My life has been touched by some uber amazing women whose passion for life and the way they choose to live it have really inspired me. Some are bloggers, some are not, their lives are all different and they are all special. I feel honoured and privileged that they are sharing their stories and sprinkling a little bit of their awesome right here. May you be wom-inspired!
Meet Kirsty Russell.
Meet Kirsty, the wearer of many hats! She’s a parent, blogger, special needs advocate and whenever I see her online or in real life, she’s always juggling lots of balls in the air (not literally, just metaphorically.) Apart from the fact that Kirsty oozes awesome, one of the big reasons I wanted her to be part of this series, is that despite having to face and overcome so many of her own obstacles in life, Kirsty always looks on the bright side and is so passionate about helping others, and in particular, supporting families with special needs. She’s so inspiring!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kirsty. I’m a married mother of three who keeps thinking the 90s were only a decade ago when in fact it’s sadly been a lot longer than that. My husband copes with my poor attempts at cooking and housekeeping while my children keep me entertained with their inappropriate comments (my 12 year old son, Gilbert), their penchant for putting on impromptu concerts (my 10 yo daughter, Matilda) and their ability to make me laugh when I definitely shouldn’t (my 5 yo daughter, Delilah).
My son has albinism and autism, my middle daughter has aspergers and my youngest just thinks the world revolves around her. So I’m pretty busy most of the time. After suffering a suspected mini-stroke (TIA) in early 2014, mainly attributed to stress, I left my public service job of nearly 20 years and decided to work from home as a writer and blogger. I’m still finding my way (it turns out I’m not all that good at time management or working for myself…) but I have definitely discovered a passion for advocating for disability rights, reaching out to other special needs parents and trying to shine a light on the positives of special needs kids.
I love being able to better support my kids now that I work from home – I could never imagine returning to the workplace again!
Tell us 3 things you are and 3 things you’re not.
I am most definitely: kind, strong and resilient (if I could pick a couple more, I would also choose honest & helpful.)
I am definitely not: organised, decisive or crafty ( if I could pick a couple more, I would also choose culinary & creative.)
Complete this sentence, ____________________ changed my life. How and why?
Losing my Dad to cancer last year changed my life. After nearly 40 years I suddenly found myself fatherless. And it gutted me more than I could ever have imagined.
My Dad and I had a great relationship. We shared jokes and a similar sense of humour. We shared a love of watching sport and a love of finding the light side of life. He adored my kids and I always trusted his judgement and advice.
I miss him everyday.
Losing him changed my relationship with my mother (I feel the need to look out for her more now). Losing him also brought my brother and I closer. And it also brought grief into my kids’ lives for the first time.
Losing my Dad also changed my own perspective on life – it helped me become more proactive in trying to live my life on my terms, just like he did. So while his death has brought pain and grief it also brought with it a new perspective which I’m trying to harness for the better.
What has been life’s greatest lesson?
For me, it’s been to look for the positives in everything because you cannot live a fulfilled life focusing on the negatives. I’ve had some crap thrown at me other the years and you have to accept it and move on with a smile on your face and hope in your heart that things will improve. I’ve had to deal with separate epilepsy, depression and coeliac diagnoses, 3 major diagnoses for my kids, the challenges of special needs parenting, job redundancy, the loss of my father, an ACL reconstruction and lots of other upheaval in my life. The only way I’ve been able to continue on is to look for the positives in any given situation and consciously make the effort to downplay the negative. It’s not easy but I know this approach has helped me through some very, very tough times. And that’s been the biggest lesson I’ve ever taken away in life.
What is your biggest achievement?
To raise amazing children who continue to inspire me every single day. I’m in awe of everything they do. And I’m also in awe of the fact that they don’t seem to have suffered too much from my admittedly pinterest-unworthy parenting style!
What has been your toughest obstacle and how have you overcome it?
Overcoming my stress-induced mini-stroke rocked me to my core. I lost all confidence in myself on so many levels in the weeks and months that followed. I felt as if I had failed everyone just because my body couldn’t deal with stress – my husband, my kids, my workmates and my friends. The feeling of inadequacy was overwhelming.
I didn’t want to face what this meant – that I could not keep living the way I was. I was getting up early, racing to get the kids to school, then heading to work between school hours then heading back to school and to all the afternoon commitments. In addition I was also trying to juggle medical and therapy appointments for the kids, blogging and keeping up with housework, cooking and washing.
Looking back I wasn’t living, I was merely existing. And after my brain meltdown I knew I couldn’t go on in that way.
I cannot describe how utterly helpless you feel when you finally realise that you can’t do it all. Let alone the panic that rises up in you when you face all the things that need to change in order to lighten your load.
It’s taken me a long time to truly accept that, and to be comfortable in saying no to people, even though I’m almost hardwired to help them instead.
But over two years on and I have made progress. I no longer work outside the home. I have a better handle on the house. I am more available to my kids. And I feel better within myself, which in the end is all that should really matter.
Viktor Frankl says “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.” Everyone needs a purpose, what’s yours?
To help other special needs parents find their way after their child’s diagnosis. To show them that a diagnosis is not the end of the world or the end of their dreams for their child. I want to shine a light on the positives of special needs parenting and help others become more confident, proactive and positive in their choices as parents. The blog is one part of that “why”. The other part is the e-products currently in development to more specifically help families who would like to travel with a family member with autism and to share some of my biggest confessions as a special needs parent. Ultimately, my dream is to speak to inspire others about my experiences and to create and run a positive parenting course for parents.
What are your words to live by?
Go to bed with a clear conscience. Don’t do anything during the day that could cause you worry or lack of sleep at night. This certainly keeps me on the straight and narrow and helps me to do the right thing each day, even if that’s not the easy thing to do.
If you could have any mentor, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
I can never answer this question very well because I don’t look up to a single person. Everything I believe in is taken from many different people and places and experiences. I guess if I had to narrow it down to one person it would be my husband, which sounds corny. But he is the person I trust most in the world. He is usually (and painfully for me) always right about pretty much everything. I respect his judgement and, even more, I respect his reasoning. Just don’t tell him I said that because he will become insufferable once he realises that I think he is right most of the time – I may never have a chance to win an argument again!
If you could play hookie for a day what would be on your list to do?
I’m an inherently good girl so I would never play hookie for a day – which is possibly why I ended up being so stressed out that I suffered a mini-stroke!
If I could do anything without worrying about anyone or anything else, I would take myself off to a wonderful resort and start my day with a walk, then have a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper. I could then imagine having a swim, watching some trash TV and colouring in or cross-stitching before enjoying a romantic dinner with my husband. That would be an awesome way to play hookie for a day!
You give so much to others, what do you do to take care of yourself?
Sadly I still don’t do enough to take care of myself but I’m trying to undo a lifetime of living like a martyr. We have made the decision that I should not return to work so that is probably the biggest concession I have made to my own wellbeing. I have also started to incorporate exercise into my day which has definitely made a huge difference too.
In the end, I love what I do. I love helping others and making a difference. So, in a way, just doing what I’m doing is a form of self-care for me.
Thank you for sharing, Kirsty.
Let Kirsty inspire you a little bit more…
on the blog
and on twitter