Sunday, 29 April 2018

Empathy


E is for Empathy

I have a question for you. Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy? Two very similarly spelled words. Two words that are commonly used incorrectly.

Just to clarify the difference up, we'll begin this blog post with a grammar lesson.The dictionary definition of empathy is:

  • the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The definition of sympathy is:

  • feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.

In my google search I found this quote, which I think explains the difference well:

The ability to feel sympathy for others is a great part of what makes us human, and it's what compels us to reach out and offer help. So have sympathy for people who confuse this word with empathy — they're awfully close in meaning. Feeling sympathy means you feel sorry for someone's situation, even if you've never been there yourself. Empathy is when you truly understand and can feel what another person is going through.
https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/sympathy



Here is another great example:

Empathy is heartbreaking — you experience other people's pain and joy. Sympathy is easier because you just have to feel sorry for someone. Send a sympathy card if someone's cat died; feel empathy if your cat died, too.
https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/empathy-sympathy/


So why am I focussing on this topic? Was it the only e word I could think of? Well, to be truthful the word immediately came to me, but empathy is something close to my heart. I roam in so many different circles in the world in a medical sense and a family sense, that I understand what many people are going through.

I can't just give my attention to one cause, as many people are able to do, because I do deal with a multitude of issues. For example, Crouzon syndrome (craniofacial syndrome), hydrocephalus, Chiari malformation (spinal issues), Down syndrome, heart defect, mental illness, bullying, domestic violence, inclusive education, Coeliac disease, visual impairment, osteoarthritis, multiple miscarriages, financial difficulties, family dysfunction. .. and if I keep thinking there would be more. I often joke that I don't live in this world, my body is here but I actually reside in my alternate universe. I say this as I often feel alien to what other 'normal' people go through.

People from all over the world message me about their situations, and I know why. I take the time to listen to them and share my walk with them. I offer advice if they request it. People know that I do truly understand what they are going through. I have an arrow in my back, just like they do!



So what if you want to feel empathy but you haven't experienced what someone else is going through? I genuinely think it is possible. Maybe you have been through a similar situation, or someone else you know has, or you have been through something that had a similar outcome. For example, someone may have lost their job and had to sell their house. That may not have happened to you, but you've had financial difficulties where you've had to watch every cent and you feared to lose your house.  Maybe you know someone going through IVF. and has miscarried. Now you may not have gone through IVF, but you know how hard the process is, and you yourself have miscarried and know the grief that comes with losing your baby.

 I found this infographic which I think explains how we can show empathy:


Showing empathy is trying to imagine what the other person is going through, and endeavouring to see their world how it is. You may not agree with the choices they've made or the circumstances they are in, but you cannot be empathetic if you are being judgemental. The person is a fellow human being and they are hurting. Talk to them and find out what they are feeling and actively listen to them. Ask questions but don't offer advice unless they request it.

You cannot ease another person's grief - it is a process they need to work through. You may be able to give some short-term solutions, but generally, the person will need to work their situation and deal with whatever that means.



Most human beings want to feel connected with other people. They want to know that other people understand or will try to understand their situation. Unfortunately, so many people are so preoccupied with their own lives that they often don't reach out to show empathy to others.

My challenge for you is to reach out to someone today who is hurting. You may just be the blessing they need.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Down Syndrome



D is for Down Syndrome

Last year I wrote a reflective piece about my daughter Jessica, for Down Syndrome Australia. As tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day, I thought I would share it again in this blog.

***

“I think your baby has Down syndrome. Why haven’t you been told already?” said the frank geneticist when we took our one-month-old daughter for diagnosis. Shock, like a cattle prod slammed to my forehead, shot through me. The vision of her slanted eyes I had noticed when she was born, zoomed around my brain. I felt numb. I had known there was something not quite right with Jessica – she slept way too much and had feeding problems – but no one we had seen for help had mentioned Down syndrome.

The paediatrician at her birth had directed us to the geneticist who we were seeing due to another family genetic syndrome. The wait to hear what the blood test revealed was excruciating. My reaction to the ‘positive to Trisomy 21’ news was horrific. I didn’t want to look at my baby or touch my baby. I spiralled down into post-natal depression and I was filled with fear. I couldn’t see a bright future for my daughter, and the “I’m sorry” from well-meaning friends didn’t help the situation.

My strong feelings made no sense to me. I knew absolutely no one with Down syndrome. Somehow, somewhere during my life, I had picked up that Down syndrome was a really terrible thing for my child to be born with, and for my family to have to deal with.

