Tuesday 28th June 2022

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.


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





  1. You’ve faced off with so many hard things and I am sure you will continue to fit in to your lovely, new clothes. You used food to deal with your feelings before but these days you have so many other strings to your bow – your creative outlets, your OOTD and knowing that you can face your fears and overcome them. You’re so inspiring!

    • Thank you Sammie. That is lovely of you. Interestingly I had quite a dramatic weekend worried about putting “all the weight back on” as soon as I ate anything new (after teeth) and lovely. It was then of course, I saw that my thinking was Black and White…..and changed the message.

      I am not “that” Denyse anymore I know but I want to pay tribute to her in those really tough times and eating was her salve and help. No more, I know but I do not want to be ‘hating her’ knowing what she was getting through.

      Your words are always a boost and a comfort.

      Thank you.

      Denyse xx

  2. You’re a shining example of the old line “you’re never too old to learn new things.” Self work is some of the hardest we ever do inlife, so yay you for figuring things out! And thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you so much Cate I can see that is true for me.

      I think once I knew I no longer wanted to be ‘stuck’ at home and needed to get myself out again it was a few steps at a time and as my confidence built it is so part of me and I love it.

      I met up with Kirsty a blogging friend today – drove an hour to meet her and it was just great.

      I am grateful for the tough ways in which I had to learn.

      Denyse x

  3. Your self-awareness and growth over the past couple of years is amazing. You never shy away from the truth and that has helped so many people. Different is good – and often different can be the best way to evolve into the best version of you. #teamIBOT

    • Thanks so much Natalie. I realise that when we hold back the truth or keep secrets it is not doing our inner health any good.

      I also know now that the sharing I do encourages others to see it is OK.

      That is not something I would have done some years back when shame was what I felt for how I was ‘not managing my life.’

      Denyse x

  4. I am learning with you – thank you

  5. A lovely post and a very good philosophy. I’m just off to make a list …

    • Thank you, sure did some learning the hard way!

      That does seem to be the theme of habits that stick.

      Mind you I have been calling myself a W-I-P (work in progress) for sometime!!

      Denyse x

  6. Loved that short video – you definitely should be very proud of yourself for working through and facing your fears! I’m sure these posts will come in handy for others starting out on their own journey, to see the positive outcome at the end is inspirational.

    • Thank you Erika. I got into ‘making little vids’ once I was diagnosed with cancer, recovering in hospital and then some of the changes that happened along the way and it is so good for me to recall and be encourage by my progress. Memories are not always that accurate.

      It is a solo journey with this type of cancer – head & neck – because it affects every person differently and some of the ways in which I have been treated are new and not well documented so my professional team is pleased I do this too.

      Denyse x

  7. I think everyone has things they push to the back a bit, but it is certainly rewarding when you dust them off and have a go at them. Good on you. Sounds like you’ve gone ahead in leaps and bounds.

    • I agree, we do. But in my case I got stuck! It took a pretty drastic thing to help me get unstuck but I also had been learning and absorbing a LOT of information that was helpful for getting to know ‘me, the human’ over the 2-3 years before. It was time to put it all into practice. The more I do it the better it is.

      Denyse x

  8. Hi, Denyse – I agree with Cate. You are a wonderful example of so many positive things. A sincere congratulations on all of the challenges that you have faced and overcome. Your story is very inspirational!

    • Thanks so much. No-one sets out on this kind of journey with any intent to ‘inspire’ because it was and still is quite an unknown recovering from cancer and the various surgeries. However, once it became helpful to me to record what I was doing, here and via social media, then apparently it is helpful. I modestly accept the claim of inspiring because there are some days I simply can’t believe what I have gone through.

      Denyse x

  9. Definitely a silver lining story Denyse – you have grown so much through your cancer journey and I think the fact that you’ve been willing to be proactive and learn coping techniques and how to push through what seemed like insurmountable barriers is a reflection of the strong woman you are. If a small low dose antidepressant gives you a good night’s sleep then go for it (I take the same sort of thing most nights – my DIL calls them my “magic” pills because they work for her too!)
    #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    • Thank you Leanne for those kind words. I literally do what I have to do and over time, even the hard things feel OK as I succeed through what would have previously scared me.

      Go the low-dose anti-d’s! MIne are awesome to help reduce the IBS too.

      Denyse x

  10. Denyse, I am happy for you that you have found a way to accept your challenges and challenge them at the same time. So much of our daily experience is in how we think about things. Your bravery is challenging the way you think will help you to grow and persevere. Good luck to you!

    • Thank you very much Michelle. I am glad too. I really felt trapped in an anxious life that was nothing like I knew I wanted to live …and then came cancer…!!

      Still, those hard things pop up every day but I can look them in the eye and get on with things now which is awesome.

      Denyse x

  11. Hi Denyse, I’m so glad you had a positive outcome and I know I say it often but you are such a wonderful inspiration to us all. My husband suffers from PTSD (Vietnam Vet) but unfortunately, opening up after keeping everything inside for 40 years was not a positive experience and in some ways made him worse. Keep doing the wonderful work on your self development Denyse you certainly are a role model. and a valued member of the #MLSTL community.

    • Thank you Sue. Life is getting better and better and even hiccups like my mouth getting sore again (back to Westmead again next week) no longer panics me as it would have done.

      I was speaking to my hub about trying to get a handle on what PTSD actually is as he has a part degree in counselling and was a volunteer Lifeline counsellor for some years. I hope your husband gets to speak to professionals too. And not all professionals are created equal – I had to find the right psychologist for me – so wishing him (and you too) well.

      Denyse x

  12. You really have a great attitude Denyse and I’m in awe every time I read one of your posts. What you’ve faced and gone through with such grace and humility is amazing! Well done #mlstl

    • Thank you Deb! It is not always feeling like it some days but I sure am better than I was and isn’t it odd that having ‘bad’ things happen can turn out to be for the good!

      Denyse x

  13. Brava Denyse!! I’m excited for you because you’ve proven things about yourself you never dreamed you would. I have IBS as well so I know that problem, and I’ve had breast cancer. They’re both huge things to content with, but you’ve done it, and you’re impressive!! Keep pushing your envelope out further and further! #MLSTL Brenda

    • Oh thank YOU! Yes, as someone else who ‘gets it’ I am in good company I feel. I hope you are going well too and thank you so much for visiting and commenting! Glad you did. Denyse x

  14. Kudos to you for keeping going and moving forward, despite the challenges.
    Sharing for MLSTL