Monday 21st June 2021

Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, 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

In the world of blogging we can ‘meet’ people virtually and make a pretty instant connection. I found this to be the case in early 2021 when Marsha Ingrao who is 69 began hosting Sunday Stills while another blogging friend from the US was moving into her new home. From my on-line emails and messages with Marsha as I learned more about her and her life, I had hoped she would agree to share her story as a Woman of Courage. And I was delighted with here response of “yes, I will”. Welcome Marsha and thank you for sharing your story

 

 

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

  • I had a birth defect – bilateral cleft lip, which is still fairly rare. From birth I had several surgeries including spending my first month in the hospital. This did not require any courage on my part. But it did change me.

 

  • When I was 15 and my brother was 13, we moved with Mom from Indiana to Oregon where we didn’t know anyone. Mom didn’t have a job. I was a junior in high school, and my brother was in 7th grade. My brother and I made the choice of where to go rather than to stay behind with our father or grandparents. It was the best decision of our lives.

 

  • My first husband had major health problems. He and his sister both had rare and genetic disease. Less than six months into our marriage, he broke his hip which deteriorated until he could not sit, stand or walk without extreme pain. We had no insurance. I was petrified, but his aunt found us a surgeon. At age 27 he had his first hip replacement, and the second one at age 29. His only sister died at age 35. I was 25 at the time, married for two years and lived with the fear that my husband would probably live maybe five more years. He lived eighteen more years and passed away at age 47 with heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease caused from the same missing enzymes that caused his joints to deteriorate.

 

  • Before Mark’s second hip surgery, we had no money coming in for a while. He couldn’t work and he did not want to have surgery again. Our pastor advised that I should quit working at my less than minimum wage job and let God provide through Mark. My husband was furious about this idea, but I wasn’t making enough to make ends meet anyway and I felt a sense of relief. I quit selling magazines door to door, and God supplied us with inheritance money and back disability checks enough to keep us going for over a year.

 

  • Finishing school. Neither of us had finished our four year degree when we married. I had started right out of high school, but quit when my scholarship ran out. I finished my associates degree after we were married, and was offered another scholarship and a position at Oregon State so that I could also earn my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration. Mark also wanted to go to school and get his degree in Ministerial Studies from a college in Colorado Springs.

 

  • We sold everything and moved to Colorado and I waited until we moved to California and established residency there before I was able to pick up my education again. Eventually we both achieved our goals. He became a pastor and I earned my Master’s Degree and Administrative Credential and taught school, then moved into administration.

 

  • Having breast cancer. Actually I think I sailed through that recent obstacle, so far. The three surgeries were fairly easy, medication was not even though I did not have to go through chemo and radiation. I still have at least four to six more years of medicine, but I think it’s finally manageable.

 

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

  • My name, Marsha, comes from the name Mars, the Roman god of war and courage. I expect to and usually do overcome obstacles and win my wars.

 

  • I had to develop a positive attitude from the time I was a child to overcome shyness and make friends. I am sensitive, so I have to be careful not to take myself too seriously and get over myself when my feelings get hurt.

 

  • As a result, before I retired, it was sometimes hard to get others to take me seriously.

 

  • I am friendly. Without our many friends and family, Mark and I would not have survived.

 

  • I learned to work hard and both my husband and I achieved all our career goals and were married for 20 years before he passed. My second husband is also a hard worker, and I’ve learned a lot from him about precision and pushing beyond my best efforts. We have been married for 25 years.

 

  • I have a hard time quitting – even when I should. I hang on way too long because I see quitting as losing instead of being sensible and recognizing that I could be using my time and talents in other ways.

 

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

  • I wish that you didn’t need courage. But we all do. I rely on God, my friends and family and their prayers. People have always been kind and supportive of me.

 

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

I don’t know.

  • It’s hard to believe I have lived through the difficult times that I have. I think in a way you compartmentalize your problems and live outside and above your difficulties. I don’t know many people who throw themselves into dangerous situations just to be brave.

 

  • Trials happen to us and we deal with them as they come. I thank God for the times I don’t have to be brave.

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

-Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help!

-Pray

-Give to others. This might be a kind word, a meal, a smile, a prayer, or a million dollars. Give what you have.

-Love and appreciate everyone, especially those who help you.

-Be positive but not phony, find someone to whom you can vent when you get hit with too much reality.

-Exercise as much as you can.

-Eat healthy food

-Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do.

-Blog – tell your story, get involved in the stories of others.

