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By Dee Campbell
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Dee Campbell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneInsights into my life—the first 30 years
As a child I was fairly quiet (shy), easy to get along with, easily made friends and coped with change due to being privy to many, varied childhood experiences. According to my 'School Leaver Statement' in 1983 (before completing Year 11 High School; at the age of 15 years and 8 months)—
'Dee is a pleasant, well groomed and exceptionally cooperative student who has made every effort to succeed. She is conscientious and reliable and may be depended upon to work to the best of her ability with a minimum of supervision. Dee is well liked and respected. She is friendly and supportive'.
Through various networks, in younger (teenage) years, I have been described as—sensitive, reliable, industrious, cheerful, honest, refined and sensitive to the wellbeing of others, Professional thinker, efficient, friendly, likeable, sociable, helpful and polite. I like to think these traits are still travelling with me!
I have no recollection of being rebellious and recall a desire to work with children (child care) or with People with Disabilities.
At the age of 15 years, I joined the finance sector and remained in a major bank for 10 years exactly. Socially, the 'bank' lifestyle was busy, fun and very fulfilling. Life was always about planning our next night out, our next 'adventure', holiday, social activity, party etc. Mostly life circumstance dictated in many ways, as it does for many—as job security, full time employment, earning an income and setting oneself up for the future are all important.
When I was 25 years old and approaching 10 years' service—an opportunity presented to leave not only the security of employment, but also to leave Australian shores—to relocate to New Zealand. This was a welcome opportunity and very timely due to certain (stressful) challenges and experiences. All of which greatly influenced my decision for this move. It was a HUGE change, but I was excited about new beginnings.
In the time leading up to this change, life had delivered many highs and many, many lows. Decisions had been made with both positive and negative outcomes. In hindsight, I guess I was searching for a 'purpose' and trying to make my own way in the world. Maybe, it could be said that I chose an 'escape route' with the hope for better outcomes and a fresh start. On another level, it was an opportunity to follow through a new career path and direction.
As it turned out, initial adaptation to the new surroundings proved difficult—and necessity prevailed again. Casual work, manual labour and multiple jobs were needed to make it through. I took on more seasonal work, and one job led into the next as result of my sound reputation and work ethic. For a while I was working day shift, night shift and fell into the next job and the 'slow down' never seemed to come. But, money was needed—to ensure I could eat, keep a roof over my head and survive.
Once I had become a little familiar with my new community and location I followed up on volunteering within this community—for an organisation that provided support services to People With Disabilities ('IHC'—'The New Zealand Society for the Intellectually Handicapped', a New Zealand Service Provider for People with Disabilities).
From there I juggled this volunteering with the seasonal (casual) employment, until I was able to move into paid employment with 'IHC'—beginning on a casual basis and then more permanent (contract) roles. I loved this area of work and undertook every work role and every presenting opportunity with passion and drive. At this same time, I began to discover a thirst for study and further education and learning. Perhaps this was partly due to leaving High School at a young age, or indeed fuelled by my belief that we are always learning and my openness and willingness to remain open to learning.
Life in New Zealand was busy, but after 3 years there I had the realisation that the time was right for me to return home to South Australia. Again, many factors influenced the dramatic change to return here. One thing was for sure, and that was my desire to continue on this newly found career path.
On one level, I had achieved one of the things I had set out to achieve and could now continue to build on this. I was Thankful that I had embarked on that part of my journey, I had given it my best—and on many levels, had made it!
I remained in the field of Disability Support for the following 6 years, and also continued to quench my thirst for learning and started a University Degree in Adelaide at the age of 30 years! Again, through most of this time (at University) necessity meant that study and work needed to be undertaken at the same time.
In every job I have had along the way, I've had a very good reputation. A strong work ethic also ensured life was busy but most importantly, that I was employed and earning a much needed income—which was crucial as I often had limited support around me.
From High School days I had a desire to work either as a teacher or to help others who are vulnerable and less fortunate than myself (eg People With Disabilities). This was underpinned by a passionate interest in 'community' and society. Consequently, alongside paid work (from a very young age) I also participated in voluntary work—and still continue to do so.
