Thursday 2nd December 2021

Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

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 into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

 

Joanne, in her mid 40’s, is a blogger from the United States. I have not met her but as in blogging communities we tend to get to know more about each other through reading blog posts over time and connecting via our comments. Joanne has been quite a regular visitor here to Life This Week, my Monday Link Up, and after getting more interested in her words and photos (brilliant ones they are!) I asked if she would consider sharing her story as a woman of courage. And like some who have gone before her in the series, her initial “no thank you” turned into a “yes, I do have a story”. This is my introduction to Joanne and I am thankful for her change of mind.

 


 

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

I have had a generalized anxiety disorder most of my life.

When I was in grade school and even up through high school, I can remember getting sick nearly every day over school (whether at home, on the bus, or just arriving at school, sometimes something might trigger me to panic during my normal school day).

I struggled with a bunch of fears that I often couldn’t even name or pin point.

Things like field trips, assemblies, and any break from the normal routine made me anxious.

It was never formally diagnosed and I never saw anyone beyond our elementary school counsellor as these things weren’t really known about back then.

As I got older and my confidence grew my anxiety began to subside.  I knew that my upset stomach was caused by my head and began to be able to talk myself out of getting sick to where I would just feel nauseous.

It still rears up now and then but years and years of learning coping mechanisms have helped me manage it really well without the use of medication or therapy.

 

Nothing has ever made me face my fears more than parenthood though. 

Sick and injured boys have forced me to be courageous in ways I honestly didn’t think I could be.

I always knew I had to hold it together and reassure them that all was going to be OK no matter how sick or injured they were.

When my oldest son was just a toddler, we were referred to a neurologist because he had had a series of febrile seizures.

Fast forward to kindergarten when he was undergoing an MRI to find out if there were other underlying issues and weeks upon weeks of waiting for results.

Our paediatrician tried to help out because our neurologist was on vacation and all he could tell us was that there was something that showed up on the test but since that wasn’t his field of expertise, he couldn’t tell me more than that.

He felt so bad; he had been trying to relieve my fears and assumed that all would be normal with the MRI results.  Instead, I stood there in my yard on the phone with the doctor with a smile on my face and my sunglasses hiding my tears, hoping and praying that whatever this was would be no big deal.

I knew I couldn’t fall to pieces in front of my boys.

Thankfully, once we got hold of our neurologist, he explained that it was most likely scar tissue deep in the brain from something that must have happened in utero during development and he assured us that our son’s brain had compensated and that no further anything needed to be done—ever.

 

We also had our youngest son hospitalized when he was just a few months old and was suffering from RSV lung infection.

He was put on oxygen and fluids and thankfully recovered well; though we did end up in the ER at least once a winter for the next few years with him fighting off pneumonia.

There is nothing quite like watching your little babies’ lips turn blue and hearing him gasping for breath.  We had been proactive though and sought treatment out early before he had to be intubated or put into ICU.

We’ve had fractured wrists, “standard” procedures like tonsillectomy & adenoid removal (which seem like anything but when you’re waiting outside the OR to hear how the surgery went), and more than a few ER visits and ambulance rides.

 

It seemed like after all that I had endured with my boys through the years, I was more than prepared to face my own mini health crisis.

In just the past two years alone I have had several ultrasounds, an x ray, a D&C, and a hysterectomy.

Normally any kind of medical appointment or procedure would have made me so anxious but I was pretty surprised over just how calm I was through the whole ordeal.

 

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

I think we are all a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

It’s not easy to think of being courageous but often when the need arises those stores of courage are there.

Even when it feels like that courage is deserting us somehow the human spirit seems to keep pushing us onward.

I find that looking to family, friends, and beyond the current moment helps remind me what I’m fighting for.

 

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

Maybe?! That’s a hard one to answer as I almost always think that there are so many things I could never handle, or do, or walk through and yet deep down I know that I probably could.

Even if I would never want to know just how courageous I could be.

I think I’m at a point in my life where I just know that I would battle anything for my family and my boys.

 

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

First and foremost—breathe.  Just breathe.

Then take that one next step.

Often, we get overwhelmed when we’re looking at the big picture or we start worry about all the what if scenarios.

I do that all the time and have never once found it to be all that helpful.

Deep, mindful, almost meditative breathing, and focusing only on that one next small step helps.

Also don’t be afraid to ask for help; even if it’s just a should to learn or cry on.

We all need help from time to time, it doesn’t make us weak; it makes us human.

 

Thank you so much Joanne for your frank and honest story where I was in awe of how you could manage your own anxieties and worries to be able to help your sons through their illnesses. And your advice to breathe…yes, and to breathe again. Little steps that keep us going and helps reduce some of inner feelings that are stirring. I remember that well from my days of anxiety and fear. Your words are very true and oh so helpful.

