My friend and fellow author, Jolene Philo, runs a helpful website dedicated to special needs kids and their caretakers. I’ve read all her books and have found her knowledge extremely helpful on my own journey in caring for special needs kids that led to my own special needs.
After 21 years (this month) of caring for our three amazing kids we adopted from Russia in 1997 and 1999, all with multiple, permanent special needs that most people can’t see and, therefore, don’t know exist (neither did we), I’ve learned, from Jolene, that I’ve had all the symptoms of “compassion fatigue”
– Nervous system arousal (sleep difficulties)
– Emotional intensity increases
– Cognitive ability decreases
– Behavior and judgment impaired
– Isolation and loss of morale
– Depression and PTSD (potentiate)
– Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation
– Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted
– Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control
– Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair
– Anger toward perpetrators or causal events (our kids’ birth mothers)
I’ve felt guilty. And I’ve piled onto the burden I was already carrying with some questions:
Why couldn’t I, a Christian, just have more faith and overcome my problems?
Why couldn’t I, a Christian, rely on the Lord and let him make my load light?
Why couldn’t I, a Christian, walk this hard road alone, not expecting others to help me when I’m so broken for so long?
Here’s the beginning of a piece I wrote for Jolene’s blog this week. I hope you’ll read and head over to her site to finish. Check out all she has to offer. I’m sure her knowledge and wisdom will benefit at least one other you know.
So now, here’s what I have to say about dreaming differently . . .
I didn’t want a different dream. I wanted my dream. Who, I wondered, finds themselves pregnant and hopes for a child born with brain damage or some other disability? Not me.
So when the question on the adoption form asked, “Would you consider a special needs child?”
I checked the “NO” box.
No. Absolutely not. Special needs wasn’t my dream. Special needs wasn’t my calling. I was quite certain.
I sent the videos of all three kids to the national expert in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. He viewed them and shared his opinion that none of our kids had FASD—a concern of parents adopting children from Russia where there’s a high incidence of prenatal exposure to alcohol.
Our adoptions finalized, first in Russia and later in the U.S., we knew our three kids (Anna, Zach, and Nick, then six, four, and nineteen months) would have developmental delays. No child can spend time in an orphanage and not have some sort of delay. My husband and I were prepared. I was a clinical psychologist and a former elementary educator who knew how to help the developmentally delayed catch up. No problem. All within my wheelhouse.
But then, I began noticing things that didn’t look like just delays. They looked like possible brain damage.
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