Saturday 25th June 2022

Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Are we humans ever truly content with ourselves?

I am asking the hard questions today as I know personally, I find this tricky.

My husband/guru tells me “life it about living in the present”. OK. Not just him, but everyone who preaches mindfulness seems to have this view.

I can do this on some occasions now. I can bring my thoughts back to where I am (not so good ones too) and let them go of their own accord.

What made me observe this today?

My appearance. My weight. My changes.

For many decades I used food for calming and soothing and hid from much of my emotions this way. I often ate secretly. I have written about it here. I was performing well academically and professionally but not within my care of myself. The only, easy way was eating what soothed me. 

Back to the present.

I’ve had four years of over-arching anxiety related to life changes and transitions which actually resulted in not only Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrhoea) but a reduced appetite and a simple meal regime. I did not go out much at all. I was ‘at home’ in 2016-mid 2017 because of the increased symptoms.

I lost weight. It had started slowly in the year before we left Sydney but continued gradually until I found out I had cancer in May 2017. WOAH. Here is the page with the cancer stories if you are a first time reader.

From the time I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums until I came home from hospital it was inevitable I lost weight. I did. I was focussed on getting past the surgery stage for more than 7 weeks and if that is not an appetite suppressant, I do not have any other ideas. I wore clothes that were baggy but were not my fattest clothes as almost all of them were consigned to charity bins in the previous year. I did not think I would wear them again yet I was very reluctant to buy clothes which fitted me well.

I managed to convince myself to get some nighties and other items of a smaller size for hospital and recovering at home but it held no joy in me to need to do this. Cancer was my upper most thought. Then, once surgery was over, and I was able to finally sip water, and try a clear fluids diet in the 2 days before I came home, the dietitian visited me.

I was bombarded   given the message over and over that I needed to EAT what and when I could and that it needed to be foods of full-fat, high protein and smooth enough for a mouth with only a few teeth to get down. I had never, in all my life, been told NOT to lose any more weight.

I was weighed in hospital and then once I was home, because of the addition of an anti-biotic that played havoc with my gut I did LOSE weight. I got to the lowest I can remember. Ever. And it did not feel good. I knew I was not well.

Once the diarrheoa disappeared and my GP said ‘eat what you like and what you can keep in’ rather than the high protein/milky drinks on offer via the dietitian, I got back to a weight where i felt comfortable and well.

This lasted for a very long time.

Sharing My Image with The On-Line World.

Just under a year ago, my wellness was a great feeling. I began to think about going out by myself for a coffee. It took me until November to do that, and I decided to account for my day by entering a photo each day on Instagram under the various hashtags including:

#everydaystyle

#dresswithpurpose

#outfitoftheday

Many of my on-line friends, family and friends found my daily posts and supported my photos with ‘likes’ and comments’. I found a love of shopping for bargains again. It was fun and I was rewarded by the feeling and knowledge that I was doing this for myself and finally I seemed to understand it was good to feel great on the outside.

Cancer meant more surgeries, and more messing about in my mouth. Food intake became protein items such as mince based meals which I could easily eat with a few teeth and a tongue and treats became staples: little cakes, small donuts, icecream. Each day had something like that in it. I did not gain weight much at all over the time from October until my last surgery in May 2018.

Photos of the day became something others with cancer discovered and they liked the idea of dressing with prpose. With head and neck cancer, because our cancer is usually visible to others, eating and drinking out is seldom done even just going out. So, I was flattered to be followed and asked more about it.

Then, a day came I had longed for…and it had been delayed so it was even more special.

I had the upper prosthesis of teeth added to my mouth. It was in late August. It felt very strange and initially I could not eat much at all. Over time, I could as I became confident of my ability to bite and chew and now…..

I began to gain weight.

Boo. It is not much at all, and I really need to put it in context. 

I have gone from very restricted eating and feeling deprived but I knew I had an end in sight. 

What has been interesting to observe in me is my behaviour changes.

  • I am not hiding my eating like I did.
  • I am limiting my treat food.
  • I am realising that I cannot use food to deal with emotions any more.
  • I am also needing to come to terms with what life is like for me now.
  • I am considering no longer doing the “outfits of the day” posts because they are almost a year old.
  • I may replace them with a “self-care” theme.
  • I am having a small internal battle but less so as I chat with my husband about it, and also follow a mindfulness eating guide.
  • I am wearing my fitbit and aim to move more than 6K steps in a day. I am a work-in-progress!

I thought getting teeth would be the best and it is…but I can eat a very wide range of foods again…but I no longer want to end up very wide again!

It has helped me to share this so thank you for reading! I hope you made it this far.

Back to where I started. Are we ever really content with ourselves?

Denyse.

Joining the lovely Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky and for the record, I am here with Leanne when we finally caught up for a coffee…and something to eat recently!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

That mirrors my own experiences.

Thank you for sharing, everyone.

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

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

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

About (My) Exposure Therapy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Added Story.

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

With Dad – early 2018.

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

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

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

Comfort Zones.

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

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

Moving On. My Next Challenge!! 

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

Wish me luck!

Hope you are all doing well too.

Denyse.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Noticing nature helps me focus on “just one thing”

Here’s an example.

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

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

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

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

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

Go me. Right? Right! Until this…

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

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

But something stopped me. These words:

Do The Hard Thing

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

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

No, I don’t

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

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

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

This is now my locked screen saver.

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

It is not the end.

It is never the end.

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

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

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

What is the hard thing for you?

Is there more than one?

Do share in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

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

 

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