Throughout my 20's, life threw many challenges my way and sometimes my choices landed me in difficulty—but, I continued to search for that 'pot of gold'. Often I operated from survival mode and relied on adrenaline. Although some of my choices possibly added to my own challenges, they were always well intentioned at the time. It possibly looked to outsiders like I was undertaking a 'race', and my efforts were my attempt to get 'there' quicker.
Upon reflection I realise that in a 7 year timeframe (1991-1998)—I moved 'place of residence' approximately 11 times! Amongst these moves were many other added stressors (significant life experiences) and changes (location, employment, friends, support network, relationships etc). I'm not unique in this regard and in no way do I seek a 'pity party' or sympathy.
Fight-flight mode often got me through and kept me going—albeit not consciously—but deep down I guess I always hoped and believed that I would find happiness, fulfilment and MYSELF. I had a desire to find out who I was and what made me tick, and I have always needed to do this IN MY OWN WAY. I think we all strive for this, and I certainly am still on this path BUT I can say that I am more aware now than I ever have been. The best way to achieve these wonderful things called contentment and fulfilment is to try to have a conscious awareness in all that we do.
Along this journey I've had some amazing and brilliant people come across my path. Some stayed only briefly and some are still involved in this journey and are still walking with me—as I no longer run. BUT, they have all made imprints on my heart and I value each and every one of them for the impact they have made on the person I have now become.
Deidre meets Brenton (1998)
Brenton and I as individuals had no intention to meet up, and life was certainly busy for both of us at the time we met. As they say, you usually end up finding love when you least expect it—or when you have given up on looking for it! This was certainly true for me, due to my previous outcomes with relationships.
Life was ticking along and finally I felt like I was moving in the right direction—although still struggling through. And then Brenton and I crossed paths. Initially we intended to take our relationship slowly, as we both really needed to be sure. By nature we are both very cautious people (some may say 'stubborn'!) and both born under horoscope star sign of Capricorn. However, it all fell into place—at a reasonably rapid pace. We have no regrets from that!
From the first time we met, we felt like we had known each other forever. There was so many feelings of 'meant to be together'. I felt like the stars had been aligned that night and am extremely grateful Brenton crossed my path. The timing was perfect, and we were where we 'were meant to be'.
It felt so 'right', like I had met him and known him before. I had not experienced that upon meeting anyone else in my 30 years. It was indeed like 'finding my other half'.
We had different interests and were dis similar in regards to taste in music, food and some other things. On the other hand our values, behaviours, and spiritual beliefs were aligned. I have always been able to talk to Brenton and express myself—without feeling judged or ridiculed. Although he is more private than me—there are lots of 'knowing ness' es.
Even now, 14 years on, we will often think the same thoughts and buy the same thing and come home with something very similar. Sometimes this is handy, sometimes it's freaky. We do have different thoughts about some things but I think this is healthy. But, our foundations seem to be the same. We have a very solid and firm foundation and it's always felt quite unshakable!!
What I immediately loved about Brenton was his calmness, kindness and gentleness. I admired his sensitivity and ability to pick up on things that others would have no interest in. I knew immediately that I wanted to share more time with him and build on something that was very peaceful and solid. When we were together I never wanted to return to reality. When we were together everything just fell into place.
Brenton never questioned me about my past and never judged me for that. That in itself meant a lot to me, as I feel like he knew me for who I was. It was like he knew and loved the REAL Deidre, rather than the one presenting. In some ways upon reflection, I think he knew ME better than I knew MYSELF. It was simple and flowed, like a beautiful story. We made our own story and each of us provided the other with complementing characteristics. He was more reserved and private and I was open and friendly. I had lived in many different places and environments and moved around a lot, Brenton had only ever lived in one home and then his own place. On top of everything else—he was my solid, calming and grounding influence. We complemented and completed each other.
Although we have never married, we have always felt connected and very secure in our relationship. We may marry one day—but for now—we are both content and very happy within our family unit.
