Sunday 18th August 2019

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Series Concludes. 51/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Series Concludes. 51/2019.

This is the final post in the series of five.

Thanks to you all for continuing to read and comment about this very difficult time in my life.

It is only by the review of how it was, I can see and sense just how much I did endure before the cancer diagnosis!

In this month of May, I am reminded by the outside signs: weather, temperature, clothing AND the dates on the calendar exactly what is coming up.

The 2nd anniversary of being told I had cancer.

Wednesday 17th May 2017 at 9.35 a.m.

From the writing of the fourth part of this series till the timeline of this final post, I can remember:

  • trying my best to distract myself from the pain of the mouth after the extractions, thinking “this must be how recovery feels”
  • telling myself that I would be OK even if my emotions were telling me differently…via IBS and anxiety.
  • looking out for ways in which I could share on-line, via blogging and instagram to help me focus on other than my mouth
  • waiting for the first appointment in early/mid May to come so I could return to the dentist
  • keeping myself ‘busy’ with more learning about mindfulness, which included this:

Then mid-May arrived. I needed to visit my former GP on Wed 10 May 2017 to say farewell now I had found our new and current one close to where we live, and I needed some female tests done. I also had the appointment with the dentist on Thursday 11 May 2017.

This mouth of mine was so smelly, sore and downright worrying. I had not really shown the doctor even though I had seen her regularly for 2 years because it was not until the extraction on 6 April 2017 that much became visible.

Once I took the denture out, she GASPED and put her hands over her mouth. NOT a confident move but one I know was from shock.

This view spares you the details but it was no pretty at all. She made immediate arrangements for me to have a CT scan of my face – sinuses etc as she was thinking cancer and an OPG which is a special 360degree X-ray for the mouth. She knew I was seeing my dentist the next day.

Off I went home with a pit growing in my stomach…and of course, I could not think of much else. On the Thursday, I arrived at the dentist’s office with my little cakes and a card to say “thanks for caring for me at the extraction appointment”. Nice. Then it was his turn to express shock – but in a less dramatic way – after seeing the state of the gums AND to send me to the Oral Surgeon for a biopsy. THAT was sorted out very quickly when the Oral Surgeon saw me on the Friday 12 May AND could do the biopsy then. A sneaky suspicion I now have – in a good way – is that my dentist got in touch with her quick smart and said “asap” please.

Whilst I DID get through that Friday, knowing I had to wait till Monday for the results was H A R D…and it was Mother’s Day, 14 May 2017, on the Sunday. To be frank some family issues were making this a day that I was not looking forward to much but, as Mum, I did my best to cover my feelings. Not very well, though as even in this photo I remember all I was thinking about was the results the next morning. I did tell my daughter as she was leaving that I had some test results coming.

Monday 15 May arrived and once the time arrived that I could call to see if the results from the Imaging places were in, I did and I went to collect them: no sign of anything sinister. Breathe out….. Later that day the oral surgeon called with initial biopsy results …nothing sinister found….breathe out….and I called both my Dad and daughter with the news. My husband already knew.

Phew. Dodged that.

Not so fast apparently. It still did not make sense that I had this weird gum thing happening but I took the words of the professionals and believed them.

Wednesday morning, 17 May,  my husband was at Lifeline doing volunteer counselling and I was still in my chair, finishing off the morning paper after breakfast. The home phone rang and it was the oral surgeon. She apologised for the call, but had the detailed pathology report and it was squamous cell carcinoma in those nasty gums of mine. I was shocked but not surprised as I have said before…”it HAD to be something major”.

From then on, it was all-systems go…to a certain extent. I know I had to really get myself into headspace where I could deal with, of all things, the travel to and from Sydney the very next day…and the next two weeks and I did. Typical of me, on that Wednesday, after my husband arrived home and I had my big cry, I was able to go into organisation-mode, and call Lifehouse to find out who Dr Clark was (!) and to plan our trip. I did these trips and managed what I did thanks to my own work, my husband’s amazing support and our GP’s wise words and advice.

The rest of the cancer story is here….and these last words and the photo are of me prior to the first, big surgery in July 2017 and of my thoughts beforehand.

