• Dana L. Butler

The Difference A Year (of asking for help) Can Make

*Credit for all photos to the talented JoEllen Moths ~ joellenann.com.*

January 2018

Tears fall as I pull away from Isaac’s school, Maia in the backseat. I don’t want her to know I’m crying.

I silently beseech God on behalf of my boy, who I’ve left at school sobbing, begging me not to leave. He’s sitting with the gals in the front office, terrified to go to class. They’ll try to calm him down, eventually get him to class. They’ll call me after a while if it doesn’t work out.

I know it won’t. The calls are coming every day.

Snowballing Struggles

Isaac’s spiking school anxiety was a heavy weight, but it was only one piece of a rapidly enlarging avalanche of struggles. All his autism-related symptoms were off-the-charts challenging at home and school; his all-around mental health was tanking; Maia’s special-needs-related challenges were daily — no, hourly — bringing us all to our end; Stan and I were so wrung out that “depression” and “exhaustion” seem utterly inadequate attempts at describing our state of being in those days.

Morning after morning I woke up instantly overwhelmed, doubting my ability to get out of bed, to do the day before me. I was beyond drained at every level.

In my entire life, I have never experienced depression so debilitating (nor, really, had I experienced it at all, prior to my kiddos’ special needs becoming ultra-apparent starting in 2015).

Yet I didn’t fully realize then the extent to which I had shut down inside:

I didn’t want to be with friends. Didn’t want to cook or offer hospitality. Had minimal desire to care for others’ souls. If you know me, you know that while I’m an introvert, the absence of those passions is completely not who I am. But I straight-up did not have anything left.

Things came to a head when we realized we were going to have to pull Isaac out of school. That while he was there, all of his energy and resources went toward simply trying not to cry. There was no more learning. He’d been doing great there, and then — BAM. No more.

I stepped down from my worship pastor role. The kids required all of me and more.

As Stan and I took personal and family inventory, we were bowled over by the degree to which none of us were remotely okay. We realized that while we’d been providing therapy for the kids for years, they needed still more.

And we needed therapy. We could no longer put the kids’ needs above our own, because in neglecting to don our own “oxygen masks,” we were ultimately not caring for each other or our children with excellence.

Stan’s and my personal health and self-care would have to become the foundation for our family’s growth toward wholeness.

The Most Uncomfortable Thing

So I wept silently that day in the car. Jesus, we need 40 grand. FORTY. GRAND. How in the —-?!

I considered the various evaluations and therapies our family needed to pursue. The math, the pieces we didn’t foresee being covered by insurance. The loans we’d need, how many years — decades maybe — they’d take to pay off.

And then, in my gut, this undeniable nudge that I still believe came from the Holy Spirit:

Ask. Your friends love you.

Oh you guys, I wrestled, squirmed, questioned God. Began a conversation with Stan. And it was one of the most uncomfortable things we’ve ever done, but we asked.

We started a GoFundMe Campaign, and despite our messiness and our inability to share many details for the sake of protecting our kids’ privacy to some extent, our friends and family were so very generous to us.

It just undid me, seeing the funds come in that allowed us to begin the specific therapies that we needed. We didn’t raise our 40 grand, but through your prayers and gifts, God provided enough to get us started with many vital treatments.

Stan and I each received neurofeedback therapy and saw nearly instant improvements in our depression and energy levels.

Personally, 2018 saw me return to a level of myself-ness that I had not experienced in 5 years plus — increased grace for the kids, a desire to host people, energy for soul care for others and myself.

The kids received evaluations, big diagnoses, answers we desperately needed. Diagnoses that then allowed us to pursue specific therapies (like occupational therapy for both), some of which ended up being covered by insurance with copays — a totally unexpected blessing.

We invested in months of neurofeedback for Isaac, which has moved us from being completely stalled out on his schooling by his severe anxiety and attention issues, to making some measurable academic progress in the last few months.

But essentially, my entire 2018 calendar was dominated by therapy and psychiatry appointments. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on the exhausting side. It was the choice we made though — the work required to move us out of crisis mode.

January 2019: The Difference

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Our family life’s still not easy and likely won’t be until the kids are much older, if even then. BUT — it’s dramatically better. We’re not drowning any longer.

Some kinda mixture of all this therapy; plus the kids maturing a little; plus Isaac being homeschooled now and under less stress; plus Maia being in school and LOVING Kindergarten; plus a hundred other transitions and nuanced dynamics; all wrapped in the supernaturally personal kindness of Jesus — it’s brought us to this place where even the really, really hard days are nowhere near as draining and disheartening as they used to be.

And you guys, some days — a significant number of them — are good.

Genuinely, truly sweet.

I look at our lives now, compared to just one year ago, and I am blown away. So, so grateful.

Stan and I consistently give each other evenings out one-on-one with friends, try to spend lots of time connecting and laughing together, and we’re trying to get more intentional about making dates happen this year.

As of this January, we have significantly decreased the therapy our family is receiving, though both kids will continue to have some O.T. and individual play/emotional/social therapy through 2019.

We have tightened our budget even further, and are working on recovering financially from the debt we incurred last year as we continued the treatments we were able to begin because of the generosity of our friends and family.

And we’re all growing together, loving each other, apologizing lots, and I know that in the end, it’s mostly in these messy, weak places that Jesus makes Himself known anyway, when we surrender them to Him.

Thank. God. for that.

And for you all.

I love you guys dearly.

**For more info on neurofeedback therapy in the Denver area, contact The Mind Gym. They’re great.**

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