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

  • For breast cancer I recommend my friend Abigail Johnston’s website. No Half Measures.
  • For difficulties in marriage I recommend finding a good counselor. I’ve had two secular counselors (not pastors) that helped me deal with difficult situations. I would ask friends rather than use the web.
  • Get involved with a local church. We used the internet when we moved here because we didn’t know anyone.
  • Get a doctor who cares about you. Again, word of mouth is better than a website, but I used both when we moved.

 

Marsha put in some kind words at the end of her story and I believe that they are worth sharing. I am very proud to have been able to share these stories, so generously given to me here on the blog.

Thank you so much for this honor to be called a woman of courage. What a wonderful thing you are doing by honoring women. Thank you for all you do for our Blogging community, Denyse. You are a blessing and an inspiration.

Thank you, we are all connected, and I am glad for that.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media: for Marsha

Blog/Website:  https://www.tchistorygal.net

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarshaIngrao

 

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/TCHistoryGal/

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marsha_ingrao/

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Two. And as with other posts, I am making it Parts 1 & 2. 

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, another photo…taken this year overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

I had a sore mouth.

It was often sore. I had to find a new dentist and did in early 2016. His initial view was that my upper bridge was causing some irritation and maybe I was drinking things too hot. He gave me some ideas over time which he thought, as he saw me regularly that year, and with issues that arose, offered possible remedies: fungalin, for candida. Guess what it did? Exacerbated gut and made I.B.S. worse.

I cannot stress enough how much “I” thought this was about me, lack of good health, mouth care and more. I felt judged and I hated that I was so often impacted by this awful anxiety and then I.B.S. that I could not plan to go anywhere.

“Looking like I was OK but I was not”. Last photos of me with original bridge at top of my mouth.

Anxiety Ramps Up.

In my journal I see entry after entry of me trying to get to appointments to my various professionals and suddenly that morning with an episode of diarrhoea it was impossible. Lucky for me they were very understanding.

I did not want anyone other than immediate family visiting us as it made me very self-conscious if I had to run to the toilet. I was not eating well. In fact, losing weight had never been easier. But it was not healthy.

I made myself meet up with a friend at a cafe but the preparation I made in advance …was there a toilet there, could I just have a biscuit with my coffee…was as I now see it over the top but I had to have reassurance.

It was the worst ever for me in very early January 2017 when, after seeing M1 awful accidents on the news, I decided I could not dare visit Dad for his birthday in Sydney just in case I had to use a toilet and I was stuck in the car. It was awful. I felt the pull of the ‘have to’ and the push of the ‘can’t’.

It worsened over time to the point I could not even drive out to the M1, which was the road to my dentist down at Ourimbah, without the feeling drowning me. I would need to make a few of those trips as it turned out in March, April and May 2017 and I had to take medication, know where the toilets were and allow time to get there.

Finally, after 4 months, and having had the teeth out (the best exposure therapy ever) I drove myself to Sydney to see Dad.

Doing What I Could To Help Myself.

On the eve of my 67th Birthday, late 2016,  I am feeling both reflective and grateful.

This image, selfie on my 67th Birthday, “trying my best to look OK” was used for my first series of Telling My Story.

Dad told me earlier tonight that my birth time was around 4.15 a.m. and that Mum put off going to the hospital until around 11p.m. Brave woman!

I’ve also made a mandala* which notes each of my decades of life and it’s been confronting and satisfying.

  1. I was so fortunate to be born to my parents who loved each other very much and were delighted to become parents.
  2. I was born into a caring extended family and always, always felt safe, secure and loved.
  3. Whilst Mum had some health issues in my early years with deafness and eye sight, these were rectified and I always knew my mum was there for me as a stay at home parent while Dad worked in his profession as an accountant.
  4. Our home was comfortable and we really wanted for nothing. My brother and I were well-fed, cared for and given many opportunities to be part of sporting and cultural groups as we grew up.
  5. When we left our Wollongong home for new adventures in Sydney at Balgowlah Heights I felt both the excitement and the nervousness but knew it would be good.
  6. It was and we moved to a great place, a new school and a whole new group of friends. Life was good!
  7. I got to play sport, learn to surf and swim, join the Guides, become a voracious reader and loved to talk.
  8. My early interest in helping little kids and enjoying playing with them started my interest in becoming a teacher.
  9. I got to be part of the school leadership team in primary school and loved organising events and social times too.
  10. My years at high school were a great and heady mix of new friendships, socialising with the boys from the local school and church groups, going to the beach and more.

