Chronic Crisis

For the last few months I have been thinking a lot about being a family that lives in “Chronic Crisis” if you will. 
We all will have “acute crisis” in our lives. You know, an unexpected illness, hospitalization, job loss, even a baby being born I think can fall into this category.  A time when as a family, or a person you just need a little more support from those around you.  But after a few days, weeks or months things return to normal.
I think as a society we generally are really good at attending to acute crisis around us.  We bring meals, send gift cards, offering to babysit, clean, do laundry, ect.  It only takes a few minutes/hours out of our lives and we can see the tangible benefit to those who need the help. So naturally it makes us feel good to help out! It’s rewarding!

But what about the family that due to any number of reasons lives in “chronic crisis”?
Four years ago I didn’t even know this was a thing.  And honestly sometimes I just feel like a wimp and wonder if I am just making this all up. But I don’t think I am.

We are a special breed- and we need extra help. Always. Now I am not talking about the level of extra help that those in acute crisis need.  But we need something that is harder I think- we need consistent help for years on end.  Lets be honest, there is nothing glamorous about helping this type of family. Its like choosing to loose weight with diet and exercise (the hard, long way) instead of with a fad diet (the quick, instant result way).

Having a child with significant special needs makes our life look a little different.

*Routine is important with kids, but when you add a special need it often is the most important.
*Sleep is rare. And I don’t mean we had to deal with the infant stage, the cry it out/ not wanting to go to sleep stage, ect. I mean for years now it is RARE for Dan and I to sleep through the night. We have had seasons of almost no sleep, but even at its best sleep isn’t a consistent thing.
*We are always on high alert, and high entertainment duty. Emmaus does not have the ability or attention span to give us 15 minutes of her being content. We are always watching for a seizure, catching her when she stumbles and desperately trying to avoid meltdowns. IT IS EXHAUSTING. 
*Do you remember the stage where your kid couldn’t communicate what they wanted? And they were super frustrated about that? They would have meltdowns over everything? Yeah- we are there. And have been there for years now.
*We deal with the normal illnesses kids get, but then on top of that we are constantly adjusting meds for seizures, and working on the things kids who develop typically just learn- so we do extra therapies, and lots of practice.
*We pay our normal bills, then spend time chasing down medical bills, resubmitting them to insurance, applying for financial assistance programs when insurance denies things, emailing doctors, therapists, and pharmacies- because inevitably we are almost out of meds and our shipment didn’t come….AGAIN. This administrative roll (I jokingly say I am Emmaus' administrative assistant) takes A LOT OF TIME!
*We work extra shifts to cover specialized preschool, couples counseling or even to pay for a vacation with our spouse.
Let me just speak to vacation (as it is kinda a sensitive subject for me). Living with chronic extreme stress makes our marriage fragile. So taking a few days away together isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity. We are committed to making our marriage work and so having a few days of rest, away from the stress of it all is important. So if you see us on a couples trip or family vacation, its not cause that is a luxury to us, its because it is a necessity. It’s because we realize a few days away, will make all the difference in our ability to be married and do it well, or to parent well.

So how can you help a family in chronic crisis?  I asked some families who also have kids with and live in chronic crisis. Here is what they said when I asked what they wished people understood/how they could help.

*I find people will often ask how they can help, but I cannot think of simple way to respond. I would like people to understand, jumping in by just doing simple things is great- make a meal, offer to be around to help, clean my house, or if they are brave and capable offering to do bigger things like watch my kiddos? I have a hard time knowing what ways to ask for help and I always tend to take everything on myself even though I am drowning. I think I am so focused on the big crisis I feel I am wading through I can't see the simple practical ways people could help me, so I just do it myself. To help me, I need people to be pushy because I am always 'fine' and don't want to burden people, plus I am honestly blank when people ask me how they can help.

*The biggest realization I wish people would see is that while we still have our child, the grieving doesn't end, it is like an ocean. Sometimes we have calm periods, and without explanation, TSC reels its ugly face reminding us of diagnosis day all over again.
We’ve been most touched by an extended family we didn't even know we had. A coworker of my husband had been sharing my son’s journey with his church 2 hours away from us. Unbeknownst to us, they held a fund raising at their church for our family, raising $4,000 in a church congregation of 100

*Consider what you realistically can do for our family. And offer to do it. Consistently.  Let us decide if this thing is helpful to us at this point. If we decline let us know you love us and want to be a support us. If you think of something else at another time offer again.

*A Lot of states offer respite care- and a lot don’t or there is a huge waiting list. Ask if the family gets respite care! If they don’t ask if you could help. Let them go to the store (a task that can be nearly impossible with a special needs kiddo), do some yard work, go on a date. Because to just get a babysitter isn’t feasible. We don’t know when a seizure will start and not end, we have to trust someone capable of giving meds.

*I have a neighbor that texts me every week asking if I need anything from the grocery store.

Supporting a family, choosing to stand next to them, choosing to help long term isn't for the faint of heart, it isn't easy- and honestly, I don't know that I would be/am any good at it. But it is a pretty amazing gift. And those of us living in need of consistent help are forever indebted, we are amazingly grateful. 


  1. This is a necessary conversation. Thanks for starting it. I hope it continues! I feel only a percentage of what you guys endure, but I often feel like I can't complain because we chose it. But there are things we didn't know we were choosing and I think the biggest thing I couldn't have anticipated is how overwhelming even a minor acute crisis feels when all my resources have already been spent maintaining our normal chaos. I often think about how I'd never make it if not for certain constant friends who come to our rescue on a regular basis! And for the record, you are the least wimpy person I know! :)


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