onto the notion that a principal deals with everything without telling the boss how it actually is. I have wondered how it may have worked if I had had the courage to tell someone. I did not even tell my husband.  I became unwell mentally and emotionally because I did not reach out to others and when I was finally diagnosed I was not to return to the workplace. I wonder now, if maybe things could have worked out better for me if I had the resilience I have today.

But we shall never know. I hope that by telling this story I could encourage others to speak up and share if the workload is too much. Tell someone. I know I should have.

Does anything here ring true for you or someone you know?


Joining in with Kylie Purtell here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Leanne here for her Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.





R U OK? Day 2016. 366/251.

R U OK? Day 2016. 366/251.

It is here again.

R U OK? Day.

Thursday 8 September.

This time last year I wrote extensively about R U OK? Day and I offer it to readers again here. 

Please check it out and watch the video story about the founder.

Recently I found these words from Adam Goodes, the AFL Player, now retired, who is a past Australian of the Year when he wrote about his depression.

I chose to ask for help.

Depression is different for everyone.

There were times I felt so down I didn’t want to train or be around people. I just couldn’t get myself out of that haziness.

Then I took ownership of my thoughts instead of letting them control me.

I meditated. I focussed on my passions.

That balance kept me strong mentally.

Source: News Limited. Body and Soul. 28 August 2016.


I do hope that should you or anyone you know need to have someone to talk to, you know that can call any of these numbers. It is completely free and anonymous.

Get Help
24 Hour Emergency Services
Lifeline Australia

13 11 14
Suicide Call Back

1300 659 467
Kids Help Line

1800 551 800

I hope you are going well at the moment.

R U OK? I am most days and am very fortunate to have a supportive husband, GP and counsellor who help me through my life right now in the transition that goes on…and on!



Joining Raychael from Agent Mystery Case here and bloggers who take part in Worth Casing Wednesday.


My 5 Reasons Not To Do a Sea Change. 366/244.

My 5 Reasons Not To Do a Sea Change. 366/244.

In recent times I have read of others who are not only considering doing a ‘sea change’ but are making firm plans for just that experience.

Yes, we did this too.

We made a sea change from city living in Sydney to coastal living on the New South Wales Central Coast.

From the decision to do this just over two years ago, and living it, as I am now, here are my 5 reasons NOT to do a sea change:

  1. You will not change from moving from one place to another unless you have already begun making changes to your life, behaviours and attitudes wherever you are. The place does not change anything.
  2. There will be a serious period of adjustment from one style of living to another and, ouch, you “may” not like it nearly as much as you thought so do plan for a LONG adjustment because it may be for you too.
  3. The visitors to your new place on the coast will come often and you will see more of your family now that you are living there. It started like that for a few months but ‘life’ takes over for everyone and their commitments so prepare for greater isolation if that is an expectation.
  4. There will be a lighter style of life with the beach beckoning and the natural surroundings for all the walks, adventures and so on. Yes, that IS true, but like life in the city, the daily life chores and tasks remain as does the need to work (be it paid or voluntary) so time becomes a factor here too. You “may” not even see the beach you longed to be close to for weeks.
  5. Money will be saved as you move to an area where there is less cost in housing and so there is but there is not always the choice of what comforts/lifestyle you may be seeking and the choices are far fewer than in the metropolitan areas.

These five reasons are mine. I share them because it has been quite a cultural and societal change for me to make the sea change we have. My husband is finding all of it fine. He is far more adjustable to different living places and spaces as his personality is more ‘cruisy’.


So, what about this list of mine? What’s the outcome for me? In terms of my mental health THIS has been quite  shock to my internal world if you like. However, we were in a no win situation by staying where we were. The mortgage was unaffordable as I was 65 and no longer wanted to work. We took a practical step and I hadn’t quite counted on the effect on me. Nevertheless, the resilience in me is building now I have accepted the changes I need to continue making within myself to ‘go with the sea change’. One day, when we are finally able to buy somewhere coastal (but not on the water as that is out of reach!) I know that the hard yards of settling, discovering what is around have been done during THIS transition time and so I am grateful for that!

