Wednesday 12th December 2018

November Notes #3. 2018.119.

November Notes #3. 2018.119.

I have reflected and decided that…..my daily “outfit” photos will continue.

Initially I was going to stop at the 12 month mark, i.e. end of October 2018.

And then I thought, go to the end of the year.

A blogging friend said “stop doing it if it has served its purpose.”

This was good advice and then I considered what my purpose was and is.

  • initially it was to get a more confident me to have a photo taken and put it on social media. (Y)
  • then it became enjoying finding new items of clothing that fit and were ‘on special. (Y)
  • as it continued into the beginning of 2018, I set a challenge of “no repeating an outfit. (Y)
  • the above petered out as I began dressing for the situation each day and so needed to be mindful of the weather and where I was going. This has continued (Y)
  • to be noticed as someone who is/was prepared to be photographed during face altering cancer surgeries(Y)
  • sharing my images on line with many hashtags became tedious and I have a private account so #hashtags are not even seen and I stopped (Y)

What now?

I keep on. I do agree with my fellow Head and Neck cancer patient friends on-line and in real life that each of us needs a purpose each day and one of mine that is 99% non-negotiable is to:

  • dress with purpose
  • have a photograph taken
  • go out for a coffee alone, with my husband or meet up with a friend.

The following collages are from around March 2018 until October 2018.

Scroll through to some fun and other images…including one or two of the Instagram Photographer Husband.

Here’s a few more reasons why this will continue…for some laughs and to remind ME how far I have come despite a cancer which took away half of the inside of my mouth.

Thank you most of all the my partner in life for care, encouragement, saying “smile” to me, and loving me!
The feeling is mutual. This photo was before one of our Morning Tea ‘dates’ recently.

What do you do with purpose each day?

Have you been sharing what you wear on social media?

Tell us more!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne (who is doing outfit shots and looks amazing!) here for Lovin’ Life linky on Thursdays.

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Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Are we humans ever truly content with ourselves?

I am asking the hard questions today as I know personally, I find this tricky.

My husband/guru tells me “life it about living in the present”. OK. Not just him, but everyone who preaches mindfulness seems to have this view.

I can do this on some occasions now. I can bring my thoughts back to where I am (not so good ones too) and let them go of their own accord.

What made me observe this today?

My appearance. My weight. My changes.

For many decades I used food for calming and soothing and hid from much of my emotions this way. I often ate secretly. I have written about it here. I was performing well academically and professionally but not within my care of myself. The only, easy way was eating what soothed me. 

Back to the present.

I’ve had four years of over-arching anxiety related to life changes and transitions which actually resulted in not only Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrhoea) but a reduced appetite and a simple meal regime. I did not go out much at all. I was ‘at home’ in 2016-mid 2017 because of the increased symptoms.

I lost weight. It had started slowly in the year before we left Sydney but continued gradually until I found out I had cancer in May 2017. WOAH. Here is the page with the cancer stories if you are a first time reader.

From the time I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums until I came home from hospital it was inevitable I lost weight. I did. I was focussed on getting past the surgery stage for more than 7 weeks and if that is not an appetite suppressant, I do not have any other ideas. I wore clothes that were baggy but were not my fattest clothes as almost all of them were consigned to charity bins in the previous year. I did not think I would wear them again yet I was very reluctant to buy clothes which fitted me well.

I managed to convince myself to get some nighties and other items of a smaller size for hospital and recovering at home but it held no joy in me to need to do this. Cancer was my upper most thought. Then, once surgery was over, and I was able to finally sip water, and try a clear fluids diet in the 2 days before I came home, the dietitian visited me.

I was bombarded   given the message over and over that I needed to EAT what and when I could and that it needed to be foods of full-fat, high protein and smooth enough for a mouth with only a few teeth to get down. I had never, in all my life, been told NOT to lose any more weight.

I was weighed in hospital and then once I was home, because of the addition of an anti-biotic that played havoc with my gut I did LOSE weight. I got to the lowest I can remember. Ever. And it did not feel good. I knew I was not well.

Once the diarrheoa disappeared and my GP said ‘eat what you like and what you can keep in’ rather than the high protein/milky drinks on offer via the dietitian, I got back to a weight where i felt comfortable and well.

This lasted for a very long time.

Sharing My Image with The On-Line World.

