Dear hormones

Dear Hormones,

What are you playing at? Seriously, I thought we, as a body, were all in this together; fighting against the odds of EDS and Heart Failure, beating them against all expectations and doing a pretty impressive job of it actually.  Then, you took it upon yourselves to go off-piste and take control in, frankly, a hostile-coup!  I have been kidnapped and need to be rescued before all the things I know about myself and who I am fail to exist!

Menopause, peri or otherwise, you need to take a long-hard look at your behaviour and attitude to this relationship.  You’re walking all over the rest of the bodily functions and just making decisions without consultation, or warning, and expecting the rest of us to keep up.  What about some instructions or case-studies to ponder before being taken down a path we did not choose?

Let’s start with emotions; I have always been an emotional person, driven to hasty outbursts of love, tears or anger, not one to hide how I feel about things.  I had them pretty much under control as a woman approaching 50 though, and could usually decide appropriate locations to share emotions that might impact others.  Now, however, you’ve decided that I need shaking up a bit and even the mention of a sad-pet-story or a child telling her dad she loves him, reduces me to a wreck, crying uncontrollably, with snot-bubbles and everything.  I heard Michael Buble singing this morning and cried for almost an hour.  When John innocently entered the room and asked what was wrong, I started all over again.

And let’s not even begin to talk about Politics or I’ll be ranting for hours about the injustices on the planet and whom I believe to be responsible for them.  This is often followed by me throwing things!  Seriously, I had to replace a whole set of glasses last week as we were down to our last three.  I go outside almost daily and throw something at the wall, just so I won’t do anything worse.  John is learning to spot the signs and has started suggesting we go and cut wood in these moments as I achieve so much more that physically I thought possible when filled with this overwhelming urge.

Night time seems to be your chance to really punish me though, with sweats that mean I have to shower at 2am and anxiety like I’ve never experienced before. I’m worried about everything at night; from our ongoing struggle to sort our accounts out from when I had my surgery to whether I will make it my 50th this autumn, to what might cause the house to burn down.  And each worry seems to real, so important, that I am totally unable to resolve any of them with a sense of my usual calm.

I am horrible to John, to myself and even on occasion to our pets.  I am ashamed to say I shouted at Branston (our dog) yesterday, just because he made me jump when he put his head in my lap.  He just wanted to let me know he’d picked up my mood and could help, but I shouted at him.  I hated myself for a whole day for that.  I cried over it every time I thought about it.  Thank you for that, dear hormones.

I tell myself every day that I will take control and “own” my response to your constant changing, and that I can get through this without being awful or angry or ridiculously sad.  And so far, every day, you do your best to scupper my plans.  Well, okay, I get it, you want my attention and you want to be noticed.  I NOTICED!  YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION!  Now please, can we attempt to work together on this?

Yours, in hope,

Dinah

Perhaps it’s my age…

perhaps it’s my age, liberating me from unhelpful embarassment and restraint; perhaps it’s my illness and the concept of living every day as if it might be my last; perhaps it’s just that it was the right time for me to free myself and express opinions without fear of offending or starting a real discussion. Whatever the trigger or catalyst, I find myself in unfamiliar, and actually rather wonderful territory. I’m expressing my opinion and enjoying it!

i’m not sure if it’s a British thing or a female thing, or perhaps it was a cultural one, but I’ve spent the majority of my life keeping my opinions largely to myself; the exceptions to this have been the times when I’ve chosen to get involved with like-minded groups where our purpose is to express these shared views.

At home, I was taught that I should stay quiet and allow adults to talk as they had more experience (read: “be quiet, you know nothing”).

At school, the message was to listen unless you had something exceptionally clever to add to the lesson (read: “you’re an average student, you have nothing to add”).

At Sunday School, I failed to pay attention as I was convinced from a very early age that there was going to be no “god” in my life, and thus was taught Only one thing, that hate travels through generations and we have to choose to be the place where that ends.

I have always hated political correctness and the idea that I’ll be offending someone no matter what my opinion, and that therefore I should say nothing. And as I have always feared, this silence is dangerous and can spread faster than any cancer. Whole States sit in silence so as not to offen the religious rights of another, and allow wars and genocides to occur whilst they sit in silence.

well, not me. Not any more. Perhaps it’s my age…..

WOW Women DO cry

letting yourself cry is good for you

 

“There’s nothing like a good cry!”   I’ve often said this; to friends, my fabulous daughter, to clients.  It’s true.  A good cry releases our body’s natural endorphins and actually lifts our mood.  How often though, have you stopped yourself from crying, or found yourself apologising for it?  The fact is that it’s not just okay to cry – it’s great to cry!

