Thursday 30th June 2022

Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.


Content/Trigger Warning: I have been requested to add this. Information for readers is at the end of this post. Thank you.


Two years ago….I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Jacqui’s story as a woman of courage. Jacqui and I have similar career background and have met via twitter..often! I was so pleased when she put her hand up pretty fast to say “yes” and got her story back to me. We have chatted about her story more, and in keeping with others’ privacy have kept some identifiers deliberately hidden.

Thanks so much Jacqui. Oh, and Jacqui has included some great links for us at the end of her story.


Introduction from Jacqui.

It’s taken me a while to think about the times when I’ve most needed courage and decide which story to focus on.

Throughout my career or 20+ years of teaching I have pushed myself to show courage- to stand up for what’s right, challenge pedagogy, take on new experiences and chase promotion.

There was even a time where I was so broken I thought I would quit teaching altogether.

I had to work very hard to find my passion again.

As it turns out I have shown  enormous amounts of courage in my professional life.

So, instead, I am going to focus on courage in my personal life. And, it’s happening now.


What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

6 months ago my life stood still for a moment.

  • My 11yr old daughter was having suicidal thoughts.
  • How can this be possible? She’s only 11.
  • I can’t ever remember being aware of death/suicide at that age, let alone thinking that I didn’t fit in this world.

My heart was breaking.

Her psychologist urgently needed to meet with me and of course I went.

She was tangled in a web of depression and anxiety.

To move forward, I need to go back a bit.

This is my third child, my husband’s sixth. Our last.

She had complications after delivery and spent the first 3 weeks in the neonatal clinic.

At 5-6 years old she was showing signs of puberty.

I insisted on investigations and at about 7yrs we found out that she has a genetic condition known as non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH).

This was a whole bundle of changes including 3x daily medication and an emergency action plan for the rest of her life.

You would think that was enough to deal with, but there’s more.

  • It was around about this time that I discovered I was no longer in love with my husband.
  • After lots of fighting, tears and deep discussions we agreed to stay together without being intimate.
  • We thought this was the best option as our eldest was sitting the HSC.
  • Little did we know that our astute little girl picked up on all of this, causing her great confusion and a deep worry about me.
  • She pushed her father away and became extremely clingy and attached to me.
  • It was suffocating but I was unaware of the damage it was causing her.
  • She could not work out the ‘reality’ of our family or where she fit in (her closest sibling is 8 years older). So it was at this psychologist appointment that I found the courage to do what I needed to do for me. For her. I went home and told my husband that I needed to move out.


How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I released all of the pain anger hurt and disappointment from the last 4 years and slipped into my own silent world of depression.

I needed to find the deepest courage to be vulnerable, be honest, be real.

I needed to be strong enough to share this with my daughter to a certain extent so she can see that  it is possible to make changes and heal ourselves (with support).

I started seeing a psychologist of my own.

I spoke up and stood up to my husband for the first time – I bought a house and moved in with my 2 daughters.

I also started to discover myself. I’d lost so much of who I was throughout my almost 30yrs relationship.



Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

That the comfortable or easiest pathway isn’t always the one we are meant to travel.

That sometimes even the best intentions cause the most pain to ourselves and to others.

That it’s ok to ask others for help.

That it’s ok to put yourself first.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?


I have had 6mths of ongoing courage.

It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Courage has got me through all the other parts that come with separation- financial separation, setting up a new house, co-parenting plans and decision making.

It’s still hard.

The grief and sorrow is enormous.

Making my own decisions is a strange novelty.

The regret and guilt of the impact on my daughter is always there.

But, I know that I have the skills, the strength, the determination, the love and the courage to get through it all and to help my daughter find her courage.


Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Even the highest mountain can be climbed if you take that first step.

We are stronger than we think.

And Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and her TED talks were very helpful for me. I was reading it for professional purposes but I found it was helpful in my personal life also.
Thank you so much for your story Jacqui. Courage requires vulnerability and more and you have, in the sharing, as well as the living of this, demonstrated the qualities you have in so many areas. One day, it would be good to finally catch up. As always, we wait for those times and areas around N.S.W.  to open once we are declared “covid-safe”…if there is such a declaration!
For those who may need to reach out to organisations based on this story’s content these are Australian-based sources for help.
Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 – All rights reserved.



  1. Thank you. I have reflected on this all day as it was exactly 12 months ago today that I met with the psychologist who told me she was worried for my daughter’s safety. They are not the words you want to hear at a morning meeting before going to work. We’ve been through a lot in 12 months but some of the pain and the guilt remains. I know my daughter is currently doing ok, she has a great friendship group and a wonderful relationship with her older sister but I can’t help but worry if it will surface again. I carry that fear with me. I shed some tears today but will use the courage I’ve found to continue in the best way I can.

    • Oh my. What a date to recall…and of course I had no idea of the timing but…if I may say, then today has been, with the writing and reading this on the anniversary, a way of seeing how much has changed that is for the “better”.

      I mean that in the kindest way. Sometimes we can’t see how far we have come until we take the opportunity to view it again, with time having passed.

      Woman of Courage, alright. Yes, teary and fearful but…on her way.