“last smiles” were/are treasured but under those false teeth it’s cancer

  • I made  plans and prepared for hospital,  making meals for later,  and making sure I had sufficient clothes and activities ready to take to the hospital but it was surreal. I was doing this BECAUSE I have cancer. It still did not make sense to me.

  • I know that I saw my GP and psychologist about the surgery and what is meant to have cancer and yes, I cried sometimes but other times I was just numb. THIS could not be happening to me!?

  • My mouth and its discomfort and smell were the source of the cancer and I began to ‘hate’ it.

  • I also knew this surgery was going to take away 3 things that were and are precious to me: smiling, communicating and eating. Made me sad and quite stressed.

  • I was resigned to what the operation was but I truly had no idea of how it would impact me because it was like I was somewhat detached.

  • I knew that the surgery would be within 4-6 weeks of our consultation with the surgeons but oh how those weeks dragged on as I wanted to surgery to be over…but I also did not want to have it. So horrible. It  ended up being 7 weeks after diagnosis.

  • It took me weeks to finally get out the hospital forms and complete them. I just couldn’t before. I had to make myself do them. Filling them out meant, of course, I HAVE cancer and HAVE to do something about it. 

  • I made a decision to stay in a ‘cheap place’ the night before surgery and I so regret this as we were uncomfortable and I spent some of the time ‘feeling guilty and responsible’ because I have cancer. 

  • On the day of surgery, at 6.00 a.m. we  presented yourselves at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and then once ‘checked in’  I undressed and got into the paper gown which meant THIS is about to happen. O.M.G. 

  • I said goodbye to my husband and was off….the journey into the unknown…the operating theatre.

     

Thank you dear readers and commenters. It has helped me enormously to be able to document my cancer journey. At the time of publication, it will be almost the 2nd anniversary of my diagnosis. I am so pleased to be well and at this point. Incredibly grateful to many! I will be seeing my Professor, Jonathan Clark and his wonderful assistant Cate next week for what I hope will be a positive outcome and the intervals between cancer checks will spread from 3 monthly to 6 monthly.

I will have seen my prosthodontist on Monday 13 May so I hope that went well.

It did go well. I am maintaining my prosthesis well. Good news!

 

Yay for modern treatments in Australia and reconstruction surgeries that have enabled this senior citizen to have her ‘mouth’ as functional as it can be thanks to the marvels of modern surgeries and the healing powers of my body.

Denyse.

An unlikely entrant for Zen Tips Tuesday, I know, but I sure know I employed a LOT of skills to stay as calm as I could on this occasion in particular. Thank you Min for your link up here.

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

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Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

I am heading for ‘crunch time’ now. It is almost the 2 years since I heard the words over the telephone:

“Denyse, squamous cell carcinoma was found in your gums after further investigation by the pathologist”

In the last week of April 2017 I did something very courageous…for the Denyse I was back then.

I drove to Sydney to see my father.

My anxiety and fear of IBS episodes had so built up in my mind, that I could not even fathom this trip from the Central Coast, down the M1 to Dee Why. It bothered me big time that I could not but it made me so scared just thinking about it.

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”  Brene Brown.

 

Then as readers from earlier posts know, I HAD to find the courage and it was via this: exposure therapy which over time, has become my way of managing the hard things. This is discussed in a post here. And here in part two.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

From my post here:

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

What does any of this have to do with my remembering the time two years ago?

It is a reminder for me, via the words and pictures, of how long it took for me to get my cancer diagnosis AND how hard it was for me emotionally to manage much of my day-to-day life BEFORE cancer came along.

What I see now, is how I did garner the strength and the courage, over time, via the help of so many:

  • People who had been through their own life challenges and as a result trained in psychology and mindfulness – these people are part of my “inner team” now as I did so much work with them on-line, via CD and streaming their podcasts and videos. I mention them here.
  • My husband, on-site caring and most knowledgeable person, who was not only training in counselling via a degree prior to me becoming very unwell but already had managed his own health issues over decades to the point of self-responsibility for his well-being and care.
  • My GPs and a psychologist who enabled me to see I “had this within me” but also gave me guidance and some appropriate medication to make my path a smoother one.
  • My friends on-line via blogging and other social media who supported my blog and the link ups, made connections via following and keeping me engaged at times I may not have wanted to but did anyway
  • Family and friends who understood this was a big transition I was going through – probably more than I would admit to – from 2014 to early 2017 and with added worries/issues I could not discuss, that worsened my reactions and ill-health for some time.