When we hold back the tears we are burying emotions that deserve to be released, shared, discussed.  Often we feel we don’t deserve to sit down and have a good cry, that if we do we’re being a burden or weak.  I would argue it takes strength to cry, to be the person saying “this is tough and I don’t have all the answers”.

If you are someone who is there for others, who others describe as strong, it can feel like you’re letting them down if you let them see how troubled you are by something.  I’ve found that when I’m brave enough to show that vulnerable side, to say “today it’s all proving a bit much” people around me find it easier to connect with me.  Someone said to me recently, after listening to me have a good cry and holding my hand (and  yes, providing chocolate cake and a hug) that she felt so lucky to be able to support me for a change; we went through her breast cancer together last year and I was there with the hug and the carrot cake for her.  It felt good to let her support me.

And so often, a good cry is followed by clarity.  By letting go of those emotions, long suppressed, we give ourselves permission to see things in a new way, to say “okay, I’m ready, let’s start that again!”

It takes very little to convince me to spend a day with Hannah watching “weepy movies”; it always leads to talking, letting go of things, sharing giggles and chocolate, of course.  Which reminds me, it’s been too long – where’s my diary….

Dinah x

Let’s talk about…our bodies

 

Really?  Talk about our bodies?  In a public space where other people might be listening?

It’s one of those topics that so many women find difficult.  My earliest memories of talking about my body feel embarrassing and uncomfortable.  Hushed tones, fast spoken questions like “is it meant to hurt when I touch my boobs?” and “can you use a tampon if you’re still a virgin?” usually accompanied by giggles and exaggerated suggestions of expertise from equally bewildered friends.  We certainly never spoke to a grown-up about the changes we were experiencing in our bodies and the way we perceived them.

I remember the one attempt I made to ask my grandmother about periods; the result was a trip to a book shop where she purchased “what’s happening to me?” and handed it to me, under the table, in a brown paper bag. I kid you not!  The very idea of speaking to my mother was, in my mind, ridiculous.  It took me four months to tell her I’d started my periods (aged just nine) and almost as long to agree with her that I had to start wearing a bra to my junior school.

Yet as we age, as we learn how often the questions and fears we had about our bodies growing up, are shared by other women, do we actively do something to change this for future generations?  I’m confident I had more conversations with my daughter than I experienced;  I’m also sure there were plenty of things I didn’t tell her that  could have helped her to leave those concerns to one side.

How do we start to have these difficult conversations?  We can choose to be the ones to tackle them with our daughters and our friends.  I recently suggested to a life-long friend that we go and treat ourselves to some gorgeous new undies.  I was met with a less than enthusiastic “Okay.”  When I asked if I’d made a bad suggestion, she admitted that she’d always hated buying underwear.  “What, even the gorgeous girlie variety that lifts them to where they used to be?” I asked.  That’s when she told me that she felt awful buying bras because her left breast was larger than her right one and she felt like “some kind of freak” (her words).  When I told her that it was my right one that was larger she replied “Seriously?  You’ve got one bigger than the other too?  But you’ve got fabulous boobs!”

It’s extremely common.  Most women have one breast larger than the other; I’m told it’s often on the side of your writing arm.  Makes sense.  My friend said it made sense too.  She also told me she’d felt like this since we were 17.  That’s almost 30 years.  30 years of feeling negative about her body because nobody had told her it was normal.

Seems to me, it’s time to start those difficult conversations and talk about our bodies.  How will you start yours?

Dinah x

 

Give the gift of saying “Thank You”

accepting a compliment with a simple Thank You can feel difficult,  Accept that it's not about you.

“Really? What this old thing?”
“You’re joking, this makes my bum look enormous!”
“That’s sweet of you to say; when did you last get your eyes tested?”……

Sound familiar?  What is it that makes it so hard to accept a compliment at face-value and respond with “Thank you”?  What is the force that prevents so many women enjoying something that was intended to lift their day, to acknowledge something about them that prompted another person to say “Wow!”?

For many years I was convinced that accepting a compliment with a “thank you” was somehow saying “I know.  Yes, I am fabulous, thanks for noticing”;  of course, in my head this was done in a highly dramatic arrogant tone that was, frankly, repulsive.  I visualised people walking away and whispering to each other “I only said it to make her feel better!”  And of course, I gained little from these encounters except an opportunity to emotionally beat myself up, to remind myself I felt less than pretty, less than perfect.

Then I learned an interesting lesson from a friend;  accepting a compliment is not about ME.  When I allow someone to tell me I look great and greet this with a smile and a “Thank you”,  I give them a gift.  When people pay us a compliment, they do so with the intention of lifting our mood, making us feel great, making us glow.  When we treat that compliment, that gift, with contempt, we are showing them we don’t trust them, don’t value them.