Update: an interesting and timely article about making a ‘sea’ or ‘tree’ change.

Have you considered a sea change?

Tell me more!



Joining with Raychael over at Agent Mystery Case for Worth Casing Wednesday.


Quotes I Like. 366/139.

Quotes I Like. 366/139.

Lately I have read that quotes for the sake of quotes are often meaningless unless we can align our belief systems and values to them.

This made perfect sense to me as I continue to learn more about ‘being me’.

A values-centred life is one which helps us align our life and goals as one.

As I have said before, I continue to be a WIP – work-in- progress!

I’m studying a number of approaches to mindful living, and acceptance commitment therapy combined with the books by Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Elisha Goldstein, Russ Harris, Eckhardt Tolle and Tara Brach.

The quotes below have meaning for me.

What about you?


Here is the  source:


Joining Raychael and blogging friends over here at Agent Mystery Case on Wednesdays.


Self-Paced Learning. 366/69.

Self-Paced Learning. 366/69.

I like learning what makes sense to me.

Making sense to me right now is to get to know more about how aspects of my mental health can be improved.

When I say ‘improved’ I am talking about learning to live with some anxiety at times, some sadness and getting used to my life the way it is playing out now. Fortunately I am not clinically unwell. My GP is chuffed with my progress since I started seeing her last year.

It’s not news this past 12- 18 months has been quite a surprise to me! Who knew I might be affected by the life changes…but I am giving myself credit for growing resilience too.

Anyway, back to self-paced learning.


I like the fact that I can seek different ways of learning more about life, taking time to get used to changes and how to find out more about what makes this human (ME) ticks.

Recently I have been listening to Sharon Salzberg  on LovingKindness and Meditation. Her books are also very helpful. This is her website.

Dr Brene Brown who is a shame researcher and story teller (self-described) is also someone whose works I am re-visiting via books, The Gifts of Imperfection and on CD, Rising Strong too. Lots to find out about on her website. 

Elizabeth Gilbert’s words on CD and in her book Big Magic are also bringing me messages I need to hear and absorb. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and has been a recent visitor to Australia where many heard her talk. Find more about Liz here.

Here’s one thing I have learned already! Creativity is not fearLESS…in fact, fear is necessary but not the leader. I wrote recently about making progress not being linear!

I’m no writer but I love listening to Anne Lamott on writing via her CD of the book called Bird by Bird  Check out her author profiles by looking her up on Facebook and Twitter.


‘Learning’ at TEDXSydney 2015.

Over the many years of formal learning (and teaching) it is quite a change and a joyful one to be able to dip into this and that and take time to reflect, reject and return to the learning mode. I do not recommend any of the above books for particular needs or people. I just add them to my list of what I like and readers already know I am a sharer who cares!

I am doing art projects and challenges too and these give me an outlet for both creativity and relaxing in a fun and playful way. I will outline more of these on Saturday in my creativity post.

Are you into learning for yourself?


Joining with Raychael here for Wednesday sharing there and at the Blog Exchange.

Thanks to Alicia here for her link called Open Slather each Monday.

Mummy Mondays can be found here with new blogger host on allmumsaid.





Making Progress Is Not Linear. 366/41.

Making Progress Is Not Linear. 366/41.

I’ve been making progress with my mental health, adjusting to my new (to me) life here on the coast and to the ‘newness’ of being fully retired.

There is no doubt that this has been a challenge for me.

My husband is most understanding of my changing moods which are usually short-lasting for the negative ones and getting much longer for the better ones.

This is what I call progress.

But then something occurs, or I just wake feeling somewhat anxious with no reason and it can be a difficult day spent worrying or actually getting overly stressed about having an episode of Irritable Bowel Syndrome’s diarrhoea.

That’s when I think “I am not improving”.

I also berate myself a bit and wonder why I just cannot get myself right and not go back to the older, anxious me.

Then, when I look through a lens that is not clouded with the views of the past, and I have better perspective I can see the improvements as I note them over time in a journal.