Now, nine years on, I wish I could go back in time and talk to the terrified mummy I was. I would softly tell myself – it is going to be okay. There is nothing to be scared of. Your daughter will develop her milestones, she will talk and sing, she will have friends, she will love swimming, she will go to mainstream school and be involved in extra-curricular activities, she will have her own personality and talents, she will have a vivid imagination, she will learn independent life skills, and she will bring much joy to your family and others around you. You will love her, cry over her achievements, advocate for her fiercely and she will be a light in the world. It will not always be easy, but that is a typical life. Your beautiful daughter will show the world that having Down syndrome is just one part of her, it does not define her.

(Jessica is now ten).

***

Today I saw in my Facebook memories, a youtube video I had made when Jessica was 5 years old. I thought I'd share that too. 



***
A final thought... There is still a long way to go before people with Down syndrome are fully accepted as valued human beings. There is prejudice in a lot of people's hearts and many neotypical children see their peers with Down syndrome as weird or different. As adults we must show children that they need to be kind to others who are not like themselves, reach out to these other children and extend a hand of friendship. From my personal perspective, all Jessica wants is to be accepted, to have friends and for people to be nice to her.





Friday, 19 January 2018

Challenge


C is for Challenge

It is now the third week into January of 2018,  I've been busy this last week making sure my children have everything they need for starting back at school next week. My eldest is beginning her final year of high school and my youngest, her final year of primary school... both major milestones.

Now I can guarantee with 100% certainty, that this year will present challenges to myself, my family and to you. Why? Because challenges and struggles are a part of life. No one escapes them.

I've already been thrown challenges with my husband having a fall before Christmas and not being to help around the house like he was able to do. It hasn't been easy, and I could have crumbled under the added pressurese. I haven't has I have made a conscious decision to accept what is and rise up, with a positive attitude. I know I can conquer and cope with the extra work I've had to do.

Have you recently been presented with challenges, and if so, how are you coping with them?

 

I love my comfort zone. I love staying where I feel safe and secure. As a sufferer of anxiety, my comfort zone helps keep my anxiety at bay. But, in many ways it feeds it, as staying in my comfort zone has not pushed me out into experiencing new things, and expanding myself. It is since leaving my comfort zone, which I was forced to do by work circumstances, and facing new challenges, that I have become more confident and am finding it so much easiest to cope with change and problems.

Challenges of Life

Smooth roads never make good drivers
Smooth seas never make good sailors
Clear skies never makes good pilots.
Problem and hassle free life never makes a strong person
Be strong enough to accept the challenges of life
Don't ask life, "Why Me? Instead say "Try Me!"
Author: Unknown

This is an interesting saying, isn't it? Don't limit your challenges... challenge your limits. It sounds like a new year's resolution. I personally don't make resolutions, but I know many people do. Instead of resolutions, I make monthly goals. These are usually related to my writing. I plan out my weeks and prioritise my jobs. And as well as having my goals, I try to limit the junk food and do some exercise. Of course, there is always room for improvement. 

Did you make a new year's resolution? Have you kept it or have you broken it already?

As part of my goals for the year, I will be challenging my limits. I know I am shy and find it hard to talk to people I don't know. This is something I will be working on this year. I want to run writing workshops and have already started to take steps towards doing that. I have fear of the unknown, but how does something become known unless it is attempted? When opportunities present themselves this year, I will not say to myself, 'You're not good enough'. Instead I will say, 'You can do it!' 

I am aiming now to embrace change this year.  Are you planning on too?

I went looking for some tips for coping with challenges, and I found the ones below. I think there is some wisdom in them.

1. Don’t overreact- Overreacting to a problem will cause you to make bad decisions. When we are not in control of our emotions, we will make decisions that we will regret later. Next time you are faced with a challenge, become the watcher of your thoughts and stay calm so you can make smarter decisions.
2. Accept present moment reality- Accept the way things are and the way people are. You have to understand that not everything is going to be the way you want it to be. If you cannot accept reality you will feel very frustrated with your life. Many people will try to change someone or something that they cannot control, and when it doesn’t work out for them they feel miserable. Once you can accept reality (including the challenges that you are faced with), you will be able to be more calm and think more clearly about how to get a step further towards your goals every day.
3. Don’t blame others- Many people make a habit of blaming others for all their problems. They fail to take full responsibility for the decisions they have made in life. The more you blame others with the challenges you are faced with, the more you will make people dislike you and not want to be around you. The first thing you want to do when faced with a personal challenge is not to start pointing fingers at others.
4. Practice detachment- Make a habit of detaching yourself from any outcome. Detachment means that you are not attached to any given result in life.  I remember in the past when I did public speaking and got really nervous. The reason I was fearful of public speaking was because I was too caught up thinking about what the audience was thinking of me. The fact is that there are some people that are not going to like what you say and others who may like what you have to say, therefore your job is to accept the way people are and not get worked up emotionally and mentally over someone not liking you. When you start practicing detachment, many of your fears and insecurities will disappear.
5. Don’t overanalyze- When you think too much about a situation or event that occurred, you will start to judge everything and everyone. When you think too much you will have a very tough time accepting reality and you will think that something is not right. Overanalyzing can also cause you to not take action on your goal, which can make you really frustrated in the long run.
6. Accept “changes’ in your life- You will have to deal with changes in life all the time. Many people don’t like change and they resist it because it gets them outside of their comfort zone.  You may be unhappy or happy at certain times; however you have to realize that those two states are not permanent. You have to train your mind to be at peace at all times regardless of the emotional state you experiencing.
7. Don’t compare your lifestyle with others- I know it is really difficult not to compare ourselves with other people, however the more often we do that, the more frustrated we will feel. There will be people that may have accomplished more than you. The key thing to remember is that you create your own story and success in life.
https://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2011/10/24/ways-to-deal-with-challenges/