  1. Learning to drive was a huge step in my independence and mum was happy to lend me her car when she could.
  2. I enjoyed great freedom to be out with friends and for them to come to our place and some of those friends parents became friends with mine.
  3. I was so fortunate to grow up as a teenager close to Manly Beach, particularly North Steyne, where I could catch a bus from home and stay on the sand or in the surf all day.
  4. Of course we met up with boys there too. It was all part of the fun in the sun.
  5. I eventually got some part time work when I was in my final school year and it continued into my 2 years at teachers college.
  6. It was good working at the jewellers on the Corso, three shops away from the beach and my employer gave me and my future husband good discounts on my engagement ring and our wedding rings.
  7. Teaching as part of my pracs in Sydney schools was great. I taught at my old primary school (even in the old classroom from Year 5) and also at Mona Vale, Neutral Bay and because I got excellent grades in prac, I went to the North Sydney Dam School too.
  8. My social life was awesome and centred on events from my then boyfriend’s Uni mates so we went to lots of parties, 21sts and Formals as well as Balls.
  9. Graduation as the first cohort to do the Higher School certificate was good too. Guinea Pigs in one way though as I am sure the NSW Dept of ed was winging it for a while there!
  10. Once I was 18 going to have a drink in the city hotels and bars was never a problem, as part of the time I was there anyway because I had to find work after HSC and the ABC was where I scored an office job.

  1. Hoping to get to teachers’s college didn’t happen on the first round, but by the second round I was ‘bye ABC, hello kids in classrooms.’
  2. I must have had the knack of teaching because as a late arrival at teacher’s college with only days before first prac, I did very well. I knew I had it in me!
  3. So pleased to have the training that BalmainTC provided but I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney after graduation so applied for the Bush.
  4. I was appointed to Barraba Central and independent life commenced!
  5. Shared a house with other teachers and I had to learn fast about sharing. I had been quite a ‘princess’ till then!
  6. My first class. K/1. A classic country town group but I knew what to do most of the time and loved being part of a large school staff.
  7. What fun we had on weekends and after hours with meeting at the Golf Club and Saturday Night dinners.
  8. My boyfriend from Sydney days broke up with me as he was unwell and I was free but a little sad.
  9. Not for too long though as by the time October that year arrived, I had met the LOVE of my life and fallen head over heels with a young male teacher who was a one teacher school.
  10. Our whirlwind romance was exactly that. In love (and lust) and determined to be wed as soon as we could because we were too far apart physically where we each lived.

  1. Luckily our department bosses looked after me, and after we married, I was transferred to a two teacher school just up the road from my now husband’s,
  2. But I was also pregnant. Yep. from carefree single teacher in a country town, to  married mum to be in a small community within 12 months.
  3. I won’t deny that it was hard being pregnant after some words of judgement and unkindness from my parents before we married but we went ahead with their blessing and some days those words still stung. In fact they did for some decades. Something about shame in that I think and my mum and her upbringing.
  4. Our daughter came into the world and brightened all who loved her very much. I loved little kids but was at quite a loss with a baby and being left along all day on a country property did not go well for me.
  5. I needed to salve my emotions and I began to eat for comfort and I know this has been what I do to numb myself and continues on and off now.
  6. Back to school for me was the better plan particularly when we could leave our lovely girl right next door to where I taught with my boss’ wife! She was also her godmother. Win!
  7. After two years, it was time for my hub to find a new position as a teacher in charge as his school was closing and we were keen to get teacher housing.
  8. Off to the Riverina area we went and found what we loved for the next 3 years. A great house for us, where we added a pool, a teaching position for me in the next big town and child care for our daughter.
  9. Social life was amazing, with new friends from the teaching and farming community and we were part of a drama society and entertained most weekends.
  10. Infertility was ironic after falling pregnant so easily with our daughter and for the time there and our next place, I was sad and resigned to never having another child. So sad.

Our first born with a first born Mum and fifth born Dad.

More of the stories about what happened next are found here: Telling My Story

The decades of the mandala*. I put it on social media once and found that it was far too personal to share because a follower told me how she could expand it to read. Oops. I have it somewhere here at home but it’s very personal. And mandalas helped me through all of the times before (and since) my anxiety and pre-cancer diagnosis days.

