Monday 18th November 2019

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51#LifeThisWeek. 105/2019.

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51#LifeThisWeek. 105/2019.

In the past of this series I have written about daily routines, helpful strategies and learning about self-care for me. I have referenced people who have helped me in my quest. Some of my posts can be found here, here and here.

This week’s is different.

Read on to see why.

Where Do I Start?

Not at the beginning in this case! I start with what I think was/is for me a big issue in terms of self-care.

Believing the stories I am telling myself even when there is no evidence nor reason.

What Do I Mean By That?

I’ve been making big progress in terms of my on-going wellness physically and emotionally, particularly related to head and neck cancer, and in every day life practices ….or so I thought until last week.

On Wednesday last week I had the worst headache I had ever experienced since getting migraines waaay back in my 30s and 40s. I woke with it and it was unrelenting. I ended up, most unusually for me, vomiting once. I did not want to eat, felt nauseous, nothing appealed and I spent a miserable night tossing and turning because “I was making up so many stories about what I HAD DONE to cause this to MYSELF”

On Thursday it has settled more but my mind continued to play that above “rubbish” in my head. In fact, my husband and a friend said “maybe you have a virus, or even the flu”. No, not me. I couldn’t accept that. Again….”what did I do to get this?”

On Friday, bit better but not right 100%, another example of my story-telling which came to mind. When I felt I needed to use a toilet quickly because of symptoms of IBS. I “blamed” my inability to manage my emotions and spoke to myself harshly. I won’t repeat the words.

but by the end of that Friday I was so, so ready to

SHUT

THAT

VOICE

UP

and then this is what happened.

  • I felt the feelings and did not like them but I did know why they stayed.
  • I had felt ashamed to admit my health vulnerabilities.
  • I used to think I did have something wrong (and that is true) but until I had a diagnosis from my GP or someone with a medical qualification I hid behind my stress.
  • It has been like this for me probably since I was young. No-one (as I see it) in the 1950s and 1960s brought their kids up to speak of emotions and be able to be heard. In fact, I don’t think our generation did a good job either. We may have been more understanding but I guess “we wanted a happy, not crying kid” too.
  • I made an appointment to see my GP next week. I then examined how my physical symptoms were and they matched either a virus or a form of the flu. At the time of writing they are still there but I am managing them better.
  • I chose to treat myself with compassion.
  • I told myself I had not CAUSED anything to happen. I relaxed and took care of myself with food and water and kind inner conversation.
  • But wait, there is more.
  • You see, the old old issue for me of shame and embarrassment around my bowel habits continued to be one where I took myself to task often. Add to this a rectocele I also need to manage and I started to ‘hate needing to go to the toilet or find one wherever I was’ and I blamed me.
  • I knew though that I needed to change that darned voice and SOON.
  • I did.
  • I wrote about it. In my on-line journal. It also helped to read it aloud to my husband.
  • It relieved my stress to such a level by that Friday night and into Saturday (time of writing) I have been:

A very pleasant person to be and to live with.

What a significant self-care story this turned out to be.

But of course, you just can’t turn a belief on its head like that…because our minds like to play with us.

IF I had not already done a lot of self-education about self-compassion, having courage and learning from Brene Brown, Kristin Neff and My Calm Meditation AND all the courses I have done, including seeing a psychologist ….and having a trained counsellor husband who has, ahem, talked me down from quite few heights of emotion…then I could not have done this.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?

Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.

So, I thank you for reading this far. I have felt a bit vulnerable in owning up to what was keeping me stressed in some areas of my physical health but I have done it.

Two images with quotes which have helped me grow as a person are shared here:

Denyse.

P.S. The story does not stop here. No. Unless I continue to practise and recognise my self-care and compassion, then my negative/default mind (it’s how all of our brains operate) will revert pretty darned smart. So, I will return to this book, where I began completing the pages. Sometimes it IS hard to look at yourself with a reality check. But I know this helps me. Onward….and away from old thoughts, memories of shame and embarrassment.

This is the book I use.

 

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Next Week’s optional prompt is: 43/51 Your Favourite Book As a Child 28/10/19

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The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

It’s time to share more about me and the Big C.

Yes, it’s about C for…..

CONFIDENCE!

(ha! not the other big C for cancer)

I think I give an outward show of being confident. It is not really a fake it till I make it confidence either.

It is about self-confidence in selected settings.

  • I am confident about my school life and teaching days and enjoy sharing the stories from then.
  • I love this part of me that can share now. I know there were days in education that were not always great (yes, my emotional health took a beating in 2002) but I have grown so much as a person and learner since then.