      Thank you for entrusting this space of mine to share so courageously,


      • Hi Denyse. I know you didn’t know the date, I didn’t realise it until I was reading the blog and reflecting, I remember the date clearly as when I returned to school that day my staff had decorated my office as a surprise for Primary Principal’s Day and were very confused when I walked in and burst into tears. So I guess it is a day I will continue to remember. I think you are right, it is important to see how far we have come due to the impact of that day. We are working towards healing and I hope that one day I will reflect back without the fear for my daughter but with pride and love knowing what courage she has shown.

      • Not sure if my last reply posted.
        Of course you were not to know the date. I think that I would probably find it easier to forget except that it falls on Primary Principal’s Day. Last year I returned to school after hearing this life changing news. My staff had decorated my office and were quite confused when I burst into tears and shut the door. I guess it’s a day I’m going to have an annual reminder for, but I love your way of looking at it. I will be able to see how far we’ve come.

        • All good. I will leave both comments here…I too have trigger dates but over time my reactions change. But things like the weather outside and dates on calendar will remind me. For me, I see them as a chance to see how far I’ve come but also to allow myself to feel self-care and some sadness for what happened. One is related to having to leave my principal’s job…the other relates to cancer diagnosis and the first major surgery,

          Being kind to myself and having someone I can share that with helps. I hope you do too,


  2. Hi Denyse and Jacqui.

    This is an edge of my seat account and I’m so glad to have read it. If we were siting around a coffee shop or maybe someone’s back deck just visiting, I’d be bursting with questions I have no right to ask but would be wondering about.
    This is that side of the town, where life is lived in a difficult reality where the largest concerns are far from pleasant to think about but must be faced if decent outcomes are desired.

    Jacqui, I have nothing in my experience to compare with yours, but I admire how you’ve processed it and stepped up to finding and making the best choices for both you and your children. The cost on your spirit must be huge. I wish you well on this journey and wish I had powerful words of encouragement, but think you are already far higher than I could reach.

    God speed.

    • Thank you. It has been a difficult journey and not one you expect to ever face. I am taking this weekend to show kindness and love to myself (even if that means allowing some tears). And drawing more courage for what’s ahead as we have already moved away from point zero. I know I have the strength to do difficult things.

      • So good that you are recognising this. It’s been hard enough in your work life let alone everything personally coming up as reminders. I also found, see above for my 2 events, that after year one, there was a sense of growth and moving forward…which I hope you will feel too. And those feelings do still come and go but you can recognise them better as time passes.


    • Thank you Gary, your words are always ones of comfort and mutual respect. I find that is both generous and kind…..Denyse

  3. What an honest and important post. I think you need to remember you thought you were doing the right thing. You thought you were putting the kids needs first. You were doing your best with what you knew. You found out something was wrong and took action.
    I am glad you are all in a better place. Life is infinitely more complicated than we are lead to believe.
    Good luck and great post. #WeekendCoffeeShare

    • Yes life is complicated and hard sometimes and I think that’s why it’s important to really celebrate the fun loving times. I certainly have a different viewpoint on things now. Thank you for reminding me of my favourite quite – Do what you know until you know better, then do better. I use this in my professional space but have never (until now) used it in my personal space. Thank you.

      • Lydia is a very clever woman who has shared some great quotes and resources about getting through some of life’s tough patches, good to see her words helping here too.


  4. Hello and thank you, Jacqui, for sharing your personal story. I’m glad you took action to take care of yourself and your daughters and you’re in a better place, with professional help available when you need it. I wish you and your family the best going forward. Thank you, Denyse, for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    • Thank you. Professional help has been an important part of this journey and I think it will continue to be for some time. Unfortunately, my daughter is currently refusing professional help. Under CIVID restrictions she can’t meet face to face so she has refused any other options. She has also requested a new psychologist which is positive but we are having some difficulties finding one.

      • That sounds very tricky for now for sure. It’s a challenge in Covid times and for her needs to be met appropriately will take some searching.


  5. Thank you for sharing Jacqui story. I have no words. She is one brave woman.

  6. This was a harrowing story and I commend Jacqui for sharing it. I am also glad to read that her daughter is doing well at the moment and wish them both well for the future. Thanks Denyse for these Women of Courage, we learn so much about real people with real issues and it gives me heart for the future.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much to you too for being a woman of courage and sharing your story, Debbie.

      I know that when the series closes there will have been more than 70 women sharing from their hearts and history.

      I feel incredibly grateful that each person entrusted me with the words from their lives.

      Yes to Jacqui and her incredible and vulnerable story. I know things are still very much a work-in-progress for her family but that is so much better than it was.


    • I thank Denyse for inviting me to participate. I almost didn’t. But I needed to get the feelings out – to say them out loud … we’ll type them out loud. We’ve had another little set back but I am so glad that my daughter will talk to me about these things. It’s also uncovering some hurt and pain from my 19yo who is now encouraged to share. So many more tears in our house!!

      • Oh my yes Jacqui, I can only imagine. Tears for…anyway a long time.

        I am “pleased” this forum gave you chance to share and see the words from others too.

        Thanks for sharing and I am hopeful one day we will catch up in person!