Dana Brown Ritter is a remarkable woman, not only for what she has accomplished (hello White House Press corps by age 30!), but for who she is and how she lives. In addition to her role as a professional newswoman, Dana is a full-time Caretaker for her disabled husband. A few years back Dana started to blog about their experiences, and the simple act of sharing her heart has grown into a nation-wide platform for ministry, offering encouragement and humor in equal measure. To learn more about Dana's New Beginning, read on...
How did you know it was time to make a change?
I felt like I was losing a little more of myself each day. And I was! I was losing weight (not on purpose), losing hair, losing sleep. I found myself crying at odd times like on the metro or in the shower, just out of nowhere. I felt like something in me was just off. Like I missed myself. It took me a while to realize what was going on, but I found out that while I was happily newly married, I was grieving because of my husband’s disability. I was realizing that my life was going to be different than my friends’ lives, and I felt very alone because I didn’t know ANYONE else in my shoes.
What gave you the confidence you needed to move forward?
Honestly, it was my husband. Once I opened up to him about how sad I was, he agreed to go back to that place of grief he experienced when he was first injured, at this point, about 15 years in the past, and walk back through that journey again, with me. We saw an amazing counselor and we got intentional about honestly sharing our expectations and disappointments with each other, and we started sharing more openly about the frustrations and unique challenges we experience because of his disability, online. I had had a personal blog for years, but I mostly wrote about coffee, or clothes or work or my dog. Now, i was intentionally opening up my heart and my journal and expressing my grief online. It was risky and vulnerable and I know it made my mom cry. But Michael was behind me, and he told me I would grow through the process, so I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It felt good to put it out there.
Who/what inspires you today?
The network of women I’ve met online who are in similar circumstances inspire me. It turns out I am not the only young wife who works full time and takes care of my husband and cooks and cleans and mows the lawn. There are amazing women I’ve connected with through blogging who live all over the US and some in other countries. In some cases, I’ve been able to meet them in person, and we’ve shared sad stories and funny stories and talked about the things that only we get. We text each other when we have a good idea for making something accessible at home, or when we need to vent or share an inside joke. They make me feel connected. They make me feel not alone. They make me realize even on the hard days, this is possible, and love is worth it. Love is a verb! They are my girls who get it and I wish I could give them all a spa week where they don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone or anything, and they can just be.
What are you dreaming about now?
I’m dreaming about taking the next step as a writer and going from writing the blog and connecting with women online, and writing a book and connecting with more women in person. I know God is growing me and teaching me and equipping me to reach women who may not specifically be in my exact circumstances, with a husband who uses a wheelchair for example, but busy women who think they can’t make it. Women who constantly put deadlines and pressures on themselves. The overworked, overtired, list-makers. They are all my people. We stress ourselves out but we need to stop it because life is passing us by while we make lists and check them off!
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
“Let him help you.” It came from our therapist. She was pointing out how by doing EVERYTHING for my husband and not letting him take anything on, I was actually not showing him respect. In my head, I was thinking I was serving him. My husband does not fold laundry perfectly, but you know what? He folds it, all of it, and he does it with love and care and he does it because he loves me. That is a gift to me from him, and it’s important that I accept that. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever folded laundry on top of everything else I did, because enow I never ever fold laundry, and I can tell you… I don’t miss it one bit!
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you started?
I wish I would have known that finding my groove was going to come and go, in waves. I thought I would get some support, air my feelings out, get used to being a wife and a caregiver, and it was going to get better and stay better. It doesn’t work like that. There are good days and hard days. There are months sometimes that go by and I don’t even think about how our lives are different, then there are times that it seems like our every decision is based on what’s up with my husband’s health, or his wheelchair, or the van. It ebbs and flows. The stress and the grief are always there, but sometimes they take center stage, and other times they sit in the back row.
What encouragement can you offer someone who wants to make a change but is apprehensive?
Share your story. I know it’s scary, but it’s yours, and if you don’t share it, then you don’t get to write it yourself, and we don’t all get to get a piece of it.
To follow Dana's journey, visit www.lovelikethislife.com