When we accept the praise and the compliment, we allow them to enjoy that moment when someone unwraps a gift and you know you found exactly the right thing; they smile, the smile travels to their eyes which start to shine, they want to hold the gift up and show the world and you know that they understand why you chose it, that you’ve been paying attention, that they matter to you.

Focus on the person paying you the compliment today and thank them for taking the trouble to choose the perfect gift by giving them one in return – you’ll be surprised the impact “Thank you” can have on you both.

Dinah x

Time to review…

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s a great time to take a life review; I  like to think of this process as a “Life RevYou” it’s not about goals you set and whether you’ve achieved them, or berating yourself for the things you didn’t get done.  A Life RevYOU is about YOU.  How far you’ve come in your life and where you want to go.  You the person, you the woman.

I find it helpful to start with photos.  I’ve been looking at pictures with my brother when I was four and he was six.  The way he holds my hand in almost every picture, already taking the role of protector.  I think of the slight lisp I had, the hearing problems that made me reluctant to speak up and how much that has changed!  Being a visual person, I love to surround myself with pictures so I create a board with pictures that show me my journey as part of my Life RevYOU.

Next, write yourself a letter.  Address it to “Dear You” and let you know all the things you’re proud of.  The things you know have taken courage to overcome, the little things that nobody else will know are a struggle for you or take determination to complete.  Let yourself know how great you’re looking – go on, it’s for your eyes only.  Remind yourself of the daily tasks you complete, that are routine to everyone else, and how important they are.  My letter to myself from last year is still on my wall in the office.  I glow every time I read it.

The final part of the RevYOU is to be honest about where you’re going from here.  What do you want to add to that letter next year?  What one thing are you going to do more of to increase your own sense of worth, your own well-being?  Remember, the smallest steps are the most important, so set yourself something you are not only able to achieve, but committed to achieving.  Mine for 2013 is this “I’m proud of you for taking swimming up again, I know that was a big step, that you overcame lots of personal fears and you stuck with it.”

I’d love to know how you get on with your own Life RevYOU.

Dinah 🙂

Making mood choices

IMG_0412

“Don’t be so moody” a much-repeated comment from mothers of teenagers, partners (of both sexes) and many long-suffering friends.  Yet is strikes me that this is a strange remark;  we are constantly moody.  All our actions (or lack of action) can be influenced by our mood.  Every conversation or interaction will be impacted by our mood.  Every decision we take, choice we make, every moment of our day is moody.  Whether it is positive or negative is surely the real issue.

I do remember being grumpy in my teens; I was angry a good deal of the time.  I chose to let the world know it by reflecting it in my mood and my appearance.  I gave off a huge vibe that said “back off, unless you’re ready for an argument” and it worked.  I achieved what I set out to achieve.  I annoyed the grown-ups so they left me alone and I fascinated people of my own age who believed I was brave, anarchic, different.  My mood dictated my surroundings and my interactions with others.

I live in constant pain.  It’s part of a condition I have called EDS. It means I start my day, every day, by feeling the pain spread through my joints as I sit up.  Some days are easier than others.  The prospect of certain tasks could fill me with dread and allow my mood to plummet into a negative place.  So, knowing this, and knowing that the mood I choose to start my day with will have a huge impact on it, I start every morning by declaring my mood for the day ahead.  This morning, after a challenging night with the third dislocation in as many days, I chose caring as my mood for today.  Caring for myself as well as for others.  Caring about how I sit, to make sure I’m not in pain.  Caring about eating regularly and giving myself plenty of breaks from the keyboard to rest my arm.

Seeing that I have the choice, that I can decide my own mood has been key to my ability to battle the odds in my personal and business journeys.  I’m not suggesting that it’s always easy and indeed there are times when I feel the morning’s conviction slipping away.  That’s ok.  That is my signal to stop and observe.  What am I doing that is causing this change in my mood?  Have I slipped into an old habit or way of approaching something that has a negative impact on how I feel?  I often have conversations, out loud, with myself at these moments and ask myself “ok, so you recognise this right?  What did you do to create this?”  Seeing the mood-habits we create, and asking ourselves why we choose to repeat them is a big step on the journey to owning our mood, our ability to chose it and take back ownership of it.

If you’re finding yourself going up and down on the mood swing, here are my top four tips for influencing my mood:

1) Start your day by choosing your mood and declare it.  If you keep a diary, write it in there and you can look back and decide which were your best mood choices.

2) Take ownership.  Stop saying things like “I’m in a bad mood” or “I’m moody”.  Reinforcing these messages becomes an excuse.  Own your moods and decide that you are able to change each one of them, at a moments’ notice.

3) Acknowledge your positive moods.  It can be easy to focus on the negative, to remember the impact a bad or low mood has had on our day.  Start looking for the positive moods, the uplifting or successful moments.  Acknowledge these, and give no time to talking or thinking about the “moody” moments.