Just under a year ago, my wellness was a great feeling. I began to think about going out by myself for a coffee. It took me until November to do that, and I decided to account for my day by entering a photo each day on Instagram under the various hashtags including:

#everydaystyle

#dresswithpurpose

#outfitoftheday

Many of my on-line friends, family and friends found my daily posts and supported my photos with ‘likes’ and comments’. I found a love of shopping for bargains again. It was fun and I was rewarded by the feeling and knowledge that I was doing this for myself and finally I seemed to understand it was good to feel great on the outside.

Cancer meant more surgeries, and more messing about in my mouth. Food intake became protein items such as mince based meals which I could easily eat with a few teeth and a tongue and treats became staples: little cakes, small donuts, icecream. Each day had something like that in it. I did not gain weight much at all over the time from October until my last surgery in May 2018.

Photos of the day became something others with cancer discovered and they liked the idea of dressing with prpose. With head and neck cancer, because our cancer is usually visible to others, eating and drinking out is seldom done even just going out. So, I was flattered to be followed and asked more about it.

Then, a day came I had longed for…and it had been delayed so it was even more special.

I had the upper prosthesis of teeth added to my mouth. It was in late August. It felt very strange and initially I could not eat much at all. Over time, I could as I became confident of my ability to bite and chew and now…..

I began to gain weight.

Boo. It is not much at all, and I really need to put it in context. 

I have gone from very restricted eating and feeling deprived but I knew I had an end in sight. 

What has been interesting to observe in me is my behaviour changes.

  • I am not hiding my eating like I did.
  • I am limiting my treat food.
  • I am realising that I cannot use food to deal with emotions any more.
  • I am also needing to come to terms with what life is like for me now.
  • I am considering no longer doing the “outfits of the day” posts because they are almost a year old.
  • I may replace them with a “self-care” theme.
  • I am having a small internal battle but less so as I chat with my husband about it, and also follow a mindfulness eating guide.
  • I am wearing my fitbit and aim to move more than 6K steps in a day. I am a work-in-progress!

I thought getting teeth would be the best and it is…but I can eat a very wide range of foods again…but I no longer want to end up very wide again!

It has helped me to share this so thank you for reading! I hope you made it this far.

Back to where I started. Are we ever really content with ourselves?

Denyse.

Joining the lovely Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky and for the record, I am here with Leanne when we finally caught up for a coffee…and something to eat recently!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness, Mandalas & Self-Care!* 2018.97.

Mindfulness,Mandalas & Self-Care!* 2018.97.

This post will eventually make sense…please read on. If you too value self-care.

Things have been pretty serious around this blog lately so with yesterday’s light-hearted post about my last purchase. See what I did and why here, if you want a bit of a laugh at me and my laminator woes.

And as if to give me a reason to relax more was necessary I had a somewhat disconcerting couple of days where my gut rumbled and I refused to listen (as I can do) until, some IBS** (also written about a lot here and here) decided to remind me about:

*WHY I NEED TO PRACTISE BETTER SELF-CARE.

From way back I have been an achiever.

I like to do and see the reward in the finished product or event or whatever it is.

I like to plan and see things through to their end.

In other words, I DO (not the marriage one) almost all of the time and until something stops me** I keep on keeping on.

Self-care of and for me is MY responsibility and coming out of a major life event as having cancer you’d think I would have it sorted. Things like this would be taken into consideration:

  • physical ability to carry out what I am choosing to do
  • physical ability and stamina to keep going with such activities
  • knowing when to take a rest and stop for a while
  • understanding that my ageing body is not quite at all like it used to be as it has also fought cancer
  • remembering that I “am retired” and much of my day is for me to choose how to spend it

And generally I do, until I don’t and that is what happened last week**…

Yes, I am getting to the mandalas & mindfulness soon!

It was not much at first, but for a day or two, I could feel my breathing being more about “sighing” as in things were an effort. I also found myself jumping from one self-determined task to another with a view to getting them done.

 No-one else had set me any tasks but me. At times, I am loving the busy-ness and the physicality of getting out and about, making the bookmarks for The Big Hug Box, getting the shopping done, making some meals for us both and blogging responsibilities along with deciding to learn how to do hand-lettering via a couple of on-line courses.

I loved driving an hour to catch up with a friend for morning tea on Tuesday and driving to the beach on Monday to walk down many steps to the rock platform. I was BUSY. I genuinely loved doing it too.

And by Friday my gut grumbled and sent me to the loo more and more until Saturday morning when it said “ENOUGH” and let me know it with some IBS.

