Today I am so happy to introduce Kerith from Brielle and Me to the My Challenge Series. Kerith is the mom to two beautiful daughters, one with CMV (cytomegalovirus). Kerith is sharing another challenge today, one we can all relate to in the pre-holiday season: our weight and the importance of making ourselves a priority.
Making Yourself a Priority
As the mother of an 18-year-old daughter with moderate cerebral palsy, it’s my natural tendency to put her needs ahead of my own and focus all of my time and attention on her. Especially when she was younger, she had so many needs. I couldn’t take much time or energy for myself because her need simply outweighed my own.
As she became older and her needs became less demanding on me, I slowly realized what everyone should know.
Moms need to take care of ourselves, too – body, mind, and spirit.
Think of it like the flight attendants say in their safety instructions.
“Place the mask on your own face before helping others.”
My Challenge is My Epic Fail
I’ve always done a pretty good job of taking care of my mind. I keep up with current events and politics. I’ve always been a writer of one sort or another, first journaling then writing my book and blogging here. I’m usually reading something (not always a novel, but something). I spend time being artistic painting, drawing, and scrapbooking. I have a long history of being a chronic volunteer at school, the girls’ activities, the community, and church.
I’ve been a bit hit or miss on the spirit part until about ten years ago. I was often stressed out and overwhelmed with too much on my “to do” list and not enough down time. Then I joined a new church and found a whole new perspective on my faith. I learned to slow down and tend to my faith. I usually spend a few minutes in quiet time with my coffee each morning. I think about my day and consider who I know that is in need of prayer. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the world around me. And, overall in life, I just have a slower pace and don’t get nearly as stressed out.
Then there’s the body…
This is embarrassing, but I’m fat. Not just overweight. F-A-T. Fat.
I see pictures of myself or catch a rare glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror and gasp. Who is that fat lady? Wait… That’s me!
The cause of my weight is a simple combination of the usual culprits. I eat too much and not the healthiest of things. I don’t exercise (at all). And that glass or two of wine I like most evenings doesn’t help.
I Wasn’t Always Like This
I was pretty average sized growing up, in college, and early in our marriage. I had our oldest daughter nearly 21 years ago and never really lost the weight. I had our second daughter two years later and never lost all of that weight. Then, I just sort of added on the pounds after that.
About six years ago, I lost 70 pounds in six months. Yep. It was pretty amazing. I ate less, ate healthy foods, worked out, and became totally compulsive about it. Then, I burned out and within a year, I gained almost all of it back again. I felt completely defeated by my own doing.
For someone who has so much of her life in order, I’ve let my weight get completely out of control.
My Challenge Affects Someone Who Desperately Needs Me
I know the health risks of obesity. Diabetes. High cholesterol. High blood pressure. Coronary heart disease. Stroke. My family history already puts me at higher risk for most of these things. My obesity just compounds these risks and could eventually put my life in real jeopardy.
My special needs child needs me. What would happen if I wasn’t here for her?
Not only do I care for her (when she’s not in school) and take care of nearly every need she has (bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.), I am her communication conduit. I am the only one in her life she can truly and fully communicate with because I am the only one in her life that knows sign language and the unique way she signs due to her fine motor impairments. Although she has a communication device, it falls short due to its cumbersome nature. Therefore, when we are together, I interpret every word she signs for friends, strangers, and even family.
More than anything, I love her and she deserves for me to do my best to be here for her for as long as I can.
One day, I will be obsolete, elderly and not able to do things for my daughter. A newer model, perhaps a nanny or other professional caregiver, will replace me. I am not immortal. I will eventually die, likely leaving her behind.
What will happen to her? Who will take care of her? These worries are very real.
Why am I not doing everything in my power to make sure that day she must go on without me is as far off in the future as possible?
My Challenge Is Manageable
Certain things are nearly completely out of our control. Car accidents. Cancer. Old age. But, this is in my control.
I know what I need to do. Eat less. Eat better. Move my butt.
So, plain and simple, it’s time to do something about it.
Someone needs me more than I need to stuff my face and be lazy.
Is YOUR weight a challenge in YOUR life?
As Eli had shared, how we take care of ourselves has direct impact on our families. On our children who expect us to be there. Thank you, Kerith, for sharing your challenge here with us today. It is beyond important that we take care of ourselves and make our challenges as manageable as possible. Good luck to you on your journey.
Kerith Stull earned a Master’s Degree in communication and worked in marketing before becoming a stay-at-home mother when her children were little. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for the last 24 years and is a recent semi-empty-nester since her 20-year-old daughter moved out to go to college. Kerith blogs about special needs parenting issues at brielleandme.net with her uniquely positive perspective. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. She recently published a book, Brielle and Me: Our Journey with Cytomegalovirus and Cerebral Palsy, about her experiences with their 18-year-old special needs daughter and their family’s journey of hope, determination, love, and faith.