4) Take a look at your environment.  As more and more of us work from home, we become isolated and this can have a huge influence on our mood.  Is the space you are working in a positive one?  Do you look forward to going into your office, or dread it?  You don’t have to redecorate to change the feeling a room creates.  Simply putting up pictures, cards, favourite quotes and knick-knacks can make it an environment that lifts your mood.

Take that “I’m moody” label off today – it really doesn’t suit or serve you.  I’d love to know what positive moods you observed.

Dinah

Are you ready to receive?

ready to receive

In the spirit of giving, that so many women find themselves adopting naturally, it can be difficult to receive.  To accept that you deserve too.  Receiving does not have to be selfish or self-centred, although we often put our own desires and needs at the bottom of our agenda and focus on “more important things”.

I’ve always enjoyed giving; from a young age I was more excited about other people’s birthdays than my own and would get really upset if someone did not love a gift I game them.  Few things in life make me more content that knowing something I’ve done for someone else has made a difference.  It has taken me a long time to see that I can receive without somehow being a hypocrite.  And more importantly, that I deserve to receive too.

Getting comfortable with the idea of receiving requires the learning of a new habit.  Here are my top tips for getting ready to receive:

1. One small gift…  Start small, it will feel manageable and you’ll see results that encourage you to continue.  So, start with asking for one small gift, from someone close to you – a friend or family member.  Let them know you’d really love to have something from them; I started by letting my husband, John, know that I would love him to take me to a movie.

2. Get visual… At the top of this blog is a quote that inspires me to look at receiving in a new way.  Find a quote or image that motivates you to stay connected with the idea of receiving.

3. Repeat after me…  “I’m worth it” “I deserve  to receive” “I am ready to receive”  all these phrases are a great way to re-connect in moments of doubt.  Yes, you may feel slightly daft talking to yourself, but go on- you do deserve to receive.

Are you ready to receive?  How do you prepare to receive?  I’d love to hear your thoughts

Dinah x

Choose positive thinking

positive thinking. you can choose to think positive, to focus on a good outcome
Choose a positive you today

 

Choosing to think positively is not going to make all your problems disappear overnight; however, it is going to make a huge, positive difference to how you deal with, challenge, accept or fight these challenges and, as a result and with persistence, a more positive outcome.  Positive thinking is a choice and it can become a healthy habit.

Sound like mumbo-jumbo?  All that “the Universe will deliver” language you’ve heard before.  Well, I make no apologies for that.  I choose positive thinking every day and it has had a profound impact on my life.  Real, measurable impact.  I choose to walk, having been told I would never walk again.  I choose to have a daughter (now 22 and utterly amazing) after I was told I could not and would not have children.  I choose to work and fill my life with activities and challenges after being told I would not even live to see my 40’s.

So has choosing positive thinking been an easy, snap decision that resolved all these challenges in the blink of an eye? Of course not; it has been a choice I make every day, a habit I have chosen to create and embrace.  Has choosing this positive attitude had an impact on my results – unquestionably.  I choose my own outcomes because I look at what is possible, not what is impossible; I focus on what I can do not what I cannot; I celebrate my achievements rather than focussing on my wobbles.  I choose positive thought and I get results.

What can you choose to be positive about in your thinking from today?  I’d love to hear what you choose.

Dinah

Dinah’s wobble boosters

When I’m having one of those days where I feel sorry for myself, I have learned there are certain things that lift my spirit, restore my self-belief and fire-me-up to challenge where I am.  These include looking at photographs of my family – like these ones

Then I phone a friend…

I’ve learned a powerful thing about wobbles – a wobble shared is a wobble that feels less overwhelming, less all-consuming.  When you share your wobble with a friend, they may not have a solution for you, but they will have a shoulder to cry on, they will listen, let you wobble and love you all the same.

I also write my “Blog I will not publish”.  I get a blank sheet of paper – or a blank screen on my ipad notes, and I write without an agenda.  No plan, no topic, no rules or political correctness.  I just write.  And when I’ve finished I read it through.  I’m often surprised by what I read; surprised at the passion and the questions that appear on the page.  Most often I’m surprised by the way the tone changes as I write, letting out feelings I’ve been locking away, exposing challenges that have been troubling or puzzling me.  And as I read, I often feel the sensation of doubt and negativity leaving me.  Draining away to be replaced by confidence and determination.

I also love to watch inspirational videos, that share WOW stories.  There are many on my “Favourites” on YouTube *WARNING watch with tissues at the ready!  Here is my favourite, which never fails to inspire me – and reduce me to tears – from Caroline Casey, and TED Talks.

What do you do to lift your mood, to restore your sense of WOW when you’re having a wobble?  I’d love you to share them here.

Dinah