 

  • I am getting more confident of how I am managing my self-care in regards to less anxiety that plagued me for the years of my transition into retirement.
  • What good news that is! It was horrible for me with IBS thrown into the mix and I have done so well taking on board exposure therapy and a small medication routine.

 

  • I am less than confident in my belief about how well I am going in terms of my mental outlook since my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments and surgeries.
  • What is the evidence each day? None, really. It just happens sometimes.

 

  • I remain under-confident about my changed appearance a.k.a. my body’s change from very overweight to ‘almost normal weight’ and then back to a slightly ‘overweight’ status.
  • Am I taking steps to understand this huge shift and learning as I go? Yes. Every day.

 

  • I am still not as confident as I think I need to be to take on a continuing role in educating others about Head and Neck cancer because I am sensing judgment of others. I do know that I call upon courage to help me through even I have doubts.
  • Do I have evidence? Not really.

WHY?

I am who I am.

I am the product of a childhood and teen years spent in a dominant paternal household. I was told what to do. I may not always have done it but the memory of “other people’s words” being my measure for self remain.

I am able to give myself a ‘good talking to’ at times and can turn this matter of lack of self-confidence around.

But it takes energy and time AND motivation. I do not always have these on hand together and so there are days when my lack of self-confidence AND worth impact me more.

I am learning more in terms of self-compassion and how each of us is connected via shared humanity.

AM I FOOLING ANYONE?

Possibly but what of it?

  • I am on Instagram each day keeping myself accountable for dressing with purpose and going out somewhere for coffee.
  • This does help me ramp up some of my confidence in just doing so. I am not reliant on the comments as much any more because I know the effort I put in makes the outcome worth it.
  • But then when I have kind followers write comments of “congratulations, kindness and cheering me on” I do appreciate this a lot but also that inner critic rises up and adds her voice “would they say that if they really knew me?”
  • Lies. I do not tell them as far as I am aware but it seems maybe I am believing them from this inner critic. Who? Moi?

WHAT NOW?

Onward.

I know that putting these words here has helped me see that it’s my faulty thinking that has been affecting my self-confidence.

OK! How to change that?

  • Already I have in some ways as I now recognise this inner critic voice and her role.

 

  • My actions, my words and my inner life help me remember MUCH more about the confidence I like to have and know I can bring more to the fore.

 

  • Each time I dress and go out for coffee, I am embedding self-confidence.

 

  • My daily journal keeping can continue to be a ‘write it all down’ place and then review for evidence of this confidence tracking upwards not the downwards the inner critic can believe.

 

  • My on-line interactions with people from my various communities in education, blogging and head and neck cancer are ways in which I grow my self-confidence and also give back to others where I can and it is asked for.

 

  • Seeing myself as others do and may. It helps to believe that I am both good and doing good. This is something I have struggled with all of my life and want it to change. I can do this. I will remind myself more.

 

  • Maintaining practices of:

 

  • being in nature,
  • time-outs with my art journal,
  • chats with my husband, meditation each night,
  • helping my physical body to relax,
  • exercising within my limitations,
  • planning to eat well and doing the same without any deprivation,
  • cancer checks and better understanding of the fact that cancer actually never leaves but might take a back seat in my life,
  • taking time to make contact with family and friends,
  • exploring the local area’s beauty,
  • browsing at the shops,
  • reading,
  • keeping to a timetable of sorts each day for balance in my life.

Already I feel better!

Thanks for reading.

Do you have an issue with the Big C?

 

Denyse.

Joining with my blogging friends here:

Min on Tuesdays here for #ZenTipsTuesday

Sue & Leanne on Wednesdays  here for #MidlifeShareTheLove

Leanne & Crew on Thursdays  here for #LovinLife

 

 

 

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No (ONE) Word Of The Year For Me. 6/2019.

No (ONE) Word Of The Year For Me. 6/2019.

Dear Readers,

In my earlier post here, I gave a rundown on my success/lack thereof with recent “words of the year”. I said I would be back with what I have in 2019.

Here I am.

I have no (ONE) word of the year at all. I have many and I need to share the story more.

Thank you,

Denyse.

If you have ever wondered why it is hard to come to a decision about something? I have been like this with the notion of a word/intention for 2019.

I have asked myself MANY times why and the response is usually because I want to cover all I need for me in 2019.

This is impractical so I will share the range of words here in this post.

Last year as I went through two surgeries for re-construction and re-modelling inside my mouth after my oral cancer diagnosis in May 2017. In doing that I had a significant need to remember to be B.O.L.D. that is: Be Brave Optimistic Loving & Learning Determined Denyse. It was (and still is engraved on a small bracelet chain I wear day and night. I could ‘touch it’ or read it to remind me of how I wanted to be even in the hardest of situations. Some of these included being told a 4th surgery was necessary and would be a much longer time for me to wear a stent inside my mouth to allow the space to stay open.