Thank you for your interest as I have found compiling this helpful for me to judge how far I have come!

There will be a final one in this series…sometime in early May 2019.

Denyse.

Joining  With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here

AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

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Learning To Be Calm. 39/2019.

Learning To Be Calm. 39/2019.

Over 4 years ago, when I first began understanding that I needed to care for myself INSIDE and out, I began meditation. I went to a retreat at the local Buddhist place and learned that I liked being calm and centred. Of course I could not stop thoughts coming and going and I thought then that made me a failure at meditation.

No.

It made me someone who understood that thoughts come and go no matter what but the trick is not to engage in them. Ha. Easier said than done!

Then.

Now, I have been doing some kind of mindfulness each day AND adding around 10 minutes or so of formal meditation via an app, I KNOW I can stop some of the previous ways in which my mind would race, my gut would churn and I would go down the slippery slope (my husband’s name for it) of rumination, regret and future thinking.

I am much better now at stopping the thoughts by not buying into them and distracting myself with going outside, doing some art, driving and listening to an audible book.

Here’s what I have used in the past: Headspace. I paid for it and used it most days for almost 3 years. What happened for me is boredom set in.

I moved to another app called Calm after doing the free trial.

A for Amazing. I love its variations, I love the refreshing of the meditations, I love that I can re-do ones I get a lot out of and I love that I can explore new sessions.

Sleep Stories is a winner too. I now tend to do my meditation at bedtime (I used to be a mid-morning meditator) and then, I might also listen to a sleep story. It is just the best.

This is the link to the website and you can see there is a free trial. I did that, then paid for an annual fee and after that was offered LIFETIME membership at not much more than the annual fee. I grabbed that bargain! I am not being paid ( I don’t do sponsored posts) but I like to recommend.

I hope you find some calm in your every day in any way that works well for you!

Denyse.

Joining with Min for her Zen Tips Tuesday link up here.

 

 

 

 

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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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November Notes #5. 2018.125.

November Notes #5. 2018.125.

I went to a million (give or take) in-service courses as a teacher/principal.

I think they are called “professional learning” now and I also know they “count” towards accreditation each year.

I also devised and delivered many as both a teacher and University tutor and Adult Educator.

So what is this about in relation to my final November notes?

It’s how my personal development was & is enhanced by having cancer.

I am aware I have written at some length about the processes I have learned behaviour-wise and they are here, on the page “Denyse and Her Cancer Story”.

What I will do now is write about my changes in behaviour and attitude and how this can be linked to my cancer diagnosis. To make it easier and for me to see the changes, it will be in photos.

  • I gained independence
  • I became much less anxious and fearful following my diagnosis and subsequent BIG surgery
  • I tried new things with greater ease than ever before
  • I knew that to follow the processes and trust in the professionals, I would be OK.
  • I sometimes had to challenge the negative voice inside that wanted it all “done and now”
  • I found calm in more ways than I realised: particularly by going outside, into nature and doing art.

And then more:

  • As I already knew from the experiences of ‘exposure therapy’ the more I did the more I could do with increased confidence
  • Things do not occur linearly nor with ease and of course there were (still are at times) so tears that spill over and some worries
  • What is different now is how quickly I recover and re-group
  • It feels so much better for me to be a calmer person who is less afraid to travel, meet up with friends old and new and see greater times ahead
  • I can also put the “cancer voice” back in its box with relative ease by using my thinking strategies well.
  • I no longer try to ‘case manage’ anyone else’s behaviour.
  • I accept with great assurance that not only am I doing the best I can, so are most people
  • I am much more likely now to reach out a hand in friendship and care rather than recoil because of the anxiety and fear based on social engagements and effects of IBS.

And this is why and how having cancer helped me grow. It is a learning process of course. However, I am loving how my life is now and what I have gained back from this past 18 months living with a cancer diagnosis.

There is such a phenomenon called Post-Traumatic Growth. Article can be found here.