It just takes me some hours, or even a day to regain this confidence and perspective.

I now also acknowledge that grief is playing a part in the sometimes changed mood. I miss much from my past that is true. I do not regret that I have finished my paid working life, nor sold our home and moved…and I have to say, that on balance we are glad to be out of Sydney.

Of course I miss my family and ‘old way of life’. But that too is part of the past. The family is growing and changing and we, the 2 of us, are making our way in our new life together.

Just as I am unsure sometimes about the now and the future, I am also more than sure that everything will work out for us.

I just wish that progress was more linear instead of this up and down..down and up journey called LIFE.

Do you ever feel like this in some way?

Tell me more so I know I am not alone!



Joining with Raychael over here at WorthCasing Wednesday.


How’s Things With YOU? 366/34.

How’s Things With YOU? 366/34.

It’s easy for me (and I suspect many others)  to fall into the thinking of ‘woe is me’ and ‘how hard this life is right now’ when in fact it’s not too bad AT ALL. In the ‘overall scheme of things’ OSOT (my hub calls it) life is good. It is probably more than good.

The trouble with me is, I often ‘see the worst’ or the ‘default negative’ easily so when a Facebook friend shared this on Sunday it was quite a wake-up call.

I have the full source below. This list is the beginning of all of the items. Yes, it is US-based but I immediately resonated with the message.

So, have a read, and tell me, “how are things with you?”


PS: just to remind me….here’s something I made earlier:


Joining in with Agent Mystery Case on WorthCasing Wednesday.


  • You paid the bills this month…

  • You question yourself..

  • You have a job…

  • You have time to do something you enjoy…

  • You are not worried about where your next meal is coming from..

  • You can eat because you enjoy it…

  • You have one or two truly close friends..

  • You could afford a subway ride, cup of coffee, or the gas in your car this morning…

  • You’re not the same person you were a year ago..

  • You have the time and means to do things beyond the bare minimum…

  • You have a selection of clothing at your disposal…

  • You can sense what is not right in your life… 

  • If you could talk to your younger self, you would be able so say: “We did it, we made it out, we survived that terrible thing.” 

  • You have a space of your own..

  • You’ve lost relationships..

  • You’re interested in something..

  • You know how to take care of yourself..

  • You’re working toward a goal..

  • But you’re not uncompromisingly set on anything for your future..

  • You’ve been through some crap…

20 Signs You’re Doing Better Than You Think You Are



R U OK? Day is EVERY Day. 252/365.

R U OK? Day is EVERY Day. 252/365.

A few years ago I was one of the bloggers from the Digital Parents Australia community who co-0rdinated posts, photos and activities for a concerted effort to bring the notion of asking people about how they are…and for asking the question in the hope that people may admit to needing a bit more help in terms of their mental health.

It’s not my place to write here about the effectiveness of programs about Mental Health.

This is the direct link to the Australian government’s page which encompasses all of their Health Programs including Mental Health.

This year, R U OK?Day and World Suicide Prevention Day fall on the same date, drawing attention to Australia’s role in addressing this global public health issue. Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis said every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide[1], and we should all be doing as much as possible to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness occurring in our community. source: r u ok site.

I only want to add that anyone, at any time needs to feel safe to admit to someone that he or she needs someone to listen to and for someone to care about that person’s welfare and well-being.

My husband is a trained volunteer telephone support person at Lifeline. He knows people are needing ‘someone to care’ and ‘someone to listen’

My mental health has been up and down since making some big changes in my life over the past two years and I’ve been ‘brave’ enough to both share here and seek professional help.

It is not a sign of ‘weakness’ or ‘your fault’. Mental illness knows no barriers nor class nor professional status.

If you are feeling like you (or someone you know needs more than a chat or a friendly shoulder to lean on… are some vital telephone numbers.

R (are)

U (you)


I hope so and I wish you well.


Get Help

24 Hour Emergency Services

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14

Suicide Call Back

1300 659 467

Kids Help Line

1800 551 800