My Update: April 2016

  • We chose to move to a cheaper rental place in November last year as one of the factors in the stressors I was feeling was the place we lived in was too expensive, very uncomfortable and the community connection non-existent.
  • Happily for us, we found that the northern end of the Central Coast suits us more and the house (a home now that familiar to us from the sold Sydney house) is great.
  • A significant event occurred around this time too when I decided to end all connections with my education work places, including my consultancy. From a career commenced in 1970 to now this was another reason to grieve.
  • I still ‘struggle’ with aspects of remaining relevant! Who am I if I am not a teacher?
  • Nature continued to beckon in terms of photography, beach walks and I added growing flowers in pots to this mix. Nothing like having ‘something’ to grow.
  • The kitchen at this house is more conducive to cooking and making meals for the freezer and treats has been a good sign I am liking life again!
  • Meditation has been the one consistent event every single day. Yes. 10-15 minutes since end of March!
  • Learning more, much more about what it is to have some anxiety (I have not been diagnosed with anxiety nor depression) and sadness because of the significant effects of Life Transitions for me.
  • Reading more books, still can’t find a fiction one to satisfy, is great as is the range of newspapers I love. It is so good to have time for this!
  • Making sure I am well-nourished. I do find this hard some days as I mostly solo cook and eat because my hub has special food needs. But, looking after me shows I am caring well for me.
  • I’ve been increasing my knowledge of my reasons for anxiety and IBS and using Acceptance Commitment Therapy techniques via a number of sources including my counsellor and various authors who use this for clients.
  • This has meant a shift in my thinking and some movement towards letting my life move forward with whatever issues arise.
  • I remain a ‘wip’ a ‘work-in-progress.

My Update: April 2017.

  • My mouth continues to be bothersome: sore, and gums were beginning to grow over the teeth of the bridge.
  • My dentist tried a few ideas ….that I went along with until NO. Sorry, I need to know what is UNDER this bridge. The only way, as we both knew, was to remove (drill it out) the bridge, and the 5 teeth underneath.
  • He agreed and it meant I had the biggest physical and emotional challenge ahead. I needed all the support of my husband and my G.P. to do so.
  • Oh, and in the meantime, we were getting sick of the traipse back south to a G.P. and found one, our current one, in early April. JUST in time…for much, much more to come.

But first I had some exposure therapy in real life to manage.

This is information, after it came highly recommended by my then psychologist in 2016-17,  about what it was I needed (and still do at times) to follow to get myself to the dentist, have the extractions and recover from them

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.

Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be

  • graded
  • repeated and regular
  • prolonged

Why Getting Those Teeth Removed Was The Best Way To Know What I Could Do. 

  • Early April, I met my new G.P. who not only gave me the flu shot but the advice to help I.B.S. was to take an old fashioned anti-depressant as it slowed the gut down. Four years on, I still take it and whilst it is not perfect, this medication and my changed confidence in how to deal with anxiety about I.B.S. works.
  • I prepared for the long afternoon at the dentist knowing my husband would be in the room, reading a book, and that I could take some valium and immodium to manage myself.
  • I had my iphone with the lovely William McInnes narrating a very familiar tale into my ears, and that was it…
  • I was conscious the whole time and it took quite a bit of novocaine for me to have no pain in the palate area.
  • I was given the chance to have a ‘wee break’ and took it half way.
  • It was over before I realised and the dentist, pretty worn out by it, said he broke a few diamond drill heads.
  • But it was GONE. The bridge, those teeth…..and a temporary denture made the week before, was pushed into my numbed gums.

Whilst I declined the chance to take them home (I was told the Tooth Fairy owed me big time) I took the photo instead.

I DID IT. 

  • Yes it was painful as the anaesthetic wore off, but this anxious me had with all her lessons learned over time, managed what was to be a pivotal time.
  • I’d like to say, that’s that…..but no, it wasn’t.
  • The top of my mouth where the teeth had been continued to be smelly, flappy and  nasty.
  • The dentist seemed to think it was OK and would repair itself.
  • I put up with a very painful and sore top of my mouth for the next 5 weeks because he wanted to see how things went and then he went on vacation.

11 May – 16 May 2017.

  • Last trip back to my old G.P. to say good bye and thank you, and by the way “my gums are very sore”.
  • She raised her hands in horror when I took out the denture.
  • Tests for cancer: a C.T. scan for sinuses and upper mouth. Stat. And as I was seeing the dentist the next day, she knew he would likely order a biopsy.
  • Yes he did. STAT. Oh, this was getting to be familiar.
  • He did raise cancer as an idea but felt unlikely.
  • Off to next door where I booked a biopsy at the Oral Surgeon and she said, I can do that tomorrow, Friday.
  • CT scan and biopsy done on that day.
  • My nerves were….calmed by some valium but my goodness, this was serious stuff.
  • Weekend: waiting but not saying anything to family as it was Mother’s Day on 14 May and we had visitors.
  • Monday: results. CT: all good. Initial biopsy: inconclusive: likely candida. Can probably treat you at the surgery.
  • Tuesday 16th May. Nice day.

And that is where this Chapter ends.

If you have guessed where it’s going, then you are probably right.

I will be taking over my Thursday posts with these now over the next months to enable me to get up to date.

Denyse.

Next Chapter: Twenty Three: 17th May – April 2018.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 1/2. 37/2021.

