Cisca, you have been such an inspiration to me for many years! I consider myself lucky to know such a vibrant, courageous, joyful, honest, kind individual. Your dance vids are my absolute favourite because they truly give insight into your fun-loving personality, but your openness to share who you are at your core. In between the truth bombs on mental wellness, breast cancer awareness, parenthood and being a lecturer at university amongst the other many things you juggle- you remind us to smile and to keep seeking our authentic selves. We are never just one ‘identity’ or never have just one ‘story’- instead we can have and be many things to many people all at the same time, while still living in integrity with ourselves. We women tend to love to beat ourselves up at times. Part of our brilliance is seeking perfection, but addiction to needing to be a certain way or look a certain way continues to haunt us and destroy our right to happiness. I’m so excited to chat to you because of your journey and history in learning to embrace life, learn from loss, and love yourself fully. Without further ado:
You first started your blog, Living Candid, as a personal outlet to share the fears, accomplishments, and general ups and downs of your life. What opportunities has your blog opened up for you? What has been the most rewarding aspect to writing and sharing your journey?
I remember the night I started my blog. My first born, Hudson was born at 36 weeks and was rushed to the NICU; and I had to leave him behind in the hospital, the day I was released. It was one of the worst experiences I have had, leaving the hospital without my baby. Walking down the hospital corridors in crying uncontrollably and holding a “It’s a Boy” balloon and flowers; with no baby. We had to drive to the hospital twice a day for feeds for almost two weeks and in between I had to pump breast milk to take to the hospital. It was during one of these breast milk pumping sessions late at night that I was in desperate need talk. I had lost my mom to Breast Cancer just three months before Hudson’s birth. I knew I had signs of Postpartum depression; but at the time I had no one to talk to. I felt a sense of loneliness that I had never experienced before. I felt lost. Lost without my mom to guide me into motherhood and lost within myself. With my breast pump in one hand and my phone in the other, I created my blog, which was first called It’s a Mom’s Life.
I just started writing; I did not know if anyone would read my blog posts, but it did not really matter to me, because I found writing to be a sense of release and a way to cope with my new journey as a Mom and to slowly accept the loss of my mom and to deal with my depression. Over the years as I evolved, so too did my blog and content; it was then that I changed the name to Keeping it Candid. The name is such a true reflection of my values and who I am. My blog has afforded me the opportunity to tell my story. A story that resonates with so many other women. The most rewarding aspect of sharing my journey on my blog is the countless number of messages of Thanks and appreciation that I get from women. Women who have been struggling both emotionally and physically. Women who have felt alone for so many years and have kept quiet about their struggles out of fear that they would be judged.
You juggle parenthood like a pro, alongside lecturing at uni, submitting research papers, managing your blog and social channels + all the other day to day stuff. Do you have a secret sauce you’d like to share with us? 😉 How do you take each day in stride?
This is a question that I get asked the most. I am a mom to a 1- and 4-year-old. A wife to my husband and daughter to my dad. House and home Executive. Full time University lecturer by day and a social media superhero at night. Plus, the cherry on top a final year PhD candidate this year. Prioritizing is the key ingredient in my secret sauce; mixed in with some love for what I do creatively; dash of support from my family and lots of sprinkles of giggles and laughter from my boys. I have learned to put myself first (mentally and physically); then family; work and lastly social media. I struggled in the beginning to be get this balance right when my blog started getting more traction, because I was putting my social media obligations first, then work, family and myself last.
I love that on your social media pages and blog you openly talk about your mental health journey- something we all are learning to embrace post Covid 2020 when life as we knew it changed dramatically. How can we embrace change or learn from these past few years? What advice would you give anyone going through a difficult season? Any general advice you want to share on this topic?
Even after a year, I still find myself waking up in the morning and thinking, is this real? COVID has caused so much destruction to so many families who have lost their loved ones; jobs and businesses closing; experiencing COVID fatigue as a result of working from home. The biggest question whenever one is faced with tragedy is “Why”. It is the “Why” that is the hardest part to deal with and then acceptance. In the beginning I struggled a lot with the “Why”, and then I realized that instead of questioning and wasting time and energy, I must start accepting our new normal. We cannot move backwards but must move forward. Even now more than ever, we need to live and embrace each day. If you are experiencing loss or going through a difficult time, never ever be ashamed to seek professional help. Do not see it as a weakness, but see it as a strength. It takes a lot of courage.
Before COVID-19, you have already been through more than most. Having lost your mom due to this relentless disease before Hudson, (your first son) was born is enough trauma for one person to go through… now, 2021 hasn’t been kind to us at all. How do you find a way back to yourself? How does one cope with a series of blows where it feels like the wind has been knocked out of our sails?
I still remember how everyone voiced their opinion on New Year’s Eve, that they are glad that 2020 had come to an end. Little did we know what 2021 had in store and that it would be an extension of what we were already living . I have a mental toolbox where I keep all my tools to find my way back to myself; especially on days when I feel like crawling under the bed.
