My Story so far...

The Journey to Me - 2020

 

I'm all for reinventing yourself. I love the idea of starting something new and challenging yourself in ways that excite and help you to grow. However, I didn't think I would be reinventing myself at this stage in my journey.

 

I was diagnosed in 2008 with a progressively terminal rare chronic illness called pulmonary arterial hypertension. It had a survival rate of about 3 years if treatment is effective, and at that time there were only a few medications to treat this disease. I was nearly dead when I was finally diagnosed, which only complicated the whole process. In my long journey I have already survived being terminal three times.  

 

I have faced and overcome many challenges, and changes, jumped through countless hurdles, and been forced to grow in ways that were often incredibly painful, especially in the last two years.

 

In late 2019 my future changed unexpectedly, and it was with enormous sadness that I decided to alter the trajectory of my life. Having spent ten years working hard to create, grow, establish and network within the pulmonary hypertension area in Australia and internationally, I found myself desperately unhappy and frustrated with the politics and amazing power imbalance.  I had spent years studying and gaining qualifications and new skills in the field of community services, web design, social media and publishing. I had created an amazing small team of people all with a lived experience to work alongside me. After 8 years of being a support group we became an incorporated association and national charity for Australia. Ten years of hard work had finally reached its crescendo and we had made it, or so I thought...

Snowflake
Snowflake
Snowflake

Happy days my lovelies,

always Melissa x

I had suffered a great trauma in the time leading up to our incorporation and I seriously should have stopped the process and reassessed back in 2018. Being a fighter and not used to giving up, I convinced myself that it would all turn out ok. I was wrong. After months of incredible stress and a diagnosis of PTSD from the emotional turmoil and two nervous breakdowns, I realised I could not go on like this anymore.

 

I became so depressed I realised I could no longer work for our organisation in good faith, as it was the people who were supposed to be my medical caretakers who had caused my trauma. I could no longer cope, and I began to withdraw myself back into my protective shell. I needed time to heal, time to forgive the people who had caused my pain and suffering. 

You've heard that old saying "do as I say, not as I do"? Well eventually that can bite you in the ass! Preaching self care to others and not practising it yourself leaves you exhausted and empty. I realised this was what my life had become. The cup was empty where it was once overflowing with joy and happiness, now there was only darkness and despair.  Depression set in and fear ruled my every decision. I had worked so hard for so long and now I was literally broken, both physically and emotionally. I had to make peace with those now broken pieces that made up my life.

Despite the many challenges throughout my life I have always been a happy person. A cup half full, joyful with a zest for living. I love people and helping out where I can be useful in my community. I no longer felt these things about myself, and that had to change. I very tentatively and bravely decided to change pretty much everything in my life. I realised I needed a mentor, and I needed to go back to the basics of why I started my journey into the self help and support group sector to start with. I needed to start thinking about what I needed too. I needed to start living again, not just existing.

I read an amazing quote that said "Don't do great things - do every little thing in a great way"  Mother Teresa.  After practically killing myself, and everyone on our team I finally started to listen to some of these amazing life altering quotes. I spent time talking with the people who had been so supportive of me and my vision for our organisation, and really listening to why they had been attracted to helping. I had somehow lost my way, my uniqueness in a quest to be included and accepted.  It was time to return to the basics. Time to discover who the new me could be. Take my own advice about self-care, and start enjoying life again. 

So this is the beginning of the journey to me under the new banner of "Chronically Inspired" Life.Beyond.Disability. 2020, a new year and a new decade.  Wish me luck, you are all invited along for the ride! 

Achievements I am most proud of up to the year 2020

 

  •  Completing Certificate IV Community Services in 2018, and having my final exam just weeks after near death in ICU.  

  • Building a Website, twice.

  • Learning how to create and publish a small magazine for the Australian Pulmonary Hypertension community. 

  • Forming lasting relationships and friendships with our amazing sponsors from my former organisation PHNA.

  • Spending quality time with very special individuals all living with, or caring for someone with pulmonary hypertension, and being able to help in some small way.

  • Reinventing myself into Chronically Inspired and creating a new website, social media platforms and magazine to support those living with both pulmonary hypertension, and chronic illness/conditions and mental health challenges. 

  • Finding Life Coach #Jackie Rowe from #Focus Coaching who has been an amazing mentor and been pivotal in helping me turn my life around after being diagnosed with PTSD. 

  • Being brave enough to turn up to the training for the #WA Recovery College Alliance and do their #Educators Foundation Program and then training to become an Educator for WARCA.  Meeting some of the most courageous and kind people I have met in a long time, which enabled me to regain my confidence and add to my skill set opening up a world of possibilities...    

Winning Awards for 

"Support Group and Self Help Champion"

For founding, running and growing our pulmonary hypertension support group.

From ConnectGroups Association 2015.

"The Tom Lantos Community Services Award"

From the Pulmonary Hypertension Association USA.  PHNA were one of 12 International Winners in 2016. 

We created the first patient pack & resources for people living with pulmonary hypertension in Australia.

"Innovation Award"

For creating the first educational patient pack for the pulmonary hypertension community in Australia.

From ConnectGroups Association 2018.

"Community Services Health Consumer Award Finalist"

For my work in the field of pulmonary hypertension. 

From the Health Consumer Council 2019.

Growing and Learning

Working with, and learning from some amazing people who I will love and cherish always. 

Learning to forgive myself and make my well-being a priority. 

Forgiving others, even when they weren't sorry

Starting over, again..to find my Y!

Being Brave & Never Giving Up!

Beach Painting
Red and Blue Fireworks

Bring it on 2021!

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As I began the year 2021 my depression from the PTSD followed me into the New Year. I kept ''waiting to go back to normal'', before realising that this wasn't going to happen. This was my ''new normal'' and I had better start getting to know it and figuring out how to live with it! 

I continued my personal growth with the assistance of Life Coach Jackie Rowe from Focus Coaching  who continues to guide me, educate me, and support my recovery. One of the things I began to do as part of this process was to start a Gratitude Journal. I have never been a ''write in your diary'' kind of person, so I struggled a little at first.  I had several discussions with Jackie about the purpose of gratitude journalling and how much of a difference it makes to your stress levels, living a more intentional life, and improves your overall mood. 

At first I approached it a bit like you would homework. I would freak out if I forgot to do it, wondered if what I had contributed was right, silly things like that. It is only now that I reflect back on over 6 months of journalling that I realise the power it has to ground you, help you to track your moods, create intention in your day, and relieve your stress levels. 

Now I look forward to the time I give to this activity each day, and if it rolls over into the next day then I just have more to talk about. I love that you can just say whatever you want, get those words out of your mind and body onto the page and expel the emotions that come with them. 

I have a special journal I found from a magazine called Mindful, there are no fixed dates, just days of the week, beautiful stories, little mental health exercises and lovely quotes throughout. There is a page at the end of each month where you can record any notes or reflections, as well as plan for the next month. I really enjoy this journal and it has become a bible of sorts. 

I also connect fortnightly with a women's circle facilitated by Jackie Rowe called ''Woman Rising", which is the next step after you complete "Woman Empowered". To date the women I have had the joy of joining this journey on have been incredible. The bond we share, the honesty, the trust, and lived experiences of growth and improvement has been humbling to say the least. 

When you are going in and out of lock downs due to the pandemic your social life can really suffer. I am so happy we live in WA where we have been relatively sheltered from this and still manage to get together with friends and support group members. I have come to cherish these special times, conversations, laughter, great food and company in my life. 

Under construction :))