I pray that you will face any challenges that come your way this year.

 www.jennywoolsey.com

Monday, 18 December 2017

Blessings



B is for Blessings

Growing up, when I was grumbling about being born with my craniofacial syndrome, my mother would always say to me, 'We count our blessings.' My response, made under my breath, would be, 'What blessings?'

Last week my story was on 9news.com.au My Interview. A journalist interviewed me and my daughter Melissa, about living with Crouzon syndrome. This was in response to the movie Wonder, where the main character Auggie, was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, another craniofacial syndrome. After the interview I was chatting with Mum about a few of my childhood memories and again she said, 'We count our blessings.' 

Mum has never wavered from looking at the positive side of having a daughter and grandchildren with a craniofacial syndrome. Though she has admitted I have been through way more than she and Dad did, which is true, but they had way more prejudice in society to push against.

Since going on sick leave from work in 2013 and then resigning in 2014 due to burnout and severe anxiety and depression, life in the Woolsey household has continued to throw curveballs. I have spent many hours with my psychologist recovering, my daughter has struggled with her own severe anxiety and depression, my husband has bent his tailbone, broken his ribs, his wrist and his finger, endured kidney stones and is currently suffering post-surgery pain which is still being investigated. Plus all the usual hospital appointments, and dealing with coelic disease and Jessica's nuances, and financial difficulties... I have changed from being the breadwinner and mother, to the carer of my entire family, and doing the majority of jobs. This is something I am not used to and I have found difficult to adjust to. My husband is currently unable to drive, and me not being able to drive due to my visual impairment, has thrown up more challenges. 

The last couple days I've been quietly having my own pity party, but today I am determined to change my attitude, and count my blessings. :)  


So in this blog I am going to count ten of my blessings: 

1) I have a family who loves me.
2) I have friends who support me.
3) I have a dog I can cuddle and talk to.
4) I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and clothes to wear.
5) I have teenage children who can help me when I ask them.
6) My youngest, with Down syndrome, can play independently so does not need my undivided attention all day.
7) My eldest has her Learners and can drive my husband to the shops, which saves me from having to walk to the shops.
8) My church family delivered a surprise hamper last week when I was really down, which was so appreciated.
9) I am healthy.
10) Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, and He gives me hope. I know I am being watched over and everything will turn out okay sometime.

In a week's time it will be Christmas and we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus. It will just be the five us of us this year - no extended family. And even though life at the moment is not how I'd like it to be, I know it could be worse.


If life is getting you down, I ask you, 'What are your blessings?'




Monday, 20 November 2017

Ableism

 

A is for Ableism

I came across the word ableism a few months ago, and it has taken me a while to get my head around what it means. I initially thought it referred to enabling people with disabilities to participate, communicate, and access facilities/transport etc.; to help them be able to do things... But in fact it has the opposite meaning.

So What is Ableism?

Ableism – are the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.disabilities. These attitudes and practices are discriminatory.