Denyse.

Joanne’s blog can be found here:  https://www.myslicesoflife.com/

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for giving me the chance to share!

  2. Great post. I love those tips at the end. Esp just taking the next ONE step. #WeekendCoffeeShare

  3. Great interview, Denyse and Joanne. I think anything to do with our own and our loved ones’ serious health issues takes courage to face and overcome them. I agree with Joanne’s message in the last question. Thank you for sharing this with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    • Wisdom gleaned via life’s tough times sure does reinforce our strength and capacity to manage life’s challenge for sure Natalie.

      Thank you, Joanne’s story demonstrates this well.

      Denyse.

    • Thank you! I do think health issues are so scary since so much of it feels completely out of our control and we have to put our trust in doctors and specialists.

  4. Hi Denyse.
    Bravo Joanne – on a great account of your journey.

    Parent to parent – I could not help but feel the pain you went through.
    I’ve not suffered anxiety as you have, but now feel I at lease understand it better.

    But sick and injured children. I do have some experience with that.
    My oldest boy accidentally tangled with a rattlesnake which is one of our few poisonous species here in the US and one night while our children were out dancing with friends, I got a call from that same older boy that our daughter was suffering something and wanted to be picked up – which she never did. They all loved ballroom dancing with their friends.
    After reviewing her symptoms, I decided that this girl needed to visit the local emergency room to be checked out and what they found was a punctured lung ?!?!
    Seriously? From dancing?
    It turned into one of the most unreal experiences of my life as a dad. You could appreciate what it was like holding her hand after being stripped topless on the examination table and watching as a doctor pushed a perforated tube into her chest and deep into the base of that lung to gently create a negative pressure so her lung would reinflate before she suffocated from its further collapse.

    It was an image I’ll never forget.
    Thanks for sharing your story. Wow! Just Wow!

    • Gary, what a response with your experiences also shared. Wow to your two kids’ experiences (and where parents can recall with great clarity because of the stress!) and sharing here too.

      We do have to front up more with an air of confidence even if we are not feeling it because “kids” want that from their elders.

      Love your stories.

      Thank you.
      Denyse.

    • Oh my goodness! That is crazy! I can’t imagine… and would never have been able to watch. I am so squeamish with that kind of stuff. I had a girlfriend that once fractured her rib coughing (though thankfully she didn’t puncture it!).Parenting definitely is not for the faint of heart.

  5. It is good to have advice from someone who has be troubled with fears and learned to cope.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story. The advice to breathe have helped me many times. It’s interesting that such a simple solution as learning how to control your breathing really helps. I started to kind of hold my breath when I was afraid/stressed out, and breath shallowly, when my mom became ill, I was nine. I struggled for a long time until a rinding instructor later in life pointed it out to me, and I consciously started to work on my breathing. Thank you for this encouraging story.

    • I am glad that Joanne’s story reminded you of the ways in which breathing can help us. I too had to learn more about that when I was anxious and in the earlier days of my cancer diagnosis.

      I hope you continue to do well, Maria.

      Denyse.

    • My instinct is still to hold my breath or breathe shallowly but those deep, slow breaths really do make a difference. I used to tell my boys to blow out like they were blowing out candles (I had one that liked to hold his breath until he passed out when he was little).

  7. Thank you Joanne for finally saying yes! (I hope you know) I’m a fan of your blog, so it was a privilege to get to know you a little better.

  8. Being a parent is hard and you’ve summed it up well Joanne. We would do anything for our children and looking at all the ‘what ifs’ doesn’t help at all. I like your advice and it’s so true, just breathe and take one step at a time, It’s often easier said than done but it works every time. Nice to learn more about you Joanne and thanks again denyse for sharing these wonderful stories of courage with us.

    • Thanks so much Deb. Yes so many of us do that breathing thing all wrong in the worst of times. It’s like an automatic reaction.

      Thanks to a (nagging) husband at times, and my own lessons from my experience at needing to allow the breath to come in, stay and let go slowly I am better for it most times.

      It takes practice and often in our greatest need we don’t realise so a heads-up from someone does help.

      Joanne’s words are very helpful and I am glad she shared her story.

      Yes, being a parent of GROWN children is even tougher…sigh.

      Denyse.,

    • I keep reading all these blogs that talk about how the older the kids get the bigger the worries get (adults/ marriage/ grandkids) and I am really trying to train myself to only worry about the here and now and really just stop those “what ifs” in their track.

  9. Great interview ladies! Loved it.