We’re not even halfway through the year and we need to debrief. It’s been tough.
But back to help is The Well. It’s like a therapy session, in podcast format.
The hosts of the show Rebecca Sparrow and Robin Bailey, plus their producer Ruth De Glas, share the times this year that have punched them in the gut, and how they bounced back.
Their coping strategies. Their advice. And the book you need to read if your 2017 isn’t exactly going swimmingly either.
Rebecca Sparrow – author and columnist
“It’s May and I feel like this year is kicking my arse. I feel like this year is not going how I expected.”
“So this is my 2017: dengue fever. Then I’ve had one of our extended family members has been very, very ill, in and out of hospital. Then my beautiful babysitter Emma Betts passed away after three years of dealing with her melanoma diagnoses. It hasn’t been great. I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me.”
Bec went to Vanuatu with her husband Brad and their three kids. The parents and eldest child Finn all contracted dengue fever, also known as break-bone fever (ouch) and Brad was hospitalised. And to make matters worse, their younger two kids also managed to pick something up on the South Pacific island.
“It was horrendous,” Bec says.
“It’s a thousand times worse than the actual flu… and it takes three to four months to actually recover from.”
Listen: Bec shares what happened on the nightmare family holiday.
How Bec coped:
“I don’t think I’ve dealt with it very well,” Bec admits on the podcast.
“I look back and think I actually had mild depression this year which is actually one of the symptoms of dengue fever and my ritual was going into the pantry and eating peanut butter. Hello five kilos, welcome!”
“It’s very easy to talk about resilience and positivity when your life is going well… Just because you go through one big hard event doesn’t mean that life is going to be smooth sailing all the time and that resilience muscle that you have got to have, you are going to always need it in life because life is going to throw you curve balls,” the author says.
But Bec has an interesting spin on positivity that she says has really helped put things into perspective.
“One of the things I had to keep saying to myself this year is ‘it could be worse. You’ve had dengue fever but wake up call – there are way worse things to be dealing with.'”
“I remember when I lost my daughter Georgie when she was stillborn just before she was delivered, I remember saying to Brad my husband, ‘you know what? If we were going to lose a child how lucky are we that we lost our daughter this way? If she had been even a day or a week old and she had opened her eyes and I had connected with her I think my pain would be even greater.”
“I said to myself ‘suck it up princess, this is dengue fever, not a cancer diagnosis’ and that helped me.”
Bec recommends reading the book Option B by Sheryl Sandberg about how she coped with the death of her husband. In this book Sandberg also recommends the ‘it could be worse’ approach. If it’s good enough for the COO of Facebook, it’s good enough for us.
Robin Bailey – radio host
At the end of last year, Robin was blindsided to discover she had lost her job as the co-host of Brisbane 97.3FM’s Robin, Terry and Bob show. She’s been dealing with the aftermath of the upheaval since then, and adapting to her new role in radio.
“I got called into an office, I still had all my stuff from just coming off air. And there was the group program director and the head of HR and they said ‘we’re just telling you in person that your contract is not being renewed,’ and I completely wigged out.”
“I got a little hysterical… Needless to say, I got sacked!”
“My life in the last three years has been a complete roller coaster up and down after my husband suicided in 2014. I think on the scale of 1-10 compared to that it wasn’t nearly as bad, however, being blindsided was awful.”
“The wonderful news is I then got another job from a station that saw an opportunity”
How Robin coped:
“I got really angry, and that’s so just not me,” Robin says.
“We don’t have a societal place for the negative things that happen in our lives… When all the crappy stuff happens we don’t actually have a space for that to be okay. There’s no rituals around it that makes it okay for that to part of the ebb and flow of life.”
So how did Robin (and how can we) make those rituals?
“I did what I learned to do when Tony died – which was wrap people around me who knew better about how to combat this,” the radio host says.
Robin says those people can help you work through the crappy stuff and be productive in the aftermath of a crisis.
Ruth De Glas - radio and podcast producer
"I was made redundant at the start of the year," Robin's radio producer says.
"The rug was pulled out from under me, I had been with the company for eight years and suddenly I was told I was redundant. And it was a massive shock. I have a baby and I have a mortgage and I had had the same job with the same company for eight years so to suddenly not have that security when I had been back from maternity leave for three and a half months, I just got myself back into the swing of work and 'can I make it work with a baby?' and 'yes, yes I can'. To have it taken away was just a massive shock."
How Ruth coped:
The new mum had a very methodical approach to dealing with getting sacked.
"I had to recognise that it was a grieving process," she says.
"What do I want from people? I want them to be there. And my phone just blew up at the start and it was amazing the support that I had from people."
"But in one week, two weeks, one month, two months, who's still there? Who is supporting me and interested in how I'm coping?"
After frantically trying to move on, followed by some time spent wallowing in bed, she knew she needed to pull herself together.
"One of the things I really consciously did was I didn't take it personally."
"I just decided to focus on the positive... What's important to me in my life? What do I want now? I'm a single mother's daughter and I never would have left full-time employment to take a freelance job... This is the way the cards have landed and I am very happy with my new freelance position I love it and I've just got to focus on that."
"I had to just stop and be grateful for what I did have. I did have my health. I started a gratitude journal and I write in it every night."
Listen to the full episode of The Well here:
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