An ableist society is said to be one that treats non-disabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’, which results in public and private places and services, education, and social work that are built to serve 'standard' people, thereby inherently excluding those with various disabilities.

http://stopableism.org/what.asp

Here are some examples of ableism:
  • Lack of access to a building. For example, no ramps for people in a wheelchair to access the front door of a building, or access is only through the back door. 
  • Lack of assistive technologies during conferences etc.
  • Not having events accessible to public transport, as many people with disabilities cannot drive.
  • Blaming the person with a disability about being victimised e.g. they were annoying so they deserved the bullying.
  • Denying a person's decision making capabilities for their own life (forced sterilization, decision making in terms of housing, etc).
  • Not talking to a person with a disability but instead talking to the able-bodied person with them.
  • Refusing to give the level of respect due to a person.
  • Using derogatory labels e.g. retard, psycho.
  • The misrepresentative of disabilities in the popular media and in the news.
  • Using people with disabilities as inspirational porn.
  • Assuming that people with disabilities cannot be autonomous or independent.
  • Able-bodied people using disabled parking or toilets.
  • Able-bodied people assuming that disabilities are always physical. 
https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-examples-of-ableism-in-everyday-life
https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/everyday-ableism-and-how-we-can-avoid-it/
https://mic.com/articles/121653/6-forms-of-ableism-we-need-to-retire-immediately#.SQoPO85HW


This comic explains it well. The white coats are making decisions on behalf of the people with disabilities but they are not asking them what they want.

Ableism is rife in our society. Though headway has been made, a lot more needs to be done. Attitudes towards people with disabilities, and systemic changes are necessary within government and education. One way is to start from the beginning of life, by having all types of children together in playgroups and then educated with each other. No segregation whatsoever. Inclusive education with teachers who are fully on board, will show the upcoming generations that people with disabilities are just like them, except they could need some modifications or assistance at times. And if there are needs, ask the person what they would like, and then accommodate them, so the person with the disability can participate at the same level alongside their able-bodied peers.

So how do we stop ableism now?
  • Read articles from well-known disabled writers.
  • Research the general opinions of the disability community.
  • Think about your own attitudes and actions. 
  • Treat disabled strangers with the same common courtesy you'd extend to anyone.
  • See the whole person not just their disability.
  • Listen when disabled people when they talk about their disabilities.  
  • Avoid assumptions. 
  • Recognize that their abilities may vary from day to day. 
  • Ask about their needs as relevant.
  • Respect their problems and emotions, visible or not.
  • Treat their disability as natural.
 https://www.wikihow.com/Fight-Ableism-as-a-Nondisabled-Person

As a society we must extinguish ableism.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Zebras




Z is for Zebras

Oh zebras why do I love thee?

I love your stripes
Your unique designs
I love your beauty
You're just devine!

By Jenny Woolsey


This month's blog is not a serious one. I chose zebras because they are my favourite animal. Why? I don't actually know. I'm not into horses at all. I tried riding one when I was in university and fell off whacking my head, and haven't been back on one since. I had gone out to Roma to a friend's property. I had to ride bareback and going down an incline I toppled off. But give me a zoo where there are zebras, I will sit and watch them for as long as my family allows. If there's an African documentary on TV featuring zebras, I will watch it. If I see pictures or ornaments out and about I will stop and examine them. I have photos of zebras up in my loungeroom. My friend's husband who was a photographer gave us a black and white framed photo of zebras for our wedding present. I have a stuffed animal collection of zebras. I nearly bought a large zebra at Bunnings the other day, but refrained as I had nowhere to put it. 

If I ponder my interest, I would have to say it has to do with their stripes. I do love their unique designs - no two zebras are the same. There are different colours also between zebras. They are not all black and white. Zebras all look the same from the outset but when you study them they are not the same. Is that like humanity in some ways? If you stare at a group of people all the same skin colour and hair colour, they may look the same from the outset but when you study them intently or talk to them, you will soon find out they are different.

I found this poem which I thought was really cute. It asks the question - something I have pondered at times - is the zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes??? 


Some interesting facts about zebras: 
  • Zebras are single-hoofed animals, closely related to horses and donkeys. 
  • They are generally thought to have white coats with black or brown stripe. They have black skin under their white coats
  • There are three types of zebras: 1) Plains 2) Mountains 3) Grevy's zebra.
  • Though they all live in Africa, each species of zebra has its own home area. Plains zebras live in the treeless grasslands and woodlands of eastern and southern Africa. The Grevy's zebra lives in the arid grasslands of Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The mountain zebra is found in South Africa, Namibia and Angola. 
  • It is believed that the zebra's stripes work like camouflage, according to the National Geographic. When zebras stand together, it is harder for predators to determine how many zebras are in the group. The stripes may also make the zebra appear unattractive to smaller predators, such as bloodsucking horseflies, which can spread disease. In addition, the stripes may work as a natural sunscreen.
  •  Zebras have several ways they communicate with one another. Facial expressions, such as wide-open eyes or bared teeth, all mean something. They also bark, bray, snort or huff to get their point across. Even the position of their ears can signal their feelings, according to the San Diego Zoo. For example, ears flattened back means trouble. Another habit of zebras is mutual grooming, which they do to strengthen their bonds with each other. 
  • Known predators of zebras include lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. When danger approaches, the stallion will alert the others with a high-pitched snort, according to the University of Michigan. He will stand his ground while the rest of the family runs away in zigzag fashion. If he must fight, he will lower his head with neck outstretched and teeth bared, prepared to bite. However, running away is the usual tactic, sometimes accompanied by a defensive kick. The kick can be powerful, though, and can cause serious injury to a predator.
  • The Grevy's zebra is endangered. 