I kept my practice going of wearing an outfit, having a photo taken, going out for a coffee and sharing what I got up on Instagram and the on-line support was a boost I always appreciated.

Of course, I did not only rely on the bracelet and already had so much knowledge and experience from the even more emotionally hard days well before my cancer diagnosis. Even though I did not seem to be able to live as I would have liked then I was sowing the seeds within. Many of these titles were listened to in the car and in my then art room as I made patterns and mandalas (another coping mechanism for my anxiety pre-cancer) and meditate along with some of these mindfulness teachers.

I believed I was going well in many aspects as I could face the hard things which I wrote about here and here. I also had greater understanding of what it is to be human! We are not alone at all. My meditation practices helped. Not always. But anything which slowed down my critical voice and over-active mind was a good thing!

In August 2018 the event I had waited over 14 months for occurred. I had the new upper prosthesis of teeth screwed into my new jaw and gums. At last, I could eat more again! So exciting. It was (and still is) and work-in-progress as the mouth I use to eat is so very different to one that has natural teeth attached to a natural jaw.

3 months difference! I like to recognise special days

But I loved trying new foods. Until in the last few months my weight changed. Up. I am continually torn between eating for fun/enjoyment and for nourishment. Sigh. So, not being disrespectful to my professional team at all, I need to take personal responsibility for my eating. I am not 100% confident with that yet (again!) as I have had issues with being very overweight (related to using food for needs other than hunger) and I confessed all that here.

I value honesty and truth-telling and I know some people who read here tell me that they think I am being brave. Well, that maybe the case but I cannot hide. I tried that a long time ago and it does not work. So I must accept my truth is that I am vulnerable and sometimes look to food to be a salve for what I cannot fix. I actually do not want to be like this anymore. I am needing to find the words to help me through and they seem to be based in:

  • self-care
  • self-kindness
  • self-compassion

But even before I can do this well, I have to accept what my ageing body is doing (70 this year) and normalising that is hard! I thought managing cancer was all I had to do. Nope.

  • I have to manage my IBS symptoms when and if they appear,
  • I need to be aware of my regular skin checks, eye sight (I had a wee scare late December which turned out to be floaters),
  • my feet cannot embrace many shoes so I need to care for them better
  • manage my weight. Oh I was so hoping I would not HAVE to go there
  • acknowledge that some foods add weight & were what I used to calm me then I need(ed) to be able to embrace those emotions that are stress/anxiety/worry based …
  • and, in owning up to them, let them arrive, and let them go of their own accord.

This is what I have also learned in my mindfulness, meditation, podcasts and more.

So many wonderful people speaking on these CDs and each has helped (and continue to help) me.

Calm is my latest and the each 10 minutes has something of value to me to shift my attitude and be more at one with myself.

A word popped into my head two weeks back as I considered this topic (where were we….ah, Word or Intention!) and INTEGRATE stayed. I now have this word on a second bracelet and it may look a teensy bit over-done but as a visual and sensory reminder, with the tiny heart bracelet in between I reckon they will help me return to calm(er) waters.

The bracelets don’t stay like this of course but each faces me so I can see them and remember!

What now?

I continue to face what I need to do to live honestly and to embrace the emotions I dislike.

  • To this end, and because I had been learning lots about self-compassion, I have just started on the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kirstin Neff PhD & Christopher Germer PhD. I shall share progress on this in future blog posts.
  • I remain committed to something creative each day and am exploring different ways of using my small and medium art journal and finding that excellent. I am returning to mandala making. I have, to a greater extent, ruled out Tarot cards. I just am not in a headspace for that right now.
  • I think too, that I have been pretty distracted since Tuesday 8 January 2019 where I had an unexpected mouth check as more skin was growing and it came as a shock that it was done in case it was cancer. THAT in itself is another post. I had pushed cancer to the back and I was jolted back to reality when my surgeon said “I’m a cancer doctor”. Oh.
  • He also mentioned the possibility of further and extensive in-mouth surgery if the lip continues to have reduced room between it and the teeth and when he outlined what they might involve, I was pretty shocked. HOWEVER, nothing is decided yet but it’s there, hovering.

Every 7th week now on my Monday link-up the optional prompt will be Self-Care and I have added this for me and for anyone else who wants to share their self-care. 

I have written a lot and still there is no conclusive one word or an intention  but this is how it is for me in January 2019.

Thanks for reading!

I hope it’s been of interest to you.

It has helped to write it out.

Denyse.

Linking up with Sue here and Leanne on Wednesdays for Midlife Share The Love link up.

On Thursdays I link with Leanne and the crew at Lovin’ Life here.

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