Change in Career direction—CARERS (2001 onwards)
Just over 8 years was spent in employment with People With Disabilities, both in New Zealand and here in Australia. I found this work very fulfilling and look back on that time with great admiration for the wonderful people I worked with—both service users and staff. These environments were great teachers of life and of love. I loved the opportunities I was given to enhance Quality of Life and opportunities for People with Disabilities, within the community. I had a passion and commitment to do whatever I could in this regard, as this work deserves nothing less! It was an honour and a privilege to contribute to making a positive difference.
Through this work, I often found myself working within home environments, and this introduced me to a new group of people—CARERS. These include family members, friends (and neighbours) who provide care and support to the most vulnerable members of our society—People with Disabilities (including specialneeds),people with chronicmental/ physical illness, and older people. A shift from Deinstitutionalisation to community care resulted in movements and changes within policy and this was the beginning of a career for me that valued (unpaid) carers. I had utmost respect and admiration for carers and was passionate about recognising carers and placing them in a more valued place within our society.
Often, the 'vulnerable' person was the focus of services and interventions and thus the carers were sometimes left feeling undervalued and unrecognised. So, I hoped that through further study (University degree) I would be able to make a positive and well deserving difference to the lives of carers and therefore to society. However, I stress that my contribution pales into significance—in comparison to what carers contribute to our community, economy and to society each and every day.
Earlier on, I moved into a role that focussed on systemic advocacy and this provided a firm foundation in regards to service delivery and in turn provided an understanding of the role, function and benefits of Carer support. I moved into carer support and felt confident that I had empathy, respect and the understanding needed to fulfil a role with direct contact with carers. I also felt that I had the capacity (through skills and knowledge base)—to influence change and further advocate, raise community awareness and thus enhance community acknowledgement of their role and the critical part they (Carers) play within society.
Carer support seeks to balance the scales—to refocus on the CARER. Hopefully, Carer support adds to individual resilience and supports the long term sustainability (and enhanced wellbeing) of the carer. Carers are always working behind the scenes, getting on with the many jobs and responsibilities they have. Through Carer support, I have been surrounded by people who demonstrate the true meaning of courage, strength, and resilience. Carers have many other qualities, but out of love and necessity they continue to face many challenges. Often not knowing what they will be confronted with next, around the next corner—but continually finding the strength and courage to go around the next corner anyway. They are amazing, remarkable people who have an amazing capacity to cope with stress and catastrophe whilst showing great determination to always do the very best that they can—for the person(s) they care for. They are truly the 'givers' of this world and bring a whole new perspective to the word LOVE.
Through building relationships with carers and being involved with the role of carer support, I have learned to appreciate and value life. I have seen how quickly life can change and developed a deep appreciation of how fragile life is; and I have worked alongside Carers who have shown such great quality of character.
Carer support offers mutual support, facilitates encouragement and caring, provides opportunities for participation, supports social networks, facilitates and nurtures linkages to other services and support (formal and informal), and thus aims to reduce or overcome social isolation throughout this process.
My role in carer support has been to initiate and facilitate a non-judgemental environment, predominantly via carer support groups and sessions. Ideally, this environment aims to offer—mutual support, shared experiences, friendship and acceptance. It's hoped that this environment enables carers to come together, feel supported and included, feel listened to, valued and appreciated. They may share stories, information, obtain guidance and strategies that further support the very important work that they do—with minimal (if any) financial payment and (often) with minimal acknowledgement or recognition from our society.
I have always undertaken this work with great passion and integrity—as it so deserves. My respect and admiration for the personal value of each individual carer, as well as the role they fulfil—make it a very meaningful profession. A profession that indeed gives me back so much more than I could ever contribute. It is interwoven in my own character and this theme and the importance of this career influence on me personally, will return later in the story.
Chapter TwoSubtle illness (2000-2007)
It is stated time and time again in books and documentation and research about FMS that most people that are diagnosed with the condition have been 'typically Type A Over achievers'. Of course, this aspect will be a saving grace when in the midst of despair (as this part of our personality stops us from crumbling) BUT the reality check is that it is also likely to be part of the cause of the initial problem as well.
Throw into this mix a few pre disposed elements that also affect the energy systems (thyroid, pituitary)—then you have a recipe for potential disaster.
Excerpted from FIBROMYALGIA Well-Being by Dee Campbell Copyright © 2012 by Dee Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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