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016- 16 May 2017. Part 1/2. 37/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Two. And as with other posts, I am making it Parts 1 & 2. 

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, another photo…taken this year overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up.

Beginning 2016.

In my recent two-part Chapter 21 here and here, I outlined the emotional and physical health challenges I faced and was doing my best to both manage and understand.

This, for practical me, was very hard as the emotional roller coaster of my life often exacerbated the Irritable Bowel Syndrome and then that played into my negative thinking about myself …..and so on.

Not easy. For Me.

And of course, for my husband who was studying counselling part-time, working as a volunteer for two charities and doing renovations at his brother’s too. When I look at this, and he and I have chatted about it since, loneliness was sometimes part of the problem for me.

I made a change to this blog, and formalised the categories into one for each day, and launched Denyse Whelan Blogs, thanks to my dear friend Tanya and her patience and creativity along with my tech man, Craig. I was determined that staying connected and accountable every day to SOMETHING outside myself would in fact, help ground me in some ways.

It did.

Look, I am still here! And the categories are not used like this so much now but I liked how I got on with the changes! Back then too, there were around 4 weekly Australian based link ups!

A Few Celebrations And Not So Good Times.

We celebrated our 45 years of marriage with our family. Our adult children and their children. It was the first time we had all come together in around a year. That was very special.

We also heard awful news early in that same year that was both shocking and impactful on our family, particularly for two people we love very much. So much I cannot say and would not.

However, I did take it all pretty badly. That’s me. I feel. I was already rather anxious but this news did not help. I also felt conflict about it and used my time with my GP and psychologist to talk more.

Over time, of course, we continued to share the love and support within the family for those people but it still remained a wedge for a while for me. These years down the track as I write, things are better but will never be perfect. Life, hey.

We cared for grandkids on special overnight and holidays stays and whilst I loved it, my anxiety levels being high, I could not relax enough to enjoy things. The little people I had cared for back in Sydney were growing and changing and trying to keep myself well when they were there was fine but anticipation and afterwards would bring on bouts of nasty diarrhoea (thanks I.B.S.)

Travelling to Sydney for a first birthday was a mental struggle for me but we did it. I actually loved it and having time, again, with our grandchildren was always so special. However, there were undercurrents of things not being too well within the families and we tried to let those worries go. They eventually would be made known but not for some time. I cannot add any more than that. However, as I am writing now, matters are far more settled and at ease with us.

With birthdays and Christmas we tried as we could, to entertain during school holidays or a weekend and it was always good to see everyone, and for me, Grandma, to do her best with cakes and spoiling with gifts.

My Health….still a bother. 

All the time, with me, was a tension and anxiety I felt and knew, and even if I understood it, found it a challenge to live with but here’s what I am like. I do what I can, with what I can.

I read,

I studied,

I learned,

I did courses about I.B.S.,

Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, Art, Mandala-Making

and I got out most days (when I.B.S. was quiet) to take photos, walk on the beach and perhaps interact with people at the shops.

I saw my friendly G.P. regularly who tried, over time, with some different medications to help me but nothing did. She was a great cheerleader though and her encouragement was good.

I even wrote this on a community page: I was searching for people who might get what I was writing about and I did get loving support. However as I know too well, we do end up working things out for ourselves.

Long time commenter & poster but first time ‘admitting my troubles & needing some advice/support’ … thanks in advance for reading!

I’m 67, been retired from work (happily) & life ‘should’ feel better than this. I’ve been a pretty anxious person (worrier etc) all my life & at times Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS – Diarrheoa) has been part of life too.

Over 2 years ago, we sold our house in Sydney, paid out mortgage etc, found a rental house we like on Central Coast & left our much-loved adult families (g’kids too) behind. I also stopped all my work in education after 44 yrs.

Now, I “thought” I had nailed this! Yep. What we wanted to do. Freedom etc. My emotions disagreed & that’s where I have been falling down, picking myself up, x 10000 (it feels like) since Jan 2015.

I’ve got a fantastic listening hub who “gets me”, a great GP who helps me manage symptoms of IBS & a psychologist who is working with me on plans of ‘exposure’ therapy to learn to live with & accept IBS.

I am fortunate not have a diagnosis of either anxiety or depression but when IBS lurks (just about every week if not more frequently) then I get both sad & upset because of it. I take no medication other than imodium if I have to.

I do not know “who I am” any more because of my increasing fear to venture out to socialise, drive any distance on M1 or even have a cuppa somewhere.

Everything I read & understand about both anxiety-related conditions & IBS says I have to “accept” it and get on with life.

Right now, this seems hard.. too hard.. and I’m floundering. I do know I have determination & strength because I’ve rallied myself many times.