- Find a coping thought
- Take control
- Only you can make the difference
- Fill your energy tank
- Boundaries are important
- React VS Respond (It is my choice)
I go through my tools. And I have an Unwind session. This could be ten minutes of just doing breathing exercising and meditating. Or even just to sit outside in the sun with a cup of Rooibos Tea. I have learned to tell myself to “STOP, and take a few minutes”.
On the note of breast cancer…ladies, have you gotten your regular check-up?! In my own family, I have lost 3 aunts to breast cancer and have a few friends who are survivors. Cisca, being a advocate of breast cancer awareness, what is your advice on protecting our bodies against breast cancer? What should we be doing regularly to prevent breast cancer?
A few years ago, no one really talked about breast cancer. I found my first lump in 2007 while living and working overseas. At that point my own knowledge of breast cancer was very minimal, and I found the lump by chance. I had not done any regular checks before then. I had a mammogram done and was told that there a small little cancerous cell in each breast, and to just make sure that they should remove the lump to get tested. The lump was benign. My mom and I never really talked about breast cancer after that. Then a few years later, she found out that she had breast cancer; she fought long and hard and beat it and decided on having a mastectomy.
My mom was the healthiest person I knew and went for her regular checkups and took her medication. Then one day, everything just changed, somehow, they had missed a few cancerous cells and it spread through my mom’s body like wildfire. Within a few weeks it consumed her, and she passed away on my dad’s 60th birthday. I have lost three aunts to it and I know it runs in my family. The one thing that you can do is regular checkups at home and to go for your annual mammogram. The second thing you can do is to have genetic testing done. It is a bit costly, but you will know 100% if you are carrying the gene.
Another aspect about you that I just adore, is that between the vulnerable, courageous and more difficult topics you delve into on your page, you also share so much joy in between! I SO look forward to your dancing videos, they always make me smile. How do you think sharing our own vulnerabilities and exposing our true selves helps others? Why is it so important for all of us to stop giving so many shits about what others think of us? What freedom have you found in letting go and living true to yourself without the fear of judgement (especially in today’s very harsh online world where trolls and assholes thrive behind their computers) haha.
The world of social media can be a very harsh world. I am blessed that I have a following that sees I am just an ordinary mom and woman whom they can identify with. But most of all that my authenticity exudes and radiates through my content. The best compliment that I always get when meeting someone that is following my journey, is that; I am the same person that you see online. In the beginning of this year I made the decision to unfollow social media accounts that made me question my body type and worth; who made me feel like I was being judged and just made me feel bad about myself and did not enrich me with their content. It was THE BEST decision. I did not feel the pressure that I “had to follow’ accounts to “fit in”. Also, that was not who I have grown into being. After my first dance video I received such an amazing response from women. They always look forward to my “getitFriday dance videos. I felt so confident, and even though I knew that there could be one or two lurking trolls around, the positive energy and reflections I receive from my video makes it so worth it to jiggle all that my momma gave me- although I do think I got it from my Daddy and not my Momma, lol.
How can we learn to except our bodies and full selves? Especially as females who are the most gracious yet terrifying creatures when it comes to self-talk. What are some baby steps to loving ourselves and creating habits to stop negative self-talk in its tracks?
After Hudson’s birth it took me a very long time to accept my post pregnancy body. I did not “snap back” like the models and influencers on social media. After Levi’s birth I started criticizing myself daily. Society has also conformed us to think that being beautiful you need to be a certain size or type and their beauty standards were just a whole lot of BS. YES! I called it. I wish I could go back to my 20-year-old self and tell her “You are enough. You are unique and rare. Embrace who you are” I would have been so much happier had I done that. Accepting to love and learn yourself is not easy, we are our own worst critic. It has taken me almost 2 years to accept my post pregnancy body. I want to experience all the fun things with my kids, and I refuse to let anything hinder that. I might not be perfect, but to them I am. The first step is to be kinder to yourself. Secondly to find what makes you happy and feel alive. For me it is dancing, I stay active by doing Zumba. Thirdly write down you daily affirmations. Set small goals for yourself and slowly but surely set bigger ones. THE MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT YOU, NEED TO SEE YOUR WORTH.
You also mentioned to me on the phone that you’re an advocate for rare disease. Can you please tell us a little more and how or where we can learn more / support?
Rare Diseases South Africa https://www.rarediseases.co.za/ is a non-profit organization advocating to ensure that people living with rare diseases and congenital disorders experience greater recognition, support, improved health service and better overall quality of life. It was started in 2013 out of a personal need following the diagnosis of the organization's founder, Kelly du Plessis’s son. It became evident to Kelly that there was a lack of awareness and support for rare diseases in general in South Africa. You can get involved by also spreading awareness by either telling your own story or spreading awareness. You are also able to donate to the non-profit organization. Please have a look at their website to learn more about the incredible human beings from all ages. The strength and resilience to live despite their diagnoses is inspiring and their voices should be heard loud and clear.
Noooow, you guys! Cisca’s page is huge snack! Please go follow her at @cisca_dk – you will not regret it!