Zebra Facts


Zebra in the grasslands of the Serengeti at dawn in Tanzania, East Africa.


Do you have a favourite animal? Why do you like it? Tell me below.










Thursday, 28 September 2017

You



Y is for You

When you look in the mirror, and stare at yourself, going past your physical looks, who do you see? Who is your true self?

Who are you? What makes you, you? Why are you, you?

Something I have done on many occasions, is to ponder why am I in this body? Why couldn’t I have been put in another body? Why wasn’t I born in another country? I’ve even pondered what it would be like to be in someone else’s body. Would I appreciate my life more? 

 Have you ever had the same or a similar thought?

Since my breakdown in 2013 I have been seeing a psychologist. Something we’ve worked on over that time is getting to my core. What thoughts about myself do I carry around from childhood, which have been reinforced by a variety of circumstances throughout my life, which affect my behaviour and how I feel about myself?

One of these core thoughts is not feeling valuable. Growing up being told by society that I was different and shouldn’t be out in the world still lurks in my subconscious. This core thought was reinforced by bullying, being in a domestic violence marriage, work difficulties and lack of opportunities which were given to other people which I thought I would have been capable of doing.  It is a core thought that I must actively work against accepting. I tell other people that because they are human they are valuable, yet my own core feeling is that I am not. That doesn’t even make sense when I say that. Do you have any negative core thoughts about yourself?

There are so many things we pick up from our family, school, our friends, wider society and work. These all mash together to make us into our true self. 





I found an article online about discovering yourself. Under each thing is a list of questions you can ponder. They made me think and I realised from answering them that I know a lot about my true self which is really nice! So I hope they will have the affect on you. Have a read and tell me what you think.
7 Things you need to discover about your true self

1) Find your values. These are the things that matter most to you on the deepest levels. What are your personal values and standards? What are your priorities and your beliefs? Do you understand why these things are important to you? What level of commitment are you willing to make to your personal standards and ethics? How true do you want to be to your true self?

2) Understand your strengths.  What natural abilities do you possess and which ones do you want to cultivate and develop? The strengths you have and those you develop are your personal assets. They give you a unique position in life and you need to be aware of them. This includes your emotional strengths and your ability to express love and appreciation.

3) Know your passions.  What are you passionate about? What is it that gets you excited or demands your undivided attention? What activities and pursuits make you feel really alive? You can’t build your life around your passions if you haven’t figured out what they are. Making sure that your passions align with your values and standards is vital when trying to create internal harmony.

4) Identify your tendencies. Your tendencies often become habits, either good or bad. Do you tend to jump into things on a whim? Do you procrastinate or over react? Knowing your habitual tendencies can help you to analyze areas that need some improvement. It can also help you identify which tendencies most contribute to your strengths and successes.

5) Acknowledge your limitations. You will never be the very best at everything. It’s better to know which skills or activities are beyond your ability for now. That way you can delegate those things to others while you focus your energy where it’s the most effective. We can all improve our abilities in most areas of life, so don’t view current limitations as permanent. Just be realistic in your personal assessment. Honesty is a prerequisite to knowing your true self.

6) Set your goals. What do you really want to achieve? What kind of person do you want to grow into? Goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic. Clarity is a key ingredient when it comes to setting your goals. Clarity leads to action, lack of clarity leads to confusion and inaction.

7) Establish your direction. Where in life does your true self want to take you? Once you understand your values, strengths, passions, tendencies, limitations and goals – you need to have a destination to move toward, a direction. Don’t worry about reaching your destination because in reality – it’s the journey that counts. So pick a direction that represents genuine happiness and move toward it, and then let life unfold before you.




I think finding your true self is a journey. It starts with our search for our self-idenity as a teenager and continues on throughout the various stages of life. I also think once you know your true self – the real you – the one behind all of the masks you wear - you will feel more at peace with yourself, and you can actively reject the negative core feelings you have about yourself. You will also understand why you react to situations in a certain way, and you will have more control over your emotional and physical wellbeing.That has to mean a happier life.

Answer the following...Who are you?



Jenny Woolsey is loved and determined.

Leave a comment telling me what your two words are... I am ? and ?