Do you know that around 20-25% of the population has IBS & it’s a functional condition & no treatment is available? I’m fortunate it is nothing more serious… I know.

What I wondered tonight, is anyone else out there like me and how can we help each other through some of these tough(er) times?

I am/was always searching for how to make me better to understand myself.

Weight loss: a mixed blessing. I was unwell.

Did What I Could To Help Myself.

I have all the books to prove it. And whilst all courses and speaking to professionals helped, the one thing that eluded me was how to live with irritable bowel syndrome and its unpredictability.

I tried writing.

I made hundreds of journal entries.

I did an on-line course twice to help understand IBS.

I read and completed a book with self-help ideas.

 

This List Was Something I Kept for Me in 2016.

Here are 20 things you can control:

1. Talking to yourself positively

2. The way you talk to those around you

3. The amount of physical exercise you give your body

4. The food you nourish your body with

5. Your level of honesty

6. Whether you are a listener or a talker

7. How often you smile every day

8. The time you spend worrying about irrelevant things

9. The amount of love you give your children

10. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full

11. How mindful you want to be

12. How you make other people feel about themselves

13. Having a generous heart

14. Allowing yourself to ask for help

15. Offering help in return

16. Whether you judge people or accept people

17. Having an open heart to receive true love

18. Whether you believe in yourself

19. Your words

20. Your thoughts

 

Self help, not helpless.

I was unwell yet wanted so much to be well. I was caught between being embarrassed about my anxious gut and self and wanting to get out and enjoy this life I had longed for in retirement.

Some things I tried (and still do!) were these:

Our Family Life At The Time.

As at the beginning of this year, things did not proceed comfortably for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017 due to changes in family dynamics and relationships. Again, I say no more. Other than this: my heart may be broken yet mended over time. This, fortunately, is true and for me…so grateful. But living with it and through it was something I found very disconcerting. We had limited contact with family members and I travelled far less to Sydney because of my health and anxiety about I.B.S.

Nothing “I” could do to change anything was a lesson I learn(ed) over and over again. Having some faith and trust that matters can be resolved and worked out did, over time, prove to be true but it took a serious illness (mine) for that to happen. More in the next part of the story. Mindfulness and the works of Pema Chodron, and Jack Kornfield and My Headspace app all helped. I did a lot of meditation outside and inside.

 

And What About That Sore Mouth?

It did not get better. I did all I was asked by my (new in early 2016) dentist. I was given instructions for better cleaning, managing so called candida, trying ideas for eating/drinking cooler food as mouth was red on the roof (palate). I am a compliant patient. Yet, some of the treatments were making my I.B.S. diarrheoa worse. Sigh. My G.P. did not have any more ideas. However, “I” must have because diary entries as the year went on towards early 2017 included:

  • I wonder if this is cancer
  • Sore mouth – gums and possible filling breaking. Know I will have to see gum specialist.
  • GP says “mouth inflamed but it’s not cancer”
  • Dentist: “In two months since I last saw you I see pus in overgrown gums over the bridge of teeth, so off to see gum specialist”
  • BUT I said, “back in early January 2017 I want to know what is under this bridge so can you take it out?”

His answer, in short, was conservative and no. It would as you will read in Part Two of this Chapter, happen.

Thank you for reading and commenting on these Telling My Story posts. Yes, they can raise some powerful emotions for me but I also am aware of how far I have come in this relatively short period.

Next time with be Part Two.

I will be taking over my Thursday posts with these now over the next months to enable me to get up to date.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story. Chapter Sixteen. 2004-06.52/2020.

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story.2004-2006.Chapter Sixteen.52/2020.

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Sixteen.

With yet another photo of me because I keep changing my appearance…thanks to head and neck cancer, then cataract surgeries.

The most recent chapter, finalised how my first and significant career in New South Wales Department of Education ended. Sadly but there was a need for my health to improve and that it did.

L: NSW Teachers’ Federation Badge. R: N.S.W. Primary Principals Ass. Membership Badge.

Why was 2004 memorable?

I went back to school! As a teacher. But first, there is MORE!

I spent quite a bit of summer 2004 recovering from the broken right leg and receiving physiotherapy to get me walking again. We were a two-person household as our adult son had moved in with a friend. I had S P A C E to call mine, and claimed his old room for an art-craft one for me. It also doubled as a grandchild-sleepover space where we installed double bunks and these were in regular use.

My husband, whilst not in the best of health, started to enjoy his music and had a space in the house for that and part  all of the garage eventually morphed into a workshop. We had two vehicles but we were soon to add some home improvements but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Around the middle of what would be Term One in schools, I started to feel a restlessness within and to be honest a NEED to do something related to teaching. Having over a year away from schools to try my hand at volunteering and to get better health-wise, the thoughts grew that I probably needed to get my casual teaching availability sorted and out there to my principal friends.

