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A Story About Mom | Why Self-Care is Vital to Healthcare

Updated: May 19, 2020

I am Sheryl Smikle-Russell, and I am a life coach. I was close to turning 50, and I wanted to focus on doing something that I enjoyed and could do from anywhere in the world. I always had the mindset that anything I put my mind to was within reach, which is how I ended up with so many careers. But this time, I was looking to do something that would take care of me. My mother always told me that I should “focus on doing the things that only I could do." Then, I did not realize the tremendous impact those words would have on my life. I saw myself as a faith-driven, strong-minded woman, and believed that there was nothing that I could not do. I did everything, and I thought that I had to do everything. There was nothing I would not do if I felt that I needed to do it. I would do anything for anyone, and I would do everything for everyone who needed me. I did not know how to say no to helping others. I was Sheryl, the yes, ok, sure, I will, and I can do whatever you need me to do woman. In all of the things that I took on, my mother became my right hand. She tried to do the things for me that she thought I should not be doing. She believed that I should focus on the things that only I could do.

2015 is a year I won’t forget, not because I was 47 years old or because it was the year of my 20th wedding anniversary. It was not because I had told myself that I was going to retire in 3-years and move to North Carolina with my husband. It is because on Friday, December 18th, 2015 I said goodbye to my mother after just eight months of her diagnosis with cancer. I can remember everything about my mother's journey with cancer, but I don't remember ever thinking that my mother would or could die from her illness. I am a lot like my mother; we are strong women, we take care of the needs of others, we do what we need to do to survive, we never give up, and we are never afraid to work hard. In 2015, it meant a lot to me that my mother knew that we were going to fight this battle together and that we were going to win. "I am not alone" was a phrase that my mother would use as comfort during her illness. I would reassure her that God is with her and that I am with her. We were blessed to have the love and support of family and that meant that she would never be alone. I was determined to provide the best care for my mother, and I wanted to be there for her to help her fight this cancer. I knew that my mother was a fighter and that she never gave up on anything in her life. We were a team, and I did not doubt that we were going to beat this together.

Caring for mommy was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. It did not make sense to me that my mother would give up fighting for herself when her life depended on it. I had never seen my mother give up on anything or anyone. I was confused, frustrated, and I was disappointed when she would refuse to eat or even get out of bed. I would get upset with my mom when she would talk about dying. I remember thinking that this did not make any sense. Why would she want to give up now when this was a time in her life that she should be focusing on fighting to get better. Why would she want to leave me now? Can't she see that I am here with her? I am here fighting to help her, but she was refusing to fight. I promised my mother that I would never leave her and that she would never be alone. I needed her to fight this illness, and I wanted her to do it for herself so she could get better.

There were many days that mommy would try to help herself, but she was more focused on being there for me or other family members. There was a day in particular when mommy was not responding to care. I tried everything to get her to feel better, but nothing would work. I remember that one day it got so difficult that I eventually called my neighbor and friend to help me figure out what was wrong. We had the idea to have one of my mother's friends call her and ask for help with a personal problem. Sure enough, when my mother learned that her friend needed her, she became more alert than she had been for days and offered her friend advice. It finally made sense that the lesson that my mother was trying to teach me was a lesson that she had failed to learn. I realized that my mother was struggling because she was not used to fighting for herself. She did not know how to put her needs first and had a hard time accepting care from others. She did not know how to do the work that only she could do.

It was a hard lesson, but it is teaching me how to be a better me. If someone were to ask me today what was the real reason I became a life coach, I would say that I became a life coach because I was not comfortable with myself. I was looking for self-validation, and I felt like I was settling for less than the best that I had to offer myself. I became a life coach because I know that my mother was right about the importance of finding time to focus on self-care, which was the one thing that only I can do for myself. My mother was a compassionate caregiver who dedicated her life to taking care of the needs of others. My mother spent her entire adult life caring for others; she went back to school to become a certified nursing assistant and graduated top of her class at 65 years old. My mother was loving, caring, and selfless; she was learning to find time to care for herself when her life was taken by illness much too soon.

Life coaching gave me the space to be present and support the awareness of the importance of self-care. I am a life coach and a registered nurse with over 25 years of experience working as a professional in the healthcare field. My goal is to provide needed support to healthcare professionals who have dedicated their lives to care for the needs of others but have neglected their own emotional, physical, psychological, and personal needs in the process. There is an urgent need for the support of self-assessment and self-care awareness among healthcare professionals.  The universal standard for all healthcare providers, frontline, and essential workers must be revised to implement measures that will support the awareness of the importance of self-care. Healthcare heroes, frontline-workers, and essential-staff are dying all over the world. We are susceptible, vulnerable, and are at high risk for contracting and spreading every virus and infection in our work environment. We are most often unaware of our vulnerability, underlying poor health issues, stressors, and self-care neglect. I am a life coach, and I am here to support you on your journey to discovering quality self -care by empowering the I AM in you.

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