If you’ve ever taken care of a loved one, whether they are young or seasoned, you have an idea of how mentally and emotionally challenging the experience can be. For me, what started as a shocking reality check and an incredibly challenging circumstance became the most intimate, life-changing experience I’ve ever had. How Being a Special Needs Mom Improved My Quality Of Life Being: I found an incredible love, grew an amazing events company, and built a wonderful blog community.
I had my daughter Sania at the young age of 17. I graduated high school and, as a teenage mom, was determined to live a healthier lifestyle that wasn’t restricted by a poor mentality (which was my reality growing up). I was on the right track: I found a great full-time job with benefits as a Portfolio Analyst at a fortune 500 company, and was able to afford to move into my first apartment located in a safer neighborhood.
Within a year, that reality changed. At only eleven months, Sania’s health began to deteriorate and her condition impacted my ability to commit to just about everything—full-time employment included.
Life as a mother to a special needs child became emotionally taxing, challenging, and painful. To make matters worse, visiting many specialists and investing in test after test failed to produce a diagnosis for Sania’s condition. No one could determine what was wrong with her.
I went from caring for a child who could once walk, talk and groom herself, to providing care to a little girl who was the cognitive equivalent of a six-month-old, or perhaps a hundred-year-old adult.
Sania’s care is 100 percent dependent on someone other than herself. This was not at all part of my plan for our lives. It was too much for me as a young mother to handle, so naturally depression set in.
Being thrown such a major curveball quickly showed me life is tough … but I also realize I am tougher.
I wondered what would happen if I tried. If I tried to get help with my anxious, isolated state of mind, and seek therapy for Sania. Maybe things could change for us, I thought.
So the following year I focused on my improving my relationship with myself, which helped me turn my life around. One of these was by creating plan to seek therapy using my Self-Care through Therapy Checklist, which you can download here:
My life sucked. I was miserable. I was unhappy. I was hurting. The grief stage was the hardest part for me because I didn’t feel comfortable confiding in anyone so I had to deal with the pain on my own. It only made me feel more alone. Why me? That was the question I asked once I began to accept my new reality.
Eventually I grew tired of feeling sorry for myself. At this crossroad, I had to decide if I wanted to stay in that mental space or commit to doing the tough work that is change.
And eventually I wanted more. It wasn’t until I accepted my truth that I had any possible chance of changing it. I had to deal with the pain associated with it in order to grow. What got me in that mental place didn’t have the power to keep me there.
2. Respect the process
The desire to feel, do and be better became my new obsession. I started with seeking out a therapist for myself because I realized I needed professional help. My therapist helped me grow through an emotionally taxing process of unlearning traumatic experiences I’d held on to since childhood. The journey of unlearning ways and habits to then learn a healthier way to exist is tough, and also so necessary. The starting point was the amazing realization that there was someone out there who was trained to help me get through this.
I was cruising now. Accepting my new reality. Advocating for special needs and wellness within my own community. Happier than I’d ever been. Then, in comes another curveball.
Sania developed an intolerance to high fructose corn syrup, which is in EVERYTHING processed. I had to omit ALL processed foods and basically make foods from scratch. Even things like pasta sauce and mashed potatoes required being made from scratch.
Shocked and upset (because why the hell wouldn’t I be?), I went through the stage of recognizing this familiar feeling of being hurt and unhappy. The difference was, it was familiar so I knew how to respond to it this time around. I created a plan.
I researched healthy eating alternatives and recipes, shopped for the ingredients, then cooked the meals the best I could. In a short time I became great at it. Experience is the best teacher. Eventually, along the way we became pescatarians, omitting meat from our diets. This had a great impact on our health. Sickness no longer came easy, not even the common cold.
Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise all along.
Forging onward all whilst battling the maze that is the healthcare industry meant I needed to become a stronger advocate for Sania. I am naturally a lighter, more energetic version of my former scorned self, yet a shark in a skirt when my buttons are pushed. This helped me learn how to protect and stand up for myself and for something I believed in. How I showed up every single day mattered.
3. Show up every single day and be your true, unapologetic self.
Now with my newfound freedom, acceptance and growth I was determined to improve other areas of my life. Remember I mentioned I was unemployed? Well, I knew I needed to work a job without limitations like working in an office. Sania was always sick, forcing me to keep her home and pick her up from school to help her heal. So I built my company from the ground up. The lessons I learned as a special needs mom helped me work with an advantage. I had become a great leader, super organized, results-driven, systematic and able to develop streamlined processes, compassionate, confident, loving, and kind. What entrepreneur or intrapreneur couldn’t benefit from these skills and characteristics?!
4. Take care of yourself
I now place a great emphasis on self-care. Being the sole caregiver to Sania has taught me to hit the reset button. Often. Take time for myself. LIVE. Have too much fun. Laugh too much. Drink wine. Practice ecotherapy (time in nature), yoga, and meditation. Commit to therapy with a culturally aware therapist. Essentially, I made my custom wellness cocktail full of what worked for me so that I could go back to my reality. Renewed. Refreshed. Reset. Happy. Because my cup once again runneth over.
A few truths worth mentioning:
My newfound wellbeing impacted the way I showed up in life and the way I handled myself and my relationships. More importantly, it impacted the way I showed up as a mom. I began to care more about everything, assessing areas that could use some better energy and improvement, putting a plan in place, and having at it.
I met the love of my life (after kissing a few frogs), who is incredibly supportive of my world, entrepreneurship, mommyhood, and every other aspect of it. And he is someone I honestly would not have been the best match for before the self-work and internal growth.
Truthfully speaking, sometimes my reality is hard to witness and it’s difficult to believe it is my own. Sania’s condition is still unknown.
Some days are more challenging than others. It’s difficult to watch someone you love lose what impacts their quality of life (and yours, too). But then you’re reminded that struggle is a gift, and that love and prioritizing self-care is the road to transformation.
Miss Sania inspires me. To give, to love, to be patient, to be understanding, to worry about nothing significant, to love everything and everyone, to smile even when it hurts, to be gentle to myself, to be sensitive to others’ spaces, to take care of myself, and to live a well-balanced lifestyle.
I embody these qualities because of my journey with my daughter. I share all of these qualities with you because of my blessed life with her. And I wouldn’t change my reality even if I could.
The goal is to grow. So if you’re interested in joining me on this incredible self-care journey, download my FREE Self Care through Therapy Checklist here