Who am I?

My parents always used to say, I was born a fighter. Soft at heart, but always worked very hard and fought wholeheartedly to get what I put my heart on, no matter how hard it was. My mom still jokes that I have this power walk. When my ponytail is wagging from side to side and I have that look in my eyes, then she knows, nothing will stop me.  

I woke up one morning a few months ago, I looked in the mirror and someone I did not recognize, stared back at me. Someone with tired, dull eyes, dark circles, no ambition, no dreams, weak faith, and a fake smile. I just started to weep, and asked myself: “Who am I?” What happened to ME? Somewhere along the line, this past 10 years, life dimmed my light, I became a fading flower who lost myself, my sense of belonging, my fighting spirit, I was slowly dying inside, only just surviving, but still smiling, trying to show the world and of course, fool myself, that I am OK. 

So today I am going to share a very different side of my story, a side that almost nobody knows about, not even the people closest to me…….

My life did not turn out the way I planned or dreamt about. You can read all about it in one of my previous posts “Why me”.  I got the title of a special needs mom in 2011, when my precious son, Gian, was diagnosed with autism. Because of my A+ personality, I really went into overdrive to help him and to get myself educated and geared for this journey I was about to face. Unfortunately, because of my personality type, I took it a bit too far. I could not admit it, but I was not coping with being a special needs mom to my 4-year-old son, trying to build a career, having a very busy almost 2-year-old daughter, being a wife, and trying to run a household. Then the inevitable happened……… I burned out. 

Burn out, something I thought will never happen to me, I ALWAYS have everything under control. I really convinced myself that this will pass quickly after a glass of wine, a night of good sleep, or a nice holiday, but boy, I was so wrong. My body had something different in mind. I found myself in a dark place where I was depressed and tired all the time, I could not even pick up my arms, could not think nor focus on anything. I knew I needed help, so my journey of loads of meds and therapy started. I was ashamed that I could not cope and now being put on anti-depressants, having a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and going to therapy twice a week, were freaking me out. 

Life got so busy….and I eventually stopped therapy.  Unfortunately, my burnout resurfaced itself again when life got too much for me through the years of broken dreams, hard work, and times of huge stress when my husband, Deon, was building his company and me trying to fit in my career, kids, Gian’s extensive therapy program and keep to an exercise program. Every time, my meds just got increased. Later I was put on an anti-anxiety in addition to my anti-depressants, as alone it did not do the trick anymore. Because of the fact that we do not have a support system close by to help, Deon being very busy supporting our family and building his business, with Gian’s special needs and Leanè also needing attention, I did not have that option to go to a clinic for 3 weeks to recover, which I actually needed so badly at the time. I just had to go on and try to heal through the chaos. I was fighting the hardest battle of my life, and 20 kg extra weight on my body due to the side effects of my medication, stress overload and insomnia. 

In 2018 eventually, my physical health started going downhill. I broke my foot while training for the Two Oceans Half Marathon, which we did every year for charity. I was devastated, but totally shattered when it did not heal after 6 weeks in a moon boot, due to apparent low bone density. To make it worse, during the same time a huge tumor was discovered on my thyroid, and I had to face a cancer scare and thyroidectomy in addition to a broken foot. I was totally overwhelmed and so incredibly scared. I think God wanted me to slow down and rest. It was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. After my surgery, I had no option but to rest and heal, my body and soul got a chance to reset. I started to spend more time with God, being less anxious and depressed, and started to feel more like myself. How would you say it, I got my “mojo” back.  I was on a total high, and even started a new company with two of my best friends from Varsity. It made me excited again, that sense of belonging and feeling of significance was amazing. I joined several business networking groups and met so many amazing new people that became friends. I felt alive again. 

I started an exercise program with a personal trainer, whom I met through one of my business networking groups, and actually found a diet that worked for me. I was over the moon, so motivated and happy, I lost 10kg and really felt fit, happy and healthy. Again it was short lived…..

My company was busy failing, both my partners left our company and end of 2019 I was all alone, with heaps of admin to sort out and super difficult clients together with the demands of being a mom. Again my stress and anxiety levels started to spike, I could not sleep and had no energy…..AGAIN I was on the brink of a “depression spell”, as I used to call it, but this time it was much worse. I had a total nervous breakdown. The dark clouds did not just hang above my head, it was totally wrapped around me, I could not see the light. 

On new years eve 2019, Deon, my husband and I took a walk next to the beach at beautiful Brenton-on-Sea in Knysna. The sunset was the most beautiful painting from God, but deep inside my soul I was restless like the waves crashing on the rocks below us, I was so not ready for 2020, and cried my heart out. I was not far off, because early 2020, Covid hit. Lockdown, stress about surviving as both me and Deon had our own companies and then to facilitate homeschooling the kids, I just could not get better. Maybe lockdown was good for me, although I started binge-watching Netflix, and did not have to get out of my pajamas, I had time to reflect, pray and got reminded more than once that God’s grace is sufficient. No matter what you are going through, Jesus is already there, catching you when you fall. He will never leave nor forsake you. 

I always say, God speaks to me through lyrics of songs, and this song by Casting Crowns “Who am I”, could have been written for me: 

“Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth 

Would care to know my name

Would care to feel my hurt?

Who am I, that the bright and morning star

Would choose to light the way

For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are”

2022 is my Grace year, my healing year. My road to recovery is not easy and there is no quick fix, but I am getting there, one step at a time, one day at a time, one prayer at a time.  I am so blessed with a wonderful husband, kids, family and friends praying for me and being there for me. I want to apologize to everyone for most of the time not picking up my phone or only texting you back after a week or 3. I am sorry about not wishing you happy birthday or not commenting on a Facebook or Instagram post, not phoning to check in or just showing you I care. Please know that I do care, I do love, I do miss you, but was just busy surviving for a while. 

Who am I? I am Lerika du Plessis, I am enough, my past mistakes, my mental health, the number on the scale, how I dress or the extra wrinkles on my face do not define me, I am a daughter of a King and am fearfully and wonderfully made.   

Be blessed

Deon and I at Brenton-on-Sea, Knysna on New Year’s Eve 2019

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