“Would You Like Two Days a Week From Next Term?”

We lived in Glenwood, a suburb on former dairy land in Sydney’s northwest. My friend, D, and I had been colleagues for many years and I heard that the brand new school at a brand new suburb just 10 minutes drive away was where she was the foundation principal. I rang and she said ” come over and have a look at it, love to see you”. I did, with a version of a casual teacher resume in my bag.

After a tour in a modern, private/public built school we sat in her office and I began speaking about wanting to come back to teaching. She knew of what had happened to me at R.P.S. and in fact was one who stayed in touch initially. Before I could say much more, I received an offer, to start Term 2, doing 2 days a week Release From Face To Face Teaching for all of the SEVEN classes (K-6) the school then comprised. By the time I left the school in 2010 the student population had exploded from our original 156 to around 700…and since went close to 1000…if you know the now-densely populated North West area of Sydney, this will not surprise you.

Yes, thank you…that would be great. I asked what I should teach in that time. Her reply was ‘up to me’ and in a complete switch for me, I chose Creative Arts: art, drama and music.

Back to School. As a teacher.

On the first day of Term Two 2004,  the day after our second granddaughter turned 5 (huge party with jumping castle and I did face painting) I presented myself to the school…and the first group I would be teaching. Year 6. Now, this was still a very small school and the teachers were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I remain friends with many today. However, Year 6, first up took some courage but I did it. The thing about a brand new school is that the kids in the upper grades have come from different schools with different expectations. I did have some kids who tried me (behavioural and attitude) but we managed. After that baptism, I had the rest of the day…and I think I returned on the Tuesday as my 2nd day. I do recall being on Cross Country duty too as the kids ran around the then spacious grounds.

When a new school opens in a new neighbourhood there are children presenting to enrol every week and over time, this position grew to 3 days a week. By the end of that year however, I got a different role and loved this one even more.

Before I move on. The school had its official opening and that was a privilege to be part of. Some of the work I had done as the R.F.F. teacher in Art and Craft also involved Aboriginal Education (I had some expertise from my previous schools) and the Year 6 group performed at the opening using clapping sticks made by my husband.

The principal now had someone on her staff who she could confide in and even offload on but she did not do this much at all. However from time to time she would ask me “how come you are always so happy?” My answer was, she had seen my need to be back teaching and I was loving it as well as being a mentor of sorts to some …but I no longer had the full responsibility which weighed heavily when I was a principal.

The English as A Second Language Teacher. Me! 2005 & 2006.

I was always a teacher of literacy at heart, and loved working with children at the entry level of school. It made sense then for me to turn what I loved to do into a role I could deepen for myself and the school when there was growing student population of students whose second language was English.

I was able to set up the program, a space for the students and to develop the school’s programs. This was an important part of my role and being a former principal something I knew a lot about. What I did need to learn more about was the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of teaching English to a range of learners. Some were literally just stepping ‘off the plane’ as we used to say, and others had been in Australia speaking and learning English at previous schools.

The ‘language’ of teaching in this field has changed in the past 5+ years so I will use what I remember. The students were assessed, if needed, by me upon enrolment in whichever year they were entering. For example a student coming into Kindergarten and one coming into Year 5 might still be classed as ‘new arrivals’ if they had no understanding of English and would need, at separate times to being in class, some one-on-one or very small group learning.

To that end, I enrolled in a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Charles Sturt University. Part-time and on-line with lots of practical work I could do with the students. This was a great way for me to add to my qualifications and hopefully, as time passed, get appointed to the school in 2007 as the substantive E.S.L. teacher. In the next chapter, I will share what happened.

Flexibility and a program that helped teachers integrate the students into their classes was important and I did all I could on the 3 days allocated to the program – always by student numbers – that year. The school’s population grew and grew, in 2006 there was a need to employ another person like me on a temporary basis. I was not permanently appointed, even though, over time, I hoped that might occur. More on that in the next chapter. 2007 was a big year for me. In many ways.

Family Times, House with ‘New’Mortgage & My First Trip O.S.

Despite the fact that we were now mortgage-free, see chapter fifteen, we became tempted to use the house as collateral for home improvements. Yes, people, we not only were tempted, we went ahead. The house benefitted with the enclosure of the outdoor room and adding air conditioning to it so it was a useable space, a carport, added driveways and landscaping out the front and back. This all helped at the time for our enjoyment. Much later in terms of selling, we had added value but the outstanding mortgage was paid out at the time of sale in 2015, bought new cars (much needed, old ones were literally ‘dying’)  but we did not have enough after that to buy a house on the Central Coast. This has, as it turns out, not been too bad as we have found a couple of options where we may wish, one day, to buy a house. For now, we are, like many, more comfortable as renters in the lovely, modern house we are in now.