OH. I know why, I silently said and did not get angry but instead I got grateful. For my body’s reminder when my mind would not listen.

I stopped. I calmed me with better breathing techniques. I sat with NO iphone near me and read two papers. I rested. I coloured a magical and big mandala and then I knew what to do …MUCH more mindfully engage with what I love.

One of these is making mandalas and the other is remembering to be mindful more.

I was brought into the present moment (the only one we experience!) and sat and contemplated this design started a week or so ago and how I would colour it. I spent some magical moments here doing so and then selecting the colours to do so.

My breathing returned to normal pace, my gut is quiet, my husband is pleased I have done this of my own volition, and I am chastened by it and know that yes, I can be the saboteur of my own self-care. I sat outside admiring the pansies and was uplifted by their beauty in my mindful state.

What about you?

What do you get as a sign you need to stop and do/be differently?

Since Saturday I have a social media & iphone free hour from 12.30 to 1.30. It’s going well.

Tell me more in the comments.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Sue and Leanne for Midlife Share The Love Link here on Wednesdays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What I Wore This Week.1. 2018.73.

What I Wore This Week.1. 2018.73.

This introduction is to a blog post I will do most weeks.

I will not always do this long introduction but as a teacher…that is what I do….!

Some time ago I wrote here about the importance for me to:

  • have a purpose in each day
  • get dressed with a view to going out somewhere that day
  • having a photo taken – by my husband – adding it to my Instagram feed, personal facebook and twitter accounts
  • take pride in my personal appearance following a diagnosis of cancer back in May 2017
  • enjoy wearing clothes I may never have fitted in previous years because over the past few years, I have lost weight
  • finally believe in myself as someone who can look good and feel good rather than the person of the past who hid behind her weight
  • take better care of my inner self as the outer self is showing by doing some Calm meditation, taking myself into nature somewhere each day, and by creating something in the form that I enjoy.
  • believe that I not only can wear lovely clothes but that I need to as I have not ever previously given myself permission to do so on most occasions
  • some of the #hashtags I use on my photos are: #ootd (outfit of the day) #dresswithpurpose #everydaystyle
  • I buy all of my clothes from local Australian stores including Millers, Rockmans, Suzanne Grae, Noni B.
  • I do not have any items of clothing that are sent to me or are sponsored.
  • I tend to buy all of the clothes at sale prices.
  • I organise my wardrobe in colours….mostly reds/pinks/oranges….and blues/greens

If you are new here, the links I have provided above will give you more explanation of my points!

The photos are curated by me for Instagram. I have a private account as I was hacked last year. If you would like to follow me, just ask: @denysewhelan

This week, I wore:

I hope this post has been helpful and of interest.

Do let me know in the comments!

What are you wearing?

Denyse.

P.S….. a very important “what I wore”. Since cancer surgery in May 2017 I have been without any upper teeth. On Monday at my prosthodontist visit, I got to wear something I had not for over one year: MY SMILE!

 

 

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Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

What is this six month check-up about?

It is about my assessment of my physical and emotional health for the first 6 months of 2018.

Subjective? Yes.

Tougher on myself than most? I hope not. But I can be more self-critical than I probably need to be! I suspect we are all like that.

It’s no secret that when you have a cancer diagnosis that check-ups are both regular and scary. Regular ones are like this protocol for my head and neck cancer:

for the first 2 years: every 3 months. I have completed one year and really only had ONE formal check up because…I have been for surgery with my Professor 3 times post initial big surgery.

for the next 3 years: every six months. This assumes no symptoms in between checks. My cancer was a very slow growing one which was contained in one area. All fingers crossed that stays like that.

Let’s get started:

January  –  June 2018.

My Contribution to Our “2 Person Retired” Household.

  • cooking my meals which can be eaten with little chewing and are nurtitious and tasty
  • cooking and freezing meals that are adapted for me and suit my husband as well e.g. spag bol
  • cooking some add-ons for my husband’s meals e.g. my fried rice
  • making cakes. Lots of little cakes. Since discovering I “can” eat cake – with a teaspoon – this household always has freezer space for “little cakes”. I like ones with lots of icing – helps get the cake down, my husband likes no icing
  • cleaning the floors that require vacuuming each fortnight
  • cleaning my en-suite bathroom and all surfaces of shelves, sets of drawers etc in the house
  • ensuring the plants outside are watered and cared for – watering, moving them around as need be and pruning
  • grocery shopping that is specifically for me and some catch-up items as my husband does the main & bigger shop

My Self-Care Routine.