This resonates with me:

Types of personal growth

People may experience different types of change while coping with cancer, including:

  • Improved relations with others. Living with cancer may increase feelings of closeness or intimacy with family or friends. It may make it easier to connect with others who have had a traumatic event.
  • New life experiences. Having cancer may change your priorities, causing you to make different life choices. You may be motivated to make a career change, overcome a fear, or fulfil a life goal.
  • A greater appreciation for life. A cancer survivor may have an increased regard for life’s value or a new sense of vulnerability to death. This awareness may help you appreciate the world in new ways.
  • A sense of personal strength. Living with cancer can help you develop increased mental strength and a sense of empowerment. You can be proud of what you have accomplished.
  • Spiritual development. Some people living with cancer find they gain an increased interest in practicing religion or adding spiritual depth to their daily lives.

Having post-traumatic growth does not mean that you have completely overcome the stress and other feelings about having cancer. Growth and suffering can happen at the same time. In fact, most people who report post-traumatic growth also report having struggles. A person may grow in one area of their life and not another, or in a number of areas at different times.

I have been incredibly fortunate of course to have the surgeries and treatments and I never downplay cancer but as an educator I know what it has taught me and continues to teach me.

Have you had experiences that have changed part of your life and your outlook?

Please share!

Denyse.

Joining in with Leanne for Lovin Life linky here.

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What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

Last week I began this topic here and had a number of commenters who added their own hard things to the discussion.

What was common to many was the fact that even though they did not want to really do “their hard thing” they were prepared to give it a go and in most cases were pleased to have done so.

That mirrors my own experiences.

Thank you for sharing, everyone.

I found a couple of websites here for those who want to learn more, here and here.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

About (My) Exposure Therapy.

I am not a trained psychologist nor therapist but I am someone who has been taught what exposure therapy is and whilst I did not like its title (I called it my challenges!) I can outline how it was explained for me.

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

And then I HAD to face my worst fear and do a trip to Sydney to Lifehouse, see surgeons about my newly (24 hours previously) diagnosed cancer and be a passenger in the car. Three things! My G.P. said “take the valium, take the immodium” and my husband stopped at any loo along the way. I DID it all. Yes, with some drug help but no IBS.

That changed things a LOT. It did not happen just from that ONE experience…I had many more drives like that to face and surgeries but it was the beginning of getting better acquainted with of what I COULD manage by my thinking and doing.

In fact by early March 2018 I decided I could now drive myself to Sydney for the many treatments at Westmead Hospital. Yes, I still do get some IBS in the days leading up but I manage it. No, I do not scold myself any more nor cry about it. I get on with it. It will never be easy-peasy but I will continue to have my mind “do the hard things” and not be beaten by the anxiety of having IBS. By the way, this photo below is me having finished my 23rd session of measuring, treating and fitting at Westmead Oral Sciences. I drove myself to 18 of these!

Monday 10 September with my prosthodontist and nurse. No more visits for 4 weeks!

My Added Story.

Way before cancer and me learning about exposure therapy but when IBS was robbing me of experiences such as visitign the family in Sydney or going there for a social reason, I used to push myself to do some to these as it was “too hard” not to do them if that makes sense. One was (and still is) a family-duty visit to see my elderly father. I say duty because I really do not enjoy these visits much yet I also want to ensure he is OK and leave some meals and snacks I make for him. A long time ago, he tried to understand my IBS and made adjustments to my visits so we just stay in his apartment and talk. The times he insisted on going out for a meal or snack…well, they ended badly for me so he compromised.

With Dad – early 2018.

When I drove back home up to the Central Coast from the Northern Beaches  in the years preceding my cancer diagnosis I always stopped here. Sometimes I still do. In this space of nature, just off the busy and noisy M1, I get a sense of calm and success at having met that challenge of the journey and the reason. When I was there last week, I made this little video.

That’s not quite it from me in terms of the hard things.

What I have realised since even thinking about this post, is how much I do need to continue to encourage myself to take part in life’s changes. You see, I thought getting my teeth would be awesome and it is, but it added another layer of thinking to my concerns…so, if I can eat what I want to eat after so long, what will it be like if I become very overweight again and cannot fit into the clothes I bought in the last 12 months? I tells ya, it never goes away does it…this hard thing!