Family times in those years became busier in some ways as the first group of grandchildren were changing in terms of ‘growing up’ and starting school. We attended Open Days, School Assemblies, Musicals and other events when possible. We took our two eldest granddaughters on a family holiday to Ballina which was fun and they got to meet some of their extended family and see where Papa grew up and went to school.

We welcomed partners into the family and life continued getting to know extended family members, and share in occasions, as well as support new ventures such as a return to study for one of our kids, with eventually University degree completed and more to come. One adult child continued in teaching part-time and we offered weekend/evening/afternoon respite for the kids in her busy times of responsibilities at school and beyond.

For some time I guess I did consider travelling overseas but never really got the chance. Then my plan was hatched and by crikey, I love a plan. To organise, the research and to find out more..blah blah. It was always going to be a solo trip. The plane ride for my husband of just on 3 hours in 2003 was the deal breaker for him as I wrote last chapter. He couldn’t accompany me. However, I was actually OK to give solo travel a go in a bigger way. I had already done some shorter trips and small breaks away within Australia so I looked at what I thought I could manage flight time wise, and where I was interested in visiting. It was to the U.S.of A.’s west coast but mainly the state of Hawaii I wanted to see. Dad and Mum had been there many times following Dad’s first visit when he was part of Harvard Business Summer School for 6 weeks in 1966.

With meticulous care and with the help of Flight Centre I booked 15 days away from 1 January 2006 to 15 January. Flights on Hawaiian Air, were marvellous and I joined their Premier Club to get preferential seating, extra luggage allowance and use of Lounges at LAX and Oahu. Brilliant. But, I almost went home from Mascot (our airport) before I left.

New Year’s Day in Sydney 2006 the temperature was 45deg. There was no air con working at the airport. My flight was not leaving till 10 pm. I was dropped off at the airport by my daughter…allowing plenty of time and it was actually ‘too much’ time. I was SO hot and over it..but stayed until check in could start…and when as a priority boarder I got to my window seat (then the aeroplane was 2,3,2 in economy)and sat, the aloha music and air con working….I sighed with relief. I probably need to expand this story separately but it went like this: Syd:Oahu, 3 nights. Oahu to Kona 2 nights. Kona to Oahu & onto LAX 2 nights, LAX to Las Vegas 2 nights, LV to SanFran 2 nights. SF to LAX back to Oahu 3 nights…and H O M E.

My Parents. 

In the latter part of 2006 my parents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary (60 years wed) with a couple of small at-home celebrations with friends, and a family lunch in a local restaurant with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the following weekend.

I went to their house on the actual day with 60 yellow roses from the local Dural Rose Growers, and Dad already had the cards I had organised from Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General, the Premier of N.S.W. and…for Mum especially, my brother organised a ‘congratulations to long time listeners, N & A,’ message on 2GB from Alan Jones. Mum loved it. And he was kind.

Mum had not been well for a couple of years and with an aversion to doctors and investigations, Dad did the best he could to keep her health under check. Mum had some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson’s related and also a lot of pain in some areas that was put down to be ‘post shingles’ neuralgia.

Mum had a great smile. And she made a lot of effort to do the best she could to look well and co-ordinated, with hairdresser appointments weekly and a pretty regular wardrobe updates. She started to not want to go out much in a lot of 2006 and it became harder to convince her to do so.

Previously Mum had been quite social, independent with her own car and social groups and interests including tennis and cards. But no more. Even their much enjoyed June-July winter stays on the Gold Coast stopped in 2005. But, there were reasons which would not be evident until next chapter: a big one. 2007.

Mum and Dad, taken by me, at the family celebrations for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. November 2006.

 

That is all…that I remember and CAN write about…with confidence of telling my story without giving away too much. It does get tricky with privacy but I have permissions and try to stay within boundaries set by myself and what is reasonable.

For all of the stories to date, please visit this part of the blog. Telling My Story.

I print each post out and have it stored in a folder for family if they wish to read it.

Thanks for reading.

Denyse.

List of Optional Prompts: July & August 2020. On home page too.

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. Mine is: World Head & Neck Cancer Day. 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

31/51 Food. 3.8.2020

32/51 Why Did I? 10.8.2020

33/51 I Want. 17.8.2020

34/51 Self-Care Stories. #5. 24.8.2020

35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 31.8.2020

Link Up #195.

Life This Week. Link Up #195.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt.27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

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