  • I would like to think I have this down pat. I do not. I sometimes do too much and wonder why I am tired or tetchy.
  • Balance of some kind is ideal. I am still learning and I can imagine many of us are too in our retirement years.
  • As someone who loved her busy-ness in work and then when caring for our grandkids and part-time teaching…but also had it affect her emotionally I KNOW this is something I need to do better.
  • What is self-care anyway….for me it is this: enough to ‘do’ each day for nothing to feel stressful and enough to ‘be’ each day to feel calm and in control of my emotions
  • I could improve my ‘going to sleep’ times and am already listening to some ‘sleep stories’ via my Calm meditation app which is helping somewhat
  • I need to remember I am not in a race for self-care or self-improvement
  • I am aware I need to think ‘marathon’ rather than ‘sprint.’

My Care For Others.

  • I am getting better at this one!
  • When I was recovering from cancer surgery in those months from July to November 2017 my physical restrictions and mental tiredness meant I could not do much at all
  • However, I now know the value of caring for and about others (without trying to be the FIXER or the PEOPLE PLEASER) and this, my readers, is a BIG step for me
  • I continue to learn about this – am I doing or saying this to ‘fix’ this person or something that can be fixed or am I doing this to show my love and support for the person as he or she fixes things themselves. A BIG one for sure.
  • And in saying that, I know my people pleasing has taken a back seat…even in the ‘boot’ of ‘my car’ as I continue to know the value of pleasing myself (not indulgently) by setting BOUNDARIES.
  • Who knew? Boundaries for me and noticing that may be my interactions with others are not exactly as I might have anticipated because of THEIR boundaries! Great learning this one!

My Physical Appearance Each Day.

  • If you have followed by blog since late last year and into 2018 you will know that, over time my physical appearance has taken on a new dimension
  • Before late October 2017 I was in survival mode as well as under life stressors including IBS and anxiety and a cancer diagnosis. This meant I cared less for my outward appearance as I was concentrating on trying to figure out how to help myself inwardly.
  • This, as it turned out, was not helpful.
  • Instead, I took a challenge to dress well each day quite seriously. It was a self-created challenge. I am not going to stop it as I know it helps me each day.

Summary.

  • I am happy with many aspects of my ‘progress’ as I know I feel better emotionally and physically.
  • I also know there are more challenges to me on the horizon but I have learned that I can and do meet challenges much better than I did.
  • All in all, I am going well.

I believe I have allowed myself, even writing this, to be vulnerable. I know I take more brave steps these days than ever before.  And yes, I have read and listened to all of Brene Brown’s work. She tells it as it is. Bravely. Words matching actions.

Have you ever considered a ‘check-up’ of this nature?

I thought it was a good way for me to review how things are really instead of giving myself a hard time about not making progress because that is clearly a bit of a fib.

I will be interested in your comments! Not about me, per se, but about the notion of a self-check.

Denyse.

On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here

 

 

 

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Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Background.

I have mentioned a while back here on the blog that for quite some time, IBS, fear of having to find a loo quickly, anxiety about travelling on the M1 to Sydney were all contributing to a heightened sense of anxiety and worry. So much so, that I found it stressful to have family here to visit and resisted entertaining people. This was further exacerbated very early in 2017 when some very hot days in NSW, seeing a HUGE line of cars which could not move on the M1 because of a major accident and my mind immediately imaging what it be like for me to even contemplate such a happening that I literally and figuratively FROZE with fear. My planned visit to my father’s in Sydney for his birthday in early January was cancelled. By me. Crying, sad and fearful me. I felt so guilty but I also felt incredibly relieved. Interesting!

What is exposure therapy, or as I like to call it ‘personal challenges’?

Here is some information:

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.
Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be
* graded
* repeated and regular
* prolonged

Graded:
 Your therapist will work with you to determine what would be an appropriate first step; it should be difficult enough to provoke some fear but easy enough for you to be fairly confident you can do it. Once you can cope with Step 1 confidently, then you can move onto a more difficult situation and gradually work up your most feared scenarios.