Comfort Zones.

No such thing really. Well, in my opinion, sitting or staying in your comfort zone helps you stay stuck.  was in mine for a while when I would go nowhere but when I think more of it is was a DIScomfort zone. I did not like the me that could not get herself motivated* to go again.

*I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression nor anxiety. I have been affected by reactive depression (sadness and tears) but that often resolves within a day. My ‘anxiety’ is more of a worry thing and has been part of me since I was a teen. My doctors and psychologists believe I am managing well. The very low dose, old fashioned anti-depressant I am on each evening is to help me sleep and it s l o w s  down my inner gut workings. If you have been diagnosed with either or both: depression and anxiety, then you should speak to your health professional about the types of things related to exposure therapy.

Moving On. My Next Challenge!! 

I am going to be OK as long as I eat well and mindfully because when I was very overweight I ate mindlessly most of the time and to stuff down feelings. See here, if you have not read my story. So, I AM different to the Denyse I was then and I have new and better skills to manage my emotions and life since cancer.

Wish me luck!

Hope you are all doing well too.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up.

 

 

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What Is The Hard* Thing? Part One. 2018.91.

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part One. 2018.91.

Hard* as in challenging. scary, not easy, fearful, anxiety-making…but ultimately will or does help with personal growth, wisdom, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment …no matter how big or small.

The ‘hard thing’ is something I have had to accept and do if I want to move on or forward in my life.

There are times when the hard thing can feel too hard or even unacceptable for me to try to do or be.

Noticing nature helps me focus on “just one thing”

Here’s an example.

Last week I had an elevated feeling of anxiety/worry about my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) ramping up to let ME know what my thinking self was not aware of. That is, as I understand the mind vs the gut thing, that my IBS was ramping up because it sensed a fear situation happening.

If you have read here for a while, you will recall that I have really had to work via exposure therapy based messages and activities to make changes to be able to do ordinary, every day activities. This is the first part of the story and here is the second one.

I had ticked a pretty major (for me) life experience challenge box when I drove to Sydney on Monday especially to meet a friend for coffee and a catch up. Awesome and planned by me and I was so glad to be doing it. However, my gut rumbled and let me know:

 “ah ha you are about to get in the car and go down the M1. This is something that you have been scared to do because of IBS”

I refused to play the old IBS, crying, fearful game and instead, took some preventative action and had a successful drive, a wonderful catch up and came home with no ill-effects.

Go me. Right? Right! Until this…

The next day. I had found I was pretty tired from the physical and emotional effects of yesterday’s much wanted success and when I had my IBS back again AND needed to leave the house to go to the hairdresser, I did similarly to the day before, and gave myself the meds, the talk and set off. I was OK. Mind you, I remained somewhat on high alert and that bothered me because:

In the past, I would have had  the haircut, gone to the loo (again, to see I was OK) then driven straight back home. The place of security and comfort.

But something stopped me. These words:

Do The Hard Thing

Why did I listen? Well, based on my past experiences, I have often regretted being beaten  by the fear once I am home. On this occasion this was the conversation in my head:

Do you want to go straight home and then regret not going for a coffee which is your daily treat?

No, I don’t

Then stay, and sit down for the coffee and do something in your art journal so your mind & body  know who is in charge.

And that was how I did the first hard thing that day.

Next one was this. As I usually drive home from The Entrance, I stop somewhere close to the water and take photos as I notice nature for that day. Instead, I told myself to do another hard thing. I drove in a different direction, to Long Jetty, got out of the car, walked and took photos and a little vid without rushing at all.

This is now my locked screen saver.

These two instances might sound small to some readers but I know that I valued myself more highly for doing something that was out of my comfort zone on two different days as I know how much that helps my inner confidence and ways in which I manage IBS.

It is not the end.

It is never the end.

As long as there are things within me that are scary (to me) and may heighten my gut’s reactions, I am going to need to continue to do the hard things.

For too long, I have avoided hard things and that made me even sicker emotionally than ever. I do not want to go back to that space again.

Next week will be about the why of this strategy and how important it is not only to me, but those readers who let me know about their hard things in the comments.

What is the hard thing for you?

Is there more than one?

Do share in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays here and with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share the Love.

 

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