The importance of self care in the recovery of health can not be underestimated. Read on for a story of how Denyse Whelan has used personal style as part of her journey towards improved health.

[This is a guest post by Denyse Whelan from Denyse Whelan Blogs. You can read more about Denyse at the end of this post. I have written previously about why I think personal style is important to mental and emotional health, and what to wear in retirement, so I was delighted that Denyse agreed to share her story.  Jan ]

My personal health journey starts 

When I retired (from all my paid work) finally in 2015 I was delighted to have closed the door on my responsibilities as an educator which started in 1970. What I did not know, was that the period of adjustment to being retired was going to impact my emotional health, with a resultant impact on my physical health. Whilst I remained generally well, my inner turmoil exacerbated the stress-based Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and its effects saw a slow but continuing loss of around 30kg in this time.

I was grateful to learn that the slow and gradual weight loss was good but it did change me because I had always been “the fat person”. I had some professional help in dealing with the life transitions, and did some more by myself, to adjust to my new life as a retiree living away from our grown family and the place where we had lived for over 30 years.

Cancer and recovery begins for me

Self care and health management
Despite the challenges Denyse’s lovely smile is radiant

What changed – cancer did!  After having cancer surgery on my mouth early July 2017 I lost not only teeth, gums, jaw…I lost my smile, my ability to eat a range of foods, but NOT my ability to talk.

But confidence takes a HUGE hit with illness, especially one as big as cancer and my surgical treatment was both ‘brutal’ and radical.

As I have healed well physically on my leg (where flesh and bone was taken to re-construct my mouth) and within my mouth some four months later, my emotional and mental health needed to catch up.

Whilst I have lost a great deal of weight I still have “the fat” image in my head even though the mirror says differently.

So, like some bloggers already do, I made a commitment to post a photo daily for 32 days (until my 68th Birthday) and make a conscious effort each day to dress well. I take into account that I am retired, we live in a beach-side suburb of the Central Coast NSW and I’m in in cancer recovery mode with more surgery to come.

How The Personal Style Challenge Started

Clothing and mental health
Red looks fabulous on Denyse, she wears the brights beautifully

I made the first post about my personal style challenge on my blog’s facebook page, and remember how I felt quite fearful pressing publish. I then felt similarly when I did the same on Instagram when the image I had collaged was uploaded.

Why I felt fearful is because of the vulnerability I was allowing to be seen by more than me, and because I wondered how I might be judged. After all, I am certainly an older woman and saggy skin and face shows those years now. And of course, my mouth was shut as only one lip could do the smiling.

Then something unexpected happened! I was amazed when I saw the ‘likes’ on the social media platforms and I grinned, despite my almost toothless status, because of the love and support sent back to me.

Wow. I thought. This is OK. In fact, it is good. I needed some boost to my days and something that had previously been taken from me – my confidence and self-image – was slowly growing.

What and Who Inspired Me To  Begin my Personal Style journey

Personal style and health
Gorgeous green print on this top

What really made me start this was knowing others had gone before me.

Since 2011 I have followed the wonderful Nikki Parkinson-Hubbard and her blog/website called Styling You. I have met Nikki and love her attitude to make the style that is you be your guide. She has never been about ‘weight’ or ‘appearance’, yet I was.

I never thought of joining in her style challenges, nor even subscribing again to her newsletters until now.

Then, throughout 2017, I really took notice of another blogger friend, Jan, from this very site. I have been really admiring Jan’s daily outfit shots and her love of life shows in every photo!

How Did I Make The  Challenge Work For Me?

Denyse Whelan Personal Style
Another gorgeous print

I decided that it was time. For me, to admit I now looked and felt better than I have for decades. To actually have a good look at my current wardrobe and work out what might go with what. There were some clothes there but in my full-time retirement life and then recovering from cancer surgery I went for easy options.

My brain switched back to ‘what else can I see that will compliment me’ and I was on a roll. I found my collection of beads, necklaces, earrings and bracelets that had been packed away since our move in 2015. I found that my love of colour was in my wardrobe anyway and I just had to do some sorting.

Denyse Whelan and cancer recovery
Denyse uses accessories to add panache to her outfits

I used this new personal challenge of mine as a good reason to buy a few more pieces which I knew would easily complement what I had. I was not really a willing clothes shopper for many years, but in my professional life as a school principal and then education consultant and University tutor, I had to buy clothes and of course, back then they were from the more expensive sections of stores which sold plus sizes. I now found I could buy clothes in any mainstream shops which matched my now much tighter budget.

I have become a scanner of the reduced racks and it is a must for me to try clothes on. My first and only foray into online shopping saw me return half of what I had purchased. I am not a fan of buying from op-shops but those places have benefitted from my previously big sized items.

What is next in my self care and health management

I will be continuing my practice of selecting clothes from my wardrobe, which has been re-vamped into seasonal areas. I am enjoying the processes very much as they are a great distraction from cancer recovery. Whilst I have two surgeries coming up soon for my mouth to continue the re-construction, I will be using my personal style challenge to enhance my emotional health and remain well. I am no longer having a cut-off at my birthday…I shall continue!

About Denyse

Denyse Whelan is a woman in her late 60s who has been blogging since 2010. Denyse is a wife of almost 47 years, mother of two grown-up children and grandmother to 6 girls and 2 boys. Her career as a K-6 teacher took her all over NSW and eventually back to Western Sydney where she continued her tertiary study (and worked full-time) gaining her B.Ed and M. Ed Retirement at 60 saw her look to expand her social networks and saw her become ‘virtual’ and ‘in real life’ friends with many from the Australian community of bloggers. Denyse also gets out into nature at the beach for walks and loves photography as well as art.

Have you discovered the mental and emotional health benefits of self care? What tools do you use to support yourself when you face health challenges?