Source: http://www.anxietyaustralia.com.au/exposure-therapy/

Shortly after my decision not to drive to see Dad, I summoned up enough courage to keep my next Psychologist appointment after I had been to my lovely GP to tell her what had happened. Rationally I knew what I was doing and feeling was not helping me but I could not escape from the rope fear and anxiety had wound around me. I also was NOT diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nor was I depressed but my behaviours and resistance to trying the challenge myself were making me (and I guess those who loved me) a bit frustrated but kindly not showing it much! I resisted even though I would tell my professionals I would give the exposure ideas a go in a graded sense it never seemed to me anyway, to be enough.

Some of the ways I was ‘convincing myself’ that things were going well. Deep down, I knew they needed to be better and only I could change that.

My Personal Challenges Getting Me Started. 

Recently I have been listening to Brene Brown on her Rising Strong – A Spiritual Practice CD and she talks of the stories we tell ourselves because our brain wants us to be rewarded with a shot of dopamine when we work out the story to fit the situation. It does not, however, mean that having that story makes you better or right. It IS just a story. I know I was telling myself many stories back in January to March. I know that they were wrong too but I could not even see myself being able to move further along the exposure challenge way. Until I HAD to.

Early April 2017. The BIG challenge after a few smaller but important ones.

It is no secret to readers here and Facebook followers and friends and family that my teeth, notably my upper jaw and gums had been giving me hell for about 8 months to this point. After some nervous but successfully personal challenges – driving on M1 to the Dentist, discussing what treatment I would need and back and forth, I faced 6th April. The day my hub would drive me to the dentist for a 1.5 hour extraction of both the bridge holding my 5 front teeth and the teeth themselves. I cannot lie that I was not scared. Not about the procedure actually but about whether my stress levels about IBS and worry of IBS would escalate. On the advice of our new then GP, I had valium and meds to counter any fears of IBS and with my hub taking me and staying in the same room with me, and listening to a CD of relaxation, I came through the biggest challenge I had to date.

How That One Event Helped Me Go to Sydney.

I drove home, alongside my caring husband, congratulating myself for having the courage to go beyond my fears and as it is said, do it anyway. I recuperated with relative ease and drove back by myself to the dentist after a week in a more relaxed and calm manner. It felt so good!  Then the so-called bigger challenge (exposure therapy-wise) was for me to drive to Sydney to see Dad. I do have to explain that it was because of ME I had to do this, not because of any pressure from him. He just wanted me to feel well and be less anxious. I did that drive, caught up with him, took him some meals and felt very pleased to have met the challenge!

So, there I went. Going well…but there was more, waiting around the corner…as regular readers know but I will continue next week!

Part Two Comes Next Week. 

Have you had anxiety or fears about doing some things in your life?

Have you overcome them?

Tell us about this.

Thank you for sharing!

I believe it IS important to share.

Denyse.

 

Joining with two blogging friends’ link-ups: Kylie here who hosts I Blog On Tuesdays and Leanne here who hosts Lovin’ Life each Thursday.

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For Courage. 2017.80.

For Courage. 2017.80.

I’ve been taking my time since I retired from work to seek answers to life’s twists and turns. I’ve attended church and Sunday School as a child and an adult. I am not sure if or what I believe in these days. But I know I need  to connect with my deeper inside me and I am pretty sure that I also need to connect with others. That is what human beings need. Love and belonging and connection.

Interestingly I have found myself less resilient and even more surprising to me less confident in the past 3 years. I believe it may be connected to the ageing process but it still does not sit too well withe me, so I search for answers and ideas from others. I love the words and lessons from Pema Chodron. Another source is the works of John O’Donoue and in his book  To Bless The Space Between Us  I found this.

 

For Courage.

When the light around you lessen and your thoughts darken until

Your body feels fear turn as cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft of any belief in yourself

And all you knowingly leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands your whole heart

And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see that it is your now thinking

That darkens your world,

Search and you will find a diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone and that this darkness has purpose;

Gradually it will school your eyes

To find the one gift your life requires hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning of every suffering you have suffered.

Close your eyes.

Gather all the kindling about your heart to create one spark.

That is all you need.

To nourish the flame that will cleanse the dark of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive to urge you toward higher ground

Where your imagination will learn to engage difficulty

As its most rewarding threshold!

p. 107. States of the Heart section.

What kind of attributes help us be more courageous?

I’d love to hear from you about how you deal with fear.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie Purtell here and the bloggers who blog on Tuesdays!

On Thursdays I join then Lovin’ Life Linky here